Jean Giono 1895-1970
French novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, and playwright.
For further information on Giono's life and works, see CLC, Volumes 4 and 11.
In the first part of his literary career, Giono was known for his passion for nature and classical subjects. The rural, small-town settings of most of his early novels and poetry reflect Giono's idealization of his own hometown environment. In the 1930s Giono changed his emphasis, expressing his confirmed pacifism in political tracts and beginning to write a cycle of historical novels.
Born March 30, 1895, Giono spent all of his life in Manosque, a small village in Provence. Although his family lacked formal education, they imparted a love for music and classical literature, which greatly influenced his later literary career. In his early novels Giono espoused a primitive view of man in harmony with nature. After military service in World War I, Giono began to embrace pacifism, which he expressed in a number of polemics against Nazism in the late 1930s. For a time Giono was seen as a minor prophet, steadfastly resisting the growing war sentiment of the time and giving counsel to the many people who flocked to Manosque to see him. Wrongly accused of collaboration with the Vichy government, he was imprisoned for a time during World War II. Although ostracized by many of his former disciples, he continued to write prolifically. Giono died October 9, 1970, in Manosque.
Classical themes and allusions influenced many of Giorno's works. In 1929 his first novel Colline (Hill of Destiny), drew on his own experience living in a village in the foothills of the Alps. During the period just before World War II, Giono wrote a number of antiwar pieces, including a novel, Le Grand troupeau (1931; To the Slaughterhouse). His autobiographical novel, Jean le bleu (Blue Boy), appeared in 1932. In 1934 and 1935 he published Le chant du monde (The Song of the World) and Que ma joie demeure (Joy of Man's Desiring), two attempts at recreating the epic form. His 1937 novel, Batailles dans la montagne, had a similar epic structure. Giono's postwar works, out of the mainstream of a French literary community which was emphasizing the absurdity of existence, achieved little popular or critical attention. In the early 1950s, however, he gained public acclaim after the publication of his novel Le Hussard sur le toit (1951; The Horseman on the Roof), an adventure story of a man who attempts to stave off the horrors of a cholera epidemic. His storytelling skill also came to public attention in two film versions of “La femme du boulanger” (“The Baker's Wife”), a story drawn from an episode in Jean le bleu.
English-language criticism of Giono's works rarely appeared before 1955, when Henri Peyre's seminal study of the contemporary French novel was published. Critics during this period and throughout the 1960s emphasized Giono's preference for rural settings and mythological themes, in contrast to the more socially aware bent of other French literary figures of his time. A number of critics throughout the 1960s and 1970s compared Giono with both his Greek epic forebears and contemporary English-language writers such as D. H. Lawrence and John Steinbeck. Until the mid 1980s, with the exception of some commentary on Giono's antiwar writings, much of Giono criticism was New Critical in nature, emphasizing close textual readings with little reference to the social contexts of the works. By the 1990s feminist critics were beginning to re-evaluate and deconstruct Giono's writings, as were others offering semiotic analyses which questioned traditional interpretations of his work.
Accompagnés de la flûte (poetry) 1924
*Colline [Hill of Destiny] (novel) 1929
*Un de Baumugnes [Lovers Are Never Losers] (novel) 1929
La Naissance de l'Odyssée (novel) 1930
Présentation de Pan (novel) 1930
*Regain [Harvest] (novel) 1930
Le Grand troupeau [To the Slaughterhouse] (novel) 1931
Jean le bleu [Blue Boy] (novel) 1932
Lanceurs de graines (play) 1932
Solitude de la pitié (short stories) 1932
Le Serpent d'étoiles (novel) 1933
Le chant du monde [The Song of the World] (novel) 1934
Que ma joie demeure [Joy of Man's Desiring] (novel) 1935
Les Vraies Richesses (nonfiction) 1936
Batailles dans la montagne (novel) 1937
Refus d'obéissance (nonfiction) 1937
Lettre aux paysans sur la pauvreté et la paix (nonfiction) 1938
Le Poids du ciel (nonfiction) 1938
Précisions (nonfiction) 1939
Le Bout de la route (play) 1941
Pour saluer Melville (fictional biography) 1941
Triomphe de la...
(The entire section is 234 words.)
SOURCE: Starr, William T. “Jean Giono and Walt Whitman.” French Review 14 (December 1941): 118-29.
[In the following essay, Starr points out the obvious influences of Whitman's love of nature and the life-force on the works of Giono.]
The influence of Walt Whitman upon certain contemporary French writers, especially those who at one time composed the “groupe de l'Abbaye”, has been frequently mentioned.1 Perhaps it is not so well known that he also had some influence upon Jean Giono, a writer whose ideas are generally different from those of Jules Romains and Georges Duhamel. Unlike these authors, Giono does not so much insist upon the relation of men to society, as upon the relation of the individual to nature. As an example of the various ways in which Whitman's influence has been felt in France it will be of interest to study this relationship between Giono and Whitman.
The author himself indicates his fondness for Whitman's poetry. In Présentation de Pan, in which he begins to explain his principal ideas as they had appeared, diffused in Colline, Un de Baumugnes, and Regain,2 he says: “… Lure m'apparut au milieu du lointain pays. Je pense à Whitman et à Paumanok, l'île en forme de poisson”3 In Manosque des Plateaux, which is, in some respects, a continuation of the Présentation de...
(The entire section is 4123 words.)
SOURCE: Peyre, Henri. “Flight from Plague.” Saturday Review (23 January 1954): 17.
[In the following review of the English version of Le Hussard sur le toit, Peyre, one of the first English-language commentators on Giono, notes that Giono's postwar emphasis changed to one of pure storytelling, in contrast to the symbolic, anti-modernity themes of his earlier works.]
Before World War II Jean Giono enjoyed the devotion of many worshipers in Europe, who hailed him and his contemporaries Malraux, Saint-Exupéry, Montherlant as the torch-bearers of a revolt against the introspective novel of Proust and Mauriac. Giono had scored an immediate triumph as an epic novelist and as a magician whose colorful words were dynamite. He soon became the prophet of a crusade against mechanical civilization. The Song of the World, Joy of Man's Desiring, even Blue Boy, from which the celebrated episode of “The Baker's Wife” was drawn, were, and have remained, great books.
World War II came. Giono and other French writers failed to live up to the expectations of their admirers. He was condemned to a year of enforced silence after the liberation of the country. He emerged from it a new writer and the extent of his metamorphosis, at fifty years of age, is amazing. Eight volumes by Giono have appeared in the last six years, and some twenty more have been promised. The overflow...
(The entire section is 887 words.)
SOURCE: Peyre, Henri. “Jean Giono.” In The Contemporary French Novel, pp. 123-55. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.
[In following essay, Peyre summarizes Giono's work and its changing emphases during the author's lifetime.]
Historians and philosophers, with their faculty for proposing impressive generalizations, will some day speculate on the ‘necessary’ correlation between society and literature in France during the period between the two world wars. In the view of these thinkers, artists and writers stand in close dependence upon the environment in which they have grown up and reflect the prevailing mood of their age. Those who have remained aloof are ruled out as solitary exceptions confirming the common rule, as the absurd saying puts it; or they are branded as dwellers in an ivory tower, who refused their duty to society.
The truth is that the spirit of an age as it is reflected in history is often contradicted by the image of the same era mirrored in its art and letters. In western Europe the period from 1919 to 1930 was a time of economic reconstruction, of relative political stability, of social optimism, and of the pursuit of prosperity. Yet the literature of the period was characterized by an all-pervading sadness, even when it advocated hedonism. This generation cared little about stability and unambiguously dismissed any concern with eternal values. While...
(The entire section is 14227 words.)
SOURCE: Brée, Germaine, and Margaret Guiton. “Private Worlds.” In An Age of Fiction, pp. 107-13. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1957.
[In the following excerpt from their full-length study of contemporary French novelists, Brée and Guiton note that Giono is unlike most of his literary contemporaries in his preference for isolated rural settings and his visionary themes.]
Jean Giono's native province is not far distant from [Henri] Bosco's, a little more to the north, a little further to the east; yet nothing could be more different than the use these two writers make of their setting. Giono's universe is animated to the point of agitation. Everything in his novels is in motion, and everyone is engaged in some precise action. Born in the Alpes Maritimes, Giono likes to situate his tales, not in his native village of Manosque, but in the distant hills, sparsely populated plateaux and isolated villages beyond his immediate reach. There he can more easily set up a world untouched as yet by any modern conveniences, even a post office. His universe, like that of Bosco, is self-sufficient; he peoples it with a race of men that only by error can be looked upon as existing outside his books. These people are not peasants; they exist apart from the rest of humanity, one and all varieties of a single species. They are Giono's noble race of man. Engaged in their own forms of living, they are free,...
(The entire section is 2369 words.)
SOURCE: de Pomerai, Odile. “An Unknown Giono: Deux Cavaliers de l'orage.” The French Review 39 (1965): 78-84.
[In the following essay, de Pomerai argues that one of Giono's last published works is an allegory for war and a condemnation of violence.]
The case of Jean Giono is probably unique—that of a writer who changed his “manner,” and changed it successfully, half-way through his career. As the Times Literary Supplement remarked in 1955, “from a distinctly sentimental lyricist of his native Provence, he has become a novelist of the greatest power and invention … one of the most important novelists in Europe.”
Giono's pre-1939 books fall roughly into two groups: the “peasant novels” which became with the years more and more tinged with Utopian ideals, and the “prophetic writings” which include a number of stories, essays and pamphlets, and in which the main goal is conversion of the reader to the author's philosophical and social ideas. The appeal of either group is primarily to the emotions. Giono's passionate imagination over-rides his intellect, both in subject matter and style. For this reason, his success in the Thirties was due to his influence on young people and to the unstable atmosphere of those years, crowded as they were with fears of war, struggle between rival ideologies and threats to democracy.
(The entire section is 3025 words.)
SOURCE: Goodrich, Norma L. “Le Moulin de Pologne and Its Narrator.” The French Review 40 (1966): 65-76.
[In the following essay, Goodrich examines the role of the narrator, the technical skill of Giono, and the use of history, fantasy, and mythology in Le Moulin de Pologne.]
In 1952 Jean Giono published a novel which he called, for the following excellent reasons of his own, Le Moulin de Pologne:
Parce que beaucoup de fermes, ou domaines de Haute Provence avaient au XIXe siècle des Moulins à farine attenants, qu'ils moulaient du blé pour tout le voisinage et qu'ils les appelaient naturellement Moulins avec une caractéristique quelconque: … Parce qu'au XVIIIe siècle beaucoup de domaines ont été baptisés Pologne à la suite de la nationalité de la reine de France qui était Polonaise …1
As we shall shortly see, this novel, which is told, not by Giono but by an auxiliary narrator, partially relies for its credibility upon a certain historical authenticity. Allusions to the Empire are, in fact, so skilfully evoked and interwoven into its tissue that the story becomes fearfully urgent and credible. What is less immediately perceivable, however, is that the narrator's story itself is, on a second level, a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, since the Moulin de Pologne is...
(The entire section is 6037 words.)
SOURCE: Kay, Wallace G. “The Cortège of Dionysus: Lawrence and Giono.” The Southern Quarterly 4 (1966): 159-71.
[In the following essay, Kay compares Giono's and D. H. Lawrence's approaches to the Dionysian themes of death and rebirth.]
The cult of Dionysus involves two closely related elements: Dionysus as the symbol and god of the seasonal renewal of the plant world and Dionysus as the personified idea of a recurrent death and rebirth. A third strong element of the myth is the concept of inspiration brought about by some kind of communion with the god, a communion caused by participation in some ritual act. The followers of Dionysus, when they reach the frenzied climax of the ritual dance, are in a trance-like state which infuses them with the presence of the god. The divinely possessed votary of Dionysus assumes the powers of the nature-god, to call forth the symbols of a productive harvest, milk and wine, wine because it “seemed to come from the deepest source of the life of things … it was the quintessence of the god-life that moved in the juices and sap of the earth.”1 All aspects of the ritual combine for the sole purpose of working vegetation magic; of renewing the world.
The myths of all the vegetation gods show features, however, of the nature of a universe far larger than the plant world; they reveal the seminal unity of life and death, on the one hand,...
(The entire section is 5017 words.)
SOURCE: Smith, Maxwell A. “Giono as Epic Novelist.” In Jean Giono, pp. 75-87, 180. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1966.
[In the following chapter from his full-length biographical-critical study of Giono, Smith analyzes the 1933 novel Le Serpent d'étoiles and the three mid-1930s novels of the Pan Trilogy—all of which use epic themes and settings.]
I LE SERPENT D'éTOILES
After writing the semi-autobiographical Jean le bleu and before beginning his trilogy of epic novels, Giono has given us in Le Serpent d'étoiles (1933) his own personal impressions of the primitive shepherds who every spring drive their thousands of sheep from the parched plains of lower Provence to the fresh pastures of the Alpine plateaux. The tone is set at the very outset by his quotation from Walt Whitman: “Can your work face the open countryside and the ocean shores?”
In the recital of the shepherd we are reminded of the epic beginning of Le Grand Troupeau in its description of the long procession of flocks enveloped in clouds of dust which hide the shepherd from those in front and behind him. If Giono seems obsessed by comparison with water and the sea, it is because the vast herd is in essence liquid and marine: “this flood which scrapes the soil with its belly, its wool, this deep monotonous sound, creates in the shepherd's...
(The entire section is 5526 words.)
SOURCE: Goodrich, Norma L. “Bachelors in Fiction, Through John Steinbeck and Jean Giono.” Kentucky Romance Quarterly 14 (1967): 367-78.
[In the following essay, Goodrich explores the role of bachelors in fiction in Giono's and others' work, concentrating on a comparison between Les Grands Chemins and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.]
When Pierre-Henri Simon noted in Témoins de l'homme (Paris, 1951, p. 190) that we are now witnessing in fiction a century without women characters, he stated a fact undoubtedly true for a great many modern novels created by authors generally considered outstanding. However, the novel based upon a love story involving a desirable heroine follows only one novelistic tradition. As early as the sixteenth century authors had demonstrated that fiction can rise to great heights, indeed, when the problem of love is reduced to a minimum, with women as coveted objects incidentally introduced, relegated to shadowy presence in the periphery, or entirely absent. In the twentieth century certain writers of fiction, as we shall see from the following few examples, have, particularly by studying a pair of bachelors, scrutinized problems which concern men: money, occupations, friendship, responsibility to another, and the nature of man himself.
It may very well have been Balzac, perhaps following the idea central to Le Tiers livre, who inaugurated...
(The entire section is 5240 words.)
SOURCE: Goodrich, Norma L. “Le Moulin de Pologne: Modern Novel and Elizabethan Tragedy.” Revue de Littérature Comparée 41 (1967): 88-97.
[In the following essay, Goodrich states that in Le Moulin de Pologne, Giono was heavily influenced by several Shakespearean tragedies.]
In 1952, Jean Giono published Le Moulin de Pologne1, described on its title page as “roman”, which he perhaps, as he composed it, visualized less as fiction than as drama, and most specifically as an English or Elizabethan tragedy. Despite the precision given on the title page, we are informed in the text that the work is not a “roman”, but a “drame”, more properly a “faux drame”2, since it can only be read as prose fiction. Nevertheless, the life portrayed in this work is “tragique”, the people represented are “acteurs” or “personnages,” and the fabulous eighteenth-century estate called the Mill of Poland is a “théâtre”3. In addition to these textual precisions, Giono further presents us with four epigraphs which, while elucidating the significance of the novel, narrowly relate it to four tragedies written and produced in England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Le Moulin de Pologne closely resembles then, as we shall see, because of its subject matter, its structure, its characters, and its story elements, a traditional,...
(The entire section is 4415 words.)
SOURCE: Goodrich, Norma L. “Further Investigation Concerning Jean Giono's Hussard sur le toit.” Romanic Review 59 (1968): 267-77.
[In the following essay, Goodrich establishes connections between Le Hussard sur le toit, as well as an earlier novel by Giono, and several works by other authors, finding epic and symbolic implications in Le Hussard sur le toit.]
In 1951, and after at least twenty-two years of writing highly praised and widely translated fiction, Jean Giono published Le Hussard sur le toit, a novel dealing with a central subject, a nineteenth-century plague, and with the adventures of a principal character, the heroic Angélo Pardi. Appearing as it did four years after the universally acclaimed plague chronicle of Albert Camus, with its epigraph relating it to Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, the Giono novel elicited significant analysis by scholars.1 Their findings prompt further investigation concerning Le Hussard sur le toit, now approached in its relationship to a medieval genre, in its position as at least the fourth European novel to treat a plague as central subject matter, and in its underlying suggestion of a symbolic pattern.
Le Hussard sur le toit has an interesting pre-history which it seems appropriate to recapitulate so that the work may be seen in developmental sequence. While walking along a...
(The entire section is 5514 words.)
SOURCE: Bieber, Konrad. “Jean Giono's Greece: A Kinship Between Distant Ages.” In The Persistent Voice: Essays on Hellenism in French Literature Since the 18th Century in Honor of Professor Henri M. Peyre, edited by Walter G. Langlois, pp. 131-42. New York: New York University Press, 1971.
[In the following essay, Bieber notes the ways in which Giono's works evoke the ambience of ancient Greece and the style of its epic writers.]
Stripped of Greek influences and sources, much of Western tragedy would either collapse or be missing altogether. The same may not be true to the same extent in poetry, or in the field of the novel. To be sure, our time is witnessing an emancipation from tradition which, more often than not, takes the form of an outright rebellion against the past. It is not yet clear whether such revolts will lead to valid art or are merely the passing phenomena that accompany every revolution.
With varying degrees of faithfulness in understanding and interpretation, poets, playwrights, and even novelists have striven over the ages to revive the world of the Greeks. In so doing, writers have taken great liberties not only with style and expression, but also with the history and character of the people of ancient Greece. Each succeeding age has put Greek names on men and women of its own time and culture. Troilus has known medieval and Renaissance twins; for us, Timon of...
(The entire section is 6208 words.)
SOURCE: Lawrence, Derek W. “The Ideological Writings of Jean Giono (1937-1946).” French Review 45 (1972): 588-95.
[In the following essay, Lawrence examines Giono's antiwar writings during the period before and during World War II.]
The political writings of this period are not the result of a sudden impulse on the part of the author conscious of an imminent threat of war in Europe, and should not be separated from the philosophy expounded in Giono's earlier works. Unfortunately, peace-time struggles against the atrocities of war often pass unnoticed by the general public, and unchallenged by government officials until war-clouds begin to cast their menacing shadows; at which point their authors can be charged with being unpatriotic, or indifferent to the fate of future generations! Such was the case with Giono.
From Colline to Que ma joie demeure and Les Vraies Richesses he expounds a philosophy of life in accord with Dionysus, one leading to the acceptance of death as natural, and justified as a source of life in the eternal cycle. Fully stated in the description of Bobi's decaying corpse, this concept was first expressed in Jean le Bleu: a vision of total integration as the young boy contemplates Franchesc Odripano in his sleep.1 And to this death, with its sense of justice, Giono immediately opposes that of Louis David who, in his prime,...
(The entire section is 3475 words.)
SOURCE: Scott, Malcolm. “Giono's Song of the World: The Theme of Language and Its Associations in Giono's Pre-war Writings.” French Studies 16 (1972): 289-304.
[In the following essay, Scott explores the theme of the healing power of language and music in the early novels of Giono.]
The first and most obvious manifestation of Giono's fascination with the power and potential of language—his own startlingly rich imagery—has rightly received the close attention of critics and scholars.1 What has not been sufficiently explored is the way in which this fascination is expressed, especially in Giono's pre-war writings, in a second major way: namely, as a theme. Throughout the period from the publication of Colline in 1929 to that of L'Eau vive in 1943, there are constant references in Giono's writings to the power of language and its role in the world. Often these references develop into a major theme within particular works; even where they do not, they still help to form a leitmotiv that recurs persistently during some fifteen years of Giono's career, and which throws light in a hitherto unexplained way on his view of the role and significance of language.
To be more precise, the theme which this article sets out to study is that of spoken language. Giono's feeling for the force and mobility of human speech, which he as a writer strives to fix within...
(The entire section is 7206 words.)
SOURCE: Goodrich, Norma L. “The Autobiographical Mode.” In Giono: Master of Fictional Modes, pp. 231-71. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.
[In the following essay from her full-length study of the “modes” of Giono's writings, Goodrich traces Giono's autobiographical themes, comparing them to those of writers such as D. H. Lawrence and Leo Tolstoy.]
MORT D'UN PERSONNAGE (1949)
In Mort d'un personnage (1949),1 where a first-person narrator tells of the aging and of the death of his grandmother, Giono performs a double feat: making an attractive old woman the central character of a novel, and recounting at considerable length the death of a mother. As he admitted to Claudine Chonez and to others,2 his heroine for this novel, the Marchioness Pauline de Théus, whose youthful gallantry we have admired in Le Hussard sur le toit, having since that time loved Angélo Pardi and lost him, represents Giono's own mother Pauline, whom he nursed during her last illness. This Madame Giono died after her son's return from his first internment in Marseilles.3 The novel takes place, like much of Noé, which it follows, in that city, along its streets, on the way to and from school, and at a home for the indigent blind.
The novel replies in its title as in its philosophy to Jules Romains's Mort...
(The entire section is 12971 words.)
SOURCE: Madden, Marilyn I. “Imagery in Giono's Novels, with Special Consideration of La Naissance de l'Odyssée.” French Review 46 (1973): 522-34.
[In the following essay, Madden makes a statistical analysis of the nature of the imagery in La Naissance de l'Odyssée.]
Jean Giono's greatest originality as a novelist lies in his incorporation into his novels of the poetic device of imagery. This is a device especially suited to his earlier works, which are mostly concerned with the creation of an atmosphere, or perhaps even of a world view. It is a device which he has exploited to a greater extent than other novelists, and it is primarily due to this device that he holds his place in French literature. The general characteristics of Giono's imagery have been revealed, especially by Charlotte Dietschy and Stephen Ullmann.1 The most salient of these is the use of imagery in order to fuse into a single unity all forms of life: human, animal, vegetable, and the elements and forces of nature. Personification and animism, solidification and liquefaction, the concretization of the abstract frequently occur in this fusion. A dynamic quality pervades it. A kind of paganism underlies it.
A more precise notion of the significance of the items used in his imagery might be obtained from a statistical analysis of their relationships, showing the frequency of their appearance and...
(The entire section is 5120 words.)
SOURCE: Brosman, Catharine Savage. “The Pastoral in Modern France: Forms and Reflections.” French Forum 9 (May 1984): 212-224.
[In the following excerpt from a study of the use of the pastoral form in several post-World War II French literary figures, Brosman notes the ways in which Giono and poet René Char use pastoral themes as an antidote to the vicissitudes brought by war.]
Although the pastoral, in the narrow sense, has nearly disappeared from modern French literature, certain of its features and conventions, as distinguished from those simply of rustic literature of the pre-Romantic, Romantic and post-Romantic periods, can be identified in fiction and poetry both before and after World War I.1 In some cases the reflections are oblique, and the work must be considered a contemporary equivalent or transposition of the pastoral. In others the pastoral serves as an explicit model for texts which are, however, modern as well as imitative. André Gide, Paul Valéry, Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono, who are among those who evoke the bucolic tradition, were all readers of Virgil, and both Valéry and Pagnol translated and commented on his eclogues, while Giono wrote a highly personal introduction to them.2 Henry de Montherlant created in Les Bestiaires one of the most extreme of modern bucolic statements, and some of the poems of René Char suggest with deceptive simplicity...
(The entire section is 2044 words.)
SOURCE: Browning, Gordon. “Jean Giono's Un de Baumugnes: The Narrator's Inner Cistern.” Modern Language Studies 14 (summer 1984): 63-9.
[In the following essay, Browning examines the metaphorical uses of the images of the well, the cistern, and the fountain in Giono's Un de Baumugnes.]
The well, the cistern, and the fountain recur as emotionally charged objects in many of Jean Giono's early stories and novels. Giono himself recounts that it was the memory of his childhood terror of a 120-foot well inside the presbytery where he went for catechism that provided the initial idea for the short story “Solitude de la Pitié,” in which a man descends into a deep and crumbling well to earn a pittance for his ailing friend above.1 “Babeau” is the story of a young man who drowns himself in the cistern of an abandoned farm while the unsuspecting shepherdess concentrates on her knitting nearby. In “Jofroi de la Maussan,” Jofroi's suicidal fury is thwarted at the edge of Antoine's 90-foot well.
In “Radeaux perdus,” Giono evokes the isolation of the peasants in the hill country. In their dark houses, visitors must grope warily to locate the stairwells and to avoid the unprotected cistern, “… une bonne menace, un bon remède qui est là tout prêt” (534), a ready solution to intolerable domestic situations. Indeed, we may take this cistern over which the...
(The entire section is 3665 words.)
SOURCE: O'Brien, Mari H. “Cross-gendering the Hero, Cross-gendering the Reader: The (m)Othering of Antonio in Jean Giono's Le chant du monde.” Dalhousie French Studies 48 (fall 1999): 75-86.
[In the following essay, O'Brien presents a feminist, deconstructive reading of Giono's Le chant du monde, countering Giono's own self-criticism that the book did not have a sufficiently pacifist message.]
As Pierre Citron reveals in his 1990 biography, Jean Giono was never pleased with his best-selling, critically acclaimed novel Le chant du monde. Giono's own words, in a letter to a friend, attest to his dissatisfaction with this 1934 novel, his sixth, which he called “un livre raté”: “Le chant du monde a un petit côté imbécile et couillon en réalité” (qtd in Citron 195). Perhaps the novel's resemblance to a Hollywood western seemed, upon reflection, too frivolous for such serious times, or its “happy ending” too facile to the increasingly cynical and disillusioned Giono. As Europe marched ever closer to World War II, Giono's faith in “civilized” Western society to lead humans out of what he considered to be the morass of capitalism, exploitative technology, and their inevitable consequence—war—was eroding beyond salvation. Even his ardent and committed efforts as a pacifist were ultimately powerless to prevent the onslaught of armed conflict and its...
(The entire section is 5784 words.)
SOURCE: Kelley, Monica. “Passive Suicide.” Esprit Createur 40 (spring 2000): 69-78.
[In the following essay, Kelley presents a close textual reading of Giono's novel Un roi sans divertissement, pointing out semiotic similarities between the processes of murder or suicide and the act of writing.]
In his first post-war novel, Un roi sans divertissement, Jean Giono obsessively returns to the physical act of writing. The novel tells the story of a murderer, M.V., and the gendarme, Langlois, who tracks him down. M.V. attacks only during the winter, when heavy snows repaint the world in black and white, and it is strongly suggested that he does so for diversion, to add a little color (namely red) to a dull life. I wish here to address three scenes of writing in this novel.
Scene One—M.V. has just botched an attempt to strangle a villager. Everyone gathers to hear the story, and then they are drawn by a tumult in the pigpen, the same tumult which had brought the near-victim out of his house in the first place. One of the pigs is covered in blood:
On l'avait entaillé de partout, de plus de cent entailles qui avaient dû être faites avec un couteau tranchant comme un rasoir. La plupart de ces entailles n'étaient pas franches, mais en zigzags, serpentines, en courbes, en arcs de cercle, sur toute la peau, très profondes. On les...
(The entire section is 5064 words.)
Redfern, W. D. “Bibliography.” In The Private World of Jean Giono, pp. 197-203. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967.
List of Giono's major works, arranged by type, as well as selected criticism and genre works appropriate to the study of Giono.
Smith, Maxwell A. “Selected Bibliography.” In Jean Giono, pp. 183-87. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1968.
Selected list of important primary and secondary works by and about Giono.
“Jean Giono.” In World Authors, 1900-1950, Vol. 2, pp. 983-84. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1996.
Brief biographical-critical sketch of the author.
Butler, Evelyn. “Jean Giono's Provence: Marcel Pagnol's Comic Vision.” Recovering Literature: A Journal of Contextualist Criticism 18 (spring 1992): 39-42.
Discusses similarities and differences between Giono's stories and Pagnol's film adaptations of them.
Clarke, Katherine A. “An Interview with Jean Giono.” French Review 33 (October 1959): 3-10.
Transcript of a taped interview with Giono which reveals his attitude toward his own work.
———. “Pour Saluer Melville: Jean Giono's Prison Book.”...
(The entire section is 352 words.)