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Boris Vian (Ville-d’Avray (Hauts-de-Seine), March 10, 1920-Paris, June 23, 1959) was a polymath: novelist, dramatist, poet, Jazz musician, engineer, journalist and translator of French nationality. He used numerous heteronyms, such as Vernon Sullivan , Boriso Viana , or the anagrams Baron Visi , Brisavion , Navis Orbi or Bison Ravi , among others. He wrote theater, lyrics and music for songs, stories and novels. Both his ten novels and his jazz performances were much admired.
Boris Vian was born in Ville-d’Avray, a town on the outskirts of Paris, in 1920, in a middle-class family. His parents were Paul Vian, rentier, and Yvonne Ravenez, music aficionado: he played the piano and the harp. In his family environment art was an important issue, his mother was an opera lover; his father was an amateur poet, translator of English and German, apart from being interested in mechanics and electricity.
The economic crash of 1929 caused a worsening of the family’s financial situation, which forced his father to start working for the first time in his life at thirty-six, as a commercial representative, they also had to move from house, and between 1929 and 1932 they rented their old residence (coincidentally to the family of Yehudi Menuhin). Shortly after turning twelve he suffered an attack of rheumatic fever and shortly after typhoid fever, which caused a heart disease that affected his health throughout his life and caused his early death.
He was an exceptional student, although his most serious interests at that time revolved around jazz and parties. Already at twenty he participated in an amateur jazz orchestra with his brothers, where they mostly performed works by American authors.
In 1941 he married in first nuptials with Michelle Léglise-Vian (1920-), with whom he had two children, Patrick Vian (1942-) and Carole Vian (1948-1998).
He obtained the title of engineer in 1942, and a year later he wrote his first novels, Trouble dans les Andains and Vercoquin and the plankton. In the latter, his real activities are reflected, such as his work in the French Association of Normalization and the organization of excessive parties – the so-called surprise parties -.
In the following years he divided his time in different activities: besides novels, he began to write stories, some published in Les Temps Modernes, -invited by Jean Paul Sartre-, where he also wrote chronicles and critiques of social aspects. In the Combat newspaper – directed by Albert Camus – he tackled jazz criticism. In 1946 he published two novels, La espuma de los días and El otoño en Pekín. In the first, (L’écume des jours), he manifests his great command of language by creating neologisms such as “pianocktail”, a word invented by the author to describe a piano, which, when interpreting a melody, produces a cocktail where the taste recalls the sensations experienced listening to the song, posing situations typical of surrealism.
Also in 1946 he published his first novel, Escupiré sobre tu tumba (J’irai cracher sur vos tombes), with the heteronym of Vernon Sullivan, a supposed black American writer, and his real name was listed as the translator of the work. This and the following, within the style of the crime novel, were censored for their content of violence and sex, with its consequent increase in notoriety and sales. After years of trials against the alleged author and his publisher, Boris Vian had to acknowledge his authorship, being sentenced to 100 000 francs for “outrage to good morals”. Meanwhile he had written three other novels published with said heteronym, All the dead have the same skin (Les morts ont tous la même peau), That the ugly die (Et on tuera tous les affreux), and With women there is no way (Elles is rendent pas compte). The criticism was offended by this imposture, and from that moment the author received constant attacks, not only against his novels such as Vernon Sullivan, but also against his ‘serious’ work.
Apart from frequenting the existentialist intelligentsia of those times in the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris), he met jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
He finally left his profession as an engineer, and in parallel to his main activities, he devoted himself to translate black novels (this time of real authors) and to give lectures on various topics.
In 1950 he published La hierba roja, considered one of his most autobiographical works.
Then came several literary failures, especially with the publication of El Arrancacorazones, Vian decided to put aside the narrative and devoted himself to other arts: he composed an opera (The Knight of the Snow), and several songs, with which He came to record an album and go on tour. One of its songs returned to cause the rejection of the critic and the public, “The deserter”, who incited to not fulfill the military service, in times in which France had problems with its Algerian occupation and other military incursions.
In 1952 she divorced and in 1954 she married in second marriage with Ursula Vian Kübler (1928-2010).
On May 11, 1953 (or 22 of Palotin of 80) the College of Pataphysics names him «Transcendental Sátrapa». He also acquires the status of “Prominent Insigne” of the Order of the Great Gidouille on the same date.
In 1955 he started a new activity, the record company Philips entrusted him with making a jazz catalog and later he became the artistic director of the company. The following year he appeared in several films, one of which won the gold medal at Cannes, but this year also meant his relapse into health problems, this time with pulmonary edema, which would be repeated some time later. < / p>
His health deteriorated more and more, which meant that he made several withdrawals to improve his condition. In spite of that he did not stop writing songs and participating in movies.
Boris Vian sold the rights to his novel Spit on Your Tombs for a film adaptation. Although initially in charge of the script, after several fights with the producer, the director and the screenwriter, Vian was left out of the project and attended incognito to the preview of the film, in the cinema Le Petit Marbeuf, near the Champs Elysees; He died of a heart attack he suffered during the screening of the film.
Years after his death he would obtain the well-deserved recognition of the public and critics, and he even sold several thousand copies of his works.
In order to maintain the memory of his legacy, his widow created in 1963 an association, Amis de Boris Vian, which was subsequently transformed in 1981 into the Fond’action Boris Vian.
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