'A masterwork... an almost unbearable, tumultuous, blood-pounding experience' Washinton Post
When Another Country appeared in 1962, it caused a literary sensation. James Baldwin's masterly story of desire, hatred and violence opens with the unforgettable character of Rufus Scott, a scavenging Harlem jazz musician adrift in New York. Self-destructive, bad and brilliant, he draws us into a Bohemian underworld pulsing with heat, music and sex, where desperate and dangerous characters betray, love and test each other to the limit.
'In Another Country, Baldwin created the essential American drama of the century' Colm Tóibín
“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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