Jean d’Ormesson, a very public face among the usually discreet “immortals” of the prestigious Académie Française, whom French President Emmanuel Macron called a “prince of letters,” died Dec. 5 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. He was 92.
The academy announced the death of Mr. d’Ormesson, a writer, philosopher and newspaper commentator. It did not provide a cause of death.
A dapper man known for his charm and wit, he appeared regularly on French TV — unlike most other lifetime members of the academy. He was among the rare Académicians who might be recognizable to the French public.
Mr. d’Ormesson wrote about 50 books and essays, starting in 1956. His last work, “Ces moments de bonheur, ces midis d’incendie” (These Moments of Happiness, These Fiery Noons), was published last year. Despite his prolific writings, he was not widely translated into other languages.
Mr. d’Ormesson was inducted into the academy in 1973, sitting in the 12th of 40 assigned chairs. “Immortals,” considered as intellectual and literary giants, don green and gold embroidered suits, and each carries a sword for formal meetings.
He worked in journalism early in his career and was the director general of the conservative daily Le Figaro in 1974-1977 and then spent four decades as a commentator at the paper.
In an interview with Le Figaro to mark his 90th birthday, Mr. d’Ormesson said he “absolutely had no vocation as a novelist” and wrote his first novel, “L’amour est un Plaisir” (Love is a Pleasure) “to please a girl” — it didn’t work.
He said he didn’t mind being catalogued as a writer of the political right and “detested” the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre.
Born in Paris on June 16, 1925, the son of an ambassador, Mr. d’Ormesson turned his back on a career working for the state or in medicine, despite his father’s nudging, and ended up as a commentator and writer. He was considered highly enough to take part in an informal TV debate in 1992 with President François Mitterrand.
He ended up as a must-have guest on numerous TV shows throughout his life, even appearing in 2001 alongside comedian Jamel Debbouze, who helped him out when he was asked to make deliberate grammatical errors, a tough task for the erudite man representing the Académie Française, which works laboriously on dictionaries of the French language.
Mr. d’Ormesson won numerous literary prizes, including the prestigious Pleiade in 2015 and the Grand Prix for a novel, “De La Gloire de l’Empire” (Of the Glory of Empire), in 1971.
Mr. d’Ormesson, who once called marriage a “nightmare,” wed Françoise Béghin and had a daughter.