the auvergnat pashtuns

melykin draws my attention (thanks, mel!) to a novel — Pays Perdu (“lost country”) — by the french writer pierre jourde which apparently is:

“[A]n account of his time in the hamlet of Lussaud in the Auvergne. He likened the place to a ‘hamlet of bandits in the Pashtun tribal zone’. As if to prove his point, when he returned his car was ambushed and pelted with stones.”

afaict from reading the google translations, the reason that these auvergnat pashtuns had pelted jourde’s car — which contained him and, i think, his wife and three children — was because they didn’t like his portrayal of them as inbred country bumpkins in his novel. heh. (it should be noted that jourde’s family is/was from lussaud — and/or he himself is/was — wasn’t 100% clear to me from the google translations.)

lussaud is in the departement of cantal in auvergne, a rather mountainous region of france. in my recent post on mating patterns in france, we learned that at least some of the population in the auvergne was very inbred in the 1700-1800s:

“After the end of the eighteenth century the small isolated village of Pinon in the Auvergne gained fame as an example of ‘communal’ exploitation of the soil, with the different branches of one ‘family’ marrying among themselves. In 1787 the commune consisted of four such branches totalling 19 persons in all who married amongst themselves. Indeed, according to one source, the Pope had granted them a permanent dispensation against ‘cousinage’.”

and not only were the folks of the auvergne inbreeding closely in the 1700-1800s, they were also behaving in the pashtun-like ways that jourde experienced — here from Crime and Repression in the Auvergne and the Guyenne, 1720-1790 [pgs. 193, 195-197]:

At least two aspects of these sources [administrative correspondence] however suggest that life in the Auvergne *was* more than usually brutal, that violence was more pervasive and socially acceptable than in more civilised provinces. There is first of all the shocked reaction of strangers in the province — travellers like Le Grand d’Aussy, government officials fresh from Paris, or the rare example of an outsider….

“[I]n the Issoire area of the Basse-Auvergne, the peace was constantly disturbed by the young men from Apchat, Ardes, and neighbouring parishes, ‘who only go to the fetes to have a fight’. According to the subdelegue, the fairground was ‘their favourite battlefield’.

“It was not until 1760 that an intendant took serious steps to restore order. Ballainvilliers was forced to attend to the problem of the administration of justice by a number of crimes which were remarkable only for their brutality. The problem which faced the authorities was, as we have seen, not so much the negligence of the police force, though M de Valette had plenty to say about the conduct of the Mauriac brigade, as the collapse of seigneurial justice. The decline of this crucial aspect of ‘feudalism’ in the Auvergne was marked not by the growing importance of theft, but by the incidence of violence. Ballainvilliers was informed that a canon of the Clermont Cathedral chapter had stabbed to death the daughter of a conseiller in the Cour des Aides while having tea with the young lady and her mother; in a different social setting, Marguerite Paulet was hacked limb from limb by the young man she had not wanted to marry. When steps were taken in 1760 to ascertain the extent of seigneurial negligence, the list of unpunished crimes painted a vivid picture of the cheapness of human life in the Auvergne.

“The Besse subdelegue reported that in the course of a riot in the summer of 1752, the servant of the Murol procureur fiscal had gone beserk, started lashing out at anyone near him and was himself killed; two others had received knife injuries ‘without knowing why or from whom’. From Bort came the sparse memorandum that there had been seventeen murders and no arrests. The Rochefort report provided more details: a miller who had opposed the construction of a wall across his meadow – killed by a blow from a spade; an innkeeper – killed by a locksmith in a brawl on the way home from the fair; a court official – killed while trying to seize livestock for non-payment of debts; a man killed in a fight for a place at a gambling table; a girl killed by her brother when he applied to her head the shovel they were using to load manure on to a cart. There was endless variety in the reports of these bloody scenes which came from all corners of the province: from Aurillac, word came of a labourer killed in a field on receiving a blow from a hoe; from Langeac, of a postilion killed by another servant as they argued at table in the chateau de Chavagnac; near Issoire, the servants of a miller had a quarrel, and the body of one was later washed up by the stream; from Ardes murders were reported which had been committed by brigadiers of the gabelle ‘in pursuit of smugglers’; an Aurillac priest was indicted for rape, murder and arson; the Riom subdelegue reported a murder committed by Christophe de Panneyre, ecuyer, an 8-year-old child; an aunt killed by her nephew, a woman by her father-in-law, brother by brother. A bottle of wine was often blamed: one peasant, fighting with a drunk neighbour received a knife blow ‘which brought his intestines into the daylight’. No government official even attempted to analyse the state of mind of the persons unknown who had abandoned newly born babies to drown in ditches, or to be half-eaten by dogs on piles of garbage.

To this private death toll must be added the victims of communal violence. This was occasionally contained within the confines of the parish, as in the ‘bloody battle’ between the inhabitants of the parish of La Queulhe who exchanged blows with pickaxes and shovels in a dispute over the division of brushwood. More often, the corpses littered the battlefields of inter-parish warfare. Again the motive for the violence is often obscure. In the case of Sauvagnat versus St Frome the subdelegue simply noted that this was the third Sunday in a row that the two parishes had fought it out. It was traditional for the parish of Madriat to send along a band of rowdies to the annual fete in Augnat – ‘for the express purpose of disturbing divine service, maltreating and striking the residents’. Every year, the brigade of marechaussee turned up to try to keep the parishioners apart. The inhabitants of the nearby parish of Chadeleuf ‘form a little republic’, and directed their energies against the inhabitants of Neschers to the north west, or Sauvagnat and Pardines to the east and south. There were continual battes in this direction, as the parishioners of Chadeleuf had many sheep and restricted grazing grounds, and constantly tried to ursurp those of their neighbours. In 1756, two men died in these struggles, and the trouble broke out again two years later; the police did not intervene, and the cures of the parishes concerned drew up a peace treaty.

“Although two other villages in the Issoire district fought a battle over a corvee dispute, no issue was so inflammatory as grazing. It was asking for trouble for the owner of a hillside and wood traditionally used by the parish of Fossat to give permission to some inhabitants of Valcivieres to use them for grazing their livestock, even if only for a limited time. Fossat called to arms: pistols, guns, bayonets, pikes, iron pitchforks and clubs appeared, and chased the intruders back to Valcivieres. The parish of Colamines was torn apart by civil war when the ancient grazing rights of the village of Longchamp were attacked by fellow parishioners from the village of Bourg. Bourg made the mistake of launching the assault with insufficient forces, and it was repulsed. The inhabitants of Longchamp remained in triumphant possession of the battlefield. Bourg was uncowed, hoever, soon the tocsin rang out again, and this time at full strength the villagers of Bourg routed their neighbours, and pursued them all the way to Longchamp….

“By the eighteenth century, there is scarcely a trace of noble violence to be found….

“There is however no evidence to prove that the new provisions covering seigneurial justice seriously affected the prevalence of violence in the peasant community, and two sources at least suggest that such a transformation was highly unlikely. One is the evidence of the violence which continued to be directed against the police themselves – the ‘rebellions’ for which we do have documentation, and which, as we shall see, showed no signs of abating in frequency or ferocity in the latter part of the century. The other testimony to the longevity of the Auvergnat violence is an eye-witness, Le Grand d’Aussy, who travelled in the province on the very eve of the Revolution and found the same penchant for communal brutality that had so little distressed the subdelegues of earlier decades….

tribalism in south-central france — just a couple of centuries ago! who woulda guessed?!

previously: meanwhile, in france…

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