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Nature Stories

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  252 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The natural world in all its richness, glimpsed variously in the house, the barnyard, and the garden, in ponds and streams, and at large in the woods and the fields, including old friends like the dog, the cat, the cow, and the pig, along with more unusual and sometimes alarming characters such as the weasel, the dragonfly, snakes of several sorts, and even a whale, not to ...more
Paperback, 165 pages
Published December 7th 2010 by NYRB Classics (first published 1894)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  252 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
The stuff of a thoughtful person’s private journal. The kind of book one would do well to keep by the bedside. The kind of book that reminds us that we have eyes. Part Aesop, part Thoreau, part Ponge, part Knausgård. I enjoyed reading about swallows and toads, about rabbits sitting up on their hind legs, “like candlesticks,” more than the pages dedicated to farm animals. There is a lovely extended section about partridges and the hunting of them. The Bonnard illustrations are wonderful, if odd, ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Yes, I liked it. It has the Renard charm, but what I really, really want (are you listening, NYRB?) is a larger English-language edition of Renard’s Journal.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nature lovers
Recommended to Anne by: The New York Review of Books.
Shelves: nature, animals, uno-2020
An interesting little book of small vignettes of the French countryside in the late 19th century. The author observes, anthropomorphizes and describes the local flora and fauna. He is a hunter and fisherman, but there are essays about the terror that such activities must cause the animals. He also understands that birds should not be kept in cages so the ideas expressed are quite modern. This book is simple, clean and sweet. And the brush illustrations by Pierre Bonnard are delightful.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A needed moment of gentle fresh air to stir up the miasma of corruption and indecency my country is presently steeped in. It's good and heartening to remember as Renard does that birds don't belong in cages--much less children.

About 80 anthropomorphized but perceptive portraits from nature, often minimalist, often reading like prose poems:


This love letter, folded in two, is looking for a flowery address.

Highly recommended for self-care, then getting back to work.
Lou Last
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stories
I’VE JUST CROSSED A SUNBURNT plain and here they are.
They’re not growing beside the road; it’s too noisy. They’re living in uncultivated fields, by a spring, known only to the birds.
In the distance, they look impenetrable. As I come nearer, their trunks move apart.
They welcome me, warily. I may rest and cool down but I can sense that they’re watching me closely and cautiously.
It’s a family, the elders in the middle, surrounded by the youngsters whose first leaves have just been
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book, early, reviewer
Before knowing anything about Jules Renard I tried to imagine how these short vignettes would have been published. As filler in newspapers? Perhaps simply as entries in a commonplace book. Some are no longer than a sentence or two. The shortest need only a few beautiful words that read like haiku. [return][return]Renard seems to have lived a charmed life. He grew up in Chitry-les-Mines, a humble village in the Nièvre region of Burgundy. His father sent him to Nievres, the nearest town with a pro ...more
Chuck LoPresti
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely charming and rewarding read. I plucked it from a shop that always has a nice collection of NYRB titles that move fast and there were about 12 copies on the shelf - why? What's not to love here? It reads like a Kanjur for compassionate agnostics. If Walser walked with his head focused on the trees the results would compare to Renard's effort. Written from the view of an observant and increasingly mortal man - Renard negotiates various elements of nature such as snails and trees in bril ...more
Kobe Bryant
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Writing about the animals you've seen and drawing pictures of them is very chill
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Recently I received this book in the post. The words were written by an author I’d never heard of and it was translated into a language I can’t understand… So why would I spend my money on a book like this? Two words. Luigi Serafini.

Many may be familiar with Serafini’s name for his most famous piece, the iconic Codex Seraphinianus, a compendium filled with bizarre and surreal illustrations of an imaginary world, annotated with text written in an indecipherable imaginary language. The Codex, orig

Max Eichelberger
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This is only a taste, a tease.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: animals, medical, classic
The author has delightful anecdotes about the beauty of nature and of animals. Then he discusses his enjoyment of hunting.
James Smith
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
This new translation of Renard's Histoires naturelles is a treat. It is a collection of vignettes ranging from just a few words to a few pages, and many read like prose poems that bring to mind Baudelaire's Paris Spleen. Indeed, Renard's little book could be read as a kind of the rural correlate to Baudelaire's urban vignettes. These "nature stories" are attentive meditations on nature, animals especially, but also the interaction of the human animal with the birds, mammals, insects, lizards, an ...more
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Today, we might call this a themed collection of short shorts. Each short short features an observation on some piece of nature, animal or plant, the moon in the sky, a cluster of trees. Renard weaves simple plotlines into the lives of the things he observes, often personifying them, attributing human mundaneness to the little quirks of nature. A tree, for Renard, is still and silent by choice, a thing to be envied, maybe emulated, if only for a little while. The smallest details are raised to t ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it
My favorites:
lying in wait
hunting for pictures
one dog
a sunrise
the garden
the birdless cage
a family of trees
the wood
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Poignant and funny. This was a joy to read. Sort of like Aesop without the fantasy and morality, or like Squirrel meets chipmunk without the jaded and vindictive characters. The stories here range from mildly autobiographical, to short anecdotes, allegories, deeper philosophical questions, and simple one liner puns.

The writing is great. Simple and uncluttered, with a level of lyricism and poetry that gives the work a slightly otherworldly quality. It is like imagining your everyday life happenin
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-history, graphic
The poetic observations of Renard about animals and country life are wonderful. This edition of the book has illustrations from Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard and Stein. I love the subtlety of Lautrec's marks and volumes. His illustrations were the ones that I kept returning to and examining. Yet they are obviously a response to Jules Renard's work. He begins the text with the concept of the "image hunter". Each entry is like a sketch, that illuminates the animal rather than technically describes it. ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: béret
Great analogy. He nailed it.

My favourites:
Lying in Wait, p.3
Hunting for Pictures, p.5
Turkeys, p.5 "II. They are not afraid of rain (nobody ca life her skirts better than a turkey hen)..."
The Peacock, p.19
A Sunrise, p.84
The Butterfly, p.88 "This love letter, folded in two, is looking for a flowery address."
Monkeys, p.100 "...the zebra, a pattern for all the other zebras..."
The Stag, p.103
A Canary, p.120
The Parrot, p.133
A Family of Trees, p.151
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Interesting, sometimes silly, sometimes moving, set of very brief poems/stories about "nature". "Nature" because since these were written in Europe in the late 1800's, the 'natural' subjects are primarily farm animals and hunting. As a result, the stories didn't really speak to me and my views on what nature is or how to treat animals -but it provides an interesting view into how most people of the time thought.
Austen to Zafón
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
My favorite essays were the first two, about how the sweetly intense way some people respond to nature. The rest of the pieces (1-2 pages each) are about specific animals. I'm not sure I liked many of those as well. They tended to anthropomorphize the animals, which didn't work for me. I wasn't expecting that. I like his writing style, just not so much his approach to describing different animals. Hmm. It's a NYRB title and is very prettily published. Maybe I'll come back to it late.
Trey Meckel
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A sublime, contemplative series of vignettes about nature and our place in it. Really quite marvellous.

More whimsical, but no less elegiac, than 'Sand Country Almanac' or 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek' or 'Desert Solitaire', in its peaceful way.

Renard himself provides a beautiful way of considering his observations: "If I were to begin life again, I should want it as it was. I would only open my eyes a little more.”

Highly, highly recommended for a quiet moment's read!
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Charming vignettes about a variety of creatures as seen through the eyes of 19th century Frenchman. Many of these poetic observations are only a page or less and most possess a light, endearing sense of humor. Perfect for spring.
Reflective, nuanced, and beautiful, these tales/essays are carefully crafted and full of subtle harmony. I had not known about Renard before receiving this book, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience his work. I hope more of his work comes to light.
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, read-in-2012
absolutely charming. these little bits of writing range from a sentence to several pages long. the accompanying illustrations are a pure joy. perfect for picking up every now and then when you need a little whimsy and beauty in your day.
Luca Dipierro
Jul 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books ever. I read it in Italian. USA edition will come out in September 2010. It was time.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Lovely, beautiful, calming, wonderful. Perfect bedtime stories.
Sean A.
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
delightful vignettes and aphorisms personifying the animal kingdom and natural realm peppered with charming sketches to illustrate.
(seems to make a subtle argument for vegetarianism).
Lee Razer
Translating these here as an exercise, and because I kinda like my translations better than Parmée's NYRB ones. ...more
Dec 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
Charming as all get-out.
Dec 21, 2010 marked it as to-read
for Jill's birthday 2011
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Easily worth the read. Illustrations bump up the rating from 3.5 to 4 stars.
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NYRB Classics: Nature Stories, by Jules Renard 1 5 Oct 29, 2013 10:33AM  

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Pierre-Jules Renard or Jules Renard (February 22, 1864- May 22, 1910) was a French author and member of the Académie Goncourt, most famous for the works Poil de Carotte (Carrot hair) (1894) and Les Histoires Naturelles (Natural Histories) (1896). Among his other works are Le Plaisir de rompre (The Pleasure of Breaking) (1898) and Huit jours à la campagne (Eight Days in the Countryside) (1906).

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