“Marcel Paul Pagnol (1895 – 1974) was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Regarded as an auteur, in 1946, he became the first filmmaker elected to the Académie française. Although his work is less fashionable than it once was, Pagnol is still generally regarded as one of France’s greatest 20th-century writers and is notable for the fact that he excelled in almost every medium—memoir, novel, drama and film.
He was the eldest son of schoolteacher Joseph Pagnol and seamstress Augustine Lansot. In July 1904, the family rented the Bastide Neuve – a house in the sleepy Provençal village of La Treille – for the summer holidays, the first of many spent in the hilly countryside between Aubagne and Marseille. About the same time, Augustine’s health, which had never been robust, began to noticeably decline and on 16 June 1910 she succumbed to a chest infection (“mal de poitrine”) and died, aged 36. Joseph remarried in 1912.
…In 1945, Marcel Pagnol remarried, to actress Jacqueline Pagnol. They had two children together, Frédéric (born 1946) and Estelle (born 1949). Estelle died at the age of two. Pagnol was so devastated that he fled the south and returned to live in Paris. He went back to writing plays, but after his next piece was badly received he decided to change his job once more and began writing a series of autobiographical novels – Souvenirs d’enfance – based on his childhood experiences.
In 1957, the first two novels in the series, La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère were published to instant acclaim. The third Le Temps des secrets was published in 1959, the fourth Le Temps des Amours was to remain unfinished and was not published until 1977, after his death. In the meantime, Pagnol turned to a second series, L’Eau des Collines – Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources – which focused on the machinations of Provençal peasant life at the beginning of the twentieth century and were published in 1962.
Pagnol adapted his own film Manon des Sources, with his wife Jacqueline in the title role, into two novels, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, collectively titled L’Eau des Collines.
Marcel Pagnol died in Paris on 18 April 1974. He is buried in Marseille at the cemetery La Treille, along with his mother, father, brothers, and wife. His boyhood friend, David Magnan (Lili des Bellons in the autobiographies), died at the Second Battle of the Marne in July 1918, and is buried nearby.
In 1986, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were remade by filmmaker Claude Berri.”
From Pagnol’s Manon des Sources (1962):
“… – Tu le sais tres bien, parce que tu ne peux pas l’avoir oublie!
– Delphine, nous sommes en face de l’eglise, et je vois la croix, la-haut sur le clocher. Eh bien, devant cette croix, je te jure que je ne fais pas la comedie. Je te jure que je n’ai pas recu de lettres, sauf de mon pere, d’Anglade et de Castagne.”
La vieille tourna vers lui ses yeux morts.
“Ca, alors, dit-elle, ce serait un desastre…”