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Born Mar. 30, 1895, in Manosque, Basses Alpes; died there Oct. 9, 1970. French writer. Member of the Académic Goncourt (1954).
Giono, in his creative work and outlook, reflected in a unique way the life and mentality of the middle strata of the farming peasantry. His bucolic writings (the poetry cycle Accompanied by a Flute, 1924), pantheism (the novel Hill of Destiny, 1929; Russian translation, 1934), idealization of a patriarchal way of life (the novel Harvest, 1930), and cult of tempestuous, pagan-like passions (the novel The Song of the World, 1934; Russian translation, 1935) were all part of his romantic alternative to urban civilization (the pacifistic novel The Great Herd, 1931; Russian translation, 1934). Only during the period of the Popular Front did Giono see capitalism as the root of war (the manifesto “I Cannot Forget,” 1934) and express longing for a situation where plowmen would work together, with no room for selfish scheming (the novel Joy of Man’s Desiring, 1935; Russian translation, 1936).
Fear of the revolutionary energy of the masses led him to apostasy and attempts at asserting the reactionary idea of world renewal by means of a biologically purified peasant “race” (the essay “Letter to the Peasants on the Subject of Poverty and Peace,” 1938). His cynical confession, “A thousand times I had the opportunity to die standing, but each time I got on my knees” (the essay “Weight of the Sky,” 1938), became the motto for a policy of spiritual capitulation before fascism (the essay “Amplifications,” 1938) and support of the Vichy regime (the essay “Triumph of Life,” 1941). His final work, the multivolume Romantic Chronicle, expressed the naturalistic myth of an imaginary South (Provence).
WORKSLes Oeuvres, vols. 1–5. Gutersloh, 1967–68.
REFERENCESAnisimov, I. I. “V chem zhe nastoiashchaia radost’?” In Zhiono Zh.:Radost’. Moscow, 1936.
Teoriia literatury. Moscow, 1962. Pages 305–07.
Sadoul, G. “M. Jean Giono a plat ventre.” L’Humanité, Feb. 11, 1939.
Gamarra, P. “La Bouche d’or d’un conteur.” L’Humanité, Oct. 10, 1970.
Boisdeffre, P. de.7. Giono. Paris, 1965.
V. P. BALASHOV