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James Baldwin

Birthdate: 2. August 1924
Date of death: 1. December 1987
Other names: Джеймс Болдуїн, Џејмс Болдвин

James Arthur "Jimmy" Baldwin was an American writer and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son , explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America. Some of Baldwin's essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time , No Name in the Street , and The Devil Finds Work . An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded upon and adapted for cinema as the Academy Award-nominated documentary film I Am Not Your Negro.

Baldwin's novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration not only of African Americans, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals' quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

Works

Giovanni's Room
Giovanni's Room
James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time
The Fire Next Time
James Baldwin

Quotes James Baldwin

Citát „Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.“

„Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology … because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness.“

—  James Baldwin

Interview with Julius Lester, "James Baldwin: Reflections of a Maverick" http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-reflections.html in The New York Times (27 May 1984)
Context: Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology … because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. Now, later on, you wonder what in the world the truth is, but you do know what a lie is.

„If a society permits one portion of its citizenry to be menaced or destroyed, then, very soon, no one in that society is safe. The forces thus released in the people can never be held in check, but run their devouring course, destroying the very foundations which it was imagined they would save.

But we are unbelievably ignorant concerning what goes on in our country--to say nothing of what goes on in the rest of the world--and appear to have become too timid to question what we are told. Our failure to trust one another deeply enough to be able to talk to one another has become so great that people with these questions in their hearts do not speak them; our opulence is so pervasive that people who are afraid to lose whatever they think they have persuade themselves of the truth of a lie, and help disseminate it; and God help the innocent here, that man or womn who simply wants to love, and be loved. Unless this would-be lover is able to replace his or her backbone with a steel rod, he or she is doomed. This is no place for love. I know that I am now expected to make a bow in the direction of those millions of unremarked, happy marriages all over America, but I am unable honestly to do so because I find nothing whatever in our moral and social climate--and I am now thinking particularly of the state of our children--to bear witness to their existence. I suspect that when we refer to these happy and so marvelously invisible people, we are simply being nostalgic concerning the happy, simple, God-fearing life which we imagine ourselves once to have lived. In any case, wherever love is found, it unfailingly makes itself felt in the individual, the personal authority of the individual. Judged by this standard, we are a loveless nation. The best that can be said is that some of us are struggling. And what we are struggling against is that death in the heart which leads not only to the shedding of blood, but which reduces human beings to corpses while they live.“

—  James Baldwin

Source: nothing personal

„Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.“

—  James Baldwin, book Nobody Knows My Name

"In Search of a Majority: An Address" (Feb 1960); reprinted in Baldwin, "Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobody_Knows_My_Name (1961)

„Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.“

—  James Baldwin

"As Much Truth As One Can Bear" in The New York Times Book Review (14 January 1962); republished in The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings (2011), edited by Randall Kenan<!-- , also quoted in Wisdom for the Soul : Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing (2006) by Larry Chang, p. 114 -->
Context: Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. … Most of us are about as eager to change as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.

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„I knew Richard [Wright] and I loved him.“

—  James Baldwin

Interview with Julius Lester, "James Baldwin: Reflections of a Maverick" http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-reflections.html in The New York Times (27 May 1984)
Context: I knew Richard [Wright] and I loved him. [... ] I was not attacking him; I was trying to clarify something for myself.

„Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.“

—  James Baldwin

From Nothing Personal, a collaboration with the photographer Richard Avedon (1964). Baldwin's text for the volume can be found " here https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1042&context=cibs".
Context: One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places. … For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

„What force, precisely, is operating when a prisoner is advised, requested, ordered, intimidated, or forced, to confess to a crime he has not committed, and promised a lighter sentence for so perjuring and debasing himself? Does the law exist for the purpose of furthering the ambitions of those who have sworn to uphold the law, or is it seriously to be considered as a moral, unifying force, the health and strength of a nation?“

—  James Baldwin, book No Name in the Street

No Name in the Street (1972)
Context: The prison is overcrowded, the calendars full, the judges busy, the lawyers ambitious, and the cops zealous. What does it matter if someone gets trapped here for a year or two, gets ruined here, goes mad here, commits murder or suicide here? It's too bad, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I do not claim that everyone in prison here is innocent, but I do claim that the law, as it operates, is guilty, and that the prisoners, therefore, are all unjustly imprisoned. Is it conceivable, after all, that any middle-class white boy -- or, indeed, almost any white boy -- would have been arrested on so grave a charge as murder, with such flimsy substantiation, and forced to spend, as of this writing, three years in prison? What force, precisely, is operating when a prisoner is advised, requested, ordered, intimidated, or forced, to confess to a crime he has not committed, and promised a lighter sentence for so perjuring and debasing himself? Does the law exist for the purpose of furthering the ambitions of those who have sworn to uphold the law, or is it seriously to be considered as a moral, unifying force, the health and strength of a nation?

„It is true that two wrongs don't make a right, as we love to point out to the people we have wronged. But one wrong doesn't make a right, either.“

—  James Baldwin

"Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White" http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/29/specials/baldwin-antisem.html in The New York Times (9 April 1967)
Context: It is true that two wrongs don't make a right, as we love to point out to the people we have wronged. But one wrong doesn't make a right, either. People who have been wronged will attempt to right the wrong; they would not be people if they didn't. They can rarely afford to be scrupulous about the means they will use. They will use such means as come to hand. Neither, in the main, will they distinguish one oppressor from another, nor see through to the root principle of their oppression.

„Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.“

—  James Baldwin

"An interview with James Baldwin" (1961)
Context: You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discover that it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that he is alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

„Art has to be a kind of confession.“

—  James Baldwin

"An interview with James Baldwin" (1961); an interview with Studs Terkel published in Conversations With James Baldwin (1989)
Context: Art has to be a kind of confession. I don't mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people.

„I began plotting novels at about the time I learned to read.“

—  James Baldwin

Autobiographical Notes (1952)
Context: I began plotting novels at about the time I learned to read. The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again.

„The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately“

—  James Baldwin

From chapter one of The Devil Finds Work (orig. pub. 1976), reprinted in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948-1985
Context: The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their "vital interests" are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the "sanctity" of human life, or the "conscience" of the civilized world.

„One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places.“

—  James Baldwin

From Nothing Personal, a collaboration with the photographer Richard Avedon (1964). Baldwin's text for the volume can be found " here https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1042&context=cibs".
Context: One must say Yes to life, and embrace it wherever it is found - and it is found in terrible places. … For nothing is fixed, forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.

„The roles that we construct are constructed because we feel that they will help us to survive and also, of course, because they fulfill something in our personalities; and one does not, therefore, cease playing a role simply because one has begun to understand it.“

—  James Baldwin

"The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy" in Esquire (May 1961)
Context: The roles that we construct are constructed because we feel that they will help us to survive and also, of course, because they fulfill something in our personalities; and one does not, therefore, cease playing a role simply because one has begun to understand it. All roles are dangerous. The world tends to trap you in the role you play and it is always extremely hard to maintain a watchful, mocking distance between oneself as one appears to be and oneself as one actually is.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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