Jean Giono Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jean Giono (ZHYAW-noh) is remembered chiefly for his novels. During the 1930’s, however, he surfaced briefly as a social theorist with such volumes as Les Vraies Richesses (1936; true riches) and Le Poids du ciel(1938; the weight of the sky). He also wrote several performed plays, of which the most noteworthy is La Femme du boulanger (1942), expanded from an episode in his autobiographical novel Blue Boy and filmed by Marcel Pagnol in 1938.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Championed early in his career by André Gide and other prominent writers of the time, Jean Giono is the preeminent “regional,” or rural, French novelist of the twentieth century; his novels have been compared to those of Thomas Hardy in England and William Faulkner in the United States. In the mid-1930’s, Giono acquired a considerable following as a “poet and prophet of the soil,” emerging as leader of the agrarian Contadour movement that flourished during the years preceding World War II. Briefly imprisoned both in 1939 and in 1945 for the unshakable pacifist convictions he had developed during his years of service in World War I, Giono fell from favor as a writer, only to rebound spectacularly during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s with a new documentary style quite different from his earlier modes. In 1953, he received the Prix Monégasque, awarded by the prince of Monaco for the finest ensemble of works in the French language; the following year, he was elected to the prestigious Académie Goncourt.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Badr, Ibrahim H. Jean Giono: L’Esthétique de la violence. New York: Peter Lang, 1998. An examination of violence in Giono’s work. In English.

Clayton, Alan J. “Giono’s Colline: Pantheism or Humanism?” Forum for Modern Language Studies 7 (1971): 109-120. Complements the approach taken by Brian Nelson in his edition of the novel.

Goodrich, Norma L. Giono: Master of Fictional Modes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. Chapters on Giono’s major work, divided into studies of “The Apocalyptic Mode,” “The Surrealist Mode,” “The Symbolic Mode,” “The Epic Mode,” “The Tragic Mode,” and “The Autobiographical Mode.” Includes detailed bibliography and index.

Peyre, Henri. The Contemporary French Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955. Contains one of the finest analyses of Giono’s fiction by a distinguished critic.

Redfern, W. D. Jean Giono: Le Hussard sur le toit. Glasgow, Scotland: University of Glasgow French and German Publications, 1997. An introduction to The Horseman on the Roof for beginning students.

Redfern, W. D. The Private World of Jean Giono. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1967. Begins with a biographical note, introduction, and then chapters on uses of imagination, the inner life, the modern world, the apocalypse, a world of words, and a postwar world. Includes notes and bibliography.

Smith, Maxwell A. Jean Giono. New York: Twayne, 1966. Smith devotes two chapters to Giono’s family background, early childhood, and youth and follows with Giono’s debut in literature and his major fiction. Provides chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.