What is James Baldwin's best book
James Baldwin: "Of This World" Not a bit out of date
By Julia Riedhammer
- There is currently a real hype about James Baldwin. (Cover: dtv / background: dpa / collage: dlf culture)
In 1953 James Baldwin's "From This World" was published for the first time. Anyone who reads it today has the feeling that a contemporary wrote it. No wonder Baldwin is currently experiencing a renaissance. His books are currently being published again in German.
John lives with his mother, three smaller half-siblings and his stepfather in a cramped apartment in Harlem, New York. The relationship with the stepfather, a preacher who always has the word of God on his lips, is characterized by violence. If Gabriel, the stepfather, was still a schnapps-drinking ladyboy when he was a young man, today he sees himself on the side of the moral integrity. He enforces his ideas of order and modesty within the family with great severity. And so John's path seems to be mapped out: he should become a preacher like his stepfather. The problem: John feels a lot for Elisha, a somewhat older boy in his devout church. An ordeal.
Everywhere Baldwin looks there is oppression
An important place in the novel is religion, the hope for a better existence in the hereafter. Those who fail to make social advancement at least try the moral-moral one. But even this system, as Baldwin emphatically shows, is one of the oppression: women who become pregnant unintentionally are expelled from the community, they pay the highest price for decency and morality.
"From this world" is a strongly autobiographical novel. In 1953 Baldwin published it after a long struggle. Anyone reading it today has the feeling that a contemporary wrote it. It is not for nothing that James Baldwin is experiencing a renaissance, a real hype. He has become a role model for contemporary authors, of whom Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example, bows to Baldwin with "Between Me and the World" not only in terms of content, but also formally. Much seems to have stayed the same since Baldwin's death; the gap between black and white may even have widened. While Ta-Nehisi Coates says "Between me and the world", Baldwin still has something in common, a fight that is worth fighting. Namely: "In this world".
It is a gift that Baldwin's books are now published again in German.
dtv, 320 pages, 22 euros
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