Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet holds a dear place in my childhood memories. I loved reading the fascinating stories of the Lettres de mon Moulin (Letters from my Windmill), a collection of short stories set with the backdrop of Daudet’s windmill in Provence. I still remember the gluttonous priest in Les Trois Messes Basses and the poor goat who gets eaten by the wold for wanting to experience a bit of freedom in La Chèvre de Mr Seguin. My sister had a vinyl record of the story and we used to listen to it, shivering at the fate of the goat , despite having heard it many many times. I can still hear the words: “Ah ! qu’elle était jolie la petite chèvre de M. Seguin. Qu’elle était jolie avec ses yeux doux, sa barbiche de sous-officier, ses sabots noirs et luisants, ses cornes zébrées et ses longs poils blancs qui lui faisaient une houppelande ! et puis docile, caressante, se laissant traire sans bouger, sans mettre son pied dans l’écuelle ; Un amour de petite chèvre.

Alphonse Daudet is one of the most iconic French writers. He was born in Nîmes in 1840 and died in Paris in 1897.  He was the son of a silk manufacturer from Lyon and wasn’t very well educated but wrote his first book at the age of fourteen. He is mainly remembered for writing sentimental tales of life in suburban France and for the windmill that was the setting of many of his stories.

The windmill is still a popular tourist destination and attracts thousands of visitors every year. I visited it over twenty years ago, but was extremely  disappointed as a big car park had been created, destroying the essence of the place: remoteness, solitude and tranquility.

daudet

Here is the beginning of the first short story called Installation.

Ce sont les lapins qui ont été étonnés !… Depuis si longtemps qu’ils voyaient la porte du moulin fermée, les murs et la plate-forme envahis par les herbes, ils avaient fini par croire que la race des meuniers était éteinte, et, trouvant la place bonne, ils en avaient fait quelque chose comme un quartier général, un centre d’opérations stratégiques : le moulin de Jemmapes des lapins… La nuit de mon arrivée, il y en avait bien, sans mentir, une vingtaine assis en rond sur la plate-forme, en train de se chauffer les pattes à un rayon de lune… Le temps d’entrouvrir une lucarne, frrt ! voilà le bivouac en déroute, et tous ces petits derrières blancs qui détalent, la queue en l’air, dans le fourré. J’espère bien qu’ils reviendront.

Here is a pdf version of the book and here is an audio version of the above short story with English translation.

I highly recommend that you read Les lettres de mon Moulin. The book will transport you back in time and into the exquisite region of Provence.

Bonne lecture.

 

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