Jack London is the pseudonym of John Griffith Chaney.
John was born Jan. 12, 1876 in San Francisco (California, USA)
and died Nov. 22, 1916 in Glen Ellen (California).
His father was a roving astrologer, who deserted when the Jack was a
little boy. London was raised by his religious mother and his
stepfather. Jack took hisstepfather’s surname, London.
When London was 14 he had to quit grammar school to escape poverty.
The boy was looking for adventures. He got a sloop and explored San
Francisco Bay, working for the government fish patrol.
Later London went to Japan as a sailor. When he returned, he moved
around the the United States, since London became member of one of the
many protest armies of unemployed. John was a hobo riding freight
trains. He saw the depression. Later he was taken up for vagrancy. All
these made London turn to militant socialism.
John London educated himself at public libraries. He read the works
of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche. These books formed a
mixture of socialism and white superiority ideas in London’s mind.
When Jack was 19, he crammed a four-year high school course into one
year and managed to enter the University of California at Berkeley.
After a year of studying he quit school and went to Canada, joining
Klondike gold rush of 1897. He returned the next year, still poor and
jobless. He decided to earn his living as a writer.
London studied some literary magazines and set himself a daily
schedule of writing sonnets, ballads, jokes, anecdotes, adventure
stories, horror stories, etc. His output steadily increased. The
optimism and energy with which he attacked his task could be seen in his
autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1909), which is his most enduring
His stories of his Alaskan adventures were often crude, but within
two years began to win acceptance for their fresh subject matter and
virile force. London published his first book “The Son of the
Wolf” in 1900, and he gained a wide audience. In the next 17 years of
his life he completed 50 books, mostly fiction. London became the
highest-paid writer in the United States. However, his expenditures were
higher than his earnings, and he always had to write for money.
London was still hungry for new adventures to discribe in his
novels He sailed a ketch to the South Pacific, and in 1911 he told about
his voyage in “The Cruise of the Snark” (1911).
In 1910 London finally settled on a ranch near Glen Ellen. He built
his famous Wolf House, where he spent the rest of his life, maintaining
his socialist beliefs almost to the end of his life.
Jack London wrote stories of very high quality. His best works are
Alaskan stories “Call of the Wild” (1903), “White Fang” (1906), “Burning
Daylight” (1910), in which he dramatized in turn atavism, adaptability,
and the appeal of the wilderness. He wrote he wrote two more
autobiographical novels: “The Road” (1907) and “John Barleycorn” (1913).
Of his philosophic works the most important are “The Sea Wolf” (1904),
featuring a Nietzschean superman hero, and “The
Iron Heel” (1907), which is a fantasy of the future that is a
terrifying anticipation of fascism.
London lost his reputation in the United States in the 1920s when a
brilliant new generation of postwar writers made the prewar writers
seem lacking in sophistication. However, his popularity has remained
high throughout the world, especially in Russia, where a commemorative
edition of his works published in 1956 was reported to have been sold
out in five hours. London is one of the most extensively translated of
American authors. In 1988 a three-volume set of his letters was
Jack London is one of the most popular American writers in the world.
His vivid, brutal and exiting style is the key to the