Pierre Magnan was born in the small Provençal town of Manosque on September 19, 1922, and went to school there until the age of twelve, when he concluded his formal education. He worked as an apprentice typesetter, then joined the voluntary youth labor service, which substituted for the draft in occupied France. In 1937, at the age of fifteen, he became a member of the famous Contadour group around Jean Giono, who became Magnan’s friend and teacher, loaning him books from his library and encouraging him to write. Magnan writes about this period in his autobiographical novels Apprenti: memoires (2003; memoirs of an apprentice), and Un Monstre sacré (2004; a sacred monster). He wrote his first novel, Périple d’un cachalot (the voyage of a sperm whale) in 1938, on lined notebooks given to him by Giono, though it was not published until 1993. In 1942, to avoid the compulsory National Labor Service that would have made him perform forced labor in Germany, he joined a group of the French Resistance in the Isère region.
Magnan’s first novel, L’Aube insolite (1945; strange dawn) draws on his experiences in the Maquis and was published to critical acclaim, but it and his two subsequent novels did not sell enough copies to allow him to live as a writer; therefore he worked for a refrigerated trucking company for the next twenty-seven years, until he was laid off because of an economic downturn. Suddenly unemployed and...
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