30 July 2016

Jean Giono: Le Hussard sur le toit | The Hussar on the Roof (1951)

Jean Giono has an Italian surname, as has the protagonist Angelo Pardi in Le Hussard sut le toit (translated as The Hussar on the Roof), and Giono's father was a shoemaker, as is Angelo's foster brother Giuseppe whom Angelo goes to seek out, passing through Manosque (Giono's place of birth and death) on the way. In plague-ridden Manosque Angelo is accused of poisoning the well. Giono was accused of collaboration during World War II, and Resistance fighters planted a bomb outside his door, not harming anyone but blowing in the entrance door and giving Giono's daughter Aline a bit of a fright.

Are the resemblances between Le Hussard sut le toit and Giono's life purely coincidental? Is there some allegorical content in the novel, does the plague that's decimating Provence have some sort of allegorical nature? Those are rhetorical questions, of course.

Jean Giono takes five hundred pages to tell the story of Angelo, the aristocratic Italian colonel who leaves for Provence after a duel in  which he kills a pretty nasty man, flees the plague by running across the rooftops in Manosque, finds Giuseppe with his wife, leaves them to accidentally re-meet the young Pauline (who briefly fed him when he briefly came down from the roofs in search of food), and escorts her on the very hazardous journey to Gap.

There are many deaths in the book, much suffering, the general atmosphere is one of fear and mistrust, although care and love, plus a resistant sense of humour, are there too. But for what is being conveyed it's probably much too long, and many passages seem somewhat superfluous.

My other Jean Giono posts:

Jean Giono: Colline | Hill of Destiny
Jean Giono: Un de Baumugnes | Lovers Are Never Losers
Jean Giono in Manosque (04)
Sylvie Giono: Jean Giono à Manosque: Le Paraïs
Jean Giono: L' Homme qui plantait des arbres

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