“Recently I wrote a note to accompany Paul Eprile’s translation of Jean Giono’s MELVILLE, which quickly evolved into a novel that has nothing to do with the historical neurasthenic and queer-leaning Herman Melville and everything to do with Giono himself.
“Giono was deeply influenced by American writers… [He] first discovered Walt Whitman in French [and] later studied the ‘American Homer’ in English. He loved Whitman’s all-embracing egalitarianism and his pantheism, and the first part of Giono’s œuvre obviously owes a debt to this passionate revolutionary figure. In Hill, his first novel, Giono tried to illustrate two very Whitmanesque truths:
‘The first of these truths is that there are people, simple and nude; the other is that this earth fleeced [entoisonnée] with woods… this living earth, exists without literature.’
“Cutting down on metaphor and simile (he could never altogether forego them) must have been painful for Giono, so naturally gifted with that kind of eloquence. As Aristotle suggest in The Rhetoric, metaphor is one of the greatest ornaments of writing but also the one no one can learn.” — Edmund White, The Unpunished Vice
White’s blend of memoir and literary criticism is out now.
EDMUND WHITE, THE UNPUNISHED VICE: A LIFE OF READING (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018).
Top image credit: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Above: Edmund White and Zadie Smith at a writers’ festival in Florence, 2017. Image credit: Édouard Louis‘ Twitter.
Below, from left: Bernard Buffet, Jean Giono, and Pierre Bergé in Manosque, June 16, 1950. Image credit: Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris.