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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
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Giovanni's Room (original 1956; edition 2007)

by James Baldwin

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Member:chrisharpe
Title:Giovanni's Room
Authors:James Baldwin
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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)

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English (26)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Written with wonderful awareness and prosaic beauty, Baldwin gives the reader an insight into expatriate life in 1950's Paris and a young man's struggles to come to terms with his sexuality and his sexual identity. Underneath this struggle lies a love story, albeit a repressed one fraught with guilt, as David struggles to avoid certain choices for reasons of social and familial acceptance. I found the feeling of isolation David experienced harrowing as he internalized his struggle and tried to put on a brave, indifferent front and a strong emotional theme of the story. The story is about awakening to reality. About climbing above the fog that society expects one to remain enveloped in. It is also about how trapped one can feel when society exhibits indications of refusing to accept someone for who they are.

Overall, a beautifully written story I am very happy to have finally read it. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Sep 22, 2014 |
(review originally written for bookslut)

For every reader I believe there exist certain books that they will just fall into. From the very first sentence, it is obvious that there is something about the rhythm of the writing that matches the rhythm of the reader's brain. For me, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin was one of those books. I opened it up at a bus stop and was immediately enraptured. In fact I had to close the book again almost as quickly, because I wasn't quite ready to be that deeply involved. I had just finished Tahar Djaout's The Last Summer of Reason and thought I would be able to slide myself gently into Baldwin's Paris, not find myself immediately in a house in southern France.

Anyway, the troublesome thing about books that one falls into is that they don't just get under your skin, they permeate you. This may be an altogether fine thing when reading Jane Austen, where whatever tribulations the characters may suffer during the course of the book, by the end everyone is properly matched and enjoying whatever measure of happiness that they deserve. Oh, to live in an Austen novel! Unfortunately, in life, and perhaps in every other novel not written by Austen, human beings and their loves do not work themselves out so neatly.

Giovanni's Room is about the tragedy of one man's tortured heart, and the poison it spreads to all those with the misfortune of becoming close to him. The narrator, David, discovers early in his life the joy that is to be had in other man's arms. But nothing in his life terrifies him as much as this discovery, from which he runs far and hard. When he finds joy again in Giovanni's room, it quickly becomes clear that it cannot last, that love does not always conquer all, and that it actually stands no chance against fear and self-delusion.

When I finally put this book down, I walked around dazed for a bit, feeling terribly hollow inside. It is on this book that I finally blame my moment of weakness, in which I reached for and devoured a cheesy
romance novel (though this book surely doesn't deserve such association). But after walking around for a week, having the despair of Giovanni's Room resonating inside my brain, I needed something trivial, something optimistic. Something with a deliriously unrealistic happy ending.

I do recommend this book. I think that it is beautiful and true and provides glimpses into unopened rooms in your heart. But I hope that you have something altogether fluffy to read afterwords... ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
A testament to the strength and beauty of the writing that such a navel-gazing novel held my interest. ( )
  reluctantm | Jul 28, 2014 |
David is a young man living in Paris and reflecting on a doomed love affair. This poetic story, a mere 160 pages, delves not only into his relationship with Giovanni, but also into his confusion, self-loathing, loneliness, shame and more. In a flawed attempt to figure out who he is and what he truly wants, David has a tendency to hurt those around him with little or no feeling. Baldwin’s beautiful and succinct writing style pulls readers into David’s world.

In addition to telling a tragic love story, the book touches on the complicated role women held in society in the early 20th century. As they began to gain the freedom to make their own decisions they realized that in many ways they weren’t really free. The expectation was still that they find a husband as soon as possible.

“I don’t see what’s so hard about being a woman. At least, not as long as she’s got a man.” “‘That’s just it,’ said she. ‘Hasn’t it ever struck you that that’s a sort of humiliating necessity?’” … ‘I began to realize it in Spain that – that I wasn’t free, that I couldn’t be free until I was attached – no committed to someone.’”

BOTTOM LINE: A haunting look at love and its many forms, this story reminds the readers of the importance of understanding who you are. The pain and heartbreak is universal when we can’t even be honest with ourselves.

“But people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, any more than they can invent their parents.”

“Much has been written of love turning to hatred, of the heart growing cold with the death of love. It is a remarkable process. It is far more terrible than anything I have ever read about it, more terrible than anything I will ever be able to say.”
( )
  bookworm12 | Jun 25, 2014 |
"If your countrymen think that privacy is a crime, so much the worse for your country..."Love is(n't) enough.

Love is(n't) enough in how it's done. Love is(n't) enough in how it's pressed upon and consolidated and ultimately allowed. When you look at it, especially when looking is all that's allowed, you start to feel that it's how it's always been, and you are the same as anyone. Unless you talk, which here on out is (never) the case.

But feeling, though. That's the compass of your crime. It breeds with the life and times and leaves you with nothing but a sense of righteousness and the basic plumbing. The birds and the bees, part A and part B, the diagrams of fitting and the hell of wondering otherwise. You can like the latter, you can drink it through you dry, but the founding fear will chase you across the ocean to where the rules are not as clear and just as cruel.

But you are crueler. You're not the only one fumbling in the dark of man loves woman when each acts as so, you're not the only one realizing the gap between living and a life, you're not the first to discover that noose around your neck, so why the running? Why the fuss? You have a woman sacrificing her personhood on one of your shoulders, a man saving his existence on the other, and the thought of having them both defeats you utterly.

If you had been the sole defeated, you may have been redeemed. But no. You ignored the truth of women surviving in the 1950's, you belittled the love of a man with far more than you to lose, and wrenched yourself out of your belovedly loathed dreamland in as bloody a manner as can be. Off you go, another quest for what you cannot bear to lose even to the undisclosed desires of your confusion and your shame, your manhood and your lust, the path your father led you and the lies with which you pave your way, off to a future of balancing over the gap.

The worst of it is that you acted as anyone would. Better, maybe, worse, perhaps, but the reader knows the garrote of love and the lemming of its lifelines. There is no hating you without hating what they themselves commit in the name of affection and a socially acceptable relationship. Outside of that is only a sick sense of empathy and an even sicker sense of gratefulness that their personal hell is not your own.

The rest, as we say, is history, and we are doomed to repeat it."Well then," he continued, "as though with enough time and all that fearful energy and virtue you people have, everything will be settled, solved, put in its place. And when I say everything," he added, grimly, "I mean all the serious, dreadful things, like pain and death and love, in which you Americans do not believe." ( )
  Korrick | Feb 26, 2014 |
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added by gsc55 | editHearts on Fire, Delta (May 11, 2013)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Baldwinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prinsen, G.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I am the man, I suffered, I was there. - Whitman
Dedication
For Lucien
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I stand at the window of this great house in the south of France as night falls, the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385334583, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:37 -0400)

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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"--P. [4] of cover.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141186356, 0141032944

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