Ariel Djanikian resurrects the Klondike gold prospectors

Ariel Djanikian resurrects the Klondike gold prospectors
Ariel Djanikian resurrects the Klondike gold prospectors

Ariel Djanikian resurrects Klondike gold miners

Every week, Michel Audétat recommends a book that made him think, amused, moved…

Michel Audétat

Posted today at 2:07 p.m.

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For those who have read Jack London’s novels, Ariel Djanikian’s presents a familiar geography: the Great American North, the Chilkoot Pass, the Yukon River, Dawson City, the Klondike towards which so many men and a few rare women converged. “The Gold Diggers” takes us back to this 19th centurye century, when the poor were betting on good fortune that could make them millions if they tried the Klondike adventure. It is a family saga, a genre that often produces the worst and sometimes the very honorable like this novel by Ariel Djanikian. Snow, avalanche, blizzard, frozen toes … it is recommended to read it with mittens even in summer.

Born in Philadelphia, the writer Ariel Djanikian is the descendant of a certain Alice Bush, who had left California and her family of indebted farmers to accompany her sister Ethel and her brother-in-law Clarence to their concessions in the Far North. This ancestor had published a book of memories that the novelist used, as well as the family correspondence. Resurrected by fiction, her Alice Bush is a beautiful character, complex, troubled, skilled at scheming, her mind tormented by the desire to enter “the dazzling circle” of people who matter. “But what exactly are you looking for?” her brother-in-law Clarence, whose wealth will soon be colossal, asks her twice. The last third of the novel takes place in California where the magical aura of oil has replaced that of gold. One fever chases another.

This would be just an American success story if the adventure of Alice and her family had not dragged two Indians into the tragedy: Jim and his sister Jane. Ariel Djanikian shows the other side of the gold scene: “a shameless pillaging enterprise”. This is what is to be repaired in these brief chapters interspersed in the main story, which tell of a return to the Klondike in 2015. The intention is laudable, but the literary result more questionable.

To read: “The Gold Diggers,” Ariel Djanikian, translated from English (United States) by Anne-Sylvie Homassel, Buchet-Chastel, 544 p.

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