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 The region’s traditions of poetry, manners, and folklore were, by the mid-nineteenth century, being superceded by the dominant French culture.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...
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