THE HORSE OF PRIDE: Life in a Breton Village by Pierre-Jakez HÉlias

THE HORSE OF PRIDE: Life in a Breton Village

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Per the Foreword by Laurence Wylie, who has applied the conventional tools of social anthropology to Provence (Village in the Vaucluse, 1957), The Horse of Pride is at once ""an epic of peasant life in Brittany during the first half of this century. . . an ethnographic description of a culture that has all but disappeared. . . a case study in the quarrel over ethnicity. . . an account of a childhood."" Professor HÉlias, a native of the bigouden region to which he confines himself here, has been ""leading a double life"" ever since his family subordinated its only weapon against hardship--cultural pride--to the better one promised by a scholarship to a French lycÉe, where ""I made my first discovery of Purgatory's homely face"": there were no sugar-salads and no box-beds (those individual ""chapels"" whose doors lent a semblance of privacy to sleeping in a one-room house and protected babies while mothers worked the fields); even the Breton language was taboo--and now, HÉlias laments, the whole populace has been robbed of it by government fiat. The movement toward homogenization diluted and invalidated regional identity; ""the champions of the new social sciences"" approach its remains armed with charts but blind to cultural soul. The end of the book is bitter and plaintive by turns: ""Let us take advantage of the fact that Brittany is now a fashionable brand-name; in that way we can make ourselves known. . . . Let us be as Celtic as possible."" Often using his own family as a springboard, HÉlias revives bigouden folklore in all of its material and spiritual incarnations and correlations. This is a heroic record, patient, respectful, and accessibly colloquial, and, as Wylie notes, it has been translated with extraordinary skill.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1978
ISBN: 0300025998
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press