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International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check or site for monthly calendar Sian Nagai Ini ABU of man could allow himself to fall so completely under the spell of a foreign land, leading him to renounce, to a large degree, his own country. Upon waking his first morning in Provence, Christensen feels as if he’s dropped 10 years from his life. He spends his early days wandering around the stone house, ruminating on the beauty of a grasshopper, on the spiritual potency of sunlight and shadows, on the significance of walking in the footsteps of the ancient “pioneers who had begun agriculture in Southern France, as early as 6000 B.C.” As it is for any poet worth the name, for Christensen there is nothing in life that can’t be mythologized or recontextualized into significance. His calling card as a memoirist is his artist’s ability to describe an afternoon walk through the mountains as an epic journey worthy of Charlemagne, or a visit to the ice-cream parlor as a mental and psychological trip through the past \(both his own and the don’t speak his language. Language is at the heart of Christensen’s project \(both his life-project in Provence French language or the English language, but the myriad languages with which we’ve been trained to describe our world, and all the languages we haven’t. One of the first things Christensen encounters in Provence is a sudden inability to write. Faced with a blank page and a distracting view of the French countryside, he comes to the unnerving realization that he has nothing to say. “I was so used to working,” he writes, “I didn’t recognize fallowness when it came. There lies a moral for Americans: thinking it’s always harvest time makes us dullards … [Our] false rules rob life of its seasons.” Here in Provence, where “farmers still plant and harvest by the ancient calendar of moon phases and feast days,” resigning themselves to the inevitable peaks and valleys of the seasons, Christensen the foreigner experiences a crisis of language: Sometimes, he realizes, you don’t have one. This realization comes to him throughout the book: The inability to speak in a foreign country goes beyond a simple lack of facility with a particular language. It extends to the most fun damental, most firmly held beliefs we have about ourselves. With refreshing modesty, Christensen describes dozens of situations in which he feels that his lack of understanding of his context leaves him mute. Provence, he decides, isn’t merely a place. It’s a history and a mythology and a poetic tradition and even a geology that, taken together, form the consciousness of the people who live there and allow them to speak. Christensen finds this consciousness rooted in the landscape itself. “Nature is the real story of Provence,” he writes, a nature that is “generous and extraordinarily fertile, even in droughts.” He writes at length and with the associative vigor of a liberal-arts academic of the relationships among Provence’s landscape; its long history as a region inhabited by nature-worshipping Celts, pagans, and early Christians; and its centrality in the development of the written word and of the whole of Modernism as an artistic philosophy. History is full of writers who found inspiration in Provence, including Samuel Beckett and Emile Zola, but it was Ezra Pound who, upon discovering the great medieval-era “pagan” poets of the region, began to piece together the puzzle that would eventually form the landscape of Modernism. Reading the love songs and poems of the 12th-century trouba JANUARY 25, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27