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Outcasts and Desperados

Adam Shatz: Richard Wright’s Double Vision, 7 October 2021

The Man Who Lived Underground 
by Richard Wright.
Library of America, 250 pp., £19.99, April, 978 1 59853 676 8
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... When​ Richard Wright sailed to France in 1946, he was 38 years old and already a legend. He was America’s most famous black writer, the author of two books hailed as classics the moment they were published: the 1940 novel Native Son and the 1945 memoir Black Boy. By ‘choosing exile’, as he put it, he hoped both to free himself from American racism and to put an ocean between himself and the Communist Party of the United States, in which he’d first come to prominence as a writer of proletarian fiction only to find himself accused of subversive, Trotskyist tendencies ...

Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast, 9 March 1995

Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... hangers-on, ‘terrorists’ and the occasional gangster. Several of Campbell’s principals – Richard Wright, Samuel Beckett, Jérôme Lindon, Maurice Girodias – also turn up in Lennon’s story, like Balzac’s recurring characters or, less charitably, like figures in some bizarre soap opera. Naturally, the principal locale is the café or the ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... unpatriotic act – that the American boy evolve into the complexity of manhood.’ In an essay on Richard Wright, published in 1951, he wrote: And there is, I should think, no Negro living in America who has not felt briefly and for long periods, with anguish sharp or dull, in varying degrees or to varying effect, simple, naked and unanswerable ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the task of reclamation about two generations earlier than the Caribbean writers who identified – if one can nowadays put it that way – with Europe, specifically England. Their literary industry, centred largely in London, only ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... out in a group of ambitious black male writers who came of age in the 1930s and 1940s and included Richard Wright (born 1908), Ralph Ellison (1914) and James Baldwin (1924), Himes has never quite entered the pantheon. His peers were condescending: Wright never took him seriously as an artist; Ellison, who saw him as ...

Fisticuffs

Adam Lively, 10 March 1994

The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 
by Paul Gilroy.
Verso, 261 pp., £11.95, November 1993, 0 86091 675 8
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Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Culture 
by Paul Gilroy.
Serpent’s Tail, 257 pp., £12.99, October 1993, 9781852422981
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... by slavery’s ‘triangular trade’. Two substantial chapters are devoted to W.E.B. Du Bois and Richard Wright, who are seen as embodying this diasporic consciousness. Du Bois, a pioneer of pan-Africanism, was influenced by the nationalism that he encountered as a student in Germany in the 1890s, and sought to place American racial conflict in a global ...

At BAMPFA

Julia Bryan-Wilson: Rosie Lee Tompkins, 17 December 2020

... Americans who left the South as part of the Great Migration, seeking what Isabel Wilkerson (after Richard Wright) calls ‘the warmth of other suns’. In 1958 she arrived in Richmond, California, a town in the East Bay, north of Oakland and Berkeley, whose thriving Black communities maintained cultural and affective ties to Southern culture through ...

More than ever, and for ever

Michael Rogin: Beauvoir and Nelson Algren, 17 September 1998

Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947-64 
by Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir.
Gollancz, 624 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 575 06590 7
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America Day by Day 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Carol Cosman.
California, 355 pp., $27.50, January 1999, 0 520 20979 6
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... American literature. It was French condescension that celebrated Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dos Passos, Richard Wright, Erskine Caldwell, Dashiel Hammett and James M. Cain, Beauvoir was told, when the United States had its own sophisticated tradition of internal, psychological exploration; she was witnessing the formation of the American Studies canon ...

Black and White Life

Mark Greif: Ralph Ellison, 1 November 2007

Ralph Ellison: A Biography 
by Arnold Rampersad.
Knopf, 657 pp., $35, April 2007, 978 0 375 40827 4
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... well known that the much more authoritative Rampersad (the author of books on Langston Hughes and Richard Wright) had been at work for several years on a definitive biography. Rampersad had signed an agreement with Fanny Ellison and her lawyers that gave him full access to the Ellison papers. Jackson had only partial access. When a young professor ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... a flat that was something of a miniature Versailles. Immediately above lived the widow of Richard Wright, author of Native Son. Above above, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known to outsiders as Le Corbusier. At the end of the courtyard, the house – la maison – and this calls for historical extrapolation. At some moment in the latter half of the ...

Short Cuts

Raphael Cormack: Could it be the Muhammad Ali?, 19 May 2016

... in American Africans in Ghana (2006), visitors or residents included Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Adam Clayton Powell, George Padmore, C.L.R. James and more. Frantz Fanon wrote much of The Wretched of the Earth in Ghana, and the year before Ali’s visit, W.E.B. DuBois died and was buried in Accra. In February 1964 ...

Building an Empire

J. Hoberman: Oscar Micheaux, 19 July 2001

Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences 
by Pearl Bowser and Louise Spence.
Rutgers, 280 pp., £38.95, August 2000, 0 8135 2803 8
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Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux 
by J. Ronald Green.
Indiana, 368 pp., £21.95, August 2000, 0 253 33753 4
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... black super-detectives – but they are no less tendentious. Several attack or parody the novelist Richard Wright, whom Micheaux evidently regarded as a rival, and warn against Communist-inspired ‘race-mixing’. A striking element of Micheaux’s work is the harshness of his judgments of the Negro masses who, he maintains, lack initiative, ‘that ...

The Project

O.A. Westad: The Downtrodden Majority, 24 January 2008

The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World 
by Vijay Prashad.
New Press, 364 pp., £16.99, January 2007, 978 1 56584 785 9
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... significance simply in terms of the magnitude of what was happening. The African-American writer Richard Wright reported: I’d no sooner climbed into the press gallery and looked down upon the vast assembly of delegates, many of them clad in their exotic national costumes, than I could sense an important junction of history in the making. In the early ...

Imaginary Homelands

Salman Rushdie, 7 October 1982

... be said, first of all, that description is itself a political act. The black American writer Richard Wright once wrote that black and white Americans were engaged in a war over the nature of reality. Their descriptions were incompatible. So it is clear that redescribing a world is the necessary first step towards changing it. And it is particularly ...

On Richard Hollis

Christopher Turner: Richard Hollis, 24 May 2018

... and Alison Smithson, who displayed a series of found objects in a post-apocalyptic mirrored shed. Richard Hamilton’s group presented a funfair vision that launched the British Pop Art movement. Robby the Robot, star of the science-fiction movie Forbidden Planet, opened the show because, according to the critic Reyner Banham, he was much ‘easier to book ...

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