"The Strand" Releases Steinbeck Story for the First Time in English

Courtesy of The Strand Magazine

Original illustration commissioned by The Strand for its publication of The Amiable Fleas.

Under the editorship of Andrew Gulli, The Strand magazine, a quarterly literary magazine based in Michigan, has made headlines multiple times for unearthing previously lost or forgotten works by major 20th-century writers and releasing them for the first time. Their new issue, released two weeks ago, continue that fine tradition with the publication of a humorous John Steinbeck story, previously only published in French in 1954.

While staying in Paris in the mid 20th century, Steinbeck wrote a series of short pieces, mostly nonfiction, for the newspaper Le Figaro. He wrote the pieces in English, which were then translated into French for publication by the newspaper itself. One of this pieces was the short story The Amiable Fleas, about a legendary gourmet, his beloved cat and confidant Apollo, and the impending visit of an influential restaurant critic. A researcher working for Gulli uncovered the original manuscript for "The Amiable Fleas" while sifting through the John Steinbeck collection at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin. Gulli then reached out the Steinbeck estate who granted him permission to publish the story in The Strand.

“I read this one and I was like, ‘Oh my god,’” said Gulli in an interview with the New York Times. “From the perspective of a short story editor, this one really interested me. There was something universal about it with the gourmet, the cat, the family conflict and the tension.”

In the story, a famous chef working at a fictional restaurant called The Amiable Fleas is fretting over the impeding visit of a restaurant critic, while relying upon his cat, Apollo, to taste his food and nod an approval or disapproval.

The lighter Steinbeck fare, a far cry from his weighty work in epic novels like The Grapes of Wrath, is available in the current issue of The Strand on newsstands now.