The Country Waif

By George Sand

299 ratings - 3.44* vote

The Country Waif (François le Champi) is the second of the three pastoral novels which rank along with George Sand's autobiographical writing as her finest work. Although simple in themselves, these tales have behind them much of the complex experience of her extraordinary life. As Mrs. Zimmerman writes in the introduction, they reflect Sand's "youthful romanticism, her la The Country Waif (François le Champi) is the second of the three pastoral novels which rank along with

... more

Book details

Paperback, 181 pages
July 1st 1977 by University of Nebraska Press

(first published 1847)

Original Title
François le Champi
ISBN
080325850X (ISBN13: 9780803258501)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Kalliope


François le champi (A Country Waif) is not one of the most celebrated novels in French literature. It is not even the major work by George Sand, a fascinating woman but who does not rank at the very top of the French literary figures.

And yet, Le champi holds one of the keys to the greatest work in French literary modernism.

This book stands at the beginning and at the end of La recherche tu temps perdu. It is one of is multiple frames. In the opening of La recherche it appears as the first novel to which Proust’s young protagonist is exposed, and this conveys for him the feeling of mystery in literature. It then surfaces again at the closing of Proust’s work with a revelatory role. We can then see this minor novel as actually inaugurating the beginning of time being wasted away while also signaling the possibility that lost time can be regained when we are approaching its end.

Little did George Sand suspect, when she wrote this novel in 1848, that this work would play later on such a major literary role.

In her preface she explains how the end of the July monarchy and the 1848 revolution had interrupted the publication of her work. These interfering circumstances however were the appropriate context for her work. For her aims with this novel were social. She wanted to present how a boy, a waif, could be honorable. She wanted to break social stigmas. A good-for-nothing could be good-for-everything. Her aims were also aesthetic. She wanted to find beauty in the common, in the everyday, and for this she chooses what she thinks is the simple life, the country life. She draws then from the pastoral tradition to which she however has given a socio-political twist and has transformed it into an engaged “roman campagnard”.

In François le Champi, she constructed a story within a story. A couple of characters, who remain inexplicable in spite of explicating themselves, discuss aesthetics and its application to real life. At the core of this debate there is also a strong moral standpoint. One of these two characters proceeds then to illustrate his points with the tale of the Champi. This second story is the bulk of the novel.

We can see these two dialoguing characters as the mouthpieces for Sand’s view on art. Nature is where beauty resides and it is the people who live close to it who live closer to truth and should be emulated (je voudrais sentir la manière du paysan..). Civilization has a denaturalizing effect -- literally (j’ai vu et j’ai senti par moi-même, avec tous les rêves civilisés, que la vie primitive était le rêve, l’idéal de tous les hommes et de tous les temps). And the artist can have a special role in extracting the lessons from nature: he can be its translator (l’artiste est chargé de traduire cette candeur, cette grâce, ce charme de la vie primitive, à ceux qui ne vivent que de la vie factice...).

I wonder how much of Proust’s interest in this novel was drawn to this fictitious dialogue. I suspect that not much, even if some sentences seem to denote an echo in his writing (entre la connaissance et la sensation, le rapport c’est le sentiment). My impression is that the attention of his young narrator is drawn directly to the tale of François le champi, a boy like himself.

In this second narrative, the plot is simple and the characters are simple. The story, however, has baffled me.

What leaves me in suspense is that I would like to know why Proust chose to include this particular novel in such a prominent place in his own work. Le Champi involves a surrogate mother and a young castaway and, easily to predict, love develops between the two. This plot becomes a very tempting premise. I have however preferred to push aside any Freudian lenses and looked through less pre-colored filters.

For one, the young Narrator did not read the book himself, it was read to him by the mother. She censored the sections that she thought were sensual and jumped over those passages. Consequently a certain level of incomprehension was created but immediately endowed with a veil of mystery by this sensitive and highly imaginative young boy.

A second factor would be that his exposure to Sand’s work was through sound, through the warm voice of his dear mother (Ces phrases qui semblaient écrites pour sa voix). To him it was the voice of sentiment (elle insuflait à cette prose si commune une vie sentimentale et continue) and of goodness. Both blended well with the moral tone of Sand’s novel (la prose de Sand, qui respire cette bonté, cette distinction morale que maman avait appris de ma grand’mère à tenir pour supérieures à tout dans la vie.)

And last there was the title. For the word Le champi is not a common word in French. Sand has one of her characters explain to the other that he is mistaken if he thinks it is a foreign word, for Montaigne had used it. The title was incomprehensible to Proust’s dreamy child as well (sa couverture rougeâtre et son titre incompréhensible donnaient pour moi une personalité distincte et un attrait mystérieux). And the fascination that a word can enclose (la source devait être dans ce nom inconnu et si doux de “Champi” qui mettait sur l’enfant qui le portait sans que je susse pourquoi, sa couleur vive, empourprée et charmante.) is what endows the name with such a strong evocative power than it can make memories be relived or older selves resuscitate and possess the current identity.


And so a copy of François le champi rests on the night table in Marcel’s room in Tante Léonie’s house in Illiers-Combray, an idilic countryside. It is a witness that Time was Recovered and that we, posterity, continue to keep his Time ticking.




Yann

Quand on voit le style naturel, on est tout étonné et ravi, car on s'attendait de voir un auteur et on trouve un homme.



François le Champi est un roman de 1848 - dernière année où un roi régna en France - écrit par Georges Sand, un écrivain pour lequel je nourris une grande sympathie, ayant connaissance d'une partie de sa vie avec Musset, de sa correspondance avec Flaubert, et même d'un épisode que Tocqueville relate dans ses Souvenirs. Elle a défendu une approche généreuse et optimiste à l'égard de ses concitoyens les plus indigents. Dans ce roman, elle laisse éclater sa sensibilité en peignant la vertu dans les habits de la pauvreté et l'ignorance. On sent poindre à travers cette histoire champêtre la nostalgie d'un innocence perdue dans la sophistication de la civilisation, une idée toute droit sortie du siècle précédent, mais qui trouve également des échos lointains dans l'antiquité, comme en témoigne le roman de Daphnis et Chloé.

J'ai vu et j'ai senti par moi-même, avec tous les êtres civilisés, que la vie primitive était le rêve, l'idéal de tous les hommes et de tous les temps. Depuis les bergers de Longus jusqu'à ceux de Trianon, la vie pastorale est un Éden parfumé où les âmes tourmentées et lassées du tumulte du monde ont essayé de se réfugier.

La personnalité du héros est toute trempée de vertus chrétiennes: simplicité, humilité, ignorance, droiture, fidélité, persévérance. Ni la pauvreté, ni l'ignorance n'ont avili cette âme pleine d'aménité et de douceur pour son prochain, et qui ne compte pour rien les sacrifices qu'il accomplit pour ceux qu'il aime. Pour faire plus peuple, Georges Sand a taché de mettre dans la bouche de son héros des expressions provinciales. Mais il s'agit également de faire sentir avec la clarté et l'économie de l'expression, la pureté des sentiments et des intentions. Le savoir n'est estimé non par sa quantité, mais par sa qualité.

Il y a deux manières de lire, et il serait bon de dire cela à ceux qui se croient bien instruits. Ceux qui ont beaucoup de temps à eux, et beaucoup de livres, en avalent tant qu'ils peuvent. Ceux qui n'ont pas le temps et les livres, sont heureux quand ils tombent sur le bon morceau.

Au final, on se laisse de très bon gré charmer par l'illusion de cette fiction édifiante. Une lecture fort plaisante, qui laisse la meilleur impression dans l'âme, et les meilleurs dispositions à l'égard de son auteur.

Ivana Books Are Magic

My feelings about this novel are quite mixed. At times, I found The Country Waif to be extremely moving and yet at other times, it felt a bit silly and melodramatic. The pacing and the tone of the novel seemed a bit problematic. There were some twists and turns that didn't make sense to me. However, The Country Waif is in many ways a fascinating read. I'm certainly glad I read it.

The Country Waif (original title Francois Le Champi) is one of the three pastoral novels written by George Sand and it bears many similarities with the other two. Together with her autobiographical writing, these pastoral novels are probably Sand's best known work. These pastoral novels are filled with emotions and youthful romanticism as well as a hint of socialism. There is always a love story at their core and female heroines are always very prim and proper. There is always a material difference between the love interests. All the protagonists in these novels are peasants but they happen to belong to different social (financial) class, hence the hint of socialism. You can read my reviews for the other two novels by following the links bellow:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Moving on with my review.

The Country Waif (François le Champi) is a strange mix of serious and romantic themes. Sand's pastoral novels often focus on marginalized individuals. This one features an orphaned protagonist in many ways similar to female characters in the two other pastoral novels written by George Sand. The difference here is that the impoverished individual is a boy, not a girl. This novel reads both like coming of age story and a romantic one.

The story is set in the countryside, as goodreads states it's : 'the countryside of the author's native province of Berry'. This novel tells the story of François, an orphan boy who is at the time the story starts raised by a poor spinster who takes care of him in exchange for a few coins from the orphanage. The old spinster lady isn't unkind, but she is not really able to take good care of Francois and hence the boy doesn't even know how to say how old he is.

The spinster is too poor and old to properly take care of the boy. While it is clear she partly took him in because of the coins she gets for his care, she also tries to take care of him to the best of her abilities. Soon into the story, Madeline, a young married women with a child of her own comes upon Francois in the open and realizes the boy has fever. She wraps the boy (Le Champi- an orphan) into her own shawl and thus a friendship is started. Madeline's husband and mother-in-law aren't happy about her desire to help the poor boy and the old lady taking care of him, but Madeline is willing to do everything to help the boy.

Madeline initially teases the boy because he doesn't say much and doesn't seem very intelligent but soon she realizes that he is very quick to help her. The boy isn't talkative but he is helpful and seems to always understand what needs to be done. It is a friendship that will change both of their lives. Madeline is a simple and virtuous women with a problematic husband and mother-in-law. Madeline founds comfort in Francois and he dreams of calling her his mother. That's the start of the story. The plot of this novel was a bit less predictable then her other pastoral novels, but I failed to get completely engrossed into the story and view the characters as real people. They seemed more like symbols to me. The ending surprised me and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Sandra

“La mamma mi sedette accanto al letto; aveva preso Françoise le Champi la cui copertina rossastra e il titolo incomprensibile suscitavano in me l’idea di una personalità distinta e un’attrattiva misteriosa. Non avevo ancora mai letto veri romanzi. Avevo sentito dire che George Sand era il tipico romanziere. Questo mi disponeva già ad immaginare in Françoise le Champi qualcosa di indefinibile e di delizioso. I procedimenti narrativi destinati a suscitare la curiosità e la commozione, certi modi di dire che destano inquietudine o malinconia, e che un lettore un po’ istruito riconosce come comuni a molti romanzi, mi sembravano semplicemente –a me che consideravo un libro nuovo non come una cosa che potesse assomigliare a molte altre, ma un’entità unica, esistente in sé stessa- un’inquietante emanazione dell’essenza particolare a Françoise le Champi. Sotto quegli avvenimenti così quotidiani, quelle cose così comuni, quelle parole così usuali, sentivo come un’intonazione, uno strano accento. Iniziò a svolgersi l’azione; mi parve tanto più oscura in quanto a quei tempi, quando leggevo, pensavo per pagine intere a tutt’altra cosa. E alle lacune che quella distrazione lasciava nel racconto, si aggiungeva, quando era la mamma che mi leggeva a voce alta, il fatto che saltava tutte le scene d’amore. Anche tutti i bizzarri cambiamenti che avvenivano rispettivamente nel comportamento della mugnaia e del ragazzo e che non trovavano la loro spiegazione se non nel progredire di un amore nascente mi sembravano improntati a un profondo mistero la cui origine mi piaceva immaginare doveva essere in quel nome mai sentito e così dolce di Champi che trasmetteva al ragazzo che lo portava, senza ne sapessi il perché, il suo colore vivo, purpureo e incantevole….”
Le carezzevoli parole di Marcel Proust mi esonerano dal commento e spiegano il motivo per cui ho voluto leggere questo breve romanzo dal sapore agreste di George Sand.

Helynne

François le Champi (1848) is the third in the trio of George Sand's popular "pastoral novels," and just as rewarding as La Mare au Diable and La Petite Fadette. Sand's Avant-Propos or Prologue is a beautifully written tribute to the beauties of nature (especially in rural central France) as God's work of art, and the peasants of the region who are the caretakers thereof. “ . . . le paysan le plus simple et le plus naïf est encore artiste, et moi, je prétends même que leur art est supérieur au nôtre.” The title character is a handsome, but abandoned and ragged, 10-year-old child with no last name, who is known only as François le Champi (champi: a child found in the fields). François is found one day by 20-year-old Madeleine, a wife of a local farmer, who has a small child. She finds the boy a new guardian, but continues to give him food and clothing in secret. Sand can't help but comment here on how Madeleine, a kind and decent person, is ill-used by her husband, and that marriage often turns sour for the nicest and prettiest of young women. As François matures, he remains innocent, but grows in strength, looks, and Christian faith. Eventually, other young women in the region will become attracted to François even though he has always loved Madeleine, and despite the difference in their ages, he is growing, and she is widowed, and . . . This is a lovely story--not only rewarding in plot, but rich in Sand's love for her native area of France and all its natural charm.

Etienne Mahieux

"François le Champi" poursuit la veine paysanne de "La Mare au Diable" et de "La Petite Fadette". George Sand invente ou réinvente les histoires de sa Vallée noire, après un prologue poétique dans les deux sens du terme où le romancier — elle joue toujours de son pseudonyme masculin — s'apprête à transcrire, pour un ami, les récits d'un chanvreur à la veillée.
La jeune meunière Madeleine Blanchet, pas très bien mariée, prend sous son aile un "champi", c'est-à-dire un enfant abandonné, élevé par une femme entre deux âges contre une petite pension d'État, et voué par les préjugés sociaux à une vie marginale et probablement délinquante (chaque époque a ses délinquants désignés, semble-t-il). Petit à petit le jeune François conquiert sa place dans la famille Blanchet, à force de dévouement reconnaissant, mais le mari de Madeleine, bien que de plus en plus absent, prend ombrage de cette présence.
George Sand tâche de tenir une position intermédiaire, très difficile, entre l'idylle pastorale traditionnelle et le réalisme qui, dans le sillage de Balzac, devient l'une des exigences de l'art du roman. Si les personnages principaux sont d'une vertu héroïque, et si les sentiments ici sont grands et chrétiens, Sand refuse le décor de convention et ente le récit sur la tradition orale berrichonne, à la fois par la délégation de la narration au chanvreur, ou plus exactement par l'invention d'une voix double qui est à la fois celle du conteur paysan et celle du romancier qui transcrit la première pour les Parisiens, et par le recours, saupoudré avec modération, à un vocabulaire et à des tournures de phrases archaïques et/ou dialectaux. Ce choix donne sa réalité au monde de la fiction. Il y a de belles descriptions, bien sûr, encore que Sand en soit économe et les dispense selon les besoins de l'intrigue, au lieu de les concentrer au début sur le modèle balzacien. On peut par exemple songer au retour au moulin de François, après plusieurs années passées dans la Creuse comme ouvrier agricole, belle évocation d'une nuit glaciale. Il y a enfin une précision réelle dans l'évocation du mode de vie paysan, de ses rites, de ses coutumes et de ses problèmes les plus concrets (il y a ici de sacrées histoires de baux ruraux et de terres rachetées à crédit).
Si l'étrange n'a cette fois aucun rôle dans l'intrigue, la situation centrale, qui remet en cause, sous couvert de reportage ethnographique, la succession des générations et le modèle traditionnel de la famille, est presque de l'ordre du mythe. C'est aussi l'une des forces de "François le Champi".

Markus

François le Champi
George Sand, née Aurore Dupin (1804 – 1876)
Apres la Mare au Diable, achevé en quatre jours, Sand écrit un autre roman champêtre, plus long, plus complexe et plus riche et romantique.
Un Champi est un enfant trouvé, abandonné par sa mère, souvent trop misérable pour élever son enfant, a un Hospice des enfants trouvés. Un enfant de l’Assistance Publique qui démarre dans la vie avec un handicap social presque insurmontable.
Dans cette histoire l’auteur nous présente ses héros avec force et beauté, avec belle taille et noble cœur, force de caractère et fidélité à toute épreuve.
De façon plus accentué que dans son précédent roman Sand fait parler ses personnages la langue berrichonne, avec le ton populaire et simple qui convient.
Il y a aussi de fort méchants gens et des épisodes bien amers dans le Champi, mais, et je me souviendrais de ce roman avec plaisir pour l’ambiance de l’amour, de la fidélité et de la persévérance qui réussissent en fin de compte de surmonter le conflit social et à réunir le jeune amoureux et sa belle meunière.
Dans son meilleur des romans champêtres, l’écrivain réussi à exprimer ses intentions avec charme, modestie et justesse de ton.

alessandra falca

“La mamma mi sedette accanto al letto; aveva preso Françoise le Champi la cui copertina rossastra e il titolo incomprensibile suscitavano in me l’idea di una personalità distinta e un’attrattiva misteriosa. Non avevo ancora mai letto veri romanzi. Avevo sentito dire che George Sand era il tipico romanziere. Questo mi disponeva già ad immaginare in Françoise le Champi qualcosa di indefinibile e di delizioso." M. Proust - Alla ricerca del Tempo Perduto [Dalla parte di Swann] - 1° volume.
Pubblicato nel 1850, François le Champi divenne in seguito un libro di culto per gli amanti della Recherche proustiana, dove viene definito "straordinario".
In realtà Proust non riconosceva alla Sand doti letterarie piuttosto spiccate ma il tema "campestre" di questo romanzo breve della Sand era perfetto per il piccolo Marcel.
Letto adesso è più una favola cupa. Con i buoni 'buoni' e i 'cattivi 'cattivi'.
Ma se hai letto "La recherche" ti verrà voglia di andarlo a cercare.
Lunga vita a George Sand!

Hélène Lamboley

A la fois mièvre et indécent. Plein de bons sentiments, d’une morale humanitaire quelque peu mielleuse dans son évidence didactique et en même temps tellement tordu dans sa vision de l’amour. J’ai lu ce livre pour enfin saisir la référence qui y est faite au début de La Recherche du temps perdu et je comprends maintenant clairement l’intérêt du narrateur pour ce livre.
Cependant si Proust est conscient de la trouble ambiguïté de l’amour filial du narrateur, j’ai été choquée que chez Georges Sand il semble y avoir une continuité évidente entre amour filial et passion amoureuse ; comme si seul le lien de sang et le spectre de l’inceste empêchaient de se réaliser un amour tout naturel entre mère et fils. Étrangement l’idée m’a semblé dans la fiction bien plus révoltante et le fruit d’une vision faussée de la différence des types d’amour que dans le discours freudien, sans doute celui-ci ayant été tellement banalisé que je n’en avais jamais jusqu’ici été frappée.
Un petit point positif cependant pour cette lecture qui m’a à la fois agacée et dégoûtée : la jolie langue à la fois vieillie et poétique prêtée aux paysans et le dialogue très intéressant de la préface qui se demande si l’art ne serait pas une manière de retrouver un rapport spontané au monde, une authenticité perdue

Topics