Friday, February 05, 2010
This man is not Buffalo Bill Cody !
He is Frederic Mistral, the father of the "felibre" movement of writers, publishers and poets, based in Avignon and which revived the provencal language in the second half of the nineteen century .
One of his most notable followers, the Marquess Folco de Baroncelli-Javon, took a lasting fancy for the american hero and it's Wild West Show.
In a fascinating book : " Cock and Bull Stories: Folco de Baroncelli and the Invention of the Camargue", (univ of Nebraska) Robert Zaretsky links the most respected poet of Provence with Buffalo Bill, Sioux Indians, and the horse-mounted gardians, the cowboys of Camargue. The Cock is the Gallic symbol of France, and the Bull stands for southern France with its deeply different history and culture. Langage and economic issues of the domination by the northern " francimans" of the southern " povre merjonaux" are dealt with in this ingenious book which adopts a thesis little in vogue with french researchers, whose careers depends of the reveration of a French Republic united around ideals professed by the Paris media.
Folco de Baroncelli, a local aristocrat who married into wine, failed to be the follower of Mistral. A relatively mediocre writer, he was deeply moved by the fate of the Oglala Sioux, a Native American people, reinvented the history of Camargue, the Rhone delta region, rich in wild horses, bulls, pink flamingoes and mosquitoes. Galvanized by the example set by Buffalo Bill Cody, Baroncelli did recast the Camargue as 'le far-ouest' of France. The fun, and little know part of the story is that he himself created from scratch the 'immemorial' traditions he battled to protect. The costume, ceremonial, mythic origins, in fact the whole concept of " nacioun guardiano", developped in a few years and later endorsed by politicians and tour-operators alike, is entirely his doing. Creating one of the last myth of his country didn't bring him much money, though : Having sold his palace in the heart of Avignon, his wife's wine estates, he retired in Camargue and died in 1942 in Avignon when the civilan population delta was evacuated by the Germans in the preparation of the american landing in Provence.