How, then, do we get from H. Rider Haggard to Anthony Bourdain? Let’s start with the easy and straightforward. Both are white men, as are Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola for that matter. Haggard was British; he was born in the 19th century and died in the 20th (1856-1925). Bourdain was American, born in the 20th and died in the 21st, at his own hand (1956-2018). It’s easy enough to interpolate the other two: Joseph Conrad, Polish-British (1857-1924); Francis Ford Coppola, American (1939 and still living).
So much for bare biography. It’s the imaginative life that interests.
Haggard wrote a ton of novels, many of them well-known. The Allan Quatermain stories, starting with King Solomon’s Mines, are said to have inspired the character Indiana Jones. She: A History of Adventure marked the beginning of a different series and is one of Haggard’s best-known novels. If not exactly a high-culture masterpiece, it has been quite influential as one of the founding texts of “lost world” fiction. Wikipedia tells us that it’s been made into 11 films and sold over 83 million copies, making it an all-time fiction best seller, and has been translated into 44 languages.
When I was a child back in the nuclear-anxiety-Cold-War 1950s I went to see a film called Godzilla, King of the Monsters. I probably noticed that the people on screen didn’t look like Americans. They looked – well, I don’t know what I would have called them then, but they were in fact Japanese, except for this reporter guy (Raymond Burr) who talked a lot. What I remember is being scared out of my wits by this HUGE monster that seemed determined to destroy the world.
What I didn’t know at the time – I suppose that almost no one in the American audience did – is that this was somewhat different from the Japanese original, which came out in Japan in 1954 as Gojira. The Japanese original has two interlinked storylines: the story about the monster from the sea and a story about love vs. arranged marriage, which grapples with tradition vs. change. That second one was dropped from the American re-edit; the idea of an arranged marriage was and is all but meaningless in America, though it remains alive in Japan and in other nations. With a sense of grave ritual that is missing from the Americanized version, the Japanese original is a richer film. Read more »