Time and Place Identity in Pierre Magnan’s Provence

Robert Briwa


Geographers and others recognize the power of literary works to illuminate and crystallize ephemeral aspects of place and region, including place identity. Literary geographers exploring place identity have often hinged their studies on evocative visual imagery, but explorations of how literature captures other experiences critical to the formation of place identity are comparatively lacking and merit further examination. Principal among these under-examined aspects of place identity is the way that understandings of time can contribute to place identity. Literature’s ability to articulate nuanced and multifaceted descriptions of temporal settings within a single text is one possible means of exploring the relationship between an awareness of time and the formation of place identity. This essay explores how place-defining novelist Pierre Magnan (1922-2010) incorporates temporal dimensions into his novels in ways that conveys ideas of time as plural and non-linear, thus imbuing Provenҫal place identity with a sense of timelessness; a sense of enigma; and a sense of historical rootedness in both Provenҫal and larger French historical contexts and consciousnesses. Through careful close readings of a selection of Pierre Magnan’s texts, this essay offers a case study of how literature might fruitfully be explored to illuminate more nuanced understandings of place identity. Magnan’s texts reveal how pluritemporal notions of time are infused into literature in multiple ways, including allusions to historical events, an awareness of geologic processes, the use of local dialects, and careful attention to the way past and present times are paired together within the structure of the text itself.


place identity; time; regional literature; place-defining novelists; Provence; narrative space

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