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Giovanni's Room (1956)

de James Baldwin

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4,7441062,045 (4.16)348
Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.… (més)
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I have been on a Baldwin kick recently as I have read a lot about Baldwin and his influence on black culture and society, but up until this last year had not read a book by Baldwin. This weekend was also a Readathon and although I could not participate the whole weekend, I snuck in shorter books to at least win a participation trophy. One of those books was Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.

This was the first fiction piece that I have read by Baldwin and I have to write how astounded I was at this one. The basic premise is David, following a car accident and a proposal, runs away to Paris to expand his horizons. His fiancee Hella is in Spain, while David is now in Paris. They are to meet a bit later on.

In the meantime, while at a bar, David meets Giovanni when David's friend Jacque hits on Giovanni. David and Giovanni develop a relationship together and move in with one another while Hella is away. The two become lovers and soon Hella returns and David is a changed man, but tries to commit himself to Hella, but keeps running into Giovanni. What will happen as Hella figures out the truth? What does David learn about himself?

It is hard to review a classic piece because it has already stood the test of time and remains a classic for a reason, so I will just share some reflections I had about the book.

The initial reaction was- I can't believe this was written in 1956! One could write this book today and it would be just as relevant as it was in 1956, if not more so. One often thinks of the 50s as fairly straight laced and pretty Wonder Bread, but there are so many books that break through that myth. Here was one written by a black author, writing about a white man who is either gay or bi-sexual. My thoughts were that David was gay, but had to repress his real thoughts and feelings because he was living in the 1950s and even in France there were expectations about who a man is and what a man should and shouldn't be doing. It was a deep commentary on the community.

The theme of running away just flows through the book too. David is constantly running away- from his father, from America, from Giovanni, and from Hella. He cannot stay still because he cannot be who he wants to be. How deeply personal for Baldwin! Here was a man who writes about how he was treated in America, didn't want to live in a country that didn't accept him for the color of his skin, so he moves to France. Add the layer that Baldwin was also gay and even within his own race, he is also an outcast. This had to be a deeply personal book for him.

So far, between The Fire Next Time and Giovanni's Room, it is a toss up on which is the book I would recommend. One is pure non-fiction, while the other is fiction, but both deal with issues that Baldwin was facing at the time. Do yourself a favor and read both.

I gave Giovanni's Room 4.5 stars. Warning: the beginning takes a bit to get going and the ending is a very French influenced ending. ( )
  Nerdyrev1 | Nov 23, 2022 |
Giovanni’s Room is James Baldwin’s 1956 classic tragedy about a man struggling with his sexuality. David, a twenty-something American living in Paris, has asked his girlfriend, Hella, to marry him. While Hella is traveling in Spain, considering his proposal, he meets Giovanni. They fall in love and live for a time in Giovanni’s room on the outskirts of Paris. David tries but fails to reconcile his feelings for Giovanni with his own (and society’s) expectation of masculinity. Giovanni truly loves David, but as much as David desires to be loved, he resists it coming from a same-sex relationship.

“People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all—a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named—but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not… I had decided to allow no room in the universe for something which shamed and frightened me.”

This book is mostly character driven. The plot is provided by the mystery of how Giovanni has ended up accused of murder (which we find out at the beginning). It is narrated in first person by David, so the reader is privy to his inner turmoil and guilt. Baldwin’s writing is masterful. Many passages are simply stunning. As a caution, characters make remarks in this book that express misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. It is a tragedy, so the tone is sad, bordering on depressing. It is almost like watching the proverbial train wreck, knowing something bad will happen but not being able to look away. Fortunately, it is short, so the agony is not too drawn out. Recommended to readers of literary fiction or 20th Century classics.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Really great. ( )
  k6gst | Sep 6, 2022 |
“People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget.”

So good. I absorbed every word of this masterpiece.

James Baldwin was a genius and always had something interesting to say, something of value. I'm too impressed by his writing to even begin to formulate a more coherent expression of my scrambled thoughts right now. ( )
  Councillor3004 | Sep 1, 2022 |
Beautiful and gripping. Baldwin has a mastery of English that draws you in and causes you to deeply experience the inner struggle of a man struggling with his ideas about life, love, guilt and sexuality. ( )
  kiskadee321 | Aug 23, 2022 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 106 (següent | mostra-les totes)
what draws lovers of the book to its story of betrayal and the possibility of redemption through truth and, ultimately, to the question of the body as home, is the vision of Baldwin stumbling through it, sure-footed and alone, walking toward the idea that love may come attached with different ideas of what it should look like, feel like, but in the end, it’s what you do with its responsibilities that renders you genderless — and human.
afegit per danielx | editaNew York Times, Hilton Als (May 5, 2019)
 
afegit per gsc55 | editaHearts on Fire, Delta (May 11, 2013)
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (20 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Baldwin, Jamesautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Butler, DanNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Phillips, CarylIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Prinsen, G.A.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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I am the man, I suffered, I was there.
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Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

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Mitjana: (4.16)
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Penguin Australia

Penguin Australia ha publicat 2 edicions d'aquest llibre.

Edicions: 0141186356, 0141032944

 

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