23 June 2018

Robert Laurent-Vibert, Lourmarin, Vaucluse (84)


Rich heir, former industrialist and historian Robert Laurent-Vibert (1884–1925) settled in Lourmarin in 1920, where he acquired its lapidated castle and set about having it restored. Years before, after his studies at the ENS, he visited Rome and, impressed by the Villa Médicis, was inspired enough to think of the existence of a 'Petite Villa Médicis de Provence' which would welcome creative boarders in the summer. In 1923 he willed the Château de Lourmarin and his collections to the Académie des Sciences, Agriculture, Art et Belles Lettres d’Aix-en-Provence. He died in a car crash in 1925, and the Fondation de Lourmarin Robert Laurent-Vibert was created. Laurent-Vibert's publications include Les Affaires et la pensée (1921); Le sophisme de la compétence (1922); Voyages, routiers, pèlerins et corsaires aux Échelles du Levant (1923); L'Orient en mai 1923 (1923); Ce que j'ai vu en Orient : Mésopotamie, Palestine, Syrie, Égypte, Turquie, notes de voyage, 1923-1924 (1924).

22 June 2018

Brémonde de Tarascon, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)




Elisabeth 'Alexandrine' Brémond (1858–98) was a félibresse born in Tarascon, who died in Fontvieille and is better known as Brémonde de Tarascon. She came from and old family of paysans from Provence, published her first work in 1883 and married the poet and lawyer Joseph Gautier in 1886. The back of the monument lists her works: Li Blavet de Mount-Majour (1883), Velo Blanco (1887), Brut de canèu (1892), Lou debanaire flouri (published posthumously in 1908 by Joseph Roumanille), and the unpublished play 'Anen aganta la luno'. The monument was erected in 1965.

F. Barberin, Tarascon, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)


This one defeats me at present, although maybe someone will enlighten me. This is a monument to medical 'Docteur F. Barberin' (1854–1920), who is described as helping the poor in Tarascon. The trouble is that I can find no mention of him anywhere. He even appears to have a street named after him – along wih a certain Victor Barberin – but I can find no reference to either of these people. It could be my Googling, I suppose, but all the same...

Folco de Baroncelli in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)



Folco de Baroncelli Javon (1869–1943), poet and gardian (herdsman) in the Camargue. From an aristocratic Florentine family, he shared his life between the Languedoc, a huge family house in Avignon, and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where his passion for the Camargue led him. He followed Frédéric Mistral, and was a Majoral of the Félibrige. He published many bilingual books – in Provençal and French, and eventually moved to Saintes-Maries to become a gardian. He was the friend of many poets, and deeply concerned with the lives of the oppressed, such as Indians and gypsies.

The Marquis de Baroncelli first lived in the mas L'Amarée, which his financial situation forced him to leave. However, the Santois (people of Saintes-Maries) had such respect for him that they helped him construct Le mas de Simbèu, an exact replica of L'Amarée. But during the Second World War the Germans requisitioned and occupied it. Weak with illness, Folco de Baroncelli was thrown out and sought refuge in Avignon, where he died on 15 December 1943. Before leaving, the Nazis blew up Le Mas de Simbèu. In the 1950s a tomb was erected on the exact site of the mas, and in July of the same year his ashes were transferred here.


In the centre of Saintes-de-la-Mer, Musée Baroncelli is closed, although no reason to my knowledge has been given why. A pity.

21 June 2018

Frédéric Mistral in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)


Mirèio, or Mireille in French, is the name of Frédéric Mistral's epic novel in verse (1859) of the star-crossed lovers  Mirèio and Vincèn (Vincent). There is a mésalliance of class, an impossible love which Mireille's 'superior' parents refuse to entertain. So in the burning sun of Provence Mireille walks across the Camargue to plead for the saints in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to change her parents' decision. Alas, she dies of sunstroke, but this book must have played a part in awarding Mistral the Nobel Prize for Literature (1904). In 1943 Louis-Adrien Durand, scrapmerchant, saved the 'Mireille' statue from being melted down by the Nazis for arms by hiding it. This is a stunning portrait of the turmoil of the fictional figure close to the centre of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Avenue Frédéric Mistral has a Bar des Poètes, above the lintel of which is a representation of the great man.


Germain Nouveau in Pourrières, Var (83)



5 rue Germain Nouveau, Pourrières, named after the poet who was born in the village in 1851 and who died here in 1920. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Marseilles and left for Paris in 1872. He met Mallarmé and Jean Richepin, frequented the zutistes, etc, and even, in 1874 – went to London (178 Stamford Street) with Rimbaud and helped with the manuscript of Les Illuminations. Aragon said he had a great influence on the surrealists, and considered him a great poet, equal to Rimbaud. In 1891, when teaching at the lycée Janson de Sailly, he was stricken by an attack of 'mystic madness' and was interned in the Hôpital Bicêtre for several months.  Much of his life, in fact, was spent as a kind of tramp, or pilgrim. He returned to Pourrières in 1911, where he died. Objecting to having his writings published in his lifetime, his work was essentially published posthumously.


This homage to the Germain Nouveau was made by the sculptor Pierre Mathieu in 2008, and stands in the Place du château.


The village library is also named after Germain Nouveau.

20 June 2018

Paul Cézanne and the Montagne Sainte Victoire

Montagne Sainte Victoire taken from Pourrières today. An information board in the Place du Château claims that Paul Cézanne, whose grand-father lived in the village, made forty-four oil paintings and forty-three water colours of the mountain and the plateau de Bibémus. And yes, the mountain itself of course is in Bouches-du-Rhône (13), and Cézanne usually took it from Gardanne (13)?

19 June 2018

Serge Fiorio in Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04)

The end of last year, Céreste (04) had an exhibition in which three cultural personalities from tiny Montjustin were highlighted: Serge Fiorio, Lucien Jacques, and Lucienne Desnoues. Serge Fiorio (1911–2011), who was born in Vallorbe, Switzerland, and died in Viens, Vaucluse, was a painter of Italian origin. In adolescence he drew and painted pictures of quarry workers. His father was a cousin of Jean Giono, of whom Fiorio drew an important portrait in 1934. Serge Fiorio spent 64 years of his long life in tiny Montjustin, and was friendly with Jean Mogin and his wife Lucienne Desnoues. A friend of Lucien Jacques, Fiorio started his life in Montjustin in 1947. Serge Fiorio's grave is in one of the tiny cemeteries in Montjustin.

Lucienne Desnoues in Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04)


Lucienne Desnoues (1921–2018) was the pseudonym under which Lucienne Mogin (who married Jean Mogin in 1947) wrote her poetry. She was the great-niece of the representation of Desnoues the blacksmith in Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes. According to Wikipédia, her poems are noted for their alliteration and her use of holorimes: a new word for me, but then an example is given:

'Ah ! ce qu'on sert de faux ré
À ce concert de Fauré'.

Obviously, we're talking about about different words being used as sonic appoximations of others. In a slightly silly analogy, I'm reminded of the French 'Un petit d'un petit s'étonne aux Halles' being a near equivalent of 'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall'. A little silly in my example certainly, although surely we're not far from the DNA of Oulipo?

Desnoues' first volume of poetry, Jardin Délivré, Raisons d’être (1947) was prefaced by Charles Vildrac, and was the first of ten works of poetry.

Jean Mogin in Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04)


Jean Mogin (1921–86) was a Brussels-born poet, dramatist and journalist, and the son of the poet Georges Mogin (usually known as Norge). He founded the short-lived magazine Pylônes with the poet and novelist Alain Bosquet. In 1943 he won the Prix des Poètes 1943 for his collection La Vigne amère, and his highly successful play À chacun selon sa faim, for which he won the Prix Lugné-Poe. Another successful collection of his poetry is Pâtures du silence (1956). In 1983 Mogin retired with his wife Lucienne to Montjustin, where he died a few years later.

Lucien Jacques in Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04)



In an article in Bibliobs of May 2016 it mentions the three great 'Gs', writers of the interwar years – Guéhenno, Giono and Guilloux – all of whom were sons of shoemakers. The article says an honorary addition should be made to this list: Lucien Jacques (1891–1961), who co-translated Moby-Dick with Giono. It calls Jacques one of the pillars of the Contadour pacifist movement: as a stretcher-bearer in the 161st infantry regiment, he'd known only too well the atrocities, stupidities and lies of war. He had known the barns stinking of cat piss; reveille (the bugle call) at two in the morning; 'pals' drunkenly puking up on each other; standing thigh-deep in mud in the trenches; the quicklime sprinkled on bodies before throwing them into a ditch. All this, he wrote in his 'Moleskin diaries'. A wonderful quotation: 'When you've not enough courage to be a pacifist you become a soldier.'

Suzanne Citron in Montjustin, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04)


I can't see the name Suzanne Citron (1922–2018) mentioned here, although she is buried here next to her husband Pierre Citron (1919–2010). She was born in Ars-sur-Moselle, died in Paris, and was a noted historian. She spent the last weeks of the internment camp in Drancy before it was liberated in June 1944. Her unpublished doctoral thesis was titled 'Aux origines de la Société des professeurs d'histoire : la réforme de 1902 et le développement du corporatisme dans l'enseignement secondaire (1902-1914)'. She is perhaps best remembered for her book Le Mythe national : l'histoire de France en question (1987; revised with the sub-title 'l'histoire de France revisitée in 2008 and 2017). It has been called a reference work 'which deconstructs the historiographical and ideological strata on which the scholarly legend of the Third Republic was built.'

18 June 2018

Johnny Hallyday in Viviers, Ardèche (07)


At the weekend Viviers, a village of about 4000 people in the Ardèche, filled with thousands of fans of Johnny Hallyday (1943–2017) to see the unveiling of his statue, created by Daniel Georges, at the southern entrance to the village by the restaurant Le Tennissee: 'Quelque chose de Tennissee' is one of Johnny's most famous works, although it is not about the American state but the writer Tennissee Williams. The work was paid for by Johnny's fans. Last Friday would have been Johnny's seventy-fifth birthday.

Johnny Hallyday's mother lived in Viviers, a place he visited for seventeen years, often dropping in on  the Café des Arts when he came here.


His mother Huguette Galmiche (1920–2007), née Clerc, is buried in the cemetery at Viviers.

Pierre-Léon Boissin in Viviers, Ardèche (07)

Before finding the grave of Johnny Hallyday's mother, I was struck by this sculpture of a man and his dog in the ancien cimetière in Viviers. Who was this guy? I wasn't the only one to ask himself the same question, but it turns out that this is a representation of Pierre-Léon Boissin, who owned a nearby villa called Pax, and the statue was originally erected in the park there, awaiting his death: a work effected by Baussan et Bauvas (sometime between the creation of the villa in 1889) and 1916. On Boisson's death Villa Pax was sold and the buyer had the sepulcre moved to the cemetery. But of the nature of Boisson, his life, I can't readily find anything. (His dog, by the way, was called Gypsey.

The Box Tree Moth in Viviers, Ardèche (07)

It's surprising what you can find out even when you're not looking for it. For instance today we were (like another pair of French seekers, plus another guy from Cavaillon) looking for the grave of Johnny Hallyday's mother – when we were surrounded by 'butterflies' (although I thought they may be daytime moths) and this obliging little creature posed for me for quite some time. OK, you do the Google, and discover that this is the pyrale du buis, or box tree moth, whose caterpillar was introduced into Europe from Asia by accident in the first decade of this century, and is causing such havoc among boxwood trees that it is considered a pest. Shame really, as my partner Penny thought they'd come out to celebrate Johnny's 75th birthday (last Friday). Obviously some people must hate them, but surely they're nothing like the pest that is the human race?

16 June 2018

Jules Gérard in Pignans, Var (83)

Jules Gérard, the son of a tax collector, was born in Pignans, Var (83). He went on to be a lion killer, which in the early nineteenth century was obviously not seen in a bad light, although by the way the plaque on his statue in La Place des Écoles is worded it seems to be more than a little tongue in cheek: the representation of Gérard, too, could almost be inspired by Don Quixote or Don Quichotte in French. Certainly Alphonse Daudet's ludicrous Tartaron de Tarascon was inspired by Jules Gérard, from which Daudet managed to stretch to three books: Les Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon (1872), Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885) and Port-Tarascon (1890). Gérard himself wrote a book called Le Tueur de lions (1855). He died in 1864 by drowning in a river in...Sierra Leone!



Jules Gérard was born in what is now the Mairie, as this plaque at the side states.


'Le 12 Septembre 1964 la Ville de Pignans et le Comité des amis de Jules Gérard ont auguré solennellement ce monument[,] œuvre du sculpteur Olivier-Ducamp[,] érigé par souscription publique à la gloire du plus illustre des enfants de Pignans'.

(My translation): 'On 12 September 1964 the Town of Pignans and the Committee of the Friends of Jules Gérard solemnly unveiled this monument, a work by the sculptor Olivier-Ducamp, erected by public subscription to the glory of the most illustrious of Pignans' sons'. Umm.

15 June 2018

André de Richaud in Althen-des-Paluds, Vaucluse (84)

André de Richaud was a writer, poet and playwright who was born in Perpignan in 1907 and died in Montpellier in 1968. By the time he was seventeen or eighteen both of his parents were dead. At college in Carpentras he befriended Pierre Seghers, who was to be his editor. Later he met the poet André Gaillard, founder of Cahiers du Sud, and Joseph d'Arbaud, an écrivain-félibre who directed Le Feu.

Richaud published his first novel, La Douleur, in 1930. Jean Grenier gave it to Albert Camus to read, who read it in one night (as usual with him), but Camus awoke to an unknown land: books weren't just for entertainment, distraction, La Douleur had given Camus a glimpse of the creative world.

André de Richaud's maternal grand-father lived in Althen, where Richaud set many of his books. He is perhaps best known for his fourteen-year life with the artist Fernand Léger and more particularly Léger's wife Jeanne. Adultery, alcoholism, and being a begging tramp are also sometimes mentioned in biographical details.


And not only is a street named after André de Richaud, but a school too.