Language matters and a love story

Upon reading the forward to Frédéric Mistral's Anglore: The Song of the Rhone, I discovered how inappropriate it was of me to title my last post in French. James Geddes, Professor in Boston University, explained that Mistral was not a native speaker of what was the official French, but a "local provincial speech." Mistral apparently felt such strong ties to his native tongue, the Occitan language, that he, along with a teacher of his and five other Provençal poets joined together to form a "literary and cultural association" with the goal of promoting it (Wikipedia). To him, language was a significant factor in defining race, and with his poetry, he intended to revive his native tongue.

As I found with previous Nobel titles, I'm feeling that it's a misfortune that I am reading an English translation of the poem--but even if I could read the Occitan language, I still may have some challenges with fully comprehending the text. Whether it's because of archaic vocabulary, inverted syntax or the rhythmic meter which distracts my mind from the content at times, reading lengthy narrative poetry has always been a challenge for me--and Anglore is no exception. There are great descriptions of the settings that may make me think, "Oh, what lovely imagery!" but in order to glean the basic elements of the plot, I find myself having to re-read sections a couple of times.

What I have drawn so far on my own, though, besides its descriptions of the Rhone, a major European river, and the surrounding valley, the poem tells the story of skipper Apain, who's leading his fleet of ships down the river for some kind of festival at a distant city. They are joined by "The Prince of Orange" who pines for this L'Anglore lady. Fortunately, though, re-reading the forward has given me a better idea of the characters and the plot. The story focusing around Prince of Orange and L'Anglore, who are actually "two beings half real and half mythical," is a love tale, and there is a surrounding motif that is nostalgic of the days preceding the advent of steam powered ships.

Though the reading has been a bit laborious and time consuming--when I do take the time to sit a down and actually read--I'm enjoying the historical aspects of the story and learning about life on the Rhone through Mistral's perspective. My next Nobel title has already arrived through interlibrary loan, though, so I should probably double my efforts to get through this one!

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