by Jean Giono, introduction by David Abram, a new translation from the French by Paul Eprile
An NYRB Classics Original
Deep in Provence, a century ago, four stone houses perch on a hillside. Wildness presses in from all sides. Beyond a patchwork of fields, a mass of green threatens to overwhelm the village. The animal world—a miming cat, a malevolent boar—displays a mind of its own.
The four houses have a dozen residents—and then there is Gagou, a mute drifter. Janet, the eldest of the men, is bedridden; he feels snakes writhing in his fingers and speaks in tongues. Even so, all is well until the village fountain suddenly stops running. From this point on, humans and the natural world are locked in a life-and-death struggle. All the elements—fire, water, earth, and air—come into play.
From an early age, Jean Giono roamed the hills of his native Provence. He absorbed oral traditions and, at the same time, devoured the Greek and Roman classics. Hill, his first novel and the first winner of the Prix Brentano, comes fully back to life in Paul Eprile’s poetic translation.
Though this novel is nearly ninety years old, its sharp focus and uncompromising storytelling leave it feeling hauntingly timeless—a story of primal conflicts erupting into seemingly pastoral landscapes.
In Hill [Giono] . . . decided to show the peasants of his region of Provence in all their particularity—and also to show the beauty and terror of nature in its raw state, stripped of its classical allusions.
—Edmund White, The New York Review of Books
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
Praise for Song of the World
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.
—Ray C. B. Brown, The Washington Post
Giono creates an atmosphere that is both contemporaneous and timeless...the epic instinct is active.
—Ray C. B. Brown