Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Jean Giono (zhyaw-noh), whose works have often been compared to those of Thomas Hardy in England and those of his contemporary William Faulkner in the United States, was one of the best-known and most widely read French “regional” novelists of the twentieth century. Unabashedly rural in theme, accomplished and sophisticated in style, Giono’s writings and his actions anticipated the pacifism and the “simple life” that was pursued by artists during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Giono was turned against war by his long service in the trenches during World War I, and he was denounced during and after World War II for his obdurate pacifism, but he regained both critical and popular favor during the last two decades of his life with an innovative writing style that combines history and fiction.
The only child of an aging cobbler and his laundress wife, Jean Giono was born in Manosque, the small village in the south of France where he also died seventy-five years later. He left Manosque only for the nearly five years of his military service and, subsequently, for a brief transfer to Marseilles in connection with his bank job. In Blue Boy Giono vividly recalls the cavernous, ill-insulated building in Manosque that served during his youth not only as the family home but also as his parents’ combined workplace. A promising student in nearly every subject except literature, Giono left school at the age of sixteen because of his father’s...
(The entire section is 1000 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Jean Giono was born in 1895 at Manosque, a rural village in southern France where, except for extended military service during World War I, he would spend his entire life. His father, a cobbler, and his mother, a launderer, had married when they were no longer young, and Jean was their only child. His childhood, recalled in Blue Boy and elsewhere, appears to have been a reasonably happy one, although lived close to the poverty line and in close touch with the forces of nature. In 1911, faced with the declining health of his father, Jean cut short his formal education to take a job in the local branch of a national bank; with time out for military service, he would remain with the bank until 1930, when he at last believed himself capable of earning a living from his writings; it was in that year that he bought the house in which he would spend the remaining forty years of his life, and in which he would receive visitors attracted from throughout the world by the increased success of his writings. In 1920, soon after the death of his father, he married Élise Maurin; the couple had two daughters, Aline in 1926 and Sylvie in 1934.
As early as 1931, with To the Slaughterhouse, Giono began to express in his writings the deep and obdurate pacifism that was the result of nearly five years of enlisted service during World War I. With the publication of his rural epics, notably The Song of the World and Joy of Man’s Desiring,...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)