Walker Percy Wednesday 101


THE PLACE WHERE the strange events related in this book occur, Feliciana, is not imaginary. It was so named by the Spanish. It was and is part of Louisiana, a strip of pleasant pineland running from the Mississippi River to the Perdido, a curious region of a curious state. Never quite Creole or French or Anglo-Saxon or Catholic or Baptist like other parishes of Louisiana, it has served over the years as a refuge for all manner of malcontents. If America was settled by dissenters from various European propositions, Feliciana was settled by dissenters from the dissent, American Tories who had no use for the Revolution, disgruntled Huguenots and Cavaliers from the Carolinas, New Englanders fleeing from Puritanism, unionists who voted against secession, Confederate refugees from occupied New Orleans, deserters from the Confederate Army, smugglers from both sides, criminals holed up in the Honey Island Swamp.
Welcomed in the beginning by the hospitable and indolent Spanish of a decrepit empire, some of these assorted malcontents united long enough to throw out the Spanish and form an independent republic, complete with its own Declaration of Independence, flag, army, navy, constitution, and capital in St. Francisville. The new republic had no inclination to join French Louisiana to the south or the United States to the north and would as soon have been let alone. It lasted seventy-four days. Jefferson had bought Louisiana and that was that.
As pleasant a place as its name implies, it still harbors all manner of fractious folk, including Texans and recent refugees from unlikely places like Korea and Michigan, all of whom have learned to get along tolerably well, better than most in fact, who watch L.S.U. football and reruns of M*A*S*H, drink Dixie beer, and eat every sort of food imaginable, which is generally cooked in some thing called a roux.
The downside of Feliciana is that its pine forests have been mostly cut down, its bayous befouled, Lake Pontchartrain polluted, the Mississippi River turned into a sewer. It has too many malls, banks, hospitals, chiropractors, politicians, lawyers, realtors, and condos with names like Château Charmant.
Still and all, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
It is strange, but these Louisianians, for all their differences and contrariness, have an affection for one another. It is expressed by small signs and courtesies, even between strangers, as if they shared a secret.
In what follows, the geography of the place has been somewhat scrambled. All of the people in Feliciana have been made up. The only real persons are the German and Austrian professors and physicians who were active in both the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich—Drs. de Crinis, Villinger, Schneider, Nitsche, Heyde—and the Swiss psychiatrist Dr. C. G. Jung. For this information about the Nazi doctors and their academic precursors in the Weimar Republic, I am indebted to Dr. Frederic Wertham’s remarkable book, A Sign for Cain.