Peter Mayle. Picture: FACEBOOK
Peter Mayle. Picture: FACEBOOK

London — Peter Mayle, who wrote the best-selling memoir, A Year In Provence, has died at the age of 78, his publishers announced.

Following a short illness, the British author died on Thursday in a hospital near his beloved home in southern France, publishing house Alfred A Knopf said.

A Year In Provence, about his first 12 months after relocating to the south of France, was released in 1990 with an initial print run of 3,000. The witty tale of moving into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the lavender-scented, remote countryside, and adapting to the slower Provençal way of life, went on to sell 6-million copies in 40 languages.

Its infectious warmth for the south of France and the local lifestyle and culture fired up the imaginations of thousands of Britons and others to seek the same romantic dream.

Alfred A Knopf announced on Twitter late on Thursday that Mayle, who had written "multiple best-selling books about life in Provence, died early today at a hospital near his home in the south of France". Mayle wrote several follow-on books, including Toujours Provence and Encore Provence.

Film director Ridley Scott, his friend and neighbour, directed the 2006 film, A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, which was based on Mayle’s the novel of the same name.

"It was all that humorous competitive spirit between the French and the English that Peter captured brilliantly," Scott told BBC radio. "It was quite true about the French — and it was quite true about the British." Mayle was made a knight in France’s Legion d’Honneur in 2002 for his services to French culture.

Scott said: "Peter was a very kind and successful man, and it was driven by his own spirit. You could feel whatever he did, whatever he touched was going to work."

Mayle started out writing a series of educational works for children, such as sex education books including, Where Did I Come From? The writer, who, for millions of Britons epitomised the "European dream" of living in the sun, told AFP in 2016 that the UK’s exit from the EU was a "disaster for them and for Europe. I am sad for the future of my English friends". Mayle took French nationality as Britain’s EU membership referendum approached.

In September 2016, he reflected on his website of ways in which both he, and Provence, had changed or stayed the same, 25 years since his landmark memoir came out.

"I am still easily lured from my desk by interesting distractions. A wine tasting, a promising young chef, the rumour of truffles to be found under a nearby oak, a murky hammam [Turkish bath] in Marseille, a vicious game of petanque in the village and, of course, the spectacle of daily life as seen from the cafe terrace.

"I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’m happy where I am. That, I suppose, is contentment, and I shall always be grateful to the literary accident known as A Year In Provence for helping me achieve it."

AFP

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