Claude Michelet died on the night of Wednesday to Thursday May 26 at the age of 83 at his home, his youngest son told AFP. “He died in his sleep in Brive where he lived for part of his life and where he pursued his career as a writer and that of a peasant, which made him proud“, Jean-Marc Michelet told AFP.
His so-called local novels, reflections of the rural society of the last century, had an immense impact on the French conscience. Robert Laffont editions count nearly 3 million copies sold.
With From thrushes to wolvessuccess since its publication in 1979, followed by three other family novels (The pigeons will pass no more, The call of the nightjars and The land of the Vialhe), it is part of the tradition of popular novels of the 19th century.
It was in the mid-1970s during the Brive book fair that a group of writers, gathered around Jacques Peuchmaurd, literary director at Robert Laffont, created the “school of Brive”. We find there Claude Michelet, Gilbert Bordes, Jean-Guy Soumy or Colette Laussac.
Because Claude Michelet is a child of Corrèze. Born in Brive on May 30, 1938, he is the last of seven children (what he says in his childhood memories once seven in 1970). In 1945, he moved to Paris where his father, Edmond Michelet, back from Dachau, was appointed Minister of the Armed Forces by General de Gaulle. He pays homage to this resistant Catholic in My father Edmond Michelet.
Until 1952, the turbulent child lived in Paris but dreamed of his Corrézienne countryside where the family owned an estate, a former refuge for maquisards. From the age of 14, he decides that he will be a farmer. After training at the agricultural school of Lancosme (Indre), he left for military service in Algeria from 1958 to 1960. “Called to Algeria (…), he never quite returned, like all those of his generation“, his youngest son Jean-Marc told AFP, announcing his death.
He moved to Marcillac in 1960 in the family home. With nineteen hectares of fallow land, five cows and a heifer, he set to work. In I chose the earth in 1975, he describes very simply his years of hard work punctuated by successes and failures. Through this first success, he became the voice of thousands of small farmers often disoriented by agrarian reforms.
Throughout the pages, he devotes a tenacious resentment to technocrats, planners and economists. Passionate about the peasant cause, he wants to demonstrate that these thousands of farms that dot the country are the hallmark of French identity.
With From thrushes to wolves, consecrated in 1980 by the Booksellers’ Prize, Claude Michelet sold more than 500,000 copies in a few months. It tells the 20th century story of the Vialhe family established in the village of Saint-Libéral in Corrèze.
The style is simple, the pages are punctuated by wars, generational conflicts, technical revolutions but also loves, marriages and bereavements. The story of a French family like there were millions and a village like there were thousands.
With his breeding of Limousin cows but also thanks to the success of his saga, he raised his six children. A health problem soon forced him to reduce his agricultural activity.
Scorned by critics, he is accused of writing sub-literature. “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t deserve an answer“, he retorted in Le Parisien in 2000. The main thing is that I am not cut off from my readers“. He retorts: “To be popular is to know how to tell a story while learning things. (…) The navel-gazing novels turn in my eyes a little in circles. They come from writers who spend their time doing psychoanalysis in public which is precisely what the public does not care about.“
Source: France TV Info