Le Monde | • Updated | By
was known as the “Big Jim” . was described as “Yankee Gargantua” . Is that the American author was accompanied by an Epicurean. Jim Harrison died at the age of 78, Saturday, March 26, following a heart attack who broke his home in Arizona, leaving behind a considerable body of work: fourteen novels and ten collections poetry. He kept above his desk a piece of paper on which was written a sentence that had aboyée him a Hollywood studio boss: “You are nothing but a writer.” The Cyclops were the Nephilim, the great American novelists who inspire their readers a fervent cult.
Jim Harrison was born December 11, 1937 in Grayling, Michigan, wooded state which he will keep having them subsequently isolated cabin. His grandparents were farmers. Jim Harrison grew up in a large and loving family. First farmhand and agricultural consultant, his father introduced him to fishing and teaches him the names of plants. In its 7 years, Jim receives a survival manual where two young white men learn to live in the forest for a month, as the Indians. He identifies with them: the Two Little Savages, Thomas Seton him deeply, concentrating two passions that Jim Harrison will continue to grow: wildlife, to which it will be attached to the senses and by the mind, and indigenous cultures, for which it will maintain a deep curiosity. This will result in his work by the presence of a multitude of Indians characters , mystical digressions, denunciations of crimes against humanity that had been, for him, the Indian wars (1770-1890).
End gourmet, oenologist, melancholy …
Alongside , as memories of Jim Harrison (Christian Bourgois, 2003), refers instead this guy from the Midwest had set as a teenager, by hatred of middle class, and then place it occupied in the literary world. Since an accident at the age of 7 years, Jim was blind. “When you’re very young, disability like that isolates you. You feel very special. That’s why I left in the forests, near lakes and rivers, away from people. And I became an artist. “ Another tragedy strikes on the edge of adulthood: his father and his sister Judith, whom he is very close, perish in a road accident. “It was at that moment that I thought, if such a thing can happen, if the people we love the most die like that, then you can do what you want with your life. “ Three years earlier, Jim Harrison, then aged 16, had entrusted his literary vocation to his father, ” It’s right out to buy myself a typewriter used it paid twenty dollars rather than bludgeon me too classic paternal sermon about finding a more profitable business, shame and misfortune that would concentrate inevitably the artist’s life. “
His characters are like him: foodies, wine experts, and increasingly melancholy over the years. Sunderson, the sexagenarian hero Grand Master and Deadly Sins (Flammarion, 2012 and 2015), in that similar to its counterparts Legends of the Fall and Witch (Robert Laffont, 2000 and 1983) the easy downhill: schnapps, whiskey, beer, Bloody Mary vodka burgundy grand cru, cheap red wine … They are literate lonely, badly licked bear worn on food, hurt by a divorce or the end of a love story, loving booze and trussing women. Hitting the road to escape their demons, hunt, fish, bivouac, think about history, sometimes solve a crime. Death approaches, but the imminence allows to reinvent away from social conventions and the human comedy. They wander in search of themselves, eaten by regrets, as evidenced by An American odyssey (Flammarion, 2009). They indulge in introspection and forge organic links with nature.
This vein then also through the poetry of Jim Harrison, by his literary adventure which begins in the mid 1960s, with several collections imitating an Arab form, perfected by the Persians: the ghazal. The wild world flows in them. The senses are awakened, energies, primitive, emotions, physical. For poetry, Jim Harrison surrenders to communicate better, to merge with nature. In front of a tree, he writes in One hour day less (Flammarion, 2014): “I sit against him and me fund it” Jim Harrison please entrust that after eating the bear, he was in a dream in the skin of the animal.
Disgust for the big city
Although distinguished by several awards, his first collections do not allow him to live by his pen. But they contribute to the assignment of an assistant in literature at the State University of New York. Without indulging it, he gave up teaching after two years – “most appropriate metaphor seemed to me of living in a zoo” – and return to live in Michigan with his wife , Linda, and the first of their two daughters, Jamie, now crime writer. This distaste for the big city and academia will speak in many of his stories, since the new “beige Dolorosa” Julip (Christian Bourgois, 1995), where a university professor retired to a ranch to Swimmer in the river (Flammarion, 2014), where an art historian returns to inhabit the village of his childhood. Jim Harrison then connects odd jobs in construction, while working at several newspapers, including Sports Illustrated. Cousinant with tales of gargantuan feasts, reporting on tarpon fishing in Florida or fox hunting in Normandy are gathered in the collection at dusk (1994).
immobilized for a month, after a mountain in fall, he began the novel. Wolf , subtitled fictional memoirs , published in 1971 (Robert Laffont, 1991). This is the story of his youth transposed, “a boy with a broken heart, climbed onto the roof of a barn and screaming his pain.” Criticism greets the work, but Jim Harrison still waiting for a seven-for success. It bursts with Legends of the Fall , a collection of three new one of which will be brought to the screen in 1994 by Edward Zwyck. David Lean and John Huston, whose projects fail, each acquire the rights of a novella . That Jim Harrison rich one million dollars, after not having won only 12 000 per year for a decade. It blazes while alcohol and cocaine.
America, “a Fascist Disneyland”
The man tasted the excesses, but it always came back to the pillars of life, literature, wildlife. In his home near Missoula (Montana), where he had settled after leaving Michigan, Jim Harrison had snake skins, coyote skulls and pictures of Rimbaud, Rene Char and Indian Chief Sitting Bull . He had left the footsteps of the Russian poet Yesenin in Russia and Rimbaud in Africa, took Highway 66 to San Francisco …
Being outdoors soothed anxieties. “The large spaces allow me to escape my claustrophobia” , he said. Democratic Left, a portrait of rural America, this loudmouth accused his country of being forgetful of his own history, having built in the blood by the massacre of Indians, for having misled in Vietnam, being obsessed by money. His country, he said, was a “Disneyland neat and pretty, without excess, politically correct, where one does not drink, does not smoke. A Fascist Disneyland . ” He fell in love with France, first for his literature and for its gastronomy. Jim Harrison felt that nothing was worth a nice lunch “to effectively fight against death” and the wine had saved his life when the feeling of disintegration of the oppressed existence. “The elementary physical act of opening a bottle of wine brought more happiness to humanity that all governments in the history of the planet” , we read in Adventures a gourmet vagabond (Christian Bourgois, 2002). This is to continue to enjoy wine he stopped, for the sake of temperance, drinking whiskey.
Jim Harrison was long shunned by critics and the bane of feminists who saw the as macho in line with Hemingway – novelist, moreover, he enjoyed little. Or not. Her women are just cheeky and its hero, a lustful strand. Another misunderstanding to his French translator, Matthieussent Brice, who devoted an alphabet book, Jim Harrison A to X (Christian Bourgois, 2007), it is wrong to reduce the large spaces. “They forget all his novels and intimate new where one never leaves such ensuquée village in the wilds of Michigan and all these characters ruminating in their den. They forget the desire to not physical but mental vagrancy, desire slumber, inward-looking in a very small space, a confinement that often characterizes the harrisonien hero “. They forget the painter of camera distresses of soul to flower and nostalgia of happiness fled.
Ami writers Richard Brautigan and Raymond Carver and actor Jack Nicholson, who was his patron for years, Jim Harrison boasted of owning an Indian name meaning “ Someone who is in the dark for a long way and we hope that he will return. “