Frédéric Mistral Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Frédéric Mistral (mee-strahl) was born in Maillane, a village between Avignon and Arles in the region of Provence in southern France. His work was deeply influenced by his childhood. Mistral’s father was a prosperous farmer and his mother a countrywoman who spoke the old Provençal language and taught her son the folklore and customs of the region. The memories of his father’s generation stretched back to before the French Revolution of 1789.

While at school in Avignon, Mistral met Joseph Roumanille, a Provençal writer and publisher, who was teaching at Mistral’s school. Roumanille and Mistral became lifelong friends and associates, dedicated to writing in Provençal, the language of the early troubadours of southern France. The region’s traditions of poetry, manners, and folklore were, by the mid-nineteenth century, being superceded by the dominant French culture. Mistral had soaked up this language and culture through his country childhood and had grown up with the old tales and ways.

Mistral studied law at the University of Aix-en-Provence, taking his degree in 1851 at the age of twenty-one. He returned home to Maillane. He was well enough off to live without following a profession, and his dedication to the language and culture of Provence became his lifelong vocation. In 1854, along with six other writers, including Roumanille, Mistral founded the Félibrige, a literary association dedicated to the preservation and promotion...

(The entire section is 590 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aldington, Richard. Introduction to Mistral. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960. Critical biography of Mistral by a British poet, scholar, and translator. Literary discussion and commentary. Intelligent, insightful, informative.

Edwards, Tudor. The Lion of Arles: A Portrait of Mistral and His Circle. New York: Fordham University Press, 1964. This lyrical biography places Mistral in the context of his circle: the members of the Félibrige and other French writers of the time. Edwards highlights the public Mistral, situating him in the politics of his time and region.

Lyle, Rob. Mistral. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1953. A slim volume analyzing Mistral’s poetry and literary output.

Mistral, Frédéric. The Memoirs of Frédéric Mistral. Translated by George Wickes. New York: New Directions Books, 1986. A good English translation of Mistral’s memoirs. Essential reading for the student of Mistral. Narrative, nostalgia, folklore, and place flow effortlessly and give the reader the essence of the culture Mistral meant to preserve.