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The natural world in all its richness, glimpsed variously in the house, the barnyard, and the garden, in ponds and streams, and at large in the woods and the fields, including old friends like the dog, the cat, the cow, and the pig, along with more unusual and sometimes alarming characters such as the weasel, the dragonfly, snakes of several sorts, and even a whale, not to mention ants in their seeming infinitude and a single humble potato—all these and more are the subjects of what may well be the most deft and delightful book of literary miniatures ever written. In Jules Renard’s world, plants and animals not only feel but speak (one species, the swallow, appears to write Hebrew), and yet, for all the anthropomorphic wit and whimsy the author indulges in, they guard their mystery too. Sly, funny, and touching, Nature Stories, here beautifully rendered into English by Douglas Parmée and accompanied by the wonderful ink-brush images of Pierre Bonnard with which the book was originally published, is a literary classic of inexhaustible freshness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590173640
Publisher: New York Review Books
Publication date: 12/07/2010
Series: NYRB Classics Series
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.01(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

Jules Renard (1864–1910) was a French novelist, playwright, and diarist who divided his time between Paris and the Burgundian countryside for most of his life. He described his lonely childhood growing up in a cold bourgeois family in the autobiographical novel Poil de carotte (Carrot Top). Though educated to be a teacher, the young Renard moved to Paris where he took up with an actress of the Comédie-Française and was introduced into the city’s most prestigious literary salons. His marriage in 1888 to Marie Morneau brought him a large dowry and allowed him to devote himself to life as an homme de lettres and to found the literary review Mercure de France. For the rest of his short life Renard would spend the warmer months in Chitry, where like his father before him he became mayor. In Paris he lived the life of a member of the Académie Goncourt and counted among his friends Alphonse Daudet, Edmond de Goncourt, Anatole France, Paul Claudel, and Sarah Bernhardt. In addition to Poil de carotte and Histoires naturelles, Renard is best known for his five-volume Journal, cited as an influence by authors as diverse as W. Somerset Maugham, Susan Sontag, Donald Barthelme, and Samuel Beckett. Among his other works are Le plaisir de rompre, L’ écornifleur, and Huit jours à la campagne.

Douglas Parmée (1914–2008) was a lecturer in modern languages at Cambridge and a Lifetime Fellow of Queens’ College. He translated many works of classic and contemporary literature from French, Italian, and German, receiving the the Scott Moncrieff Prize for French translation in 1976. NYRB Classics publishes his translations of The Child by Jules Vallès and Afloat by Guy de Maupassant and in 2011 will publish his translation of Irretrievable by Theodor Fontaine.


Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) was among the most iconic and original Post-Impressionist French painters, and a founding member of the avant-garde group Les Nabis.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

Lying in Wait 3

Hunting for Pictures 5

The Hen 6

Cocks 9

Ducks 12

Turkeys 15

Pigeons 16

The Peacock 19

The Swan 20

One Dog 23

Two Dogs 24

Dédèche has Died 26

The Cat 29

Flies 31

The Cow 32

The Death of Brunette 34

The Ox 39

The Bull 40

The Mare 43

The Horse 44

The Donkey 47

The Pig 48

The Pig and his Pearls 50

The Nanny Goat 51

The Billy Goat 53

Two Rabbits 54

The Hare 56

The Lizard 59

The Green Lizard 60

The Grass Snake 61

The Weasel 62

The Hedgehog 63

The Snake 65

The Worm 66

Frogs 69

The Toad 70

The Grasshopper 73

The Cricket 74

The Cockroach 76

The Glowworm 77

The Spider 78

The May Bug 79

Ants 80

The Snail 82

A Sunrise 84

The Caterpillar 87

The Butterfly 88

The Wasp 91

The Flea 92

The Dragonfly 95

The Squirrel 96

The Mouse 99

Monkeys 100

The Stag 103

The Gudgeon 104

The Pike 106

The Whale 107

Fish 108

The Garden 113

Poppies 114

The Vine 115

Bats 116

The Birdless Cage 119

A Canary 120

The Finch 123

The Bullfinches' Nest 125

The Sparrow 126

The Swallows 128

The Magpie 131

The Blackbird 132

The Golden Oriole 133

The Parrot 133

The Lark 134

The Kingfisher 137

The Hawk 138

The Wagtail 140

Partridges 141

The Woodcock 148

A Family of Trees 151

The End of the Shooting Season 152

The New Moon 155

The Wood 156

Rain 157

The Furious Dog 158

Autumn Leaves 161

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Nature Stories 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
abealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Before knowing anything about Jules Renard I tried to imagine how these short vignettes would have been published. As filler in newspapers? Perhaps simply as entries in a commonplace book. Some are no longer than a sentence or two. The shortest need only a few beautiful words that read like haiku. Renard seems to have lived a charmed life. He grew up in Chitry-les-Mines, a humble village in the Nièvre region of Burgundy. His father sent him to Nievres, the nearest town with a proper school and eventually he moved to Paris to complete his studies. He married a young woman with a large dowry, became a shareholder in the prestigious Mercure de France and a member, late in life, of the Académie Goncourt and was able to move between the literary life of Paris and the more bucolic country life of a home in Chaumot, deep in the country.Renard was extremely active in the Parisian literary circles and counted Edmund de Goncourt, Anatole France, Sarah Bernhardt and Andre Gide among his friends and acquaintances. He died of arteriosclerosis in Paris in 1910 at the age of 49.Several editions of Nature Stories were published at the end of the 19th century ¿ one illustrated by Toulouse Lautrec and a later edition by Pierre Bonnard, whose wonderful ink drawings grace this English translation by Douglas Parmee published by New York Review Books.The stories reflect his love of the countryside where he spent his young life and are full of humor and a sardonic wit that seems to imagine the foibles of humankind reflected in the short vignettes of the animals he describes. This short book can be read quickly but, to better effect should be savored, slowly, like those things in life that are meant to be enjoyed at a calmer, more leisurely pace.
elenchus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poised, reflective, deliberate. In Nature Stories, Renard masks some biting commentary behind unassuming observations of the natural world around him. These vignettes focus upon pastoral scenes of farming, herding, and hunting. A favourite approach is to paint a self-portrait of mild ridicule, but I suspect Renard's chosen targets are fellow villagers and city visitors.Renard's prose is effective because his criticism is merely one subtext. His short pieces are keenly observed, and his humour clearly draws from a deep well of sincere affection for the animals & people he writes about. He displays almost as much respect for the words he employs: I wonder how much I miss reading his prose in translation, and I suspect it's quite a bit. A translator's note indicates some pieces were omitted because the puns simply would not carry through.This slight book is a wonder and worth revisiting, like verse. The NYRB edition is attractively understated, with Bonnard's line drawings and the book's heft nicely matched to Renard's text (though I'm very curious to see the Toulouse-Lautrec and Serafini illustrations). Reading Renard puts me in a good humour, calm and still but very much an active observer of events around me. Renard fits my conception of a naturalist, present to the moment and open to whatever might be there, but mustering a reservoir of past observations, and knowledge, and experience. A wonder.
rpeckham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful collection of literary vignettes on nature and village life from the perspective of the urban writer, generally assigning fascinating personalities to animals of the farm and entering into dialogues with the creatures of the hunt. The tone is conversational and, indeed, the most interesting moments occur when the author launches into out and out conversations with his environment. All in all this vision of life on the farm is entrancing and sure to pull the reader to a special place reserved for nostalgic memories of childhood in a simpler place.
Esta1923 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nature Stories by Jules Renard. Translated by Douglas Parmee with Pierre Bonnard illustrations. This paperback edition from NYRB is the latest incarnation of Renard's wonderfully idiosyncratic "portraits" written in 1896. The Introduction is well worth reading. Its author, Douglas Parmee (who died in November 2008, at age 94) presents an excellent portrait of Renard. The eighty-four "stories" range from one-liners to multi-page. Most are charming, a few are didactic. "The Woodcock" is a moment-of-truth between father and son. Several detail the death of farm animals (don't miss "The Death of Brunette") or pets. "The Nanny Goat" is useful in an unusual way, the caterpillar is appreciated by the rose. And truly there are gems aplenty. It is a small book, so tuck it into your briefcase, and enrich the moments while you are waiting for whatever you are waiting for.