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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.
It is better not to think about it.” Then she smiles. “But our last son, he lives in the north; he came to see us two years ago, and he brought with him his little boy. His little boy, he was only four years old then. He was so beautiful! Mario, he is called.” She gestures. “It is my husband’s name. They stayed about ten days and we felt young again.” She smiles again. “Especially my husband.” And she stands there a moment with this smile on her face. Then she asks, abruptly, “Do you pray?” I
promise fulfilled through me. The sweat on my back grew cold. I was ashamed. The very bed, in its sweet disorder, testified to vileness. I wondered what Joey’s mother would say when she saw the sheets. Then I thought of my father, who had no one in the world but me, my mother having died when I was little. A cavern opened in my mind, black, full of rumor, suggestion, of half-heard, half-forgotten, half-understood stories, full of dirty words. I thought I saw my future in that cavern. I was
great eyes of ice and fire, and the ceiling which lowered like those clouds out of which fiends have sometimes spoken and which obscured but failed to soften its malevolence behind the yellow light which hung like a diseased and undefinable sex in its center. Under this blunted arrow, this smashed flower of light lay the terrors which encompassed Giovanni’s soul. I understood why Giovanni had wanted me and had brought me to his last retreat. I was to destroy this room and give to Giovanni a new
choices that have made him enviably famous and terrifyingly vulnerable. For between Leo’s childhood on the streets of Harlem and his arrival into the intoxicating world of the theater lies a wilderness of desire and loss, shame and rage. An adored older brother vanishes into prison. There are love affairs with a white woman and a younger black man, each of whom will make irresistible claims on Leo’s loyalty. And everywhere there is the anguish of being black in a society that at times seems
could,” he said. “I really did the best I could.” I looked at him. And at last he grinned and said, “You’re going to be on your back for awhile but when you come home, while you’re lying around the house, we’ll talk, huh? and try to figure out what the hell we’re going to do with you when you get on your feet. OK?” “OK,” I said. For I understood, at the bottom of my heart, that we had never talked, that now we never would. I understood that he must never know this. When I came home he talked