Small Acts; Huge Consequences
Dian Parker on the timelessness of Jean Giono. "Sharing these fraught times with Jean Giono’s wisdom and genius buoys me."
“A man is always quite beautiful when he doesn’t frighten his horse.” This enigmatic line is from Jean Giono’s powerful, and for me necessary, Occupation Journal. The daily journal was written over a period of one year, started during World War II in 1943, and ending with Giono’s imprisonment a year later. He was accused of collaborating with the Nazis because he was an outspoken pacifist.
There is profound heaviness permeating the world today. Starting with the pandemic two and a half years ago, and now surging with the war in Ukraine, we are experiencing a time of relentless heartbreak. In this book, Jean Giono’s war journal, he recounts the ongoing shootings and deaths of his many friends. And yet, through it all, he keeps on working; writing two books, plays, and negotiating with publishers. He continues to lend out money even though he and his family have very little. Every day he gives solace and advice to the many people who seek him out.
Reading Occupation Journal inspires and gives us hope. He writes, “The night was absolutely calm. Not a sound. It seemed like perfect peace, like a cool fountain…as if all our misfortunes were over.” And then, the next day, “I’ve decided to evacuate my mother, my mother-in-law, and Aline [his wife]. At noon you could feel the fever in the air with eight planes flying over the rooftops … the house has become like a refugee camp.”
Giono’s journal, during that and this time of war and deep unrest, is strangely comforting. To share long moments with a great artist, to witness in real time the choices he had to make‒to flee or stay, to help or hide‒gives me a broader and deeper understanding of how to deal with the suffering in the world; perhaps even more important, a nobler way to make choices in the face of hardship.
War is long-lasting and so are the affects. Sharing these fraught times with Jean Giono’s wisdom and genius is a powerful antidote for pain. As he writes: “I read. I listen and watch for planes. I keep an eye on the house, making sure no one hangs the sheets out to dry, like yesterday.”
Small acts in a time of huge consequences.
Dian Parker’s writing has been published in numerous literary journals and magazines.
Jean Giono (1895–1970) was a French novelist.