THE PROVENCAL TALES by Michael de Larrabeiti


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Flavorful recollections--some 20 years after the fact--of the author's travels in Provence. However, de Larrabeiti's trip to the South of France was one no agent could book, since he accompanied 3,000 sheep and a handful of shepherds on the annual trans-humance, winding by rivers like the Sorgue and Verdon towards the lush pasturage of the Alpes de Provence. As if to make the journey even more fairy tale-like, de Larrabeiti records tales spun before open fires by the shepherds--whom he believes to be the heirs of medieval troubadours. In a pelting rain high above the town of Callas, one tells of how peasants used to send their dead in coffins down the Rhone to be buried in the Aliscamps, a cemetery near Aries; and how poor Pichounetta, who makes the trip herself to discover who has robbed her brother's coffin, is duped by a wicked sergeant. Other tales a re full of castles and beautiful princesses, magicians and Lear-like barons who abandon their domains to lead the life of the roving troubadours--since ""happiness is the road itself and you must walk it."" And in almost all the stories told to de Larrabeiti, Saracen invaders appear, illustrating that fascinating Muslim interlude in the history of Provence when the infidel swept from Africa and Spain to gain a toehold in southern France. Meanwhile, between raconteurings, de Larrabeiti struggles to keep up with the sheep, smelling more and more like them and subsisting on bread and vermouth. His book makes fine background reading for the Provencal traveler, and is a reminder of the world that exists beyond the glitter of St. Tropez.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's