Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh Give Me a Home....

Where the buffalo roam!
And the parrots and crocodiles plaaaaaay....

Chateaubriand's North America is one which may not exactly correspond with the real North America. You know, the one where New Orleans is geographically distinct from Niagara Falls.

Chateaubriand is a French Romantic and aristocrat who wisely decided to go on a voyage of exploration in America just as the French Revolution broke out. He thus uses America as the setting for many of his novels. Some passages, such as the one that describes Niagara Falls, are so famous that they are still the subject of analytic essays in French high schools the world over. Others, such as the beginning of Atala, where Chateaubriand lovingly describes the palm trees that adorn the banks of the upper Mississippi, and the crocodiles that apparently wander over the state of Kentucky, are not quite so famous.

One can tell quite easily where Chateaubriand actually visited, and where he made things up because his French audience didn't know what, if anything, lived in Kentucky.

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