Bouchaballe's plot of land - Max Jacob's two works

Inspired by the argument, Max Jacob wrote a play and a novel both named Le Terrain Bouchaballe (The Bouchaballe’s plot of land) respectively published in 1910 and 1923. The play was written first, though it remained unknown until 1964. Through the development of the quarrel caused by the legacy of a plot of land by Couchouren to build a theatre, it mentions in three acts Quimper at the end of the nineteenth century.

In Max Jacob’s books, the names Couchouren and Quimper are replaced by Bouchaballe and Guichen, which gives a ludicrous aspect to the whole story.

The theatre

The mayor Lecourbe, a supporter of the theatre, stands against Mr Simmonot who would like to exploit the coal found in the plot of land and to the « Marquis De Reversy », who wants to build some home for old people there.

In this funny and lively play one argument comes fast after another one, allowing Irénée, one of the characters, to say : « Ah, that will ! My high school years nursed by it. Everyone spoke only of the Bouchaballe will at lunch time, Uncle. Jurisdiction, setting aside of the sentence, contradicting settlements, rights, recourse to the law... ». Numerous adventures in perspective...

Le Terrain Bouchaballe

The novel mentions, through the action highly inspired by the above-mentioned case, Max’s childhood memories. Most of the book is indeed the precise description of the most important spots of his birthtown, which he’s obviously deeply bound to, for example he describes the river which flows through Quimper : L’Odet, suivie d’un chemin de halage, poursuit son cours élargi jusqu'à l’océan à travers la campagne (The Odet, bordered by a towpath, follows its widened course towards the ocean through the countryside).


But the book wasn’t welcomed at the time by the people from Quimper, because of the mocking descriptions easily recognizable of well-known people whom Max Jacob hides behind his characters. Nevertheless, the author, when describing the inhabitants and the scenery, didn’t do so out of unkindness or hate, but more as the tribute to his birthcity.

It has to be known that Max Jacob was himself against the project of the theatre, he indeed refused to transform Quimper in the name of progress and ambition. He saw it as a sacrilege, feeling so near to the city of his chilhood days, and therefore refusing to see it change. Ah ! Guichen a bien changé depuis le charbon... (Ah ! Guichen has changed since coal...) he says in his novel, after he has mentioned what his city was like a few years before...

The new theatre

1998 : the new theatre