Jack London and the French

At the end of a happy year in Lyon, during which I see I’ve written five of these notes related to France, I will finish with three more. Here is the first.

Jack London is one of those authors Americans have heard of and possibly read as teenagers. But if you ask an American these days to list some important American novels, I doubt they’ll think of The Call of the Wild or White Fang.

But the French will! I marvel at how alive Jack London is in this country. He is seen as one of the essential American authors. Translations of his books are on their shelves and in their bookstores, well-read and well-loved.

You may expect me now to remark that this shows a limitation of the French perspective, perhaps that they are trapped in a Wild Western image of America that is long out of date. But I read Croc Blanc this year, and I loved it too. It’s marvelous. Truly a book for the ages.

So I have reached the opposite conclusion. Americans, knowing their culture in detail, are aware of a thousand things, and this is natural. But from a distance, one may see more clearly the main lines, and in my opinion, the French have got this one right.

[15 September 2018]

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