Sunday, December 12

James Baldwin

Giovanni's Room

If you are looking for something to cheer you up- this certainly then is NOT for you! A very simple, yet powerful book written about the isolation felt by homosexual men. This second novel by Baldwin was first published in 1956.
Almost every male character in the book is homosexual and the ways of rich men buying the services of and in fact having a sense of entitlement of the younger, vulnerable out-of-towners was disheartening. There is David, an American so ashamed and afraid of his sexuality- he flees to Paris to save himself from embarrassment.  In Paris, with no money in hand, he is forced to get help from Jacques. Jacques was the reason that David and Giovanni meet. Giovanni works at a bar owned by Guillame in Paris. Hella was one odd woman out- David's girl friend who is off in Spain as she takes a break from the relationship and my be even Paris. It was during this time that David and Giovanni's relationship and love for each other blossoms. The end is quite tragic (I will not tell you what happened) but I would just say that I went through myriad of emotions. I am still unsure if I hate David- I was definitely furious with his dishonesty- not just to himself, but he was dishonest with Hella, Giovanni and pretty much every one else! I am also not able to fathom why Giovanni would love David so much and would need him so much for his survival? The title itself has many interesting metaphorical connotations (you have to read it to understand it).

Baldwin himself, as an isolated gay black man in the 50's moved to Paris and when he finished this manuscript his publisher suggested that he might as well burn it. You can read all about it here, here or here.

I will leave you with David's words-

"What happened was that, all unconscious of what this ennui meant, I wearied of the motion, wearied of the joyless seas of alcohol, wearied of the blunt, bluff, hearty, and totally meaningless friendships, wearied of wandering through the forests of desperate women, wearied of the work which fed me only in the most brutally literal sense" 

Must Read!

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