‘70s Icon Jane Birkin Opened Up About Publishing Personal Diaries

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

70s icon Jane Birkin has kept diaries since she was 11 years old. She would always address her entries to her favorite stuffed toy named “Munkey,” a prized possession she held onto for years. Birkin was no stranger to being in the public eye, but famously got involved with French musician Serge Gainsbourg in her twenties. She became one of the most renowned muses maybe ever, and also had a career of her own as an actress, singer, and model.

Through it all, she kept up on regularly writing diary entries. And in 2020, the icon published “Munkey Diaries:1957-1982.” In an interview with The Guardian, Jane Birkin opened up about what it was like to publish her most personal thoughts. 

“My parents gave me a diary, like lots of little girls,” the 75-year-old recalled. “And I gave my girls diaries as well. I mean, I gave them secret diaries with padlocks, but in fact, mine were just exercise books. And it’s a rather good thing to keep, because you can have a good laugh later on about the tiny things that made you miserable.”

Jane Birkin Says Her Children Never Read Her Diaries

Even though Birkin gave her children diaries in an attempt to pass on tradition, she shared that her daughters never read her entries. “Neither of them read them,” she said of her children and their relationship to her diaries. “Lou said in a rather frank interview she gave: ‘Who’d want to read their mother’s diary?’” Birkin admitted, “That said it all. Put me in my place.”

She also revealed that she had a habit of writing more when she was sad. She reflected on the fact that when one is happier, they typically have better things to do than sit around and write about how happy they are. So naturally, the star found that most of her diary entries detailed the stresses of her life, and highlighted the not so happy things. She shared that she thinks diaries are “unfair” in that regard, giving an example of her relationship with composer John Barry. 

“When I read them, I find myself extremely tiresome. It must have been such a drag for John Barry to come back home and there you’ve got this waif-like 17-year-old who is there running his bath, giving him his newspaper,” Birkin said. “When I look back at that I think: oh my god… I only saw my side of the story.”

Birkin’s Legacy as Serge Gainsbourg’s Muse

However, she says her 13-year relationship with French icon Serge Gainsbourg was quite different. “I really came into my own with Serge because he did nothing all day long but think of jolly things to do with me. So I was extremely happy. He was as jealous as I was. And although now people consider him as really quite a genius in France, which indeed he was, he was never a boring genius,” the London-born starlet shared. 

She admitted that she never saw him “work” in a traditional sense. She shared that he often wrote some of his best work whenever she was away filming for a movie because it upset him that she wasn’t there with him. 
“He used to come on to all the film sets, then sit miserably in the hotel bedroom where he wrote The Man With the Cabbage Head or Melody Nelson. In that way, it was a rather ideal 13 years.”