Jean Boudou: La Quimèra [The Chimaera]


The latest addition to my website is Jean Boudou‘s La Quimèra [The Chimaera], one of the classics of the Occitan novel. Jean Boudou, as he is known in French, is known as Joan Bodon in Occitan. He wrote all his books in Occitan. None has been translated into English. This book is a historical novel set in the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century, about the Camisards, Occitans who revolted against the French government over high taxes and religious freedom. The revolt was linked to the treatment of the Huguenots, though many Catholics took part. The story is told by a young Occitan man who is initially called Pierre (Peter) but later renamed Simon. At the start of the story, he is a slave in Algeria, and tells his story of how he got there. He had trained as a teaching assistant but after the death of his girlfriend, fled to a monastery where he became a commensal, i.e. someone who ate and worked with the monks but was not a monk. He gets to know the commendatory abbot, Antoine de Guiscard. and it is de Guiscard who helps foment the revolt. It all ends badly, with Simon captured off a ship when fleeing France when the revolt goes wrong, but we have followed his long and complex adventures, a story Boudou tells very well, albeit with a strong Occitan bias, showing how his people have been badly treated over the years by the French and the contribution of Occitan culture to European culture.

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