Tuesday 1 November 2016

#AMREADING James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room.

This novel, first published in 1956, has been reissued in 2013, establishing Baldwin’s place among the genuinely indispensable American writers (Saturday Post). Here are some memorable passages from the book:

A young American travels to Paris, trying to find himself, as we say in America. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people.

Or is he losing himself in Paris? Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don’t know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it.

He falls in love with Giovanni.I did not dare to mention Hella. I could not even pretend to myself that I was sorry she was in Spain. I was glad. I was utterly, hopelessly, horribly glad. I knew I could do nothing whatever to stop the ferocious excitement which had burst in me like a storm. I could only drink, in the faint hope that the storm might thus spend itself without doing any more damage to my land.

He moves in with Giovanni. Our life together held a joy and amazement which was newborn every day. Beneath the joy, of course, was anguish and beneath the amazement was fear…anguish and fear became the surface on which we slipped and slid, losing balance, dignity, and pride.

But when Hella returns to Paris, he took her in his arms and something happened then. I held her very close in that high, dark train station, with a great confusion of people all about us, jut beside the breathing train. She smelled of the wind and the sea and of space and I felt in her marvelously living body the possibility of legitimate surrender.

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