John Merriman: The Stones of Balazuc

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Balazuc is a tiny medieval village carved into a limestone cliff that towers above the Ardeche River in southeastern France. Its dramatic landscape and Mediterranean climate make it a lovely destination for summer visitors, but for its residents over the centuries life in Balazuc has been harsh. At times Balazuc has prospered, most notably in the nineteenth century through the cultivation of "the golden tree" and the silkworms it fed, a process whose rigors and rewards are gleefully detailed in this splendid book. But the rewards proved fleeting, leaving only the rigors of life on the "tormented soil." Historical events from the French Revolution, through the Paris Commune and the two world wars, sent ripples through this isolated region, but the continuities of everyday life remained strong. Twenty-eight men from Balazuc signed the list of grievances against the king in the spring of 1789; the families of nineteen still live in the village. This is a story of resilience. It is the French story of tensions between Paris and the village expressed in battles over the school, the church, the council, and people's livelihoods. Most of all it is a love letter from an acclaimed historian who with his family has made Balazuc his adopted home. With a new "golden tree," tourism, now flourishing, the struggles of the village to prosper and to retain its identity continue, transmuted to a world of cell phones and an imagined village past.
(2002 Hardcover)

Condition: Used, with dust-jacket