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Frédéric Mistral

Frédéric Mistral was born on the 8th of September in Maillane 1 in a farmhouse named “Le mas du juge” 2. A writer of the Langue d’Oc he is the filial friend, the follower and later the master of Joseph Roumanille. Frederic Mistral is the initiator of the creation of the “Felibrige” association together with Joseph Roumanille, Theodore Aubanel, Anselme Mathieu, Paul Giera, Jean Brunet and Alphonse Tavan.

During his youth spent at the foot of the “Alpilles” ridge in the olive tree plantations and amongst the farmers he will only hear “Provencal” being spoken. At the age of twelve after attending various schools he ends up in the “Dupuy” boarding school in Avignon. This is where he meets a young study supervisor, Joseph Roumanille, with whom he will maintain close ties and who will change his life. This friendship was borne the day the supervisor caught him writing verses in “Provencal”. From thereon, with his friend Anselme Mathieu and without their realising it, they created the first gathering of “félibres” 3. Frederic Mistral continued his learning and earned his baccalaureate in Nîmes in 1847 with excellent marks in all subjects and especially in Latin. He returns to the family farm to run the estate. But after a year he decides that this is not to his vocation and he goes to Aix-en-Provence to study law. That is when he discovers the noble history of Provence. It is where he discovers the life of the theatres and is introduced to the writings of the “troubadours” in the “Méjanes” library 4. Three years later Mistral graduates and again decides to return to the family estate in Meillane. We are now in 1851 and Mistral realises what the real goal of his life shall be. He undertakes to raise up the ethnic feelings, to resurrect and rehabilitate the Provencal language through the prestige of poetry. He will be elected as “Capoulié” (President) of the Félibrige association in 1876.

First Joseph Roumanille gets him to complete his compendium “Li Prouvençalo”, then followed on the Aix and Arles conferences that will lead to the formation of the “Félibrige” on the 21st of May 1854 with Roumanille and the other five poets mentioned above.

As early as 1851 he begins an epic of 12 odes, Mirèio (Mireille), which will be published in 1859 and tells of passions subjected to romantic fate all located in a very realistically pictured Rhone area of Provence. To date this remains as the largest masterpiece of Provencal poetry, even of French poetry. In 1863 Charles Gounod will compose an opera based on it. Eight years after Mirèio, Mistral writes”Calendal” in which the fierce quest for independence of the Provencal appears again. Mistral then embarks on a monastic work as author of “Lou Tresor dou Felibrige” (1878 to 1886) which, up to now, is the richest dictionary of the “langue d’Oc” and the most reliable by the accuracy of meaning of the words. It is bilingual Langue d’Oc – French dictionary in two large volumes including all the Oc tongue dialects written in Mistral’s spelling.

Mistral is admitted to the Marseille Academy in 1887 and in 1904 will receive the Nobel Price in Literature for the whole of his works. He has succeeded in rehabilitating the Langue d’Oc by taking it to the highest levels of epic poetry.

1 Near Saint Remy de Provence

2 Litteraly « The Judge’s farm »

3 Members of the Felibrige Association.

4 To date this is the Municipal library.

Statue of Mistral in Arles

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