The Serpent of Stars (Le serpent d¢étoiles, 1993; reprinted 1999 Grasset) takes place in rural southern France in the early part of the century. The novel’s elusive narrative thread ties landscape to character to an expanse just beyond our grasp. The narrator encounters a shepherding family and glimpse by glimpse, each family member and the shepherding way of life is revealed to us. The novel culminates in a large shepherds’ gathering where a traditional Shepherd’s Play—a kind of creation myth that includes ...
The Serpent of Stars (Le serpent d¢étoiles, 1993; reprinted 1999 Grasset) takes place in rural southern France in the early part of the century. The novel’s elusive narrative thread ties landscape to character to an expanse just beyond our grasp. The narrator encounters a shepherding family and glimpse by glimpse, each family member and the shepherding way of life is revealed to us. The novel culminates in a large shepherds’ gathering where a traditional Shepherd’s Play—a kind of creation myth that includes in its cast The River, The Sea, The Man, and The Mountain—is enacted. The work’s proto-environmental world view as well as its hybrid form—part play, part novel—makes The Serpent of Stars astonishingly contemporary. W.S. Merwin’s "Green Fields" begins, "By this part of the century few are left who believe/in the animals for they are not there in the carved parts/of them served on plates and the pleas from slatted trucks..." This novel leaves the reader believing not only in the animals, but the terrain they are part of, the people who tend them, and the life all these elements together compose.
Appearing for the first time in English, Giono's 1933 work is essentially an extended prose poem with no traditional narrative, the action occurring obliquely or by insinuation. Yet a compelling mood engulfs the reader, who tacitly and willingly accompanies protagonists, shepherds on their drive in idyllic southern France. Poetic images abound, especially in reference to the sky and sea, and each sentence practically stands by itself. In the novel's culmination, which is especially unusual and poetic, the herders perform an allegorical "shepherds' play," with the cast representing such primal forces as the Sea and a Mountain. An exercise as intellectual as it is aesthetic, the book shares with Giono's other works, especially the classic The Man Who Planted Trees, an ecological obsession. Not for every taste but a reward for those with patience and sensitivity. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries. Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Giono has created his own private terrestrial domain, a mythical domain…It is a region over which the stars and planets course with throbbing pulsations. It is a land in which things happen to men as aeons ago they happened to the gods. Pan still walks the earth. The soil is saturated with cosmic juices. Events transpire. Miracles occur. —Henry Miller
[Giono's] phrases behave like the wild grasses and the beasts he speaks about. They are sap breathing and moving across the page...Jody Gladding translates as a poet...and that is the only way to translate Giono. —Cecilia Vicuïa
What good luck to have this portion of Paradise, with its shepherds and music, rivers and mountains, magic and mystery, lovingly translated into English. —Christopher Merrill
Jean Giono was born in Manosque in 1895 and spent most of his life in that part of Provence, which is also the setting for his immense body of work, over fifty novels, as well as poems, essays and plays. During World War II, he turned to political writing and was jailed for pacifist activities. He is best known in North America for his autobiographical Blue Boy, The Horseman on the Roof, and The Man Who Planted Trees. This is The first English translation of The Serpent of Stars.
Jody Gladding is poet and a translator. Her most recent collection of poetry is Rooms and Their Airs. She has translated over twenty books from French, including Small Lives and The Eleven by Pierre Michon. She teaches in The MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Vermont.
Open yourself! Here you are crossed by the suns and the clouds; here you are traveled by wind. Listen to the beautiful wind that dances over your blood as over mountain lakes; listen to the way it makes the beautiful sound of its depths ring out! Here you are bristling with sun, free to walk in the thorns, and the thorns break under your heel, and your head is buzzing like a nest of wasps. Here you are all light with clouds, and you leap into the sky, and you leap through the beautiful waves of the sky like an eagle.