The Horseman On The Roof
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In the white heat the sky is opaque, the air leaden and the light intense. A single cavalryman wonders at the oppressive atmosphere of the unfamiliar countryside he is entering. Exile from his Italian homeland as well as an innate, stubborn pride compel him onward, into the heart of Provence and into the acute cholera epidemic which ravaged the country in the 1830s. Giono here directs a hallucinatory, lyrical narrative in which the mortal odours, the violent contractions of those who meet with the disease and the fear of a people confronted with insuperable natural forces are palpable. Death pervades the novel, but Angelo does not cease journeying, dodging blockades and quarantine imposed by troops – even seeking temporary refuge on the roofs of one town – determined to find his childhood friend, Giuseppe. Others join him on the road, and leave him. Only the young woman, Pauline de Théus, who calmly receives the intruder who one night descends from the roofs, proves a worthy travelling companion.