Picture from GoodReads
I don't really know which came first: My love for books or my love for everything French. All I know is that I've been equally passionate about both since my early childhood, and the combination of the two is simply perfect, in my opinion.
When I discovered the local library at the age of 11 or 12 and understood that I could go there and borrow ANY book for free, I felt like a whole new world opened up to me. To walk among the bookshelves, take in the smell of the books, touch them and read their titles in golden print, and enjoy the silence of the place, the serenity ... that was - and still is - one of my favorite activities in this world. I will never get tired of it.
The library is like a treasure chest, full of diamonds just waiting to be discovered. I've found so many gems there over the years, and I've brought them home with so much anticipation and joy, and seldom - if ever - have I been disappointed.
That's how I disovered Pierre Magnan. I was an adult then, and I think it must have been in the early 90's. When I saw those books sitting there on the library shelf, his name immediately caught my attention, since it was unmistakenly French. That alone was enough to catch my interest, and when I took a closer look at the books and found out that they were crime stories, set in Provence, I knew that I just had to read them. I borrowed all of them at once, and could hardly wait to get home and start reading.
Thrilling detective stories from Provence
I wasn't disappointed. The books I read were the ones that were translated into Norwegian at that point, and whose original titles are Le sang des Atrides (1976), Le Commissaire dans la truffière (1978), and Le secret des Andrônes (1982). The main charachter of the books is Commissaire Laviolette, who is a Detective Inspector in Alpes-des-Haute-Provence. The stories are exciting, the charachters quirky and intriguing, and the books describe perfectly the taste, smell and feeling of Provence. I simply loved them from the moment I started reading!
I've later discovered that several of the books have been adpated for cinema and TV, and you can catch a glimpse of some of them on YouTube. My next project will be to seek out and watch all of them!
HPhotos from Goodreads.com
Who was Pierre Magnan?
Pierre Magnan was a bestselling Frenh author of detective novels, born on September 19th 1922 in Manosque, France. He died on April 28th 2012, aged 89. He went to school in Manosque until the age of 12, and from the age of 13 until he was 20, he worked as a typographer. He started writing at the age of 15, and was greatly influenced by another famous writer from Manosque, Jean Giono, to whom he later dedicated a book.
During World War II, he had to go into hiding in Saint-Pierre d'Allevard in Isère, to escape the service du travail obligatoire. He later joined the French resistance for the rest of the war. In Saint-Pierre d'Allevard, he met Thyde Monnier, a well-known female writer, and finally took the courage to show her some of his writing. She persuaded her editor to publish Pierre's first novel, L'aube insolite, in 1946. It wasn't a great success, but he followed up with 3 more novels, which were equally unsuccessful. He kept on writing, though, and to earn a living, he worked for a transport company, where he stayed for 27 years. He wrote a number of novels during those years, but none of them were published.
Finally, in 1976, he got his break-through with the book Le Sang des Atrides, for which he even obtained Le Prix du Quai des Orfèvres in 1978. At the age of 56, his new career opened up in front of him, and a number of books followed. He wrote more than 30 books altogether, and has been translated into 7 languages.
His most famous book is La maison assassinée, which he wrote in 1984, and for which he obtained le Prix RTL grand public. This book has also been made into a movie, like so many others of his novels. The stories about Commissaire Laviolette have also been adapted for television. You may say that Commissaire Laviolette is just as linked to "the land of lavender" - Provence - as Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse was to the colleges of Oxford.
Pierre Magnan won several awards for his writing. According to Goodreads.com, he was never afraid to experiment, and shifted easily from fiction to non-fiction. For example, he wrote (among many other publications) a gentle portrait of his great influencer Jean Giono - Pour Saluer Giono (1990), a study of Provençal novels (Les Romans de ma Provence, 1998) and two volumes of memoirs. In The Essence of Provence (1998) he followed L'Occitaine from roadside soap stand to globally known brand, and his editor at Robert Laffont, Marie-Laure Goumet, has said that Provence was present in all of Pierre Magnan's books.
Pierre Magnan lived in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in Fourcalquier, all his life. In his last years, he devoted himself to another police novel, called Chronique d'un château hanté, in which the story takes place in Manosque and Fourcalquier in a period stretching from la peste noire (1349-1350) up to the present time. It was published by Denoël in 2008, and was followed by a last book about Commissaire Laviolette, Élégie pour Laviolette, in 2010.
Photos from Goodreads.com
Novels by Pierre Magnan:
As mentioned above, his novels have been translated into 7 languages, and the English titles are (as far as I know): The Murdered House, Beyond the Grave, The Messengers of Death, and Death in the Truffle Wood. You can find most of his books on amazon.com, including both his fiction and non-fiction works.
For a complete list of all of Pierre Magnan's work, check out this French Wikipedia article. It also contains a filmography of his work, which I myself find very interesting. I simply love a good crime story, whether in a book or on film, and the works of Pierre Magnan is something I take a particular interest in.
I hope you've found this blog post interesting! You're most welcome to leave a comment below, and I also hope you'll share the article with someone else.
Look out for my next article in this series about my favorite authors from Provence, which will be about Marcel Pagnol.
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