I grew up with Marcel. That is the French author Pagnol (1895-1974) was a part of our domestic library and vocabulary, and I remember a series of plays set in Marseille, together with his childhood memoirs, La Gloire de Mon Père and Le Chateau de Ma Mère. Redolent with gentle humour, playfulness and human insight, these have lost none of their charm as part of the 20th century French comedic canon that included Clochemerle and, for me, Jacques Tati.
Years later, when I should have been studying hard, I skived off classes at university because I discovered some basement screening room which would let you watch, for free, black and white films of Pagnol’s books, as far as I could gather, made by him. Some of the one liners have stayed with me, in approximate form, such as when a father tells his departing son that he loves him, in so far as he’s able to express such an emotion, by saying something like: ‘Tous les temps que je t’ai dit que tu empoisonnes mon éxistence? … C’est pas vrai’ (‘All those times I told you that you poison my existence? It’s not true.’) You can find some of these delights on YouTube.
So, a wealth of impressions and memories came to mind when I discovered this large format children’s book of illustrated excerpts from La Gloire de Mon Père, published a year before I was, with dancing garrigue-bright images by Suzanne Ballivet (1904-85) and a hand-written preface by Pagnol. Ballivet illustrated other Pagnol texts and she captures their spirit beautifully. The first shown here gives a sense of the inventiveness with which the small Marcel avoided washing. The others depict the move to a house in the country, and you can feel the heat of the south beating down from the sky and up from the road.
It’s a pleasure to share some of these with you and I hope you also find them entrancing.
Source: Souvenirs d’Enfance de Marcel Pagnol, Marcel Pagnol, illus. Suzanne Ballivet (Editions Pastorelly, 1962)