Market Day in Provence

Michele De La Pradelle, Author, Amy Jacobs, Translator
Michele De La Pradelle, Author, Amy Jacobs, Translator University of Chicago Press $37.5 (266p) ISBN 978-0-226-14184-8
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Rich in descriptions of French market life and observations about those who live it, de La Pradelle's (1944 - 2004) book quickly lays bare the gap between what open air market patrons believe-that bargains on superior food and goods are the primary reason to attend-and the truth: sellers display goods in way that ""guarantees that this is a homemade product prepared with loving care,"" but the goods were purchased from the same wholesalers who sell to the supermarkets. (One pate; vendor confesses, ""We have to lie.... If I don't say I made it myself, they don't think it's as good."") The market's allure lies in the implied permission attendees gain to act out old-world neighborliness in a setting where ""one can for an instant establish an apparently intimate relationship with someone one doesn't know from Adam."" It's a naïvete vendors exploit by engaging customers in chummy banter while selling them mass produced products. The vendors' methods of selling (and sizeable profit margins) will also burst the bubble of anyone who thinks farmers are a simple people who eek by on meager earnings. Jacobs's translation is nearly transparent, making this book a testament to de La Pradelle's keen field reporting chops and an elegy to old world innocence. Photos.
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