Biography of Jean Giono: Portrait of a Provencal writer - Provence

Discover Jean Giono's Provence

Jean Giono loved talking about Provence, “his” Provence, his primary source of inspiration and the very heart and soul of his work, portrayed in all its authentic glory, but always with a hint of darkness and revolt. Today, you can walk in his footsteps on the sunny roads of Provence and write your very own chapter…

As long as Manosque shines…

…Giono will never fade

Giono spent his entire life in Manosque. It was here that the author created his monumental oeuvre, inspired by the sun-drenched footpaths and unbridled natural scenery that was his home. Following in the footsteps of the “immobile traveller”, as Giono liked to call himself, you will cross the landscapes he described so vividly, from Gréoux-les-Bains to Forcalquier where his work A King Alone was born. A wave of emotion submerges walkers arriving at Giono’s home, a pretty house with green shutters. Today, you can still admire his personal library overflowing with manuscripts, letters and private papers, now lovingly guarded by the association Les Amis de Jean Giono, based inside the house. Every summer since 2006, “Les Rencontres Giono” brings Giono’s work back to life with a series of interpretations by contemporary artists.  

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50 years on, keeping the memory alive

Tribute to a man and artist

In tribute to the 50th anniversary of Giono’s death, the Mucem in Marseille is dedicating an exhibition to this giant of Provencal literature from October 30th, 2019 to February 17th, 2020. Simply named “Giono”, the exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the author through around 300 works and documents commented by four contemporary artists and throws the spotlight on the man behind the books and his unfailing love of Provence, always tinged with a touch of darkness. His ability to strike a balance between his embellished imaginary world and dark reality – in particular that of the war – was undoubtedly the key to his success. In parallel, the Musée Regards de Provence will be hosting an enlightening exhibition evoking Giono through the eyes of his close friend Lucien Jacques, showcasing correspondence, portraits and journals highlighting the major themes that guided his thoughts and pen alike…

Head to the Jean Giono Route to enjoy a fabulous new angle on the author’s work and step into the world of Giono and his heroes – a world where everything is possible. The 152 km itinerary is suitable for cars, motorcycles or bikes and crosses picturesque villages embodying the high country so dear to Giono, seemingly suspended in time. Dotted with around 20 touristic and literary landmarks, the route starts in Banon, at the dawn of Giono’s initiatory journey. It continues to the village of Aurel, where he used to meet with his artist-painter friends, including Marseille-born Ambrogiani. Next, you will head to the Ennemonde area and historic town of Montbrun-les-Bains, embraced by the gentle curves of Jabron valley and overlooking Les Omergues where Angelo, the hero of The Horseman on the Roof, was born…

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Around the corner

Lure mountain, where it all began

The itinerary is built around a mount that became a myth for Giono: Lure mountain, which he considered as “the free, new mountain that has only just emerged from the deluge”. You will find no less than 14 literary walks around the Jean Giono Route: 14 opportunities to delve into the author’s soul. Defy gravity by opting for the panoramic Sur le dos de Lure (On the Back of Lure) itinerary, soaring to the heights of the hills of Provence… But if you can only choose one, you might want to go with the Contadour de Giono walk, illustrating the author’s fascination for his home country seen from above. A picture-postcard scene of old stone sheepfolds and azure-blue skies awaits you, with views stretching all the way to the horizon…

 

Lights, camera, action!

A location fit for the big screen

With its beautiful, authentic landscapes, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence area has become a favourite shooting location for many film directors. The movie adventure began for Giono after his life-changing encounter with the legendary, local-born Marcel Pagnol, which gave birth to the film Joffroi. Giono soon wanted to go it alone, and launched his own production company “La société des films Jean Giono”. His film Croesus starring Fernandel was shot on location in Manosque and Gréoux-les-Bains. Giono never ceased to return to his first and everlasting love: Manosque. It was here that Jean-Paul Rappenau set down his cameras to film the adaptation of the Horseman on the Roof. He also shot several mythical scenes on the heights of Cucuron and Sivergues.

 

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Excerpt 

Literary walks in Saint-Julien-le-Montagnier 

“I was pondering on the terrace of a house at the top of Saint-Julien-le Montagnier. The holm oak forest is wrapped tightly around the foot of the rock that bears the village. It stretches for a good one hundred square kilometres. You can see it from above, crossed by a straight, deserted road heading to the bronze hills that separate this land from the sea on the horizon […] Far to the South, rising almost to my height and despite the distance, I can see Sainte-Victoire mountain […]. Next to the Saint-Victoire, entering to the East, the afternoon sun lights up the Sainte-Baume hills.”

Jean Giono, excerpt from the Provence collection