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Another Country  
AnotherCountry.JPG
First edition cover
Author James Baldwin
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Dial Press
Publication date 1962
Media type Print (Hardcover, paperback)
Pages 436 p
OCLC Number 264020

Another Country is a 1962 novel by James Baldwin. The novel tells of the bohemian lifestyle of musicians, writers and other artists living in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s. It portrayed many taboo themes such as bisexuality, interracial couples and extramarital affairs.

Contents

Plot summary

The first fifth of Another Country tells of the downfall of jazz drummer Rufus Scott. Rufus begins a relationship with Leona, a white woman from the South and introduces her to his friends, including the struggling novelist Vivaldo, his more successful mentor Richard and Richard’s wife Cass. Although the relationship is initially frivolous, it becomes serious and the two leave town for several weeks. Rufus is abusive towards Leona and she is eventually committed to a mental hospital and Rufus returns to Harlem in a deep depression. He commits suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Rufus' friends cannot understand his suicide, but afterwards they become closer and Vivaldo begins a relationship with Rufus’ sister Ida, which is strained by racial tension and Ida's bitterness after her brother's death.

Eric, Rufus’s first male lover and an actor, returns to New York after a stay in France where he met his longtime lover Yves. Eric returns to the novel's social circle but is more calm and composed than most of the clique. He also begins an affair with Cass, who has become lonely due to Richard’s dedication to writing.

Themes

Willing Ignorance

One of the most significant themes in Another Country is one’s willingness to ignore parts of reality that he or she finds unpleasant. Vivaldo is perhaps the most affected by this tendency. He also denies his own bisexuality. He refuses to admit his attraction to Rufus. On the night of his death, Rufus went to Vivaldo and indicated a need for sexual love but Vivaldo pretended not to recognize this need and later feels guilty, suspecting that he could have prevented Rufus’ death. He also does not see that his attraction to Ida mirrors his attraction to Rufus.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Eric is the novel’s most honest and open character. He admits that Rufus was an abusive person, that his affair with Cass is frivolous and that his love of Yves is genuine. This also makes him the book’s most calm and composed character and, only after a night with Eric, does Vivaldo see the world clearly.

Most of the white characters in the book refuse to admit the racial tension surrounding them. Cass and Richard are shocked when a group of black boys beat-up their sons. Ida constantly accuses Vivaldo of taking their relationship less seriously because she is black and has known white men who get a thrill out of sex with black women. Vivaldo refuses to admit any of this, although it is indicated that it may be true of their relationship.

Professional Jealousy

Richard and Vivaldo are jealous of one another. Vivaldo is jealous that Richard’s novel is being published while Richard is jealous of Vivaldo because Richard sees suffering and a lack of commercial success as a sign of artistic integrity. Consequently, when Cass resumes her affair with Eric, Richard suspects she is seeing Vivaldo.

Also, Ida’s success as a jazz singer causes increased tension between her and Vivaldo.

Background information

Baldwin started writing Another Country in Greenwich Village in 1948 and only completed it in Istanbul in 1962 - he had been working on it while in Paris in the 1950s.[1]

Literary significance and criticism

It has been argued that James Baldwin is in three characters : Rufus as Baldwin would have turned out had he not moved to France, Eric as Baldwin was in Paris, and Vivaldo as a writer struggling with a writer's block because of his love affairs, in the manner of Baldwin himself.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b Dievler, James A. (1999). "Sexual Exiles: James Baldwin and Another Country". James Baldwin Now. New York: New York University Press. pp. 163, 173–181. ISBN 0814756174.  







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