'The Princess of Clèves'

'The Princess of Clèves'
Pierre Mignard: "Marie Madeleine, Comtesse de Lafayette" (circa 1665), New-York Historical Society

La Princesse de Clèves (1678) was published anonymously, but its author is now thought to be Madame de La Fayette, who lived most of her married life in Paris, where she participated in the salons. The novel was very successful and it is still widely taught in French schools, if nothing else because it asks whether telling the full truth in relationships is always a good idea. Are there to be no secrets? Is hypocrisy really so bad if it doesn't hurt anyone? In 2006, before he became the French president, Sarkozy railed against it, saying he'd "suffered a lot from it" when he was forced to read it at school. The comment generated an immediate spike in sales. Not bad for an old 17th century tale.


The film of 1961 was directed by Jean Delannoy from a screenplay by Jean Cocteau. Cocteau's lover and favorite actor Jean Marais plays the husband. Some of the film's exteriors were shot at the Château de Chambord, which features in the original novel.

Photo: Elementerre