‘Another Country’ by James Baldwin – “Dark, Strange, Dangerous, Difficult, and Deep”


‘Another Country’ by James Baldwin    (1962) – 436 pages


My own experience proves to me that the connection between American whites and blacks is far deeper and more passionate than any of us like to think.” – James Baldwin

‘Another Country’ is a novel in which James Baldwin confronts his own demons of white racism and social intolerance to his gayness.

The first long section centers on Rufus Scott, who is black and living in Greenwich Village, “the place of liberation”, in New York City near Harlem. He is a jazz musician who plays at the Harlem nightclubs. He meets and hooks up with a white woman Leona at one of these music clubs. Their relationship is rocky from the start. Rufus takes out his frustrations on her, beats her. Leona, after a stint in the Bellevue mental hospital, heads back down South where she came from.

Although unstated, we know that Rufus is wrestling with his guilt. His woman friend Cass tries to console him:

I hope,” Cass said, “that you won’t sit around blaming yourself too much. Or too long. That won’t undo anything. When you’re older you’ll see, I think, that we all commit our crimes. The thing is not to lie about them – to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”

However, at the end of the first section, Rufus leaps from the George Washington Bridge committing suicide.

In the other two sections the friends of Rufus as well as his sister Ida take center stage. We have Eric who had been a previous white male lover of Rufus. Eric is now living in Paris with his new lover Yves. There is Vivaldo, another white friend of Rufus and the white couple of Richard and Cass and their two children.

One theme is how much easier it is for two male lovers like Eric and Yves in Paris than it would be in the United States. Eric does return to New York to pursue his acting career, where he becomes involved in a heavy affair with Cass who is disappointed in her writer husband. Meanwhile Rufus’s sister Ida takes up with Vivaldo.

I wasn’t totally satisfied with ‘Another Country’. I felt the character Eric was just a little too precious to be realistic, and the affair between Cass and Eric seemed unlikely. Also the connections between the first harrowing section about the troubling Rufus Scott with the other two sections seemed tenuous and disjointed.

Still ‘Another Country’ is a major attempt by James Baldwin to confront his world in all its disruptions.


Grade:    B+



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