An original and well-filled example of a boîte à lire in Chasselay, and I left with a copy of Adeline Dieudonné's La Vraie Vie (2018), Emmanuelle Pagano's Les Mains Gamines (2008), and a poche edition of Romain Rolland's Colas Breugnon (1919), which I've been meaning to read for some time. (As always, we put back elsewhere what we read.) Boîtes à lire are to be treasured.
14 September 2021
Le Tata sénégalais just outside Chasselay, specifically at Vide-sac, is a cemetery containing the remains of 188 Senegalese infantrymen, six north African infantrymen and two soldiers from the Foreign Legion. They were massacred by the Nazis in June 1940. The whole cemetery is in red ochre. The name tata refers to a holy enclosure, the cemetery itself has symbols alluding to Christianity and Islam, and the wooden gates remember traditional African religions. It was built in 1942 and underwent no damage during the Occupation.
13 September 2021
Auguste Buchot (1851-83) is perhaps best known for his poetry books Les Ruines de Faucigny (1878) and Le Miroir indiscret (1879), although Georges Droux wrote an autobiographical booklet on him: Auguste Buchot: (avec un portrait du poète) (1889) in the Silhouettes contemporaines series. Buchot also wrote the non-fictional Histoire de Pierre Vaux, l'instituteur de Longepierre (1889), on the teacher wrongly accused of arson in Longepierre. There seems to be very little information readily available about him, although the medallion seems to belie his apparent thirty-two years.
11 September 2021
Anne Sylvestre (1934-2020), or Anne-Marie Beugras, was a French singer/songwriter who was born in Lyon and died in Neuilly-sur-Seine. She was the sister of the novelist Marie Chaix, and therefore became the sister-in-law of the Oulipian Harry Mathews on her marriage. I first came across her name while studying Boby Lapointe, with whom she recorded a crazy duet called 'Depuis l’temps que j’l’attends mon prince charmant', and the Youtube clip sees her incapable of keeping a straight face at Boby's antics. Much more recently, she recorded a duet with Gauvin Sers released on his second album Les Oubliés: 'Y a pas de retraite pour les artistes'.
10 September 2021
This huge scale wine press (pressoir à grand point) dates from 1869 and is on outside display in Saint-Gengoux-de-Scissé: an example of the vine-growing tradition in the village. The municipality acquired it in 1965 and it originally belonged to a family in the hamlet of La Verzée in the same commune. The story is that originally a team of oxen carried a whole oak tree from the forest of Saint-Maurice-de-Satonnay and that it was then sculpted. Regional historian Émile Violet has described the mechanism as 'a very large nut cracker'. The machine was working until 1926 and later dismantled piece by piece to be displayed here.
Lys Gauty (1900-94), whose real name was Alice Gaulthier, was a singer who was born in Levallois-Perret and died in Monte-Carlo. She is most remembered for the song 'Le chaland qui passe' (1933), the French version of the Italian song 'Parlami d'amore, Mariù', which was sung by Vittorio De Sica. The song is featured in Jean Vigo's film L'Atalante (1934), which the distributors sought to rename after it. She is buried in Saint-Gengoux-de-Scissé because she owned a house there in which she regularly stayed.
9 September 2021
Lucie Aubrac (1912-2007) is a huge Résistance hero after whom many places, such as buildings, streets, squares, schools, hospitals, etc., have been named. In 2018 a postal stamp was issued honouring the memory of her and her husband Raymond (also buried here). Her father was born in Salorney, where a street has been named after her.
Émile Chateau (1866-1952), sometimes written with a circumflex on the 'a', was born in Uchon and died in Charrecey (both in Saône-et-Loire) . He was a headteacher in several schools over the years: Saisy, Mâcon, Bourg-le-Comte, Antully and Matour, but is most remembered as a botanist. He wrote a great number of books. From adolescence he noted plants growing on the sides of railway enbankments, and in time noted that independent plants group together in an almost identical fashion: he thus became the inventor of phytosociology.* La Société botanique de la France awarded him the Prix Coincy in 1927, a prize normally awarded to university academics. His mature researches were mainly carried out in Antully and Salorney, which explains why there is a pedestrian trail through the bois de la Roche next to Salorney.
*Some non-French sites don't recognise this invention as coming from Chateau.
8 September 2021
'Georges Droux Écrivain et poète bourguignon' is the title of a booklet by Gustave Gasser (published a year before Droux's death), and apart from Droux's dates (1871-1951), are the exact words, in relief, on Droux's grave. The BNF seem to think that Droux, 'Poète, chansonnier et auteur de chroniques', born in Chagny and died in Lyon, died on the year of publication of the booklet.
The BNF give many details of Droux's publications (some of which read like the names of paintings), such as: Station moustérienne à Vitry-lès-Cluny (1939); Flâneries en Bourgogne, Dijon et ses alentours (1926); Lumière, Alger-la-Blanche (1922); Gestes de héros. 1914-1918 (1921); La Bourgogne en fleurs (1912); La Chanson lyonnaise, histoire de la chanson à Lyon, les sociétés chansonnières (1907); Larmes et sourires (1892).
Jean-Pol Betton (1944-2005) was a painter, sculptor and ceramicist but he doesn't even have a Wikipédia page dedicated to him. His atelier was in Azé, where he is buried. There isn't much information to be found on what seems like a fascinating artist whose work encompassed the Rabelaisian and the grotesque ham acting of La commedia dell'arte. A representation of his head appears on the very odd grave. Around two sides of the grave are the clear thought that his belief is that he has no need for that which is necessary, only that which is superfluous: perhaps an irony, but I hope not: uselessless has the greatest of uses!
The Roman theatre in Autun was built in the second half of the first century AD and perhaps had the capacity for 14,000 spectactors (although this number depends on the narrator). It is said to be the largest of its kind and is still used for various tourist spectacles.
6 September 2021
La Pierre de Couhard, or La Pyramide de Couhard, is in tiny Couhard just outside Autun. This is a funerary monument dating from the first century, although it is unknown who is concerned here or if it's a mausoleum or a cenotaph: the absence of found funerary remains suggests the latter. The orifice in the centre is the result of an excavation in 1640, and later attempts in the nineteenth century to discover more proved fruitless. From here you can see for many miles around, and not just Autun: Saulieu, for instance, is clearly visible.
5 September 2021
The lavoir at Cortiambles, a hamlet in the commune of Givry, has a roof designed to catch rain water in the basin. It was built between 1829 and 1830, on the site of an earlier lavoir, by François Berthelot following plans by Zolla, an architect from Chalon-sur-Saône. It is built of rubble stone, is half-moon shaped, and is a monument historique.
3 September 2021
2 September 2021
This is probably one of the smallest Boîtes à lire I've seen, but then Lacroste only has a population of over 700. All the same, there was no room for any more books here, and I relieved it of Jean Giono's Les Récits de la demi-brigade. We just love Lacroste.
The Jeanton tomb in Lacroste is a family one and I could see no mention of Gabriel Jeanton on it. However, a plaque at the side of it reveals a number of things about Lacroste's most famous son. He was born in Lacroste and lived in the family house, now 5 Rue Gabriel Jeanton. He left for Paris, where he obtained a doctorate in Law in 1906. He directed the Tribune Civil in Mâcon for eighteen years, and was curator of the Musée Greuze in Tournus. He wrote a large number of works on the area around Mâcon and Tournus.
La Fontaine à Chagrin on the road between Lacroste (usually pronounced without the 'ste') and Préty is a legend concerning a vouivre (a wivern, or winged dragon) which used to drink at the fountain. It had a diamond on its forehead which it used to take off while drinking. But a man from Lacroste, called Chagrin, had a large container covered in very sharp nails and hid in it while waiting for the creature to go to the fountain. When the creature was drinking Chagrin crept to the diamond and covered it, along with himself, in the container. Having drunk, the wyvern sought the diamond and killed itself on the nails while trying to retrieve it. The fountain is said to cure eye diseases, although the water itself is said to be detrimental to the health of people. (This account is the one given by local historian Gabriel Jeanton (1881-1943) in L’ancienne paroisse de Préty en Mâconnaisin, although there are other stories which slightly differ.)
1 September 2021
Le Forez is an area in France which is largely in the Loire département, and is essentially rural. The Château de la Bâtie d'Urfé is in Forez in Saint-Étienne-le-Molard, where Honoré d'Urfé (1567-1625) lived for a time and where the area was the source of inspiration for what is his masterpiece, the first roman-fleuve: L'Astrée.
L'Astrée is a homage to his childhood home and surroundings and was published between 1607 and 1627, being a partly autobiographical pastoral love story of Astrée and Céladon (in turn rendered homage to by Éric Rohmer's film version of part of it): the director could hardly have even summed up a book which stretches to 5399 pages with 293 characters in twelve books. The book was read throughout Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (And was in fact finished posthumously by the author's secretary Balthazar Baro.)
The novel, obviously known by academics, is still obscurely 'remembered' in the French word for green glazed porcelain: céladon, or 'celadon' in English. Unfortunately, because of a lack of time, we were unable to appreciate the château and its surroundings to anything like the extent it merits.
30 August 2021
Gabriel Vicaire (1848-1900) was a poet who was born in Belfort and who died in Paris. Some of his works were co-written with Henri Beauclair under the collective pseudonym Adoré Floupette. Many places in France are named after him, and the monument of him below is by Jean-Antoine Injalbert in Luxembourg, Paris, which I took a whole ten years ago. He's buried here because his father was born in Bugey, as were his paternal ancestors, and on his mother's side his ancestors came from Bresse.