Running in Place
Scenes from the South of Franceby Nicholas Delbanco
“Delbanco writes beautifully. . . . It’s hard to imagine a better eye than Delbanco’s through which to see another part of the world.” –Jody E. Carpenter, San Francisco Chronicle
Provence: Its magnificent landscape has inspired artists and writers for centuries. In this stunning evocation of Proven”al culture and history, the critically lauded novelist and essayist Nicholas Delbanco captures both the immediacy of this changing region and the time-honored traditions of its past.
Born in England during the Second World War, raised in America, Delbanco spent many of the most important periods of his life in Provence. Ensconced in a farmhouse deep in the Alpes-Maritimes, writing books, he developed lasting friendships with his neighbors, including expatriate novelist James Baldwin. His narrative deals with the stages of age—from his first, carefree visits and an early love affair to his transformation into the “solid citizen” who imitates his parents while guiding his children through the streets.
In 1987 Delbanco returned to Provence with his family, planning “a sentimental journey to our early haunts. It is to be, I tell myself, a chance to travel with our daughters before we drift apart, a chance to share our past with them before it proves irrecoverable.” With the mind of a historian and the eye of an artist, Delbanco gracefully weaves strands of Proven”al life into scenes from his own past and present.
In the precise, mellifluous language that prompted the Chicago Tribune Book World to call him “as fine a pure prose stylist as any writer living,” Delbanco provides a personal record of one of the world’s most fertile regions. He writes of the landscape of Petrarch and Laura, C”zanne and van Gogh, the Marquis de Sade and Albert Camus (“who made his home in Lourmarin because of the size of the sky”); of Provence’s thirty-two winds; and of aristocrat and peasant, cave and vineyard, restaurant and gallery, coal stoves and mimosa, cars and climbing roses, stone walls and bittersweet—describing a paradise still pure, but not immune to progress. This book will bear comparison to Hemingway’s account of France; it, too, is a moveable feast.
“An excellent writer is among us, and if we neglect him, we shall have to apologize to posterity.”—The New York Times
“An engaging book that brings splashes of Proven”al sunlight to those of us left at home.”—Lee Lescaze, The Wall Street Journal
“Delbanco writes beautifully. . . . It’s hard to imagine a better eye than Delbanco’s through which to see another part of the world.”—Jody E. Carpenter, San Francisco Chronicle
“In his writing I can hear the cicadas of summer, smell the mimosas that burst out in February. . . . He makes me sit again in Provence and listen to night fall.”—Chris Cook, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A quiet, civilized book . . . Unfailingly graceful and often quite elegant.”—Robert Wilson, USA Today
“Delbanco’s crisp style responds to the texture of place. The ruminative and modest tone, the lucid vision and the author’s profound affection for Provence earns this highly civilized memoir its place on the shelf beside Ford Madox Ford.”—The Boston Globe
“Written with style and grace and leavened with humor, this is an elegant depiction of the effect of time on character and place.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“The real allure is the author’s invitation to be his guest. . . . There’s a quiet pleasure from this kind of reading—what one might feel catching the hint of lavender on a handkerchief and recalling a childhood garden.”—Mirabella
“Brief, graceful prose snapshots . . . An altogether delightful book.”—Harvard Book Review
“Delbanco is an accomplished literary acrobat and permitted to dazzle. These scenes from the south of France are sensitively and entertainingly presented.”—Vermont Sunday Magazine
“A gem.”—Chicago Tribune