Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195

Joy of Man’s Desiring is Giono’s fullest expression of the poetic nature of peasant life. Always a writer who glorified the natural human emotions, who chose the instinctual over the rational, Giono reacted against the more cerebral, psychological novels of his contemporaries and deliberately mined his own ground, the ruggedly beautiful region of Provence and its people. Le Chant du monde (1934; The Song of the World, 1937) was the final tale in a trilogy which protested the victimization of modern man by mechanized civilization. Joy of Man’s Desiring is the summation of that protest. Longer, richer in detail, more poetically realized than its predecessors, the book is nevertheless written in Giono’s most characteristic manner.

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After World War II, he produced works in a new style: laconic, sparsely detailed, containing less poetry and more story. Some of these later works, such as Le Hussard sur le toit (1951; The Hussar on the Roof, 1953; better known as The Horseman on the Roof, 1954), are more reminiscent of the realistic tradition of Stendhal than of the poetic/mystical vein of the earlier Giono. Joy of Man’s Desiring is thus a crucial book in Giono’s canon.

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