Sunday, November 09, 2008

New Book by Norman Beaupré - The Boy With the Blue Cap -- Van Gogh in Arles

Of all the novels published by Norman Beaupré, The Boy With the Blue Cap -- Van Gogh in Arles is one that holds a special place in this writer’s heart and creative imagination because it’s a work melding together historical fiction and the fine arts.

Professor Emeritus Beaupré enjoyed teaching world literature and French Impressionism as well as Post-Impressionism during his college career. Over the years, he developed a special liking for Van Gogh, the man, his drawings and his paintings. This novel deals with 73 of Van Gogh’s paintings in Arles as well as in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The story is told by a young precocious boy, Camille Roulin, son of the postal worker, Joseph Roulin. Van Gogh painted the portraits of the entire Roulin family while in Arles. The reader is brought into Van Gogh’s world of vibrant color and accomplished artistry by means of a close relationship with a boy who is privileged to follow the artist around in his many excursions throughout the countryside of Arles as well as other places frequented by the artist. The artist at work relates to the boy his techniques and theories on painting and drawing. The novel not only deals with the aesthetic side of Van Gogh but also introduces us to his spiritual side so often neglected by some authors and art critics. Also, as part of the novel’s plot based on plausible happenings in and around Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, an element of intrigue is added with the introduction of two gypsy women in Van Gogh’s life. Gypsies find sacred ground at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer where their favored black saint, Sara-la-kâli, is kept in the crypt of the local church. They dress her up and put scarves and ribbons on her statue. Every year gypsies hold their annual pilgrimage and they come from across Europe to this sacred shrine. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the Mediterranean shore inspired Van Gogh to paint some of his scenes filled with vibrant colors. The novel has a way of weaving the artistic life of Van Gogh, including the bold presence of Gauguin, while telling the story of a boy, Camille Roulin, and his family drawn to a stranger whose exploits and talent to paint in an extraordinary way are seen from his viewpoint as an observant boy fascinated by words and colors. The novel also captures the life and flavor of Provençal life during the period of eighteen months Van Gogh lived and painted in Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

The author traveled to Arles, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer in 2005 to do research for his novel. The following year he went to Amsterdam to continue his research and to view the actual painting of the “boy with the blue cap” simply named, Camille Roulin,” at the Van Gogh Museum.

This is Beaupré’s tenth work. He writes both in French and in English. His one-woman play, a dramatic monologue, was produced in Paris in October of this year. This is the first time a Franco-American work was performed in Paris. Marie Cormier from Oakland, Maine, the actress who plays the part of La Souillonne, was featured in the play. Following the Paris performance both Cormier and Beaupré traveled to Dijon then on to Angers for two more performances. A Biddeford performance is planned early next year.

Beaupré was decorated with the medal of the Order of Arts and Literature, grade d’officier, in June 2008 by the French Consul in Boston. The Ministry of Culture and Communications in Paris informed Beaupré that he was being honored for his body of works and his outstanding contribution to French culture.

He has already started on his 11th work, a collection of tales and stories in French with several contributors who are now in the process of writing their tales. The new work is entitled, Voix Francophones de chez nous, contes et histoires. The collection will be out by late spring 2009.

To learn more about the author, visit his website at