Where in France is the novel Malevil based on, written in 1972 by Robert Merle? The book not the movie based on it, and the French original preferential to the English translation since there are differences in distances between the two. I'm looking for a precise geographical location, within a dozen kilometers or so. I realize that the actual castle and main village are probably fictional, but the novel does include references to other nearby locations.

Clues from the book:

General clues: The area is rural France, has chestnut forests, and can grow wheat, wine grapes, cows. The prevailing wind is from the West. The characters native to the area speak with an accent described as "our own broader Southwestern (with a hint of Massif Central) sounds" or "notre accent du Sud-Ouest (qui tire un peu vers le Centre)" Some characters speak in local patois, of which there seems to be only one (slurred?) example: "Memima, Emamouel" with the French translation of "mélfie-toi Emmanuel!", "beware", or "look out!".

Geographical clues: From the titular Malevil (English-style) castle, Malejac village (pop 400+) is 1.5 km away; La Roque is an old fortified town on a hillside 15 km away; and the town containing the nearest express train station is 60+ km away. Saint-Sauveur is another nearby town. Downhill from La Roque through Malejac to the Rhune river ("fleuve" in French, so it flows into an ocean or sea, not into another river). The Rhunes are twin rivers, running north to south in a 100 meter wide plain between two lines of wooded hills. There is also a cliff to the north that protects the castle, and volcanic rocks push up through the soil. Another castle, the Château des Rouzies, is on the far side of the valley.

I've gone about as far as I can, narrowing it down the area the author based this novel on to somewhere in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine or western Occitanie regions. I've been comparing the English and French versions of the novel(although French is not one of the languages I know.) I would appreciate an answer that either nailed down the precise local dialect, or used the geographical clues to at least get down to the department level. I'm hoping that someone either francophone or familiar with Southwest France can shed further light.

1 Answer 1


French Wikipedia has an interesting, although unsourced, hypothesis. Périgord department, where the author lived. Now known as Dordogne department. Many locations in the novel are strangely reminiscent of local landmarks.

L'action se situe dans le Périgord, où vit l'auteur. Les lieux cités font étrangement penser à des lieux existants. Ainsi Malevil serait partiellement inspiré du Château de Commarque, tandis que le village de la Roque serait partiellement inspiré de la Roque Saint-Christophe, forteresse troglodyte voisine du château de Commarque.

French Wikipedia, Malevil

Translated via Google translate:

The action is located in the Perigord, where the author lives. The places cited are reminiscent of existing places. So Malevil would be partially inspired by the Castle Commarque , while the village of La Roque would be partially inspired of the Roque Saint-Christophe, troglodyte fortress next to the castle of Commarque.

  • 2
    Though this is probably the right answer, it should be noted that the paragraph uses conditional, hence a hypothesis, and is unsourced (the only link does not seem to have anything to do with the book). The second sentence should be translated as "The places cited are strangely reminiscent of existing places." (missing word "strangely"), indicating an opinion. The movie has been shot in Aveyron, but this does not mean much
    – Taladris
    Feb 25, 2019 at 15:08
  • Thanks Taladris. I was hoping for this kind of francophone insight. I looked at the area extensively on google maps and google earth, and it does look very close to what is described in the book, except for directions - like the castle's cliff would block winds from the south in real life rather than from the north as described in the book.
    – MikeC
    Feb 26, 2019 at 0:47
  • I've included Taldaris' comments in the answer above.
    – MikeC
    Feb 27, 2019 at 11:47

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