29 April 2015

Jean Giono: Un de Baumugnes | Lovers Are Never Losers (1929)

Un de Baumugnes (translated rather bizarrely as Lovers Are Never Losers) is the second part of Giono's Pan trilogy, and another bizarre thing is the cover of this Le Club du meilleur livre edition, suggesting a medieval setting for this book, but Un de Baumugnes – although unspecific about date – takes place when railways existed.

Disinterested friendship is of major interest in a book in which humans, as opposed to Nature in general in Colline, are the focal point of attention. (Although frequent comparisons are almost always images from the animal kingdom, such as roof tiles described as flying away like partridges, or (in the next sentence) hailstones appearing as big as hens' eggs.)

Amédée is an older man doing seasonal work from farm to farm, and meets the young Albin – who's from the fictional Baumugnes and doing the same – in a bar where they drink a great deal and Albin's tongue loosens and he tells his story of Angèle, the girl he loves, being seduced by his treacherous friend Louis, who takes her away from her family and leads her into prostitution. Albin still yearns for her.

The story touches Amédée so much that he resolves to track Angèle down, and with some difficulty manages to find work at her parents' run-down farm. La Douloire is 'run' by the miserable and easy-to-anger Clarius and his also sorrowful but more amenable wife Philomène. Also working there is Saturnin, who laughs at lot but not at all at the appropriate times.

Eventually Amédée's detective work pays off and he realises that the source of the couple's misery is Angèle, who came back to her parents, but with a baby whose father's identity she has no idea of: due to the shame, her parents hide her and her child away in a cellar so that no one will be aware of their existence.

Amédée has left Albin to work in nearby Pertuis, where Amédée used to live with a woman and where he returns to tell Albin of his findings. Eventually Albin – by means of a monica which is part of his short-tongued ancestors' history, but that's another story – establishes contact with his lover. Amédée slips her a screwdriver so she can pick the lock of her prison, and the four of them (with babe in Angèle's arms and relative ease) escape from La Douloire.

A coda to the novel is that a few years later Amédée – when walking near La Douloire – meets a young child who says she's from Baumugnes but lives at the farm and speaks of pépé, her grandfather. From this Amédée concludes that Albin and and Angèle have made it up with Clarius and Philomène. But although this is obviously a happy ending, there's no sentimentalising and Amédée decides not to pay his friend a visit: he simply tells the girl to let her father know that Amédée passed. He knows that she'll forget his name as soon as he leaves, but he's content just to know – and for Albin to know – that he's done his good deed.

My other Giono post:

Jean Giono: Colline | Hill of Destiny
Sylvie Giono: Jean Giono à Manosque: Le Paraïs
Jean Giono in Manosque (04)
Jean Giono: L' Homme qui plantait des arbres
Jean Giono: Le Hussard sur le toit | The Hussar on the Roof

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