In 1932, Giono met artist Édith Berger in his own native town of Manosque, north of Marseille. Giono called her the painter of the daily bread. From 1934 onwards, Berger settled down in the little town of Lalley in the Trièves, where she would ultimately die as well. She invited Giono to spend his holidays there, which he did on a few occasions. He described the landscape in his stories: expansive purple lavender fields, rolling slopes and snowy mountaintops. When the threat of war increased, Giono joined a pacifist group, writing texts about this such as Vivre libre (1938 and 1939). In 1939 he was imprisoned briefly in Marseille because of his defeatist publications. During the Second World War, his work was published in magazines, in which Nazi texts also appeared. The resistance set off a bomb in front of his house in 1943, and his work was banned for a short period after the war.
Against the modernisation of life
'In the village, work and life show their true dignity.' With these words, Jean Giono began his story about the village: Village. The village in question was Lalley, where artist Édith Berger lived. She also made the illustrations for this short story written by Giono in February 1950. His biographer Pierre Citron noted that the story was written in Giono's later unforced and ironic style, but that he had by that time outgrown its theme. This village was still pervaded by the atmosphere of Virgil's bucolic poetry. It was a peaceful environment without the demons from another book by Giono from that period, Faust au village. This sense of nostalgia was fed by restless thought of post-war France: Giono went searching for the happiness of his childhood days.
Giono wrote about the simplicity and naturalness of country life. The two main enemies of modern man were city life and intelligence, according to Giono. Opposite them stood our natural allies: landscape and intuition, animals and ancient traditions. He hoped that farmers would revolt against the modernisation of life: but in his own story (Village), they fail to take any such action. 'When he is talking about a good or bad character, you can assume that he is talking about animals, not about people'. Another quote from the book is: 'Progress with its electricity (not a word about that!), what can this do with a sheep but turn it into cutlets?'
From 1946 onwards Giono returned to Lalley again every year. Édith Berger created a series of linocuts for Village, after which Giono added his introduction. The luscious beauty of the landscape is not all that obvious in these linocuts. They are simple presentations, printed in black-and-white, that bring to mind the rustic scenes of the impressionists, like Camille Pissarro. For another book by Giono (Les vraies richesses) photographer Gerull Kardas took 112 black-and-white photographs, which therefore also lack the colour of the landscape. The photographs, just like Berger's linocuts, do however give a good impression of the quiet world in which a reposing deer, a farmer with a hoe, labour around a hay wagon, or a silent snowy landscape have been captured. A reprint of Village appeared in 1985, without the linocuts, but with pencil drawings and pastels by Berger, which provide a more dynamic, more colourful and therefore livelier impression of the Trèves area.
The first edition was printed in June 1950 by François Prochaska in a limited edition of 150 copies. The Koopman Collection contains number 75, printed on vélin d'Arches. Prochaska (probably born in Sanak, Poland) owned a hand-operated press, using an appropriate font for the typesetting: the Montaigne (or: Mountain). Besides his initials, his printer's emblem includes a set of antlers, between which a female figure is standing with her arms spread out. He also illustrated books himself (in 1954 for instance A. T'Serstevens' Intimité de l'Ile Saint Louis, which he also published). Édith Berger created a linocut for nearly each page in Village, with a total number of 25.
|Description:||Village / texte de Jean Giono ; linograv. d'Edith Berger. - Paris : [Prochaska], 1950. - xxv p. : ill. ; 31 cm|
|Printer:||François Prochaska (Paris)|
|This copy:||Number 75 of 150 on Arches|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm A 304|
- Pierre Citron, Giono 1895-1970. Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 1990
- Gaïté Dugnat, Pierre Sanchez, Dictionnaire des graveurs, illustrateurs et affichistes français et étrangers (1673-1950). Tome 4: Leq-P. Dijon, Echelle de Jacob, 2001
- Jean Giono, Village.Lyon, La Manufacture, 1985
- Pierre Magnan, La Provence de Giono. Paris, Éditions du Chêne, 2000
- Denis Labouret, Les grands chemins de Giono ou Les détours du temps. Paris, Belin, 2000