John Steinbeck's 'The Amiable Fleas' Published In English For The 1st Time
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The American writer John Steinbeck is known for his epic novels, like "East Of Eden" and "The Grapes Of Wrath." But he also wrote short stories, one of which is being published in English for the first time today. It is titled "The Amiable Fleas." It was written in 1954 when Steinbeck was living in Paris. Previously, only a translated version in French had been published in the French daily Le Figaro. The story appears in English in the latest issue of The Strand Magazine.
Andrew Gulli is managing editor, and he described the story this way.
ANDREW GULLI: The story is about a French gourmet chef who has a single Michelin star. And, of course, when you get a single Michelin star, your next leap is to try to get a second Michelin star.
GULLI: And, of course, this gourmet chef has, as his confidant, food critic, and food taster, his cat named Apollo. So as you can expect, everything goes wrong that day. The question is, can everything be put right?
GREENE: And we'll leave it with that because, I mean, there's such a lovely surprise at the end that we should let people get to on their own. So Steinbeck - did he write a lot of short stories as well?
GULLI: He wrote a good number of short stories, but this is one of the few that has some very fine, comic elements to it. When I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, is this John Steinbeck? I mean, nobody's dead; nobody's crying. There was some crying in this story, but a lot of it just was very funny. And he just manages to take a very simple theme and, with great turns of phrase, fantastic prose, turn it into something that - when I read it, I said to myself, this is a little gem. And I was just so, so excited to be reading this.
GREENE: Yeah, I feel like it was - if someone suggested the topic, no other writer could have made it just shine and come to life in this really cool way.
GREENE: How did you come across it?
GULLI: Well, I was doing some research at the - looking at the finding aids of the Ransom library in the University of Texas. And they have, like, a great, great, great number of works of Steinbeck over there. And when I did some more research, I looked and I said, oh, my God. This has been tucked away in a vault for 60 years. It was not released in English.
I contacted the Steinbeck estate, and I was lucky enough to get a yes because in my line of work, you can do all your homework, do all your research - and not to mention all the tears - and then you may get a very simple no. But...
GREENE: So it's good when you get the yes.
GULLI: It is. It is. It's rare but, you know, that's - those are the moments of life with you and - moments of your career which you savor.
GREENE: Andrew Gulli is managing editor of The Strand. Thanks so much.
GULLI: Thank you, David. Great speaking with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.