A whole world lost

Tout un monde perdu

It takes breath to go up the Missouri in the middle of the 19e century. But the famous naturalist Audubon does not lack, like Louis Hamelin, who signed a mind-boggling story of this expedition.

For over thirty years, Louis Hamelin knows how to tell stories that are uplifting, that are based on the actual events to which it gives a new life.

With The twilight of the Yellowstone, he managed to make science an adventure worthy of a great western, on the bottom of America still French.

It is 1843, and John James Audubon, became a star thanks to his review of The birds of America, intends to finalize its work on the quadrupeds livebearers of the continent.

To do this, in the manner of the time, it is necessary to capture the species that are missing. It, therefore, puts cape town to the west aboard theOmega, a steam boat that will bring him to Fort Union in North Dakota.

Other scientists accompany him, and a whole crew, a mixture of Canayens, Creoles and Mestizos. But it relies primarily on the knowledge of Étienne Provost, a guy from Chambly and then runner of the wood of renown, who knows how to shoot and speak the language of the Indians.

We enter a world that is deeply alive. A life made of flesh and blood – because we shoot a lot, both to feed and to harvest the animals to draw. Hamelin describes bluntly this practice forgotten by our societies sanitized.

He details with so much accuracy the discoveries of Audubon – and the names of the beasts, those of air and earth, form a succession of sentences that relate to the poetry.

Hamelin also presents with realism the confrontation between the world of the White, who is chattering excitedly to invade the indigenous lands, and First Nations, who do not know that they are on the verge of losing everything.

But nothing is set in stone and the aboriginal way of life still holds its allure, in spite of the condescension of the new entrants.


What adds to the clever way in which the author becomes involved in the adventure that he is writing. He tells of his research, immersed in the journals of Audubon and the maps of the time. He adds his doubts, in particular, a disturbing chapter on the millions of animals now extinct.

And he decides to go on the spot, where the adventure of Audubon and his band peaked. This will give the pages memorable : a great blow of sadness for the author, alone in his room of a Best Western Plus, next to the Walmart Supercenter, surrounded by streets that have air highways and are crowded with SUVS and trucks-tank full of oil shale.

This contrast between then and now contributes to the depth of a story, already beautiful, even more taking it does not make concessions : that like it or not, this was America before, so is it today.

But the conclusion, nod, we also see that the triumph of modern Man is perhaps not total.

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