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The Counts of Toulouse and the Cross of Toulouse:  Occitan:  the Language Today: Literature.

Occitan was one of the first European languages to have its own grammar (Reglas de trobar, Leis d'Amor), but the loss of an official status and the institutional French disdain, led it to become less coherent, under the pressure of alien French phonetics.

In the centuries following the crusade against Occitania, Occitan lands were gradually annexed under the kingdom of France. In 1539 the Edict of Villers-Cotteret imposed the use of the French language in all public act. Soon Religious Wars between Catholics and Protestants undermined the king's power, and an poet, Peire de Garròs, made his voice heard - "taking up the condemned cause of our disdained language".

In the Albi region, Augier Galhard voiced his defence, and in Provence the language was defended by Belaud de la Belaudière. The end of the Sixteenth century saw a re-birth of Occitan language conscience.

In Toulouse, grown rich through pastel and the second city in France, Pèire Godolin one of the greatest poets of the time was born. His works brought him fame and glory. He came under the patronage of local nobles and became the official poet for the city at the beginning of the Seventeenth century. His most famous work is "Lo Ramelet Mondin" dated 1671. Three collections of verse ("Floretas").

The French Revolution saw the victory of the strongly centralizing Jacobeans, which condemned all languages other than Parisian French in favour of linguistic unity, but the severe oppression did not last and the Nineteenth century saw the emergence of several key figures who promoted the Occitan language.

Gensemin, a barber of Agen, covered Occitania with his Occitan poems, and he was later praised by romantic scholars of Paris (along with Lamartine and Nodier). His poetic works attracted thousands of followers.

Another important figure was V. Gelu, an exponent of popular realism. Hiis work was censured by the imperial power as offensive to public morality.

The Nineteenth century was influenced by Frederick Mistral and the birth of the Felibritge movement in 1854. This group included Romanilha and Aubanel. With works entitled "Mireio", "Calendal" and "The poem of Rodano" Mistral became a famous poet. Mistral devised the most complete Occitan language dictionary ever, "The treasure of Felibritge". He is the only Occitan writer ever to have been awarded a Nobel prize for literature (in 1904).

Il Felibritge experienced its zenith at the end of the Nineteenth century, extending its influence throughout the Occitan area, despite internal battles between conservatives (the "whites" under Romanilha) and progressives (the "reds", with Forest, Gras, de Ricard).

In 1846 Honorat de Dinha had published the first Occitan dictionary of the modern era. Word spellings that he adopted were inspired by those of the Troubadours and in line with other Latin based languages. Mistral debated with himself for a long time on the best Occitan spelling for his "Treasure of Felibritge". Influenced by Romanilha, he failed to follow Dinha's lead and chose an alternative system unsuitable for Occitan dialects other than Provençal.

J. Ros from Limoges did not adopt Mistral's solution and instead returned to the spelling of the Troubadours for his works. His linguistic style was followed by Prosper Estieu and Antonin Perbosc, who in 1919 founded the "Occitan School", laid down rules on a relatively scientific basis. Their work was perfected by the philologist Louis Alibert who published an "Occitan grammar book" in 1935 in Barcelona, in collaboration with the Catalan study institute. The work of Alibert was completed with the publication in 1966, seven years after his death, of his Dictionary, which is still used today as a reference work.

Occitan writers initially concentrated on poetry. The Felibridge works also remained in this style, though d'Arbaud or Gras also produced fine novels. The first half of the Twentieth century remained focused on poetic works and the second started in this way with writers such as R. Nelli, B. Manciet, and Max Roquette, until the re-birth of the novel with Joan Bodon. A teacher from Rouergue, Bodon approached literature with the aid of the novelist E. Molin, and thanks to his novels the Occitan language flourished.

At the beginning of the third millennium, Bodon showed how Occitan had the capacity for describing changes in the modern world. Two books of note are "La ghiaia sul cammino" (top in sales in the Occitan version) and "Il libro di Catoio" (his masterpiece). Other famous writers include Robert Lafont (novelist and Occitan theoretician), Paul Gayraud, and Yves Rouquette.

A new generation emerged after 1968 and today a host of writers are creating all kinds of literary works ranging from the detective novel to science fiction or to the erotic novel.

 

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