Short story contest: a successful second edition
22 February 2023
On Friday, November 16, the winners of the second Marcel Pagnol Short Story Contest received their prizes on the stage of Le Pagnol cinema in Aubagne, in the presence of the city’s first deputy, Alain Rousset, the elected representative for culture, Philippe Amy, the members of the jury and Henri Aissa from the cultural association AD2C.
This event created by Nicolas Pagnol, Daniel Picouly and Floryse Grimaud, for the pleasure of amateur writers, is now well underway and many participants are taking part in these literary jousts inspired by Marcel Pagnol.
This year, the candidates had to extend an incipit written by Daniel Picouly which was inspired by Le Schpountz.
Nicolas Pagnol wished to highlight the quality of writing of these short stories and especially the knowledge of Marcel Pagnol’s work they showed.
Around Nicolas Pagnol, Daniel Picouly and Floryse Grimaud, the jury is composed of Valérie Berthelot (city of Aubagne), Olga Bibiloni (editor in chief of Culture La Provence), Sandrine Taddeï (Europe 1), Marie-France Bertin (director of the Université du temps libre) and Nathalie Sarrabaysouse (head of the Médiathèque Marcel Pagnol)
“Irenaeus is certain that this is his day. The day of his life. He will finally become the Schpountz in the eyes of the world. For the moment, he is only the madman of the tiny grocery store “Alimentation Tabac” in his improbable village lost in the hills. His grocery store is an approximate replica of the one in Marcel Pagnol’s film “Le Schpountz”. He displays anchovies from the tropics, which he advises against to the few customers “for sanitary reasons” and sells pans only for broken down car radiators. His suit has more lapels than a suit, his mustache falls off in the sun and his hair is parted in two. On his bedside table, he has put a model of a Peugeot 601 convertible to represent his future success: in short, he is the Schpountz: the real one.
And that will explode like an evidence in one hour on the stage of the Comédia of Aubagne. He can’t wait. He prepared himself for the audition. It only remains for him to recover this improbable costume of Schpountz that he drew himself. His secret weapon. No Schpountz without a costume. He will appear and that will be enough. Irénée can already hear the room chanting his name. The costume is there. Unique. Irénée almost faints. The jacket is rolled into a ball in a basket of croissants under the tap of the oil can.
His suit is ruined. His dream is gone. Irénée has 54 minutes left before the audition… “
First Prize: “The authentic Schpountz” by Corinne Curt
“No Schpountz without a costume? Yes, but without Schpountz, what is the point of the costume? The production will take care of creating a costume for him that matches his talent after his triumph during the audition. He can even advise them. In all modesty of course. After all, the costume does not make the Schpountz: one is born Schpountz, one is Schpountz in the soul or one is not! The jury will see this immediately. For years he has been training at the grocery store, extolling the quality of his products in every possible way. No one knows how to use a salty tone to sell cod, a runny tone for camembert or a scary tone for Roquefort cheese. Come on boulegan, 3 minutes before the passage of the bus to Aubagne, towards the glory. He already sees himself at the top of the bill!
Irénée hears the bus coming long before he sees it. It must be said that the bus cymbals as much as a swarm of cicadas in a pine forest in the middle of summer and smokes at least as much as a sardinade. The vehicle, with a last breath, runs aground at the bus stop and looks at him with eyes like fried whiting. Irénée sees a school of people dodged like anchovies who come out marring after the driver. The driver changes the sign to “Depot”. Indeed the bus is well deposited there in the middle of its circuit… The next bus will pass only in 30 minutes. Impossible to wait.
Irénée then takes out his cell phone and scans at full speed on the “Blague-Blague Car” application to try to find a way to get to Aubagne in time. By chance, Galejadountz (funny nickname but no time to linger) is going to leave Accates in the direction of Aubagne and should therefore pass by Eoures in 5 minutes: perfect!
The car arrives: Irénée has a backward movement while discovering that Galejadountz is none other than Jean Pati, one of his former classmates who had often gansailléd him in the court. It should be said that at the time this Pati was much more balèze than him and also dreamed to make the actor. Since, they lost sight of each other. Galejadountz shoots Irénée with his eyes but finally doesn’t play the fool and takes him away. Curiously, when Irénée tells him that he is going to the Comoedia, Jean mumbles that he knows it well and shuts himself in a belligerent silence. Too bad, it is not today that they will make peace… All to his close and inevitable success, Irénée does not let himself be distracted.
Fifteen minutes later, the car passes in front of the theater with a big poster: “Casting Schpountz”. Galejadountz parks a little further. The two occupants get out of the car and while Irénée, polite, is about to say goodbye to Galejadountz (farewell would be better, he thinks), this one gets a suit cover at the back of the car and takes the direction of the Comoedia with a quick step, without greeting him. Irénée has a little pity of his former colleague by thinking that he has no chance against him. This time, it is him who will have the upper hand: the law of the most Schpountz is not the law of the strongest…
Irénée enters the theater as a conqueror and presents himself with great beauty to the secretary. She notes the arrival of Irenaeus on the list of those registered for the audition, which doesn’t look very long. And yes, there must have been a lot of resignations when Irénée’s presence was known. The secretary tells him that there are two candidates before him. The first of them just comes out of the auditorium and joins the other so-called Schpountz. Irénée almost laughs when he hears their accent: as if the Schpountz could have a sharp accent! According to the secretary, the room is full and the demanding public does not hesitate to boo the bad competitors. Irénée is not worried at all but gets closer to the door to listen to the reactions of the audience. In 15 minutes it’s his turn and soon his name will be displayed on the posters 10 times bigger than anyone else!
Meanwhile, Galejadountz has put on a suit, jacket and pants matched, cut in a fabric “marinière”. Missed for the “French Touch”: with his patient air, he has all the look of a convict.
As the candidate leaves the audition room and Irénée is about to savor his triumph, we hear sirens in the distance. They are getting closer. Police cars arrive at full speed and park in front of the Comoedia… From then on everything goes very fast: Irénée sees Galejadountz rushing towards the audition room looking like he has something to blame himself for. Irénée rushes after him to help the police and also, a little bit, because it gives him a good reason to kill him too. If the hearing is cancelled because of this, he is not responsible for anything! There follows a chase in the theater: Irénée jumps on the stage, gets his feet tangled in the carpet and almost collapses, hangs on to an element of the set which falls with a crash. It seems to him to hear the room laughing out loud. Strange he thinks, the situation is however serious, the public must see the police behind him. He goes back up the aisle behind Galejadountz who finds himself blocked at the level of the last seats of the orchestra. Irénée starts to jump like a boxer with closed fists. Jean Pati does not oppose any resistance. No, no doubt, the room is laughing itself to pieces… Irénée glances behind him thinking that something special is happening on the stage, but no, nothing, nothing of nothing. Strangely, the policemen are there on the stage but do not seem to want to move. The people of the production stand up and look in his direction. An oppressive silence then very quickly the applause. A round of applause. The whole audience is standing. Irénée does not know where he stands anymore. He holds Galejadountz by the sleeve anyway, just in case.
The production then asks the public to be silent and Irénée to go on stage. This one complies by dragging Galejadountz behind him. The producer then explains to Irénée that he has just done a test piece for their next film. It was Glen Hurtis, the screenwriter, who discovered Irénée’s acting talent one Sunday morning. Glen was won over by Irenaeus’ sweet tone for selling honey, energetic for coffee, sour for lemons and icy for sherbet. Actors and production people have also come by in the past few months to see and hear him tout his products in every tone. Irénée understood why his little business was thriving since then. The production was sure of Irénée’s acting talents, but it was necessary to verify his greatness of soul so that he could be THE Schpountz. Thus, everything that had happened in the last 54 minutes had been meticulously planned by the production: the costume under the oil can, the so-called open audition, the broken down bus with actors playing the travelers and the bus driver, the arrival of Jean Pati, a stuntman by trade, but who had insisted on making up for his behavior when he was a kid, the arrival of the fictitious policemen. The only thing that was true was what was at stake in this hearing. Irénée had fully shown his greatness of soul first by not joining in the jeremiads of the bus passengers, then in Jean Pati’s car by remaining cordial and finally by only listening to his courage to pursue the alleged wrongdoer. He had also, on this last occasion, confirmed his acting skills. In spite of all his certainties, Irénée has a bit of a twitch, it seems to him that the stage is rocking. His gift is recognized by all!
Two years later, happy and perfectly at ease, he is in the spotlight of a much larger room. Accompanied by three other comedians, two women and a man, he greets the crowd in jubilation. It’s the premiere of the screening of the DC Comics-produced film “The Authentic 4: They Suck Degun!”
“In an instant, he was plunged into a nightmare: everything was lost! How to repair the damage so quickly? What a pathetic trick! Did they have to fear him to eliminate him from the start? Overwhelmed by a deluge of feelings where anger, dejection, spite and sadness mingle, he refrains from screaming, crying or randomly hitting the curious. If some dare to taunt him, most of them keep their distance, watching for his reactions.
In a tense silence, everyone watches him take out one by one from the basket his soiled clothes: the extravagant suit whose tailcoat – a stroke of genius – hangs pitifully, dripping with oil, the elegant hat slouching, the damaged patent shoes; the proud moustache has shrivelled and the shirt has lost its whiteness and finish.
Irenaeus, with a blank look, drops the whole thing in the oily and nauseating puddle where he is wading… At that moment, – negligence or cruelty? – an incandescent cigarette butt falls into the liquid. Vlouf! The tablecloth ignites, setting fire to the piled up effects. Stupefaction, shouts, jostling. Panic-stricken, the stage manager grabs a bucket of water and pours it on the fireplace, an unfortunate initiative that increases the force of the flames tenfold. More lucid, a stagehand attacks the fire with a shovel and, with his shoes, the fireman on duty tramples on Irénée’s belongings, imitated by the group who happily tramples on the poor clothes, forever deteriorated.
Then each one moves away from the hideous smoking remains, leaving Irenaeus facing the disaster who throws the clenched teeth:
– Perfect! The joke is successful ! Finita la commedia ! Beautiful reconstitution of the very known beginning of the Schpountz ! The blow of the butt and the treading … IT IS GREAT ART ! The grape harvests are made but for me: the dregs! The hallali even! Ah là là! You all, cowards, jealous, petty, can parade: flamed my career, the complete oven! Here I am, burned, as charred as my effects! You considered them bad in everything? Now they are no longer good for anything! What a lack of elegance on your part! Now leave the backstage !
Only the stage manager and Glen Hurtis remained. The latter, while chewing his cigar, taps on the shoulder of the madman.
– Poor boy ! Not very fair! Sorry, Mister Irwéné but you are game over !- Mister Irenaeu, react, you are full of resources!- Resources, that’s what I’m missing: I’ve swallowed everything in my outfit.- There’s a Monoprix next door and I’ll lend you some money. Let’s not forget the accessory store. Don’t throw in the towel!- Môssieur Firmin, I lost a round but I’m not knocked out, despite Mistère Hurtisse’s displeasure… Disappointment at the accessories store: rusty weapons, a broken bicycle, a dented helmet, pierced espadrilles, a faded flag; in a box, Marius’s cap and scarf and the imposing charentaises of a Malade Imaginaire. In short, an inventory à la Prévert but nothing for a superhero!
The clock is ticking…
In a second state, Irénée runs to the Monoprix, visits various departments and gallops back to his dressing room, after a detour through the accessories. The bell announces the beginning of the casting. In this electric atmosphere, Irénée sneaks out of his dressing room. Behind the pendulum at the back, on the garden side, he spies the contestants entering in turn and the reactions of the public.
In green and yellow tights, the first one, SUPERPIVERT, wearing a huge metal nose, reminds us of Croquignol from the Pieds Nickelés; he uses this formidable appendage against a door. His demonstration is short-lived: his nose is stuck in the wood and he leaves disconsolate.
Enter by jumping BAT RACIEN. Too demonstrative, he loses a suspension pudding and leaves under the laughters of the frog eaters!
An appetizing smell of soup precedes LA BOUILLE ABBESSE, an imposing matron armed with a ladle and a skimmer and followed, as on the first of April, by a theory of multicolored fish. The public appreciates this champion of Provençal gastronomy.
A clown follows him, APEROGUST; gleaming nose and impressive palms, he doesn’t amuse anyone and slips away.
Masked, black cassock and multifunctional crucifix here is SUPERMOINE, ready to excommunicate and send to the devil miscreants and evil-doers. He runs away before the detractors and the supporters can tear each other apart, replaced by the BIGGINWHATCH. This dynamic little character is reminiscent of Maupi, the barman in Le Schpountz. His glibness earns him a lot of applause but he misses all his stunts and leaves under the boos.
SUPERNOËL and SUPERSONIC make a lightning passage.
Footsteps shake the stage, everyone holds their breath: LUPINBAGNAT! This colossus dressed in a tricolored leotard with a huge sandwich on it laughs at the locks or the metal grills. His camera cap and his round bread that can be transformed into a Thomson machine gun impress people, as much as the way he gobbles up his snack, like Popeye his spinach. He leaves under the ovations.
The silence returns… Intermission.
Irénée who would like to escape this nightmare ignores the signs of the stage manager but the latter propels him on stage and the presenter announces: ” SUPERMARCEL and his VELOCIFEROX “.
The astonished public discovers an improbable character, wearing a too small cap placed in an untidy way on a crazy lock of hair, a roughly drawn moustache, a scarf tied in a devilish way around his neck. A white wifebeater brings out his long, emaciated arms and the matching underpants are held up by a large tricolored taillole. Huge charentaises complete the ensemble. He reminds us of Marius, César, Aimable the baker or Pascal the well-digger but also evokes Superdupont, Gotlib’s hero from France! And here he is trying to ride the bike he has put together on trial, backstage, swapping elements. It’s a perilous exercise to pedal backwards, with handlebars that don’t control anything and a saddle that keeps turning! Falls follow aborted attempts to tame the well-named Vélociféroxwhich ends up exploding with a bang: the broken chain gives up the ghost, tearing off a slipper which reveals a worn-out espadrille, the frame loosens and Irénée finds himself flat on his back. He gets up, picks up his saddle and handlebars, improvised weapons that he points at the mute spectators.
As he is about to leave, someone chuckles, another laughs, the tension is released: it is the explosion. From the floor to the balcony, the Comoedia is swept by a tsunami of laughter that moves from seat to seat, like a wave! Walls and ground tremble. Around Hurtis who remains unmoved, his assistants hiccup, on the verge of apoplexy. Irénée, submerged by this wave of hilarity, pitches, an icy sweat in the back. It is a nightmare! I’m going to wake up… Alas! Glen Hurtis takes the microphone, gets silence. It‘sruined, he’s going to make me a confirmed lunatic, the laughing stock of Aubagne.
– I thank you Mister Irwéné for this remarkable interpretation of Le Schpountz. The room shakes with laughter: what a sense of humor this Glen has!But the American raises his voice: – I repeat: what a remarkable performance! Thanks to you, I found again the Pagnol characters I love. Moreover, while I thought you were finished, I appreciated your naive but effective tenacity, in front of the terrible Velociferox. This is the candor, the spontaneity I was looking for! I’m hiring you as SUPERSCHPOUNTZ!
General astonishment. A few applause bursts, followed by others in cascade, as powerful as the laughter was before.
Irénée destabilized looks at the assistance in delirium. Itis won, the others can get dressed!He raises his hand, obtaining silence immediately, and clears his throat: – Me? SuperSchpountz? You thought I was the one you were waiting for? The superfada? I had you fooled, but you are the Schpountz, you who laughed at my pitiful performance.
His voice adopts the powerful intonations of Fernandel and he turns to the competitors:
– As for you, gentlemen, who deliberately ruined the outfit I was so proud of – too proud for you, no doubt – you are evil Schpountz.
Pivoting to the Americans, he adds:
– Mistère Hurtisse, I award you the title of King of the Schpountz, to be shared with your court and the multinational company that charges you with finding this ridiculous naive Frenchy to sell your products. We know the formula: time is money, so I won’t waste any more of it!
Irénée picks up the scattered props and leaves the stage with dignity.
Thus ended this unique and memorable casting at the Comoedia theater to which Hurtis, who had left for the U.S.A., did not respond. Irénée returned to the village without any remarks and resumed his activity in the family store, even suggesting improvements to the general satisfaction.
One Sunday morning, a strange wildfire pulls him out of bed, followed by dissonant noises.
In front of the grocery store, a brand new coupe. On the seat, a big envelope with his name on it. The kids on the lookout see him going through the printed material with a smile.
Before going back, he says to the crowd:
– The first one to touch the horn will get a kick in the butt, the … But you know the rest if you saw the movie!
These last words, spoken aloud, startled his grandson:
– Which film are you talking about? Pagnol’s version or Oury’s 1999 color version? Glen Hurtis had the good idea to organize this film festival dedicated to Schpountz… But didn’t you get some sleep?”
“I won’t make it in time!…..54 minutes, I have only 54 minutes left….How can I dare to go on stage, other than in my gray grocer’s coat from Eoures, smelling of anchovies and dried cod, instead of my suit, sunset colors on Garlaban? “Galvanized by the urgency, he rushes into Mestre Arnaud’s shed, rummages through his boxes, his baskets, his old drawers, finds his pipe, antique, his lorgnons, and puts them on. “No, it’s not going to work, it won’t make anyone dream, these old things” says Irénée. 45 minutes.As he does, he rides his grocery-delivery bike, heads for Aubagne, flies rather, takes the bends of the Pin Vert, clouds of mosquitoes, cicadas, heat to break the stones.
The Comoedia. He throws his bike on the ground, runs down the stairs of the accessories store.
No one.The others are already ready, of course.32 minutes.He unpacked crates and crates of old, faded suits at full speed.”How do you parade this around? How do you make an extraordinary entrance on stage? What will count in the casting is the surprise effect!What will count is that I have a real figure of success!And not a figure of a big grocery store dork!”With a gesture that he wanted to be imperial, he throws on his shoulders a large cape, which he has just unearthed, and which camouflages well his blouse .Green, it is, the cape.” Green, it’s not my favorite color, but I don’t have a choice anymore, and aren’t all the greens in nature that I love? ….”
“First not miss my entrance. This can still be my day.”12 minutes.He glances at the side of a stained mirror.Finds himself looking a little romantic, quite grand after all. Almost, he loves himself… Glen H is in trance. He urgently needs to find an innovative scenario, his future in cinema depends on it, he was made to understand it.Having run out of ideas for a long time, here in Provence, he breathed new air during his long walks, in the footsteps and words of an inspiring writer. A work must be born, fresh as a childhood memory. Sure.
Glen hopes to discover, for this last chance casting, his singular character.In America he was told: “They are all crazy, the people over there, their brains are annealed by the sun!”I dare you!A look at the candidates already gathered. Only stereotypical, fashionable figures. “None of that, no more of that.” he thought.”Is that all the candidates we have?”- “Yes, they’re all here, except one…” 0 min.- “Here it is, I’m coming!” Irénée bursts onto the scene.- “Who is this jobaster” murmur the candidates, ironic eye on the green cape.”Glen, on the other hand, observes Irénée, professional eye.- “You think you can be a Schpountz, do you?”- “I am sure of it, because today is Thursday, I was born on a Thursday, influence Jupiter, God of light and sky, symbols of my Provence, all hopes are allowed to me!- Let’s go!” dares Glen, half convinced.
– ” How ????It is not in English that we speak here, Sir, it is in Provençal, our language, the language of the troubadours, the language of love, the language that sings,” Irénée bursts out.- “And you, you have a sharp tongue, in any case!”Glen holds back a smile, the others reassure themselves, this crazy green olibrius will not compete with them. – “I’m your man,” says Irenaeus, “I’m going to take the crowds by the hand, by the heart, make them alive, and better” – “Better?”- “That’s right. Every work must be a leaven, every work must change something in everyone, to participate in changing the world! Write me a beautiful script, give me the beautiful role, and I’ll make you an unforgettable film!”- “Meaning?”- “That is to say, afterwards, people will say: ‘It’s Hurtis’ film that started it all’ and everyone in their corner will wonder what they can do to improve things around them!”- “Just that?”- “Yes, and it’s urgent! It’ll start small, small, but it has to start.”Glen thought that he might have his hero, his Schpountz, while the other candidates were sniggering.Glen is going to play his cards right.He will decide to impose Irénée on the film crew, at the risk of.The rejected candidates, stunned, start to imagine all the possible ways to eliminate the winner. A damn good idea, it would be, to make him disappear! Reluctant to kill him, because they have morals, and especially fear of the punishment, they review everything that could hinder the selection of the naive man in the green cape: A femme fatale between the legs? An overdose of sleeping pills?
A fall from the top of the Cap Canaille? A scorpion fish bone in the bouillabaisse?
The sabotage of his bike brakes? A large envelope of cash? A swarm of bees in his bed?
As for Glen, he wonders which string has vibrated in him in tune with the utopias of Irenaeus.But his mind is made up.He knows that trouble is coming, and invites Irénée to a walk on the hill, to get to know each other better.Blues, whites, grays of wind-scraped rock, dry grasses on the heat-sawed ridges …on the slopes of Taoumé, they take an energy bath, which does not surprise Irénée, which galvanizes Glen.”Yes, he says to himself, this future film could well become the detonator of a collective awareness of the perils threatening our land, each step, each look, persuading him to act, while Irénée tells what he knows and fears, of certain local threats: The red mud of Gardanne, whose evacuations, criss-crossing under their feet to the sea, outcrops under the thymes, the cysts and the rare water points.The crazy plan of a giant leisure center in the discreet Passe-Temps valley, the extraction in the heart of Garlaban of an unexploited ore usable in the electronics of smartphones, all these heresies among many others, which are added to the threatening natural and climatic causes, the planet having its reasons that men ….This is how Irénée has been dreaming for a long time of implanting new floral and agricultural species in the restanques to be restored: from the bottom of his grocery store, waiting for customers, and after a television program that fascinated him, he dared to write to the Svalbard World Reserve, near the North Pole, and develop his project.
Because it is there that sleep one hundred and fifty thousand varieties of seeds put in security by agronomists concerned with the preservation of the living. From this giant vault, the researchers, convinced of the goodwill of this strange Frenchman, have sent him an impressive stock of rare seeds. Each one of them is a hope.Aghast, Glen takes a big lesson from this little green man, who never leaves his cape.
He makes Irenaeus’ madness his own.A plan is developed: Each cinema ticket will be accompanied by a bag of seeds to be sown, to grow and reproduce, to multiply. Enthusiastic, they already imagine the green adornment of the ergs, the fertility of the dried valleys, the rebirth of the countryside, the flowering of the meadows, the multiplication of the nourishing gardens, the covering of the deserts by forests, the restored water cycle.Already, they are dreaming of the hamlet of La Treille, which has become a world model of agriculture and a way of life from which a new geopolitics will be born… They go down the hill, blossoming figures of daring fertilizers.They come across the figures of the conspirators of the repressed heroes.Them: raging glances, ruminations, riotous climate.”Quickly, take these bitter people in stride, before they act, insert them in the project, let them make it their own, and adopt it,” says Glen to himself, “and quickly, put me in the scenario” “Quickly, prepare hundreds, thousands of seed packets, says Irénée to himself, put them in the hands of the recalcitrants, they will not be able to remain insensitive.””What a naive man, this Irenaeus, says the planet, but well, quickly, prepare me for a possible revival, finally!It’s getting tougher, on all sides, we are agitated, the effervescence is at its peak.The two camps pull at the rope: Schpountzera? Schpountzera not?Who do you think won? It was the planet that won.Over mountains and valleys, from echoes to echoes, one soon heard followed by one:
“SILENCE, WE SHOOT!!!” “SILENCE, WE PLANT!!!”
The winners were rewarded with beautiful prizes donated by the City of Aubagne and the AD2C Association.
For more information on the Marcel Pagnol Short Story Contest: www.aubagne.fr