Travels with Charley: In Search of America

by Maxence

“(…) and neighbors came to visit, some neighbors we didn’t even know we had. I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation—a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here.”

John Steinbeck ouvre son bal de la route américaine. Il n’a pas vraiment fait ce voyage avec Charley — il a probablement menti. Son récit n’est pas totalement une pièce de nonfiction, comme prétendue à l’origine. Inventer sa route, et alors ?

“They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. (…) Nearly every American hungers to move.”

John va partir sur la route de ces américains. Qu’est-ce que l’Amérique, aujourd’hui, en 1960 ? Une chic chica, pour aller vite.

“A kind of second childhood falls on so many men. They trade their violence for the promise of a small increase of life span. In effects, the head of the house becomes the youngest child. And I have searched myself for this possibility with a kin of horror. For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage.”

Tout voyage est merveilleux pot pourri. Travels with Charley n’échappe pas à la règle. Le New York Times Book Review, comme s’en glorifie la quatrième de couverture, est d’accord avec moi : ‘Pure delight, a pungent potpourri of places and people’.

Et John ne se limite pas à s’explorer lui-même dans cette Amérique ; par exemple, il lance d’hier des rappels aux dénicheurs de modes d’aujourd’hui — Prenons Instagram, prenons le Vintage.

“I can never get used to the thousands of antique shops along the roads, all bulging with authentic and attested trash from an earlier time.  I believe the population of the thirteen colonies was less than four million souls, and every one of them must have been frantically turning out tables, chairs, china, glass, candle molds, and oddly shaped bits of iron, copper, and brass for future sale to twentieth-century tourists. There are enough antiques sale along the roads of New England alone to furnish the houses of a population of fifty million. If I were a good businessman, and cared a tittle for my unborn great grandchildren, which I do not, I would gather all the junk and the wrecked automobiles, comb the city dumps, and pile these gleanings in mountains and spray the whole thing with that stuff the Navy uses to mothball ships. At the end of a hundred years my descendants would be the antique kings of the world.”

De même, quelle surprise d’entendre parler d’Abercrombie and Fitch, qui, dans mon imagination, n’est autre qu’une marque à la mode qui fait jouir les adolescents.

“Some years ago at Abercrombie and Fitch I bought a cattle caller, an automobile horn manipulated by a lever with which nearly all cow emotions can me imitated…”

Pure delight, a pungent potpourri of places and people, disions-nous. Il ne convient pas ici de tous les citer directement, mais voici un petit résumé : les Américains sont-il sans racine ? analyse en discussions de l’apparition des mobile homes, les médias de masse vont-il tuer les accents et les particularités locales ?
John travels aussi home ; une place qui a changé — et lui n’a pas changé avec elle. Tout voyageur connaît et affronte cette situation… Comment se faire accepter (le faut-il ?) de ceux qui n’acceptent pas vos voyages ?
“When I went away I had died, and so became fixed and unchangeable.”
“”No,” he said. “No more for me. I learned long ago that the most important and valuable of acting techniques is the exit.”
“But I’d like to ask more questions.”
“All the more reason for the exit.” He drained the last drop.
“keep them asking,” he said, “and exit clean and sharp. Thank you and good afternoon.”
(…). So it went on—a profession older than writing and one that will probably survive when the written word has disappeared. And all the sterile wonders of movies and television and radio will fail to wipe it out—a living man in communication with a living audience. But how did he live? Who were his companions? What was his hidden life? He was right. His exit whetted the questions.”

Mais où est Charli ? Charley ? Il est là, parfois. C’est un prétexte à ne pas rester complétement seul, ami fidèle en arrière plan. Souvent inutile.

Si Charley pouvait écrire, aurait-on eu le même sentiment à l’égard de John ?
“Who has not known a journey to be over and dead before the travelers returns? The reverse is also true: many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”
Certains voyages n’ont pas de fin.