Pierre Gamarra

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Pierre Gamarra
Gamarra in Toulouse, 1945
Gamarra in Toulouse, 1945
BornPierre Albert Gamarra
(1919-07-10)10 July 1919
Toulouse, France
Died20 May 2009(2009-05-20) (aged 89)
Argenteuil, France
GenreNovel, Children's literature, Fable, Poetry, Essay
SubjectToulouse, Midi-Pyrénées
Notable works
  • La Maison de feu (1948)
  • Le Maître d'école (1955)
  • La Mandarine et le Mandarin (1970)
  • Mon cartable
Notable awards


Pierre Gamarra (French pronunciation: ​[pjɛʁ gamaˈʁa]; 10 July 1919 – 20 May 2009) was a French poet, novelist and literary critic, a long-time chief editor and director of the literary magazine Europe.
Gamarra is best known for his poems and novels for the youth and for narrative and poetical works deeply rooted in his native region of Midi-Pyrénées.


Pierre Gamarra was born in Toulouse on July 10, 1919. From 1938 until 1940, he was a teacher in the South of France. During the German Occupation, he joined various Resistance groups in Toulouse, involved in the writing and distributing of clandestine publications. This led him to a career as a journalist, and then, more specifically both as a writer and a literary journalist.[1]

In 1948, Pierre Gamarra received the first Charles-Veillon International Grand Prize [fr] in Lausanne for his first novel, La Maison de feu.[n 1] Members of the 1948 Veillon Prize jury included writers André Chamson, Vercors, Franz Hellens and Louis Guilloux.[n 2] The novel is described in Books Abroad as “A beautifully written tale of humble life, which Philippe and Jammes would have liked“.[3]

From 1945 to 1951, he worked as a journalist in Toulouse. In 1951, Louis Aragon, Jean Cassou and André Chamson offered him a position in Paris as editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Europe.[4] He occupied this position until 1974, when he became director of the magazine. Under Pierre Gamarra's direction, Europe continued the project initiated in 1923 by Romain Rolland and a group of writers.[n 3] For more than 50 years, Pierre Gamarra also contributed to most of the magazines's issues with a book review column named The Typewriter[n 4] which shows the same international curiosity.[5]

Most of his novels take place in his native South-West of France: he wrote a novel trilogy based on the history of Toulouse and various novels set in that town, along the Garonne[6] or in the Pyrenees.
John L. Brown, in World Literature Today, writes that Pierre Gamarra’s descriptions of Toulouse, its people and its region were “masterly”, “skillfully and poetically” composed “with a vibrant lyricism”[7] and that:

Few contemporary French novelists can communicate a feeling for place, melding poetry and realism, myth and history, more movingly and convincingly than Pierre Gamarra.[8]

Pierre Gamarra is also the author of The Midnight Roosters,[n 5] a novel set in Aveyron during the French Revolution.[9] The book was adapted for the French television channel FR3 in 1973. The film, casting Claude Brosset [fr], was shot in the town of Najac.[10]

In 1955, he published one of his best known novels, Le Maître d’école;[n 6] the book and its sequel La Femme de Simon[n 7] (1962) received critical praise.[11]
Reviewing his 1957 short stories collection Les Amours du potier,[n 8] Lois Marie Sutton deems that although war affects the plots of many of “all (those) delightful thirteen stories“, “it is the light-hearted plot that Gamarra maneuvers best“ and that “as in his previous publications, (the author) shows himself to be a master delineator of the life of the average peasant and employee.“[12]

In 1961, Pierre Gamarra received the Prix Jeunesse [fr] for L'Aventure du Serpent à Plumes[n 9] and in 1985, the SGDL Grand Prize[n 10] for his novel Le Fleuve Palimpseste.[n 11]

Pierre Gamarra died in Argenteuil on May 20, 2009, leaving a substantial body of work, as yet untranslated into English. The Encyclopædia Britannica sees in him a "delightful practitioner with notable drollery and high technical skills"[13] in the art of children's poetry and children's stories. His poems[n 12] and fables[n 13][17] are well known by French schoolchildren.[18][19][20]

Selection of works[edit]

In French unless otherwise stated

Literature for the youth[edit]


Fables collections[edit]

  • Salut, Monsieur de La Fontaine (2005), ill. Frédéric Devienne, ISBN 2-916237-00-3
  • La Mandarine et le Mandarin (1970)

Poetry collections[edit]




Reedited De Borée (2014) ISBN 9782812911491
Editions of the book since 1948
  • Toulouse trilogy:
    • 72 soleils, 1975 ISBN 9782201013522
    • L'Or et le Sang, 1970
    • Les Mystères de Toulouse, 1967
Book cover of Pierre Gamarra's poetry collection Essais pour une malédiction (1943), Hélène Vascaresco Prize for Poetry

Short stories[edit]

  • Les Amours du potier, Éditions La Baconnière [fr] (Neuchatel), 1957
  • Un cadavre; Mange ta soupe, Prix National de la Résistance 1944

Poetry collections[edit]

About Pierre Gamarra[edit]

In French unless otherwise stated

Book reviews in English[edit]

Literary journals special issues[edit]

  • Poésie Première "Tarn en Poésie 2003: Avec Pierre Gamarra"
  • Poésie Première No. 29 (2004)



A street in Argenteuil, two schools —one in Montauban, the other in Bessens;[22] and two public libraries (one in Argenteuil,[23] the other in Andrest) are named after Pierre Gamarra.


  1. ^ La Maison de feu means ″The fiery house″. The novel takes place in Toulouse during the 1930’s.
  2. ^ Gathered in La Tour-de-Peilz, the jury also included Léon Bopp [fr], Maurice Zermatten, Charles Guyot, Louis Martin-Chauffier and Robert Vivier.[2]
  3. ^ For instance, many issues were devoted to an extensive presentation of countries whose literature is not internationally very well known.
  4. ^ In French La Machine à écrire; since 2009, the column is continued in Europe by Jacques Lèbre.
  5. ^ In French Les Coqs de Minuit.
  6. ^ French for The Schoolmaster.
  7. ^ French for Simon’s wife, Simon being Simon Sermet, the main character in both novels.
  8. ^ French for A Potter's lovers.
  9. ^ L’Aventure du Serpent à Plumes, French for ″The Adventure of the Feathered Snake″, is a novel for the youth.
  10. ^ In French, Grand Prix de la Société des gens de lettres pour le roman.
  11. ^ Le Fleuve palimpseste, French for ″The Palimpsest river″. The river is the Garonne.
  12. ^ Pierre Gamarra’s best known poems include Mon cartable (My schoolbag),[14] My School[15] and The Clock.
  13. ^ His best known fables include The Cosmonaut and his host, The Apple, The Ski, The mocked Mocker (Le Moqueur moqué) or The Fly and the Cream.[16]
  14. ^ French for The Woman and the River. The river is, again, the Garonne.[21]
  15. ^ L'assassin a le prix Goncourt (French for ‘The Murderer receives the Goncourt Prize’) is set in Moissac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ″This is how a countryside schoolteacher who had been studying at the 'École normale primaire', became, through the turmoil of the Phoney War and the Resistance, a poet, a novelist, a journalist living in the region of Paris, member of the magazine Europe′s editing team for some fifty years.″
    (…) c’est ainsi que l’instituteur rural préparé par ses années d’École normale primaire s’est mué, les bouleversements de la drôle de guerre et la Résistance aidant, en un poète, romancier, journaliste vivant en région parisienne, membre pendant quelque cinquante ans du comité de rédaction de la revue Europe (…)
    Claude Sicard, ″Pierre Gamarra″ in Balade en Midi-Pyrénées, sur les pas des écrivains, Alexandrines, 2011 (Excerpt on the Publisher website (in French)).
  2. ^ Simone Hauert Annabelle, Year 8, number 85, March 1948 (Lausanne), p.45. See also Le Confédéré (Martigny) number 59, 19 May 1948 p. 2. (Read online).
  3. ^ Georgette R. Schuler (Spring 1949). "Review of La Maison de feu". Books Abroad. 23 (2): 156. JSTOR 40086832.
  4. ^ Encyclopédia Universalis: Pierre Gamarra(in French).
  5. ^ See the Journal tables:
  6. ^ ″Pierre Gamarra kept for all his life his passion for the regions along the Garonne river: it was present in his poems, novels and stories.″ (Pierre Gamarra conservera toute sa vie une passion pour ces terres de Garonne qui reviendront dans ses poèmes, ses romans, ses récits.)
    Alain Nicolas, ″Pierre Gamarra est mort″, L’Humanité, 25 May 2009. (online version(in French))
  7. ^ John L. Brown, Review of Le Fleuve palimpseste, World Literature Today, Vol. 59, No. 1, Winter, 1985 ISSN 0196-3570.
  8. ^ John L. Brown (1987). "Review of Les Lèvres de l'été". World Literature Today. 61 (2): 236. JSTOR 40143008.
  9. ^ Les Coqs de minuit (1950, reed. 2009) De Borée ISBN 9782844949097
  10. ^ "TV adaptation (Les Coqs de Minuit) on the Internet Movie Data Base". Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  11. ^ ″The manner of telling is so matter of fact that the tragedy takes one unaware.″, according to Helen M. Ranson, reviewing Le Maître d’école, in Books Abroad, Vol. 31, No. 1, Winter, 1957, ISSN 0006-7431
  12. ^ Sutton Lois Marie (1958). "Review of Les Amours du potier". Books Abroad. 32 (4): 394. JSTOR 40098002.
  13. ^ Article Children’s literature (20th century) in Encyclopædia Britannica:

    Children’s verse has at least one delightful practitioner in Pierre Gamarra. His Mandarine et le Mandarin contains Fontainesque fables of notable drollery and high technical skill.

  14. ^ Mon cartable is for instance chosen in France Inter poetry yearly selection for 2012, read by Guillaume Gallienne: listen online(in French); or on Édouard Baer’s Radio Nova program, “Un enfant, un poème” in December 2017: listening online.
  15. ^ "Mon école", online reading on Radio Nova (2017).
  16. ^ La Mouche et la Crème, online on Radio Nova.
  17. ^ Most of Pierre Gamarra’s fables are collected in La Mandarine et le Mandarin (1970) and in Salut, Monsieur de La Fontaine (2005), (rewiewed on Le Printemps des poètes’ website (in French)).
  18. ^ ″His abundant body of work has earned him a prominent place in Children’s literature; his poems are read in schools, taught and learned by heart.″ (Sa frénésie d'écrire lui confère une place de choix dans la littérature enfantine ; on lit ses poèmes dans les écoles, on les enseigne, on les apprend.)
    Guillaume de Toulouse-Lautrec, foreword to Mon pays l'Occitanie, 2009, p. 12.
  19. ^ "The homework that inspires horror in families - BBC News". BBC News. 19 June 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Projet pédagogique. Les élèves passent aux fables à Mesnils sur Iton" (in French). Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  21. ^ Armen Kalfayan, Review of La Femme et le Fleuve, Books Abroad Vol. 26, No. 3, Summer, 1952
  22. ^ "Chronologie". Les Amis de Pierre Gamarra (in French). 3 June 2018. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  23. ^ Pierre Gamarra Library in Argenteuil page. (in French)

External resources[edit]