Later this month, Scott of seraillon (I hope you read his blog regularly: it’s excellent) and I will be reading of Jean Giono’s first novel, Hill, published in 1929 and recently reissued in the indispensable NYRB Classics series. We hope you will join us!
Here’s what the publishers have to say about Hill:
Deep in Provence, a century ago, four stone houses perch on a hillside. Wildness presses in from all sides. Beyond a patchwork of fields, a mass of green threatens to overwhelm the village. The animal world—a miming cat, a malevolent boar—displays a mind of its own.
The four houses have a dozen residents—and then there is Gagou, a mute drifter. Janet, the eldest of the men, is bedridden; he feels snakes writhing in his fingers and speaks in tongues. Even so, all is well until the village fountain suddenly stops running. From this point on, humans and the natural world are locked in a life-and-death struggle. All the elements—fire, water, earth, and air—come into play.
From an early age, Jean Giono roamed the hills of his native Provence. He absorbed oral traditions and, at the same time, devoured the Greek and Roman classics. Hill, his first novel and the first winner of the Prix Brentano, comes fully back to life in Paul Eprile’s poetic translation.
The idea for the group reading came out of a series of exchanges we had about my review of Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life. In his defense of Seethaler, Scott said he was “reminded too of some of Jean Giono’s pastoral novels, which also have a third person narrator whose reliability one is scarcely conscious of needing to question, the narration almost seeming an organic aspect of the landscape.” That got me intrigued: I wanted to know more about this narrative voice, and since I had just learned of the reissue it all seemed fated to be.
So even though I know nothing about Giono–beyond the wonderful National Film Board of Canada animated film of The Man Who Planted Trees that was a staple of my childhood (directed by Frederic Back, it’s indelibly narrated by the aptly named Christopher Plummer–those tones!)–the good news is that Scott knows a lot. So between us we have a perfectly average amount of knowledge to share.
Please consider joining us–and let us know if you decide to do so! We’ll be posting about the book in the last week of May and look forward to working through it together with you all.
Added 8/19/16: You can find my thoughts on Hill here, BTW.