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Gold: Being the Marvellous History of General John Augustus Sutter Paperback – June 3, 1996
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Leave it to a French poet to demythologize John Sutter, a Swiss thief and swindler who fled his native country one step ahead of the bill collectors. Sutter went first to New York, then Missouri, and finally ended up in California, where he set up a trading post and fort and, not coincidentally, something of a protection racket for other settlers. When a carpenter building a mill on Sutter's property found gold, he opened up the Swiss entrepreneur's private domain to hundreds and thousands of newcomers, a migration that changed the course of American history. Sutter died in 1880 in Washington, D.C., where he had gone to complain to Congress that his empire had been stripped away from him without due process. This is an altogether fascinating reconstruction of his strange and star-crossed life. --Gregory MacNamee
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Cendrars relates this tale in a brisk and lively manner, taking us through Sutter's life at breakneck speed. The style is almost telegraphic as he dices 121 pages of story into 16 chapters of 74 sections. That doesn't leave him much time to develop any grand themes; the most I came away with was the rather silly notion that, though eager Europeans fled to America seeking opportunity and wealth, even if they struck it rich they were ultimately ruined. France may only have been his adopted country, but this attitude reflects the bitter, envious soul of a native.
GRADE : C+