Gamarra in Toulouse, 1945
|Born||Pierre Albert Gamarra
(1919-07-10)10 July 1919
|Died||20 May 2009(2009-05-20) (aged 89)
|Genre||Novel, Children's literature, Fable, Poetry, Essay|
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 July 10, 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.
In 1948, Pierre Gamarra received the first Charles-Veillon International Grand Prize 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“.
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. 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 a group of writers.[n 3] For more than 50 years, Pierre Gamarra also contributed to most of the magazines's issues with a book review column named The Typewriter[n 4] which shows the same international curiosity.
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 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” 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.
Pierre Gamarra is also the author of The Midnight Roosters,[n 5] a novel set in Aveyron during the French Revolution. The book was adapted for the French television channel FR3 in 1973. The film, casting Claude Brosset, was shot in the town of Najac.
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.
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.“
Pierre Gamarra died in Argenteuil on May 20, 2009, leaving a substantial body of work, as yet untranslated into English. The Encyclopædia Britannica sees in him a "delightful practitioner with notable drollery and high technical skills" in the art of children's poetry and children's stories. His poems[n 12] and fables[n 13] are well known by French schoolchildren.
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)
- Mon cartable et autres poèmes à réciter (2006) ISBN 2747901122
- Des mots pour une maman (1984) ISBN 2-7082-2379-8
- Voici des maisons (1979) ISBN 2-7047-0117-2
- Les Mots enchantés (1952)
- Les Fariboles de Bolla (1981), La Farandole, original Swedish text and ill. by Gunilla Bergström, ISBN 2-7047-0232-2
- L'Empreinte de l'ours (2010), De Borée (Sayat) ISBN 9782844949899
- Les Coqs de minuit (new ed. including Rosalie Brousse) 2009, De Borée ISBN 9782844949097
- Le Maître d'école (new ed. including La Femme de Simon) 2008, De Borée ISBN 9782812903007
- Les Lèvres de l’été (1986) ISBN 2-209-05808-2
- Le Fleuve palimpseste PUF (1985) ISBN 9782130385868; SGDL Prize for the novel
- Cantilène occitane (1979) ISBN 9782070385027
- La Femme et le Fleuve[n 14] (1952)
- L’assassin a le prix Goncourt[n 15] (1951)
- Les Enfants du pain noir (1950) ISBN 9782812908491
- La Maison de feu (1948), Éditions La Baconnière (Neuchatel)/Éditions de Minuit, Charles Veillon International Prize
- Toulouse trilogy:
- Les Amours du potier, Éditions La Baconnière (Neuchatel), 1957
- Un cadavre; Mange ta soupe, Prix National de la Résistance 1944
- Mon Pays l'Occitanie (2009), Cahiers de la Lomagne
- Romances de Garonne (1990) ISBN 9782209063390
- Essais pour une malédiction, Hélène Vacaresco Prize for Poetry 1943
About Pierre Gamarra
In French unless otherwise stated
Book reviews in English
- List of reviews of Pierre Gamarra’s books (Worldcat)including:
Literary journals special issues
- Poésie Première "Tarn en Poésie 2003: Avec Pierre Gamarra"
- Poésie Première No. 29 (2004)
- Tohoku University Faculty of Letters Bulletin, No. 27 (Year 2007) (Sendai, Japan)
- Vivre en Val-D’Oise, No. 112, November–December 2008 (Argenteuil)
- Charles Dobzynski, Michel Delon, Jean Métellus, Roger Bordier, Béatrice Didier, Raymond Jean, Bernard Chambaz, Michel Besnier, Marc Petit, Claude Sicard, Georges-Emmanuel Clancier, Henri Béhar, Gérard Noiret, Francis Combes, in Europe No. 966 (October 2009)
- Les Cahiers de la Lomagne (Los Quasèrns de la Lomanha), No. 15 (Year 2009), pp. 1 & 16-29