28 May 2020

Jean Giono: Pour saluer Melville (1941)

Jean Giono published Pour saluer Melville at the same time as he published his (and Lucien Jacques's, with the assistance of Joan Smith) translation of Melville's Moby-Dick. It's a kind of introduction, a kind of biography, although fictionalised because Giono has access to Melville's thoughts.

The book begins in the right place, relating Melville's childhood, his decision to go to sea in a whaler, some of his travels, and his change to occupation by becoming a writer. But a little over halfway through things start to go weird. Certainly Melville visited a publisher during a stay in London in 1849, although what happened there according to Giono is pure fantasy.

Melville decides that while waiting for the next ship back home he has time to visit some of England, and so heads for the south-west in a horse-drawn coach. Initially his only travelling companion is a mysterious Adelina White, with whom Melville becomes obsessed and who in turn comes to love Melville platonically. She reveals that she is smuggling corn to the Irish during the famine, and they exchange addresses as they part.

What is evidently missing here is the fact – which the name 'White' gives away – that Adelina is a representation of Giono's lover Blanche Meyer. In the thirty-page chapter 'The creation of the Muse: Blanche, Adelina White and Pour saluer Melville' of her thesis 'Space of Passion: The Love Letters of Jean Giono to Blanche Meyer (2004), which is freely available online, Patricia A. Le Page analyses how Meyer deeply influenced Giono's writing. A fascinating little book.

My Jean Giono posts:
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Sylvie Giono: Jean Giono à Manosque
Jean Giono: L' Homme qui plantait des arbres
Jean Giono: Le Hussard sur le toit
Jean Giono: Colline | Hill of Destiny
Jean Giono: Un de Baumugnes | Lovers Are Never Losers
Jean Giono in Manosque
Jean Giono: Notes sur l'affaire Dominici
Jean Giono's grave, Manosque, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Pierre Citron: Jean Giono 1895–1970
Jean Giono: Regain | Second Harvest
Jean Giono: Que ma joie demeure
Jean Giono: Pour saluer Melville
Jean Giono et al, Le Contadour

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