Max Begouën
Bison of Clay
1925 (1926)
from the dustjacket:

"Bison of Clay" invades a new field of fiction. Its men and women issued from their cave homes 25,000 years ago to hunt, work, love and make war. The story of the Lynx and the Amazon chief Spring-on-the-Prairie brings up from buried years the superstition, cruelty and poetic yearning of what was until recently a lost world.

The author has flashed the quaint humor, the brutality the rich romance of his story upon the reader with a realistic intimacy The book is a book about living people.

Yet it is a book written from authentic knowledge as well as imagination and artistic skill. In 1912 the author, exploring as a boy with his two brothers, discovered the now well known caves of southern France which have given intimate glimpses of men of the stone age. Here he found the remarkable wall drawings and clay statuettes that have proved the Magdalenian hunters and priests to be highly gifted artists. Here he fingered the toys, cooking utensils, tools and weapons of these people. He sat by their hearths and stood in their cave temples. The result was a knowledge more intimate, as the translator suggests, than most of us have of our own neighbors.

The literary quality of "Bison of Clay," blending with the authentic flavor of exact knowledge, gives it a character of is own. There is nothing else in modern fiction quite like its directness, vividness and strangeness.


There is one adventure more enthralling than to come upon a spot of earth where no man ever trod before, and that adventure Max Begouën, the author of "Bison of Clay," has had. When M. Begouën made his way into the sombre recesses of the Tuc d'Audoubert he went where, for at least twenty thousand years, no man had gone. Yet men had been there. He had crossed the veritable trail of a human race and culture long buried in the deep night of time.

The men of the Tuc d'Audoubert, in the foothills of what we now call the Pyrenees, were in natural endowment not vastly different from ourselves. They were far above the level of many existing savage tribes. And here were the prints of their naked feet in the ancient clay. Here were their finger marks. Here were their drawings on the walls — earliest and by no means least meritorious of art exhibits. Here were the bison of clay which their sorcerer had moulded to aid them in their hunting.

M. Begouën is the son of Count Begouën, professor of the science of pre-history at the University of Toulouse. He is himself a scientist of standing. But as he gazed upon these records of a dizzily remote yesterday there took shape in his mind, not a treatise for scholars but a high romance, a novel of the Magdalenians. These people had loved, hated, feared, hoped. They had discovered, invented, fought. We could know more about them than many of us know about our next-door neighbors. It was possible to write a realistic account of their lives which would be more thrilling than most fiction. And this M. Begouën has done. He has written with a sense of poetic values as well as with a scrupulous respect for facts. With the aid of clay images and prints of naked feet he has brought back the Magdalenians to vivid and colorful life.

A word should be said with respect to the translation. An effort has been made to retain the vivacity of M. Begouën's prose, but a stiffly literal rendering would have been out of key. In a number of instances phrases have been amplified or transpositions made with the object of clarifying the narrative for American readers. But it is hoped that the story in its present form is faithful to M. Begouën's conception.