Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
A King Alone
by Jean Giono, translated from the French by Alyson Waters, with an introduction by Susan Stewart
A King Alone is set in a remote Alpine village that is cut off from the world by rugged mountains and by long months when the ground is covered with snow and the heavens with cloud. One such winter, villagers begin mysteriously to disappear. Soon the village is paralyzed by terror, which gives way to relief and eager anticipation when the outsider Langlois arrives to investigate. What he discovers, however, will leave no one reassured, and his reappearance in the village a few years later, now assigned the task of guarding it from wolves, awakens those troubling memories. A man of few words, a regal manner, and military efficiency, Langlois baffles and fascinates the villagers, whose different responses to him shape Jean Giono’s increasingly charged narrative. This novel about a tiny community at the dangerous edge of things and a man of law who is a man alone could be described as a metaphysical Western. It unfolds with the uncanny inevitability and disturbing intensity of a dream.
Langlois is as mysterious as Sam Spade....The haunting beauty of this novel lies precisely in its lacunae. This is a book rich with details . . . everything except what we are most longing to know, Langlois’s thoughts. We must do all the work ourselves.
—Edmund White, The New York Review of Books
Strange and disquieting . . . the twisting narrative reads like a game of telephone passed through generations, with Langlois at the center as a sort of legendary totem to the villagers.
This immersive novel creates a memorably delirious sense of mystery, obsession, and altered perceptions.
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 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—André Gide, unpublished letter, 1929