cover image Ennemonde


Jean Giono, trans. from the French by Bill Johnston. Archipelago, $16 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-1-953861-12-2

Giono (Colline) offers a steady flow of rich imagery and biographical tidbits about the denizens of a mountainous region of southwestern France in this sensual pastoral. The unnamed narrator unleashes what he’s gleaned from local gossip in a stream of profuse descriptive paragraphs. The characters often feel like a manifestation of the rugged land they inhabit: the farm girl Ennemonde, for instance, born near the turn of the 20th century, possesses “a fruitlike beauty.” She has an idyllic courtship with Honore Girard, who carts wood to factories, but after their wedding, he turns abusive. She devotes herself to her many children, and after Honore is killed by a kick from a mule, Ennemonde experiences a surprising renaissance in the years between the wars. There’s also hard-drinking innkeeper Camille and her faithful attendant Long Titus (the son of Armless Titus); Cousin Joseph, who made a fortune in Algeria; Ennemonde’s many children; and others. Giono (1895–1970) achieves an engaging and worldly narration, which grounds the reader in this juicy web of anecdotes. Despite a broad canvas, it feels of a piece and will sustain the reader through a single sitting. (Sept.)