Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

mercredi 27 avril 2011

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods, Anchor, Canada,1998 and 2001

This well known adventurer and travel writer is one of my favorites of all times, so entertaining and full of wisdom that he is . Here he stays in the USA and decides to become a hiker and in a sense, discover his own country , which is huge,even on the Eastern sea board, still full of dangerous woods , bears, wolves,boars, snakes, and many lonely treks. No need to go all the way to the Himalaya...
All of this is naturally impossible to find in over- civilized Europe , and it is a thril to engage in this adventure, which becomes over the narration a pilgrimage.
So,determined to walk the famous and mythic Appalachian Trail,which goes from Georgia to Maine, the author seeks a friend who might accompany him in this hike. Both are middle aged and overweight ,loaded with heavy equipment ( tent, sleeping bag, food drinks , medicines etc..) ,not particularly athletic and the trail is tough,hard, often dangerous. Now just to spend one night in the woods after an awful meal, cooked on a small stove,with all the animal squeaks,furtive noises and groaning of hungry beasts deserves admiration. Many young hikers by the way, abandon the trail after one day in the woods. But not our 2 heroes: they hold on and con with fries , and watch TV . Ha Ha ..that is to be expected . It is hard to leave civilization and its sleazy aspects , so the tale is hilarious, self deprecating and instructive. Nobody can ignore without lying the comforts and facilities of modern life; Bryson does not allude here to mobile phones or e mails, only to material things like showers, toilets,a good bed .. He is very down to earth and not at all the silly ecologist who reads J.J Rousseau, pleading that man is naturally good and Nature beneficial. No, no.
Because there are murders and attacks on the trail, and Bryson points out realistically this social fact " after all, this is America "and he also describes the fantastic ugliness of shopping centers, sprawling suburbs, gas stations etc..which have defaced the countryside in the last decades.So he is not an angelic dreamer . Thank God that this majestic natural beauty has remained practically untouched and religiously preserved by the conservationists in the US. It is also very funny and delightful, great dialogues, unbelievable encounters with all kinds of kinky characters,Red necks, loggers, Ivy league students, virginal girls bending under back packs etc..We learn also a few thugs on the Civil War , notably a little known episode about Stonewall Jackson whom Bryson qualifies as "the dumbest general of the War, who was unduly admired "
More to the point, this wonderful book is a memorial to an Historical heritage in America and a significant aspect of its colonial and Indian past , not only an amusing escapade in the woods or an attempt to return to Nature.

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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.