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Nature Stories

"The habitat of every creature in our home countryside is also our habitat, and to make it less inhabitable for other creatures makes it less inhabitable as well for us.”

Wendell Berry, foreword
Nature Stories
by Jules Renard
The New York Review of Books, 2010

“You can see one there, lying down, stretched out like a lovely noodle” is Jules Renard's single-sentence portrait of a worm, one of about four dozen sketches included in his classic 
Nature Stories, newly translated from the French by Douglas Parmée.

An early 20th century novelist and playwright, Renard published the first edition of his Histoires naturelles in 1896. Subsequent editions were illustrated by the likes of Toulouse-Latrec and Pierre Bonnard, whose ink-brush images are included in this English edition.

Consisting of mostly short verse and prose poem celebrations of
flora and fauna, the collection also includes a couple longer pieces on hunting and fishing, which are not complimentary. Renard deftly anthropomorphizes the plants and animals around him and clearly empathizes with their existences.

Like the protagonist in “Hunting for Pictures” who jumps out of bed in the morning and sets off into the field in pursuit of mental images, Renard's stories are savored memories committed to words. "He leaves his weapons at home and will be happy just opening his eyes; they'll be nets to capture pictures: the pictures will enjoy being captured."

When he returns home, his head is full of pictures. He carefully counts and organizes them, like a collector of stamps or coins.

"Each one of them reminds him of another one and new pictures come crowding in, all gleaming, to join them, like partridges which, pursued and separated all day, in the evening, no longer in danger, greet each other and sing.”

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