Thursday, January 29, 2015

Alphonse Daudet

At our French class a few weeks ago, I talked about going to see the windmill of French nineteenth century author Alphonse Daudet in Fontvieille. We had gone there with Daniel and Irène after our wonderful Christmas dinner.

Our French instructor then suggested that we ought to read more of Daudet’s stories as they are not long and are well-written. Ellen and I had already read “Les trois messes basses” (The three low masses) which I described in this blog in December. Our French instructor asked us to read other stories from his book Lettres de Mon Moulin (Letters from my Windmill). Last week, we read La Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin (Mr. Seguin’s goat). The story – told to his friend – indirectly poses the question:  freedom at what cost? 

The Billy-goat weather vane

Alphonse Daudet is a well-known French author. Daniel told us that most of the school children in France read his stories. I guess we would call his stories ‘fables’ or at least ‘moral stories’. The tales are humorous and always about the people of Provence. Daudet’s descriptions of the people of Provence and the land itself make his stories worth reading.

Daudet was from Provence. He was born and grew up in Nîmes, taught in Alès and then worked at Le Figaro as a journalist in Paris. He was close friends with Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant. He apparently never lived at the windmill – writing most of the stories on the train (according to Frederick Davies who translated Lettres de Mon Moulin for Penguin books).  Alphonse Daudet has been called “the French Dickens”.

The film director Marcel Pagnol, also from Provence (Marseille), made short movies of Daudet’s tales in the 1950s. (You can watch several of these movies on “YouTube”.)