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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
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Giovanni's Room (original 1956; edition 2000)

by James Baldwin

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2,368332,649 (4.11)231
Member:writethebones
Title:Giovanni's Room
Authors:James Baldwin
Info:Delta (2000), Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:fiction

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Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (1956)

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» See also 231 mentions

English (31)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Intense, enlightening, quickly read, mildly disturbing, and surprisingly emotionally engaging no matter how gay or straight you may be. I read this in what is likely to become my life's best 4-hour-long bath, but I can't deny how thankful I was for the cleansing shower that followed. Heartbreaking and touching. Maybe in a few days I'll be able to put together a review that's more than peppered adjectives and hot water. ( )
  Proustitutes | Jun 11, 2015 |
Que lindo encontrarse con un escritor que te cuenta tanto sobre una época , un país y dos hombres , tanto y tanto , en tan pocas páginas. Un gran escritor , sin duda . ( )
1 vote LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
Wonderful, shimmering book that ended leaving me sad and depressed. ( )
  ternary | Feb 14, 2015 |
'No matter what I was doing, another me sat in my belly, absolutely cold with terror over the question of my life',, 8 February 2015

This review is from: Giovanni's Room (Penguin Great Loves) (Paperback)
Set in 1950s Paris - and how beautifully Baldwin brings the city to life - this short novel is narrated by a white American male, living the cafe culture on handouts from home. While his girlfriend is off touring Spain, he falls for dashing young bartender Giovanni, and moves in with him.
But despite its moments of joy, the relationship is flawed by David's inability to admit to his own homosexuality. Imagining the 'normal' families in the houses he passes, he reflects:
'It was true... I wanted children. I wanted to be inside again, with the light and safety, with my manhood unquestioned, watching my woman put my children to bed... I wanted a woman to be for me a steady ground, like the earth itself.'
David's vacillating leads to heartbreak and a terrible ending....
This was a powerful work that really brings to light the shame and denial that societal pressures can put on a person. ( )
  starbox | Feb 8, 2015 |
In post-WWII Paris, David, an American expat of confused sexuality, has relationships with Hella, an American woman he considers marrying, and Giovanni, an Italian waiter he moves in with in Hella's absence. The story has been described as a "love triangle" but I am surprised by how little love is actually in it. David, who narrates the story, is an emotionally stunted man who wants a socially-acceptable, conventional marriage with Hella one moment and...well, it's hard to say exactly what he wants from Giovanni other than sex. One of the main themes of the work is how little we really know about other people, even those we claim to love. David doesn't really know Hella, or Giovanni, and he doesn't really love either of them.

Published originally in 1956, Giovanni's Room is often regarded as a classic work of pre-Stonewall gay literature, but it is not a book about gay pride. Rather, it is a book about gay (and bisexual) self-loathing. In the book, homosexuality is almost synonymous with desperation and alcoholism. The two old gay men in the narrative (Jacques and Guillaume; they are not exactly friends of David and Giovanni, but they are in the same social circle) are both portrayed as pathetic, repulsive "fairies", "old queens" etc. "Giovanni's room" itself is described as a cramped, filthy, uncomfortable place (David tries to clean it up, but fails). It's not any sort of paradise. It isn't even an adequate love nest.

At the beginning of their affair David and Giovanni are happy, but "[b]eneath the joy, of course, was anguish, and beneath the amazement was fear. ..[Later] anguish and fear [became] the surface on which we slipped and slid, losing balance, dignity and pride" (p. 63).

David likens his same-sex attraction to a "beast" and goes on to say, "The beast which Giovanni had awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni any more. And would I then, like all the others, find myself turning and following all kinds of boys down God knows what dark avenues, into what dark places?....[T]here opened in me a hatred of Giovanni which was as powerful as my love and which was nourished by the same roots" (p. 70).

The book is, for the most part, beautifully written (except for a few occasions in which David gets tangled in his own words), and once the narrative gains momentum in the second half, quite compelling. But it is a sad story that doesn't hold out any hope for an end to David's loneliness. ( )
  akblanchard | Jan 9, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
added by gsc55 | editHearts on Fire, Delta (May 11, 2013)
 

» Add other authors (22 possible)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:34 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"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.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141186356, 0141032944

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