Jean Giono, The Man Who Planted Trees (1953)
This is one of those books you wish you had studied in school! In this short story, a lonely shepherd named Elzéard Bouffier carefully plants acorns, every day, in his desert corner of Provence where only lavender grows. Day after day, without fail and without the knowledge of his neighbors, Elzéard Bouffier plants trees to restore a barren valley. This short story recreates the landscapes of Provence in the mind's eye, and praises the act selfless effort while questioning the place of man in nature. It's essential reading for any francophile.
Franck Bouysse, Grossir le ciel (2014)
We find ourselves deep in the Cévennes, Occitanie, where men are as hard as the lands they work. Here lives Gus, a silent and solitary peasant whose whole life is punctuated by his beasts. His neighbor Abel also lives here. Grossir le ciel is a hymn to wild nature, to a generation of peasants that has become rare and to the contemplative solitude that only these vast spaces can offer. It is also a real thriller, with well-crafted suspense thread through fascinating story, in which the Cévennes region take the lead.
Marcel Pagnol, My father's Glory (1957)
The first volume of Souvenirs d'enfance de l'écrivain, "La Gloire de mon Père" starts in Aubagne, telling the story of his childhood in Marseille. The story moves on to family holidays in La Bastide Neuve, into the village of La Treille (today the 11th district of Marseille), and escapades into the Garlaban Massif. In this narrative, there are country teachers, partridge hunts, rocky mountains, secret scrublands, and mysterious caves. The book is perfumed with the fragrance of childhood and nostalgia, completed a few years later by the following volumes: My Mother's Castle (1957), Le Temps des secrets (1960) and Le Temps des amours (1977).
Getting to Provence