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"Memoirs of a Breton Peasant "published in 1998 by the "Association Arkae" from Ergué Gabéric and by An Here publishing company from Le Relecq Kerhuon has known a phenomenal success. Over 400.000 copies have been sold in France. Czech, American and Italian editions have given the book an international aura. Moreover, the book continues to live in an astonishing way through numerous quotes and studies in France but also in Italy, Russia, Algeria and Mexico,the countries visited by Déguignet.
Les Mémoires d’un paysan bas-breton édités en 1998 par l’association Arkae d’Ergué-Gabéric et les éditions An Here du Relecq-Kerhuon, a connu un succès d’édition exceptionnel.
Plus de 400 000 exemplaires se sont vendus à ce jour en France. Les éditions tchèques, américaine et italienne lui ont donné une aura internationale. Mais le livre continue à vivre d’une manière étonnante par nombre d’études et de citations, tant en France qu’en Italie, qu’en Russie qu’en Algérie ou au Mexique : les pays fréquentés par Déguignet.
Aujourd'hui, c'est une 2° edition aux Etats-Unis, aux editions Seven Stories Press.
Memoirs of a breton peasant
A fascinating document of an extraordinary life, Memoirs of A Breton Peasant reads with the liveliness of a novel and bristles with the vigor of an opinionated autodidact from the very lowest level of peasant society. Brittany during the nineteenth century was a place seemingly frozen in the Middle Ages, backwards by most French standards; formal education among rural society was either unavailable or dismissed as unnecessary, while the church and local myth defined most people's reasoning and motivation. Jean-Marie Déguignet is unique not only as a literate Breton peasant, but in his skepticism for the church, his interest in science, astronomy and languages, and for his keen—often caustic—observations of the world and people around him.
Born into rural poverty in 1834, Déguignet escapes Brittany by joining the French Army in 1854, and over the next fourteen years he fights in the Crimean war, attends Napoleon III’s coronation ceremonies, supports Italy’s liberation struggle, and defends the hapless French puppet emperor Maximilian in Mexico. He teaches himself Latin, French, Italian and Spanish and reads extensively on history, philosophy, politics, and literature. He returns home to live as a farmer and tobacco-seller, eventually falling back into dire poverty. Throughout the tale, Deguignet’s freethinking, almost anarchic views put him ahead of his time and often (sadly, for him) out of step with his contemporaries.
Déguignet’s voluminous journals (nearly 4,000 pages in total) were discovered in a farmhouse in Brittany a century after they were written. This narrative was drawn from them and became a surprise bestseller when published in France in 1998.