Pierre Gamarra

Pierre Gamarra
Gamarra in Toulouse, 1945
Gamarra in Toulouse, 1945
Born Pierre Albert Gamarra
(1919-07-10)10 July 1919
Toulouse, France
Died 20 May 2009(2009-05-20) (aged 89)
Argenteuil, France
Occupation Writer
Genre Novel, Children's literature, Fable, Poetry, Essay
Subject Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées
Notable works
  • La Maison de feu (1948)
  • Le Maître d'école (1955)
  • La Mandarine et le Mandarin (1970)
  • Mon cartable
Notable awards


Pierre Gamarra (French pronunciation: ​[pjɛʁ gamaˈʁa]; 10 July 1919 – 20 May 2009) was a French poet, novelist and literary critic, a long-time chief editor and director of the literary magazine Europe.
Gamarra is best known for his poems and novels for the youth and for narrative and poetical works deeply rooted in his native region of Midi-Pyrénées.


Pierre Gamarra was born in Toulouse on 10 July 1919. From 1938 until 1940, he was a teacher in the South of France. During the German Occupation, he joined various Resistance groups in Toulouse, involved in the writing and distributing of clandestine publications. This led him to a career as a journalist, and then, more specifically both as a writer and a literary journalist.[1]

In 1948, Pierre Gamarra received the first Charles-Veillon International Grand Prize [fr] in Lausanne for his first novel, La Maison de feu.[n 1] Members of the 1948 Veillon Prize jury included writers André Chamson, Vercors, Franz Hellens and Louis Guilloux.[n 2] The novel is described in Books Abroad as "a beautifully written tale of humble life, which Philippe and Jammes would have liked".[3]

From 1945 to 1951, he worked as a journalist in Toulouse. In 1951, Louis Aragon, Jean Cassou and André Chamson offered him a position in Paris as editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Europe.[4] He occupied this position until 1974, when he became director of the magazine. Under Pierre Gamarra's direction, Europe continued the project initiated in 1923 by Romain Rolland and other writers.[n 3] Until 2009, Pierre Gamarra also contributed to most of the magazines's issues with a book review column titled "La Machine à écrire" (The Typewriter).[n 4][5]

Most of his novels take place in his native South-West of France: he wrote a novel trilogy based on the history of Toulouse and various novels set in that town, along the Garonne[6] or in the Pyrenees.
John L. Brown, in World Literature Today, writes that Pierre Gamarra's descriptions of Toulouse, its people and its region were "masterly", "skillfully and poetically" composed "with a vibrant lyricism"[7] and that:

Few contemporary French novelists can communicate a feeling for place, melding poetry and realism, myth and history, more movingly and convincingly than Pierre Gamarra.[8]

Pierre Gamarra is also the author of The Midnight Roosters,[n 5] a novel set in Aveyron during the French Revolution.[9] The book was adapted for the French television channel FR3 in 1973. The film, casting Claude Brosset [fr], was shot in the town of Najac.[10]

In 1955, he published one of his best known novels, Le Maître d’école;[n 6] the book and its sequel La Femme de Simon[n 7] (1962) received critical praise.[11]
Reviewing his 1957 short stories collection Les Amours du potier,[n 8] Lois Marie Sutton deems that, although war affects the plots of many of "all (those) delightful thirteen stories", "it is the light-hearted plot that Gamarra maneuvers best" and that "as in his previous publications, (the author) shows himself to be a master delineator of the life of the average peasant and employee."[12]

In 1961, Pierre Gamarra received the Prix Jeunesse [fr] for L'Aventure du Serpent à Plumes[n 9] and in 1985, the SGDL Grand Prize[n 10] for his novel Le Fleuve Palimpseste.[n 11]

Pierre Gamarra died in Argenteuil on 20 May 2009, leaving a substantial body of work, not yet translated into English for the most part. The Encyclopædia Britannica sees in him a "delightful practitioner with notable drollery and high technical skills"[13] in the art of children's poetry and children's stories. His poems[n 12] and fables[n 13][17] are well known by French schoolchildren.[18][19][20]

Selection of works

In French unless otherwise stated

Literature for the youth

  • Salut, Monsieur de La Fontaine (2005), ill. Frédéric Devienne, ISBN 2-916237-00-3
  • La Mandarine et le Mandarin (1970)


Reedited De Borée (2014) ISBN  9782812911491
Editions of the book since 1948
  • Toulouse trilogy:
    • 72 soleils, 1975 ISBN 9782201013522
    • L'Or et le Sang, 1970
    • Les Mystères de Toulouse, 1967
Book cover of Pierre Gamarra's poetry collection Essais pour une malédiction (1943), Hélène Vascaresco Prize for Poetry

Short stories

  • Les Amours du potier, Éditions La Baconnière [fr] (Neuchatel), 1957
  • Un cadavre; Mange ta soupe, Prix National de la Résistance 1944

Poetry collections

About Pierre Gamarra

In French unless otherwise stated

Book reviews in English

Literary journals special issues

  • Poésie Première "Tarn en Poésie 2003: Avec Pierre Gamarra"
  • Poésie Première No. 29 (2004)



Two streets (one in Argenteuil, one in Montauban) and a cul-de-sac in Boulazac—, two schools (one in Montauban, the other in Bessens[22])— and two public libraries (one in Argenteuil,[23] the other in Andrest) are named after Pierre Gamarra.