Across The Endless River. A new novel by the bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. Across The Endless River. A new novel by the bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank.
Picture of Thad Carhart.

Portrait of Thad Carhart by
© Simo Neri

Notes from Thad Carhart

The son of an Air Force officer, I grew up in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C.; Paris; Minneapolis; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Tokyo. After graduating from Yale with a degree in anthropology, I worked for the State Department as an interpreter. Graduate studies at Stanford led me to California, where I subsequently worked in the entertainment business, producing major concerts and special events throughout the world. Twenty years ago I moved to Paris with my wife and two infant children; I managed events and communications for Apple Computer’s European division. When I left that job I decided to take a break from corporate work and return to my favorite activity: writing.

What began as an idea for a magazine article developed into a book proposal that came to fruition as The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, first published in England by Chatto & Windus. A bestseller in both the U.K. and the U.S., it has been translated into more than a dozen languages. In that work of narrative nonfiction, I was interested in examining the porous membrane of relationships that exists between outsiders and locals in our Paris neighborhood. I told the story of how buying a used piano in France revealed a place not found on any map.

This same interest in those who live where disparate languages and customs overlap sparked my enthusiasm for the story of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau / Pompy. I have always been an enthusiastic reader of history, and the American frontier holds a special fascination. When I first learned that Sacagawea’s son had spent five years in Europe as a young man, I was both astounded and intrigued. I then found that very little was known about his time there, and I began to imagine telling his story in a historical novel.

My principal interest is how he saw Europe in the mid-1820’s—a world as different from that of the frontier as another planet might be from our own—and how he then fashioned his own path, his own choices. That is something we all have to do to some extent, but the nature of the cultural dissonance that Baptiste faced is phenomenal, and his way of making sense of it compelling. This uncertain and inviting terrain, at the intersection of dissimilar ways of life, continues to inform my writing, both fiction and nonfiction.Story stop.

 

Inspirations: An Author's Sketchbook.

Across The Endless River had three points of departure. The first entered my imagination more than twenty years ago when I first laid eyes on Karl Bodmer’s masterful paintings of the trans-Mississippi West of 1832. The experience was thrilling, vivid, and lasting, as if someone had peeled away all the cowboys-and- Indians pictures which had filled my boyhood and given me a vision of the West in its last moments of wildness.

The second point of awareness came years later when I came across a startling footnote in an account of Lewis & Clark. I learned that Sacagawea’s baby boy had, in early manhood, made his way to Europe in 1823 in the company of Duke Paul of Württemberg. More tantalizing still, I soon discovered that next to nothing was known about his time in Europe or the path that led him back to a life on the fast-changing frontier.

Finally, when I had begun research on the period and was looking for a connection to these two intriguing and dissimilar men, I visited the Linden Museum in Stuttgart where a number of Indian tribal pieces collected by Duke Paul have found a home. His collection at the time of his death in 1860 was considered the largest assemblage of specimens and tribal artifacts in private hands. Only a tiny percentage of those holdings survive in Stuttgart, but their spell is powerful. To hold even one of these pieces, as the curators allowed me to do, gave me a direct sense of a world that has vanished. Together, these three threads helped me to weave a story that only imagination can infuse with life.Story stop.


Photography Credits:
Top Row: Linden-Museum Stuttgart
Middle Row: Linden-Museum Stuttgart; Deutschordensmuseum, Bad Mergentheim
Bottom Row: Simo Neri, Paris

 

†Photography copyrights held by respective institutions and photographers.

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