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One of the final novellas by the acclaimed French writer Jean Giono, Ennemonde is a fierce and jubilant portrait of a life intensely lived
Ennemonde Girard: Obese. Toothless. Razor-sharp. Loving mother and murderous wife: a character like none other in literature. In telling us Ennemonde’s astounding story of undetected crimes, Jean Giono immerses us in the perverse and often lurid lifeways of the people of the High Country, where vengeance is an art form, hearts are superfluous, and only boldness and cunning such as Ennemonde’s can win the day. A gleeful, broad sardonic grin of a novel.
"Roads move cautiously around the High Country..." So begins the story of Ennemonde, but also of her sons, daughters, neighbors, lovers, and enemies, and especially of the mountains that stand guard behind their home in the Camargue. This is a place of stark and terrifying beauty, where violence strikes suddenly, whether from the hand of a neighbor or from the sky itself.
Giono captures every wrinkle, glare, and glance with wry delight, celebrating the uniquely tough people whose eyes sparkle with the cruel majesty of the landscape. Full of delectable detours and startling insights, Ennemonde will take you by the hand for an unforgettable tour of this master novelist's singular world.
About the Author
JEAN GIONO was born and lived most of his life in the town of Manosque, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Largely self-educated, he started working as a bank clerk at the age of sixteen and reported for military service when World War I broke out. After the success of Hill, which won the Prix Brentano, he left the bank and began to publish prolifically. Imprisoned at the beginning of the Second World War for his pacifist views, he was once again wrongly imprisoned for collaboration with the Vichy government and held without charges at the war's end. Despite being blacklisted after his release, Giono continued writing and achieved renewed success. He was elected to the Académie Goncourt in 1954.
Bill Johnston is the Chair of the Comparative Literature Department at Indiana University. His translations include Wieslaw Mysliwski's Stone Upon Stone, and Magdalens Tulli's Dreams and Stones, Moving Parts, Flaw and In Red. His 2008 translation of Tadeusz Różewicz's new poems won the inaugural Found in Translation Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Poetry Award.
"[Bill Johnston's] translation is never static; it captures or even reveals the suspense and the passion present in the original work . . . Defying the stereotype of a strictly Provençal, folkloric, local writer, Giono reveals his entire cultural universe with great abandon and relish."
-- Alice-Catherine Carls, World Literature Today
"Ennemonde is a novel of nature, a novel that might tells us something about the gap between
humanity and its environs . . . The sky is black, the trees – beeches, chestnuts, sessile oaks –
are infinite, the rocks reverberate, and the peasants are murderous . . . We are in the realm of a naturalized Nietzsche here: what is valuable is what sustains and enhances life . . . Giono troubles us, asks us to pay attention, and finally . . . Giono shows us what one can see if one looks."
--Duncan Stuart, Exit Only
"Giono's writing possesses a vigor, a surprising texture, a contagious joy, a sureness of touch and design, an arresting originality, and that sort of unfeigned strangeness that always goes along with sincerity when it escapes from the ruts of convention."
--André Gide, unpublished letter
"For Giono, literature and reality overlap the way that waves sweep over the shore, one ceaselessly refreshing the other and, in certain wondrous moments, giving it a glassy clearness."
--Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic
"Giono's voice is the voice of the realist; his accents are the accents of simplicity, power and a passionate feeling for a land and a people that he must love as well as understand."
--The New York Times
"Giono's prose is a singularly fine blend of realism and poetic sensibility. Essentially a poet, he has an acute faculty of penetration, a lucidity of spiritual vision, and a tender sympathy."
--The Washington Post
"Giono 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 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.”. . . Giono achieves an engaging and worldly narration, which grounds the reader in this juicy web of anecdotes."
"This sharp little book marks a return to [Giono's] naturalistic themes, but with a bitter bite . . . Ennemonde hurtles onward, clause piled on descriptive clause, as if in every great arabesque of a sentence Giono were trying to encompass the whole of Provence. But he isn’t aiming for grace; no, it’s all spiteful glee in these lines . . . a riotous book."
–- Robert Rubsam, The Baffler
"Giono creates an atmosphere that is both contemporaneous and timeless...the epic instinct is active."
--Ray C. B. Brown
"I'm reading Bill Johnston's translation of Jean Giono's Ennemonde, and have come to love the way Giono nestles a kernel of a story inside descriptions of the natural world and its inhabitants, human and otherwise. These plots are organic; they grow out of the soil."
--Stephen Sparks of Point Reyes Books via Twitter
"The land, rough and wet and unparsable, is what dominates [Giono's] novels, dictating the movement of the plot and the development of the characters. Sitting somewhere between the psychologism of Proust or Gide and the realism of Zola, Giono’s dramas unfold as if the inanimate world were itself the primordial life-breath of the animate one . . . a superb English translation by Bill Johnston . . . Ennemonde is a novel about peasantry and the old Gionian world, but it is also one about art and writing themselves—about the acts of observing, of developing a scale."
-- Ben Libman, The Review of Uncontemporary Fiction
"Even when it feels like the narrator is insulting, criticizing, belittling his rural characters, he is actually breaking them loose from the virtuous and the picturesque. Characters pull the sleight of hand of disappearing into their own environment, knowing nature for something other than scenery, impulse for something other than joyrides . . . The bitter tone of the book, mixed with the transcendently lovely descriptions that are so typical of Giono, has me wanting more than ever to situate the author in his past, present, future . . . [Ennemonde] feels like the culmination of several lifelong struggles."
--Abby Walthausen, Asymptote