Books on ProvenceInspireKeith Van Sickle

2024 Celebrating Author Marcel Pagnol in Provence After 50 Years

2024 is the year of Marcel Pagnol in Provence, marking the 50th anniversary of his death in 1974. Several special events will be held throughout the year to celebrate the life and works of this brilliant author and filmmaker.

Celebrating Marcel Pagnol in Provence 2024

©Wikimedia Commons

Pagnol Celebrations

The festivities begin in Aubagne on February 28, Pagnol’s birthday. Marius, the 1929 play that first brought him fame and fortune before being made into a film in 1931, will be performed three times in the town’s municipal theatre, Le Comoedia.

Théâtre Comœdia
13 Cr Maréchal Foch,
13400 Aubagne

Movie Marius Celebrating Marcel Pagnol in Provence 2024

©Wikipedia Commons

Things kick into high gear in April in La Ciotat. On the 19th, the dock in front of the Eden movie theatre (the world’s oldest cinema) will be renamed in Pagnol’s honour. Then, a two-day television interview with him will be shown in the theatre. Filmed the year before Pagnol’s death, it is full of hilarious and touching stories as he recounts his life in a final testament.

Eden Theatre
25 Bd Georges Clemenceau,
13600 La Ciotat

Also, in April, a large outdoor exhibition of Pagnol’s life and works, with items taken from his family’s rich collection, will be held in Allauch, the official Marcel Pagnol Museum site, slated to open in 2026.

At the end of June, in Gémenos, the 1986 film “Manon of the Spring” (Manon des Sources). The musical is currently in production and will be shown for the first time. After its premiere in Provence, the film will move on to a grand opening in Paris.

Movie Manon des Sources Celebrating Marcel Pagnol in Provence 2024

©Wikipedia Commons

Finally, on August 2, a free outdoor concert will be held in Aubagne, where a symphony orchestra will play music from Pagnol’s films.

Many other projects are also being developed and will be announced over the year.

Who Was Marcel Pagnol?

“I was born in the town of Aubagne, under the Garlaban crowned with goats, in the days of the last goatherds.” ~ Marcel Pagnol

So begins the memoir of Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), the master storyteller of Provence. If you ask someone which author comes to mind when they think of Provence, they will likely name Peter Mayle, author of the marvellous A Year in Provence (1991). But ask a French person, especially one from Provence, and you will almost certainly hear the name Marcel Pagnol (though Jean Giono and Frédéric Mistral will also get some votes.)

Pagnol himself wikipedia Writer Marcel Pagnol Provence

Pagnol: Wikipedia Public domain

Pagnol was the author of dozens of books, nearly all set in Provence, and was one of France’s great filmmakers. He was the first filmmaker to be elected to the prestigious Académie française. And he is adored in Provence for his loving depictions of life in this delightful corner of the world. Mention Pagnol to a Provencaux, and they will likely quote a line from one of his films…that was made in the 1930s!

Pagnol’s Provence Connection

Born in 1895, Pagnol and his family moved to Marseille when he was young, where he lived until he began college in Aix-en-Provence. As crucial as his formal education were the years spent in the rugged countryside north of Marseille, where his family rented a house every summer. He hiked, hunted, and made lifelong friends there while (mostly) staying out of trouble. He fell in love with the traditions of Provence in the villages that had changed little over the centuries.

Pagnol Bastide Neuve GNU Fr.latreille Writer Marcel Pagnol Provence

Bastide Neuve: GNU license, credit to Fr.latreille

After college, Pagnol became a high school teacher in Marseille and later Paris before beginning a career as a playwright in 1927. His talent for storytelling led to almost immediate success. He soon moved to the cinema, where “talking pictures” had just begun.

Books and Movies

His funny and touching life stories in Provence were massive hits, making him one of the first French-language filmmakers to succeed outside the country. The films Marius, Fanny, and César, the “Marseille trilogy,” were his first hits, followed by others like Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring (Manon des Sources).

Cinematic success made Pagnol a rich man. He used his money to create a production company near his old summer home. There, he wrote, produced, and directed films, earning plaudits in France and abroad. In addition to writing screenplays, he turned his prodigious energy to novels, essays, and, in 1957, his memoir.

Today, these writings are what he is best known for in France. My Father’s Glory, the first volume of his four-volume memoir, is often used for dicté, the writing exercise that is a foundation of French education (the teacher reads a passage, and the students must write it down correctly.) And for many French people of a certain age, My Father’s Glory is the first “grown-up” book they read in school, giving it a special place in their hearts. So well regarded is it that a group of authors and literary professionals last year named it one of the ten “indispensable” books in French history, right up there with Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and L’Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus. Heady company, indeed!blank

Today, many know Pagnol not for his films but for films that others have made based on his books. The most famous might be Jean de Florette, starring Yves Montand and a young Gérard Depardieu.

Pagnol’s literary or cinematic works share humour and a deep love for Provence—its people, landscape, and customs. If you want to understand this part of the world, pick up one of Pagnol’s books or watch one of the movies based on his work. You won’t be sorry.

For More Information

Marcel Pagnol website

Here is a link to the movies based on his works

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Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

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