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Un autre pays (1962)
par James Baldwin
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Read first 50 pages just before book club. Black musician Rufus Scott wanders the streets of New York, remembering the events that led to his condition, which began with an affair with white, Southern Leona (this was published before Loving vs. Virginia).
"They knew that no one heard, that bloodless people cannot be made to bleed." (5)
Un romanzo sul mondo dei neri d'America. Batterista jazz per vocazione e mestiere, Rufus si imbarca in un rapporto d'amore con una bianca, una donna del sud più acceso e razzista. Un amore basato sì sulla sfrenatezza dei sensi, ma anche e soprattutto su una scelta libera e spontanea in grado di superare ogni barriera razziale. Ma a poco a poco tra i due si insinua la dolorosa consapevolezza della propria diversità, che porterà Leona alla follia e Rufus a uno squallido vagabondaggio nei più sordidi angoli di New York tra vizio e disperazione.
In the 1950s, liberalism took a different form than it does today. For many, rejecting the norm and what was proper meant possibilities. For others, it wasn't subversive--it was just who they were. But society didn't do anyone any favors. Race, sexuality, and class weren't areas where there was much room for latitude or forgiveness.
Another Country follows a group of friends who try to navigate this environment while seeking truths about themselves. What does it mean to be an artist? How does one know when their life is fulfilled? Are they really universal truths in life? All questions with no easy answers. But over the course of several months the characters wrestle with them in search of some truth.
Glimpses of history are always very interesting to me. And here James Baldwin gives us just that. And not only is this book a window into the time period, he wrote it at a time when these weren't the kinds of things people regularly wrote about. So the book itself goes against convention by telling the story of people who went against convention. It's a bit meta, but it's also really well written and engaging.
“People don’t have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you’re dead, when they’ve killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn’t have any character.” (Quotation page 261)
Rufus Scott is a musician and the evening he meets Leona, he plays a gig in one of the new Harlem spots. It was meant to be just one night, but soon they move in together, Rufus, charming, but also violent and full of hate, black, and the white lady from the South. Now, seven months later, Rufus is broken and lost and for him there is just one step forward left. Then things restart, but in a different setting, as Vivaldo, Rufus’s best friend, and Ida, the younger sister of Rufus, fall in love. Vivaldo, an Irish-Italian writer, as well as his friends, the now successful writer Richard and his wife Cass, are white New York Bohemians, having been friends of Rufus too, as well as Eric, a young actor, who is now comng back from Paris.
Theme and genre
“Another Country” was written between 1956 and 1961 and is a famous, timeless classic novel about racism, discrimination, the life of Black people in the white American society of the vivid city New York in the fifties. It is about music, love, dreams, hope, destructive relationships, sexuality and gender, betrayal and hate.
Rufus, one of the main characters, carries the first chapter of the story and disappears, but now comes Ida, his younger sister. There is a bit of brilliant, violent, charming and self-destructive Rufus in every main character of this novel: Vivaldo, Ida, Richard, Cass and Eric. They all are looking for changes, trying to find out who they are and who they could be.
Plot and writing
The novel is told in three main parts, with different characters in the center of the events. Book One, Easy Rider, moves between darkness, rage and philosophy. It starts with Rufus, who comes to meet his friend Vivaldo, but as they speak about what had happened, we learn from their memories and flashbacks what had happened and led to the present situation. The second book shows a profound situation of American life in that time. “And each man or woman that passed seemed also to be carrying some intolerable burden; their private lives screamed from their hot and discontented faces.” (Quotation page 265). In this Book Two, Any Day Now, we learn more about the actual situation and life of Vivaldo, Ida, Richard, Cass and Eric. Book Three is about decisions, possible future solutions, but lets us readers to think about it, offering only the possibility of changes. The powerful language is everything between realistic, clear, compassionate and profoundly touching.
A powerful, timeless classic novel, beautifully written.
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James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories: Go Tell It on the Mountain / Giovanni’s Room / Another Country / Going to Meet the Man par James Baldwin
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Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, among other locales, Another Country is a novel of passions--sexual, racial, political, artistic--that is stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, depicting men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime. In a small set of friends, Baldwin imbues the best and worst intentions of liberal America in the early 1970s.
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Classification décimale de Melvil (CDD)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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2 éditions de ce livre ont été publiées par Penguin Australia.
Éditions: 0141186372, 0143566334
Rufus’ sister, Ida, tries to love Vivaldo, but the race gap is too much. She learns to use white men to get what she wants. Another friend, Richard, finds that finally approaching his goal of becoming a successful novelist has its drawbacks in his personal life. Eric, an actor, has been sequestered in France with his lover, Yves, but has returned for a part on Broadway. He becomes enmeshed with both Vivaldo and Richard’s wife, Cass.
Baldwin equates love with hostility and cruelty. He also paints a picture of the creative life as one of struggle, despair and compromise, especially if you’re black. This is anxiety fiction. No one is happy. They may have been happy once, long ago, but may not be again. ( )