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Giovanni's Room (1956)

by James Baldwin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,973902,246 (4.14)324
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.… (more)
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» See also 324 mentions

English (87)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (90)
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
A fantastic exploration of how we choose society's expectations over our own, even in the face of happiness. ( )
  HippieLunatic | Apr 27, 2021 |
In the 1950s, a young, blonde New Yorker goes to Paris because, in his words “perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself.” However, his belief that he could control his behavior and destiny is in conflict with his basic (if submerged) desires. Under the circumstances, going to Paris favored the influence and ultimate victory of the latter, as he himself expected at the bottom of his heart. He makes efforts to avoid and then to escape from the consequences of his desires, and in the process other individuals become collateral damage. He narrates his story from a house in the south of France, but at the end he is returning to Paris without any indication of returning to the United States. He has accepted a gay identity permanently.

This beautifully written book has a strong plot, penetrating insights into psychology and life’s mysteries and interesting perspectives on cultural differences between Americans and Europeans. In terms of location, an unnamed and perhaps fictitious gay bar located on or near Rue Bonaparte takes lead position on the Left Bank. Montparnasse (Closerie des Lilas and the Select) also features. On the Right Bank, there is a delightful morning excursion for breakfast at a cafe in Les Halles. Giovanni’s single room apartment is located at Nation. The main character visits the American Express a few times to check mail and obtain money transfers from his father. ( )
  drsabs | Feb 28, 2021 |
If you have not already, you owe it to yourself to spend some time in 1950's Paris, in Giovanni's room.

James Baldwin's classic novel is a lyrical book both beautiful and frustrating. Beautiful for its language - the sentences just flow and I found it very hard to put this book down. Frustrating because it's the 1950's and so the love that the narrator David finds in Paris is hopeless, because David is a product of his time - oh so closeted and terribly selfish.

This book is full of small details while it carefully avoids getting too detailed about the heart of the story. Though it gets much closer in its depiction of love between two men (and for that matter love between a man and woman) than I would have thought possible for a book published in 1953, still it dances around it's main topic. David is a careful narrator, who does not want to admit to himself the love that he has found, and he makes a mess of things because of it.

Yes, the times and attitudes were different then, but there is something in this story that seems timeless to me. I hated to come to the end of this one, and I am sorry that I've never picked it up before now. Highly recommend. ( )
  stevrbee | Feb 7, 2021 |
Having taken so long to get around to reading James Baldwin, despite his having long been on my list of must-read authors, I feel a sort of guilty obligation to write at least a short review. I'd just seen "If Beale Street Could Talk" when this title showed up while I was headed down that listopia rabbit hole, so I had to read it. Wow! I just loved his writing; it was so natural and the characters so heartbreakingly real. I listened to the audio, which can sometimes ruin a book for me, but the narrator did such a beautiful job that I felt like it was actually David telling his story. ( )
1 vote GiGiGo | Feb 5, 2021 |
I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading James Baldwin, but this book was great. It packs a lot into it's short length and is a devasting read. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Dec 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
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.
added by danielx | editNew York Times, Hilton Als (May 5, 2019)
 
added by gsc55 | editHearts on Fire, Delta (May 11, 2013)
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Baldwin, Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Phillips, CarylIntroductionsecondary authorsome 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
First words
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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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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141186356, 0141032944

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