11 June 2016

Alphonse Daudet in Fontvieille (13)

Alphonse Daudet (1840 –97) is undoubtedly noted in the popular imagination for his book Lettres de mon moulin, a collection of short stories still taught in French schools and translated into many languages: the English edition is simply Letters from My Windmill. D. H. Lawrence read it, I believe in the original French.

In his book, Daudet claims (inventively) that he bought one of the four windmills in Fontvieille. Well, he didn't, and in fact Daudet was more associated with one of the other mills. Needless to say, Daudet never (as is popularly believed) lived in any of them. But the myth that this windmill belonged to Daudet persists, so there it is. That Daudet is associated with a windmill in Fontvieille is apt because he used to visit the millers while staying at the Château de Montauban, which wasn't really a castle but a farmhouse with a highly elaborate façade.

The windmill that is now called Daudet's ceased to function in 1915 and became 'Le Moulin de Daudet' in 1935 on the initiative of Les Amis de Daudet, amongst whom was the local artist Léo Lelée, who made a number of drawings of the place, including the workings of the mill.


On the side of the mill:

'CE COIN DE ROCHE QUI M'ÉTAIT
UN PATRIE ET DONT ON
RETROUVE LA TRÂCE – ÊTRES
OU ENDROITS – DANS PRESQUE
TOUS MES LIVRES
               
ALPHONSE DAUDET'

'This rocky corner which was my a fatherland for me and of which can be found traces – people or places – in virtually all my books'.


The windmill has just one upper floor.


The millstones: originals or from elsewhere? I forgot to ask.


The winds are listed around the mill.

But I rather like this drawing of the 32 winds of Provence.

The stuffed owl is a good touch: in Lettres de mon moulin, Daudet mentions his feathered 'tenant'.

Moulin Tissot now has new cap and sails. This is the closest of the mills to Montauban, and Daudet spent far more time here than at any of the others, even having an idea of buying it. Tropime Avon, well known to Daudet, was the last miller here, and the mill closed in 1905.


Daudet's Ambroy cousins, particularly Timoléon, used to welcome Daudet when he'd had enough of Paris and wanted fresh inspiration.

'MONTAUBAN
---------
MAISON BÉNIE ! QUE DE FOIS
JE SUIS VENU LÀ, ME REPRENDRE
À LA NATURE, ME GUÉRIR
DE PARIS, ET DE SES FIÈVRES
                                   A. DAUDET'

'Montauban. Blessed house! So many times I have come there, to get back to nature, to cure myself of Paris and its fevers.'

A bust of Daudet occupies a central position in the village.

And this bust of Daudet is currently on display at the Fontvieille Office de Tourisme.

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