25 July 2017

Marcel Pagnol in La Treille, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (13)

Marcel Pagnol (1875–1974) was born in Aubagne (13), although he is more associated with Marseille, perhaps with the small village of La Treille in particular, which is mentioned in his novels Le Château de ma mère and La Gloire de mon père, which his family passed on foot on their way to their rented summer holiday home which is in reality slightly outside of La Treille: Les Bellons is a hamlet in the commune of Allauch. He is buried with his mother Augustine and his three-year-old sister Estelle.

There is another Pagnol tomb here containing members of the same family. Marcel fell out with his father Joseph (1869–1951) for marrying someone younger than himself, Madeleine (1887–1949). Along with his father and step-mother, Marcel's brothers Paul and René and his sister Germaine are buried here.

Marius Broquier (1899–1977) was a mason by profession and a childhood friend of Marcel Pagnol's, who employed him for set decoration in several of his films.

Also in this tiny cemetery is Baptistin David Magnan (1898–1918). He was another childhood friend of Pagnol's, killed in the First World War, but Pagnol novelised his relationship and named him Lili des Ballons in Le Château de ma mère and La Gloire de mon père.

At the entrance to the village is a mural, at the side of which is a quotation by Pagnol (with a sketch of him) from La Gloire de mon père: '... nous sortîmes du village, alors commença la féerie et je sentis naître un amour qui devait durer toute ma vie' ('... we left the village and then began the enchantment and I felt a love growing within me which would last all my life'). This is the hold that Pagnol has over people today, and his grave is visited by many people of all ages.

The only thing that makes me cringe a bit is that, although Pagnol is undoubtedly an important southern French writer, how much of the adulation for him is due not to reading his works but to seeing his work on screen and to sentimentalising? For some reason (harshness? lack of sentimentality?) Jean Giono (beyond any doubt a deeper writer) doesn't receive anything like the same acclaim.

NB. Much of the information above about the cemetery and the Pagnol connections come from my reading of Bertrand Beyern's website: any factual errors here are almost certainly my fault.

My other Marcel Pagnol posts:

Marcel Pagnol's Birthplace, Aubagne
Le Petit Monde de Marcel Pagnol, Aubagne
Claude Berri's Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources
Marcel Pagnol: La Gloire de mon père | My Father's Glory
Marcel Pagnol: Le Château de ma mère | My Mother's Castle
Marcel Pagnol: Marius

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