Unearthed Steinbeck Short Story Isn’t at All Like ‘Grapes of Wrath’

Credit Bettmann/Getty Images

John Steinbeck is best known for his weighty, quintessentially American classics like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden.”

But one of his short stories, now published in English for the first time, is not about social injustice, arduous journeys or humanity’s capacity for cruelty. Rather, it is a funny tale about a Parisian chef whose cooking companion is a cat.

During a mid-20th-century stint in Paris, a city he loved, Steinbeck wrote a series of 17 short pieces, mostly nonfiction, for the newspaper Le Figaro. He composed them in English and they were translated into French. One of those submissions, a fictional piece called “The Amiable Fleas,” can be found in the new issue of The Strand Magazine, a literary quarterly based in Birmingham, Mich.

The magazine has previously unearthed pieces by Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler. In 2014 it featured another short story by Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize-winning author. That one had been composed for a patriotic radio show during World War II, and Orson Welles read it aloud in a 1943 broadcast.

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