Louisiana legislators are attempting to revive the old times – back to 1611. House Bill 503 proposed to declare that “Louisiana should have a state book,” and the state book shall be the “Holy Bible.”
Such a curious choice! Louisiana traces its roots back to French and Spanish settlers, particularly french missionaries that established mission posts along the Louisiana delta plains. More likely to make the journey into the early Louisiana territory was the French Catholic Bible published at Leuven in 1550. Certainly, at least early on, the various French translations of Catholic Bibles had more influence than the King James Bible.
So what should the state book of Louisiana be. I will offer my top five choices of books:
1. The Louisiana Civil Code. This book has had the most influence on individuals, society, and the state in general. It springs from the positivist tradition of a civil society, while blending spanish and french influences on the legal regime. It has been updated and revised as the years have passed. Indeed there is no more “Louisiana” book than the Louisiana Civil Code.
2. All the King’s Men. This is an obvious choice given the influence of Louisiana politics and setting on Robert Penn Warren’s best known book. It is, without a doubt, Louisiana’s book.
3. Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave. Solomon Northup spent twelve years enslaved in the Cane River area of Louisiana’s plantations. His enduring memoir continues to shape historical dialogues on slavery, society, and memoir.
4. Laussat’s Memoirs of My Life. Pierre Clement de Laussat was a french bureaucrat assigned to the Louisiana post. He held posts in Martinet and Guiana, but was the last French provincial governor of the territory before the Louisiana Purchase. HIs memoirs contain interesting reflections on the purchase from the french perspective. Additionally, much of his memoir is concerned with life in the Louisiana Territory.
5. A Confederacy of Dunces. John Kennedy Toole’s only published novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the novel is set in Louisiana’s cultural capital New Orleans, and depicts life from the perspective of a modern Don Quixote of the French Quarter.
What other books should be considered?