Obituaries

Philippe de Baleine, 96, editor and worldly writer

NEW YORK — Philippe de Baleine, a prominent French journalist and magazine editor who pursued a parallel career as a prolific author, often writing under a pseudonym, died on June 7 at his home in Paris. He was 96.

His daughter Marie-Christine de Baleine confirmed the death.

An author of some 50 novels and nonfiction books, Mr. de Baleine received two prizes from the Académie Française, France’s top literary academy, including one for “Voyage Espiègle et Romanesque sur le Petit Train du Congo” (roughly “A Mischievous and Romantic Trip on Congo’s Little Train”). A colorful travel journal published in 1993, it chronicled a trip of more than 300 miles aboard a train that connected Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, to the city of Pointe-Noire on the Atlantic Ocean.

Advertisement

It was one of several books in which Mr. de Baleine recounted journeys on historic railroad lines in West Africa, a region that was fertile ground for his travel writing.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In the 1990s, Mr. de Baleine turned to writing a detective series about the British royal family under the pseudonym Margaret Ring. On the back covers of his books (which were not translated into English), he described Ring as the widow of a military attaché of Queen Elizabeth II and said that she lived on a farm in Sussex, England.

He also wrote 10 detective books under the pseudonym Philip Whale — an apparent play on the name Baleine, which means “whale” in French — in a series overseen by the best-selling spy novelist Gérard de Villiers.

Mr. de Baleine was the editor in chief of the news weekly Paris Match in the 1970s and ’80s. At other times he also ran the French version of the women’s magazine Marie Claire and the French scientific monthly Sciences & Vie, among other publications.

As a journalist, he reported from West Africa and Southeast Asia, where he covered the first Indochina war, in which colonial French forces were defeated by the insurgent Viet Minh in 1954. He later covered the Vietnam War.

Advertisement

Mr. de Baleine’s vivid reporting was said to have been an inspiration for the Belgian cartoonist Hergé (the pen name of Georges Remi). He is widely believed to have based one of his characters in “The Adventures of Tintin” on Mr. de Baleine. The character, Jean-Baptiste de la Battellerie, was a restless, colorful reporter always on the lookout for scoops.

François Pédron, a friend who worked with Mr. de Baleine at Paris Match for about 15 years, said, “Philippe was admired for his rigor, both as a reporter and as an editor, so he’d rather see that caricature of himself in Tintin as an honor.”

Mr. de Baleine was born in Paris on Sept. 27, 1921, the eldest son of an upper-class family. He and his six siblings grew up in the affluent 16th Arrondissement, in western Paris, where he would spend most of his life.

He began his journalistic career after studying law. In 1946, he was named editor in chief of the daily France Soir, a leading newspaper in the first years after World War II.

In addition to his daughters Marie-Christine, from his first marriage, and Marina, from his second, he leaves another daughter, Isabelle de Baleine, also from his first marriage; his third wife, Martine Nair; a son, Arthur de Baleine, from his third marriage; and four grandchildren.