The Lost Upland

W. S. Merwin, Author Knopf Publishing Group $22 (307p) ISBN 978-0-679-40526-9
Still divided by Roman walls, the Languedoc region of southern France, home to the Lascaux caves, cradles an endangered small-town and rural folk. Its people supported a highly effective Resistance movement during WW II and still maintain age-old traditions in a landscape dotted with empty buildings, from shepherds' shelters to shuttered castles. Poet, translator and journalist Merwin pays homage to the region in an enchanting book suffused with the meticulous lyricism and keen observation of his poetry. He visits chestnut forests and an ancient mill farm, tends a garden in a ruined village, investigates sinister events like sheep rustling and appreciates vernacular architecture from pigsties to Gothic churches. His portrait of a conniving, disdainful, down-at-heels nobleman, the Court d'Allers (``Fatty''), is full of wit. Another native, resourceful Blackbird, a wine merchant and hotelkeeper who resolves to teach his precarious trade to an indifferent nephew, seems to embody the spirit of the place. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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