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In the fall of 1849, Herman Melville traveled to London to deliver his novel White-Jacket to his publisher. On his return to America, Melville would write Moby-Dick. Melville: A Novel imagines what happened in between: the adventurous writer fleeing London for the country, wrestling with an angel, falling in love with an Irish nationalist, and, finally, meeting the angel's challenge--to express man's fate by writing the novel that would become his masterpiece. Eighty years after it appeared in English, Moby-Dick was translated into French for the first time by the Provencal novelist Jean Giono and his friend Lucien Jacques. The publisher persuaded Giono to write a preface, granting him unusual latitude. The result was this literary essai,
Melville: A Novel--part biography, part philosophical rumination, part romance, part unfettered fantasy. Paul Eprile's expressive translation of this intimate homage brings the exchange full circle.
About the Author
Jean Giono (1895-1970) was born and lived most of his life in the town of Manosque, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Largely self-educated, he started working as a bank clerk at the age of sixteen and reported for military service when World War I broke out. He saw action in several battles, including Verdun, and was one of only two members of his company to survive. After the war, he returned to his job and family in Manosque and became a vocal, lifelong pacifist. After the success of Hill, which won the Prix Brentano, he left the bank and began to publish prolifically. During World War II Giono's outspoken pacifism led some to accuse him, unjustly, of defeatism and of collaboration with the Nazis; after France's liberation in 1944, he was imprisoned and held without charges. Despite being blacklisted after his release, Giono continued writing and achieved renewed success. He was elected to the Academie Goncourt in 1954. Paul Eprile is a longtime publisher (Between the Lines, Toronto), as well as a poet and translator. He is currently at work on the translation of Jean Giono's 1951 novel, The Open Road (forthcoming from NYRB), and lives on the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada. Edmund White is the author of twenty-five books, including The Unpunished Vice: A Life of Reading, which will be published in the spring of 2018.