NYRB News


Nature Stories

By Jules Renard
A new translation from the French by Douglas Parmée
Illustrations by Pierre Bonnard

Nature Stories is a deliciously whimsical classic from the era of the great French Post-impressionist painters. Renard mingles wonder and humor in a series of brief portraits of subjects drawn from the natural world: dogs, cats, pigs, roses, snails, trees and birds of all sorts, humans of course, and even a humble potato.

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Ranging from a sentence to several pages, Renard’s literary miniatures are masterpieces of compression and description, capturing both appearance and behavior through a choice of details that makes the familiar unfamiliar and yet surprisingly true to life. In Jules Renard’s world, plants and animals not only feel but speak and yet, for all the anthropomorphic wit and whimsy the author indulges in, they guard their mystery too. These creatures fascinate Renard, who in turn makes them fascinating to us.

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Sly, funny, and touching, Nature Stories—here beautifully rendered into English by award-winning translator Douglas Parmée and accompanied by the wonderful ink-brush images of Pierre Bonnard that appeared in the 1904 edition—is a literary classic of inexhaustible freshness.

Read Douglas Parmée’s introduction

There is no real equivalent for the French word esprit which is somewhere between and beyond humor and wit and which is essentially what these short commentaries on the bird and animal world display.” —Kirkus Reviews

Renard’s way with the detail is unforgettable. Renard writes about spiders, about the moon, and the poetry he makes from the things his eyes tell him is joyful.” —Michael Silverblatt, Bookworm

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