Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

Three Stories from the Val de Bagnes John Peck

John Berger in Pig Earth describes the French peasant mountain village in which he lives as a source of 'gossip' which accumulates, through countless stories told daily, into a communal self-portrait. Lore, legend, the elements of folktale, and personal observation, this gossip makes up the raw material of the art we recognize as storytelling, the art which no outsider can reproduce. Berger's sharp and affectionate awareness of this fact supports his own inside-outsider narratives. Supporting them also is the conviction that peasant conservatism, together with the peasant's disenchanted experience of survival over the long term, valuably stand over against the foreseeable global drift of things. It will be no news to most of my readers that among American authors this viewpoint is shared by Gary Snyder. But it may come as news that others, neither socialists nor poets, are lighting out for the territory. Carolyn Forché in a recent essay ('Letter to an Open City', American Poetry Review 16 June 1987) mentions that Victor Zorza, a Washington Post correspondent for Russian affairs, has moved to a remote Himalayan village in order to accommodate himself to 'how most people in the world live'.

So there may be some use in looking back to a less urgent time when some writers narrated peasant stories in a manner that may seem to us relatively naïve. Notable among them, because he remained both a fascinated and an alienated native son, was the French-Swiss writer and radical-independent journalist Louis Courthion (Chable 1858-Geneva ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image