Another country

by James Baldwin

Paper Book, 1962

Description

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.

Status

Available

Call number

813.54

Publication

London : Penguin, 2001, c1962.

Collection

User reviews

LibraryThing member KristySP
When I first read this book, I was completely in love and transformed by Baldwin's powerful language. I felt as though I had never read anything as powerful. Upon a second reading, I was slightly less impressed, and distracted by gratuitous and cheesy sex scenes. Still...it's worth the read and
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Baldwin's powerful message remains in tact...
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LibraryThing member PilgrimJess
“Love was a country he knew nothing about.”

This novel centres on tormented love: love between men and women, homosexuals, whites and Negroes, shown through various shifting relationships in a group of friends. Rufus, a Negro boy, has a tragic affair with a Southern white girl escaping an
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unhappy marriage; she ends in an asylum, he kills himself. Vivaldo, an Irish-Italian, begins a stormy affair with Rufus' sister, Ida. White couple, Cass and Richard, start to break up when Richard begins to find success as a writer. Cass has an affair with Eric, who is now in love with French boy, Yves. All these people are hopelessly involved in each other, and are in search of love both physical and emotional.

The story is told in three parts. The first begins by narrating the last day of Rufus Scott, a struggling Jazz musician before he commits suicide and ends when Vivaldo Moore begins an affair with Rufus's sister Ida.

Part two opens with actor Eric Jones and Yves in southern France, and then follows Eric to New York where he renews old friendships. Richard Silenski’s career as a writer begins to flourish but his marriage comes apart. His wife Cass begins an affair with Eric whilst simultaneously Vivaldo and Ida’s relationship unravels. It ends with Cass’s confession to Richard.

In part three Vivaldo and Eric end up making love. This releases them into new understandings of themselves and of the nature of love. Vivaldo realises that he is not homosexual, but he need not be afraid of loving a male friend.

There is great characterisation throughout although I must admit that personally did not find Ida particularly likeable as she seems very selfish and critical of others.She just seems constantly angry with everyone about her. I did struggle to believe that people can so seemingly easily switch between hetro and homosexual love as I would have thought that you were one or the other but that said it did make me think a little differently about my own relationship. Overall I found it an interesting read and I would certainly be interested in reading other works by the author.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Despite the fact that this book seems a bit dated today, it manages to capture a very special time in our history. Dealing with issues of sexual identity and race relations like no other book before it was published, this was a groundbreaking novel.
LibraryThing member pinkcrayon99
Another Country is a book full of tortured souls. The writing was fluid and beautiful but I expected nothing less from the incomparable James Baldwin. There were times when I wanted to give up on this story and all the tremendously flawed people that shaped it. In Another Country there is no joy
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and no peace.

All the characters in this novel are connected by one central character, Rufus. Rufus is a jazz musician from Harlem who commits suicide but not before wrecking havoc in and upon a lot of people's lives. The fall out of emotions upon the relationships of his friends and family in reaction to his life and death is what Baldwin has put into words. An unlikely pairing happens after Rufus' death between his sister, Ida, and his best friend, Vivaldo. Vivaldo loves Ida passionately but Ida can't seem to get past her blackness and his whiteness to love him the same. Richard and Cass are the older more established couple who seem bring balance to this circle of friends. When Eric a friend of all and an ex-lover of Rufus returns to New York from Paris all the masks begin to come off.

Ida had to be my least favorite character. She was so angry but not in the stereotypical angry black woman kind of way. Her anger steamed more from fear. Vivlado was so unstable until he became annoying but he was the most likable. Eric was so troubled and damaged by his childhood experiences and the turmoil that he suffered while with Rufus that he seemed numb. He masked the numbness with his promiscuity. I wanted to like Cass. Initially, I thought she was the most genuine character but in the end she was just as broken and tormented as the rest. I simply detested Rufus. He was as disgusting to me as Cholly Breedlove and that's disgusting.

This would not be a Baldwin novel if he did not deal with social issues such as race, class, and same sex relationships. Baldwin has a way of eloquently showing people's ugly core as they deal with such issues. He doesn't allow any character to simply get by but he makes them face and confront their weaknesses and lies.

Personally, I feel like this novel was simply about a lot of broken people who remained in toxic relationships too long. This book was draining and extremely melancholy. It will weigh you down.
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LibraryThing member sholofsky
This was a big "adult" read for me when I was a sheltered thirteen year old and, as such, shed informative light on such "taboo" subjects as homosexuality and inter-racial love (yes, I regret to say, I was a thirteen year old that long ago). Probably for that reason I was more grateful to the book
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than fond of it--in either case, I hadn't yet developed the critical faculty to judge it. To make up for that immaturity of judgement and, yes, to revisit a piece of my past, I picked it up recently, some forty years later, for a reassessment. Sad to say, I found it had not aged well. Like certain authors who both position themselves and are positioned into a cutting edge role for hot button issues--Baldwin was both a black and a homosexual at a time when the KKK needed no excuse to lynch either--Baldwin emerged as a very uneven novelist. His extreme sensitivity allowed for some very affecting love scenes (though not in this particular novel), yet the issues he was born to confront made for some annoyingly didactic writing. Unfortunately, it is the latter that is most on display in Another Country. Too often it is the author emerging from the mouths of his characters, coming to general conclusions about specific situations; truly distraught people are just too busy to pontificate, and when they do, crediblity has to be sacrificed. Similarly, though Baldwin positions himself as a realist dealing with the sordid aspects of love honestly, by manipulating characters and situations to make his points, he comes off as a sentimentalist instead...simply because it is the sentimentalist's weapon of choice he is using. Despite all of this, Baldwin is a provocative writer, and even when he shows up in too many characters, he can be someone worth listening to...even when it seems he's talking to himself.
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LibraryThing member NativeRoses
Baldwin's honest portrayal of love, desire, despair, and how we succeed and fail with those we love. In moving scenes, his characters visit Baldwin's other country of love when they connect deeply across gender, race, class, and sexual preference differences to show how much pain love can overcome.
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This novel is deeply moving, and I believe it to be Baldwin's best.
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LibraryThing member CardiffGiant
Another Country is James Baldwin's finest novel. While earlier works (Go Tell it...) approach issues of race, sexuality and gender differences from a more safe, calculated perspective, Another Country reveals boldly all that is uncomfortable in the American landscape.

As always, Baldwin's
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characters are unforgettable and, as we are reading we feel desperately for Rufus, Leona, Vivaldo, Ida, Richard, Cass, Eric and Yves. These characters reflect the differences and frustrations in trying to communicate and understand one another in mid-century America. It is in the dialogue between the characters that Baldwin most shines. For many authors, dialogue tends to fade towards inauthentic, yet, Baldwin reveals in brutal honesty the differences (and, at times, similarities) between these characters.

To avoid spoilers, I will simply state that the final few pages of chapter 1 and the final chapter provide some of the most touching and affecting prose in 20th Century American Literature.
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LibraryThing member JosephJ
Amazing book. Had to read it for an African American Lit class and I was not expecting to enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised. Great characters, interesting relationships and Baldwin handled the subject matter with the spectacular skill. He really caught the essence of the mixed bag of
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emotions that make up the human animal.
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LibraryThing member Clurb
There is some very powerful and daring writing in this story of a black musician's struggle with depression, friends and family in 1960s America. Very much ahead of its time.
LibraryThing member Briensaw
I was in my teens when I found a copy of this book in one of the shelves at home. Not knowing the subject matter, I eventually turned beet-red on the opening pages of "Book Two"! Of course, that was then in the early eighties! This is a piece of work that was way ahead of its time! Written
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beautifully and that copy is now in my own library!
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LibraryThing member ostrom
This might be Baldwin's best novel, edging out Go Tell It On the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, and If Beale Street Could Talk.
LibraryThing member drugfiend
One of my favourites. The first chapter is magnetic: "You took the best - why not take the rest?"
LibraryThing member foomy
Eye-opening, depressing story about a black musician around the 60's.
LibraryThing member RebeccaAnn
This novel was stunningly beautiful in its prose and depiction of its characters. They were tangible. I could relate to each and every one as they searched for their own personal identity. Baldwin attacked America with this book, showing the gritty, raw truth about racism and people's views towards
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those who don't "fit in".

That said, this was also a hard book to read because it just would not end. I believe that a good book has to know when to end and I don't think Baldwin quite nailed it in this book. It just went on and on and on. I don't think it would have been so bad if there had been a serious plot, but this more of a "slice of life" novel. It depicts a time period in these characters' lives which has a plot and a climax, but not in the traditional sense. The book doesn't resolve cleanly. Neither does life. Things are left unfinished. However, there is so much searching for one's identity in this book that I kept feeling as if I had read events more than once and that gets a bit old after awhile.

I do recommend this book because I think it's a fantastic book to read at least once in your life. I was touched and horrified and sad and happy throughout it. It touched all my emotions. However, I don't think I'll be rereading it anytime soon.

3 stars.
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LibraryThing member LindaLoretz
Another Country is a fantastic book with many themes and messages that are sadly still relevant for our times. James Baldwin is a talented author who tells a story set in the late 1950s, explaining racism through splendidly developed characters. Rufus Scott, a Black drummer who is deeply affected
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by a world that does not understand his soul, commits suicide early in the story, and the rest of the book focuses on the people who knew him and their imperfect relationships. Few authors can develop characters as powerful as Baldwin’s. Through the characters’ interactions, love affairs, and dialog, the reader comes to appreciate Black Americans’ issues. Ida, Rufus’s sister, vividly conveys the plight of the Black American female. Ida is so overpowered by some of the men in the story that we begin to see how important it is for Black women to tell their stories. Interracial relationships are depicted throughout the novel, and the omniscient narrator describes the feelings of the characters and those they encounter in a realistic, thought-provoking manner.
Additionally, Baldwin’s narrative includes explicit sexual encounters between gay and bisexual characters in a world that is unaccepting. Some of the most poignant takeaways are about relationships and commonalities in all relationships. Baldwin’s characters converse in a manner that is universally understood and relatable.
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LibraryThing member BarbaraHouston
I read this book not long after it was published at the behest of a friend who was trying to 'come out' to me. I was overwhelmed by the beauty, the delicacy and the anger of [[Baldwin]]'s words. His people were well delineated, but the plot was missing an ending. Despite any faults, I still
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recommend reading this book and looking past those faults into the heart of a nab who he felt he didn't belong.
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LibraryThing member ocgreg34
In 1950s Harlem, Rufus, a young black man, walks around the wintry city, tired and hungry, remembering the good times that lead him to his current destitute situation. The music he once loved, now gone from his life, as were the two people he cared about in the world -- besides his sister Ida.
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Unable to bring himself to confront his friends, he makes a drastic move, jumping from the George Washington Bridge into the frigid Hudson River.

Word of his death spreads quickly among his friends, triggering long hidden tensions to come into the light. Vivaldo, a young, white wannabe writer, who considered Rufus one of his best friends, now finds himself falling for his sister Ida. Ida, in the meantime, has aspirations of her own to make it big as a jazz singer. Cass and Richard, married for so many years and but realizing that they were just holding things together until Richard's novel was published. Then there's Eric, a young white boy from Alabama who moved to New York to pursue acting and found himself falling for Rufus. Unable to take the strain of their relationship, he fled to France, hoping that would help to put things in perspective.

With the sad blues of Bessie Smith lingering the background, "Another Country" gathers Rufus' friends together and allows their pent up emotions to pour onto the pages. From the racial tensions of the 1950s, shown in great detail through the troubled relationship and jealousies between Vivaldo and Ida to sexual identity involving Eric's feelings for Rufus and for his new romantic interest Yves -- a man much younger than himself -- and how both pairs were different yet the same. And, it also covers the decline of marriage, focusing a lens on the affect Rufus' death had on Cass and Richard's marriage and how each handles it: one by hiding away behind a typewriter, the other by finding another in the same situation and striking up a clandestine love affair.

It is a slow-moving tale, and for me, though it dealt with those heavy issues of race and sexuality, the story seemed to be nonchalant about the sexual relations, almost as if the characters had given up caring about not just what society thought but what they themselves thought. They seemed to jump from bed to bed as if it were almost a tedious, tiresome task that was expected of them. That indifference carried throughout the entire book. As for the racial tensions, it was interesting to read how Ida and Vivaldo handled their differences in the face of both acceptance and non-acceptance within both the black and white communities.

After reading a few mini-biographies of the author James Baldwin, it almost seems to mirror what he felt was a disinterest by Americans to take a closer look at sexuality and issues of race which lead him to leave the United States for Paris in the late 1940s. "Another Country" provides a fine examination of those issues and is a definite recommended read.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Sensual and groundbreaking, this novel is a beautiful weave of fully realized characters and the tensions that boiled in America in the twentieth century. With this work, Baldwin proves his ability not only as any American novelist, but as a writer capable of handling the erotics and suspenses of
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daily living with both candor and beauty, and in a truthful style that few other writers could ever hope to realize. While I wouldn't put this in the hands of a teenager without some careful thought, it's a book that I'd recommend to any reader of American history and literature, and to any reader who treasures the beauty and the power of language. Without a doubt, Baldwin is the single most powerful novelist I can think of. Utterly worthwhile.
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LibraryThing member electrascaife
Rufus is a jazz musician in NYC, a black man down on his luck as a result of a toxic relationship with a white southern woman. The novel follows the fallout of this relationship and the ripple-effect consequences its ending has on Rufus's circle of friends.

Baldwin's works all have the same effect
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on me: I recognize his talents in the language he uses and the way he crafts his novels, but I never really enjoy them. They're just...not my thing. He is absolutely excellent at what he does - gritty books in which people and their relationships with one another are the entire story - and I'm never sorry I've read them because of how good a writer he is, but I just don't enjoy novels in which the focus is on not-exactly-likable characters doing not much else except interacting with other not-very-likable characters.
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LibraryThing member Circlestonesbooks
“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)

Content
Rufus Scott is a musician and the evening he meets
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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.

Characters
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.

Conclusion
A powerful, timeless classic novel, beautifully written.
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LibraryThing member crtsjffrsn
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
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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.

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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.
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LibraryThing member amaraduende
Nobody interested in American Literature or history should go without this book. It's very powerfully written, and brutally realistic. This is a book whose images will stick with you for a long time.
LibraryThing member rscottm182gmailcom
Not my cup of meat, there's not much going on except the interactions of the main characters, and what goes on their heads. Still, Baldwin was a very accomplished writer, and gives us useful insight into what it was like, in 60s NYC with varying degrees of prospects, to be: black/straight/female;
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black/bi/male; white/straight/female; white/straight/male; white/bi/male; white/gay/male. Baldwin gives us an interesting perspective (being gay himself), in the end only the gay characters have their heads screwed on straight.
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Language

Original publication date

1962

ISBN

0141186372 / 9780141186375
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