MARIE CHAIX was born in Lyons, France, on February 3, 1942, the fourth child of a Burgundian father and an Alsatian mother.
1942 was a grim year in France and in the world. The youngest by far of a devoted family, with a 7 year old sister, brothers of 13 and 15, a beloved mother, and Juliette, her “second mother,” Marie knew nothing of the disasters taking place around her. Often away from home, her father was “involved in politics,” in fact he was the right-hand man of Jacques Doriot, leader of a fascist party and collaborationist.
She knew nothing of that, either. Her memories are those of a happy childhood and a normal adolescence, even if her family was sorely tried: her eldest brother disappeared in a bombardment in Germany; her father was arrested in 1946 and sent to prison until 1954. Marie completed her studies in Paris, where her family now lived, earning a B.A. in German at the Sorbonne.
After her father’s death in 1963, she worked as press attache at Editions du Seuil, a leading publishing house, and between 1964 and 1966 translated a number of literary works from the German. She subsequently became the personal secretary of the singer Barbara, perhaps the greatest artiste of the time, and traveled with her through France, Europe, and Canada.
Following her marriage in 1968 to the journalist Jean-Francois Chaix and the birth of a daughter, Emilie, in 1969, Marie held an executive job in a large advertising firm, in the meantime beginning work on a memoir of her father that was to become her first book. She had written nothing whatsoever prior to this.
Her mother died in 1971. In 1974 Les Lauriers du lac de Constance (The Laurels of Lake Constance) was published and became an immediate bestseller (it is still in print and continues to sell steadily); a second daughter, Leonore, was born; and Marie began her second book, another memoir, this time devoted to her mother. (She was to publish eight books in all, two of them pure fiction, the rest to varying degrees autobiographical.
Marie spends half the year in Key West with writer Harry Mathews and the other half in Lans and in Paris, where her two daughters live, as well as Emilie’s three-year old son, Cesar.
- Les lauriers du Lac de Constance (memoir), Le Seuil, 1974
- Les Silences ou la vie d’une femme (memoir), Le Seuil, 1976
- L’age du tendre (memoir), Le Seuil, 1979
- Le Salon des Anges (novel), Le Seuil, 1982
- Juliette chemin des Cerisiers (memoir), Le Seuil, 1985
- Un 21 avril a New York (journal 1980-82), Le Seuil, 1986
- Barbara (illustrated biography), Calmann-Levy, 1986
- Le fils de Marthe (novel), Calmann-Levy, 1990
- In English: The Laurels of Lake Constance, Viking, 1976