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Giovanni's Room (Vintage International) Paperback – September 12, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345806565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345806567
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one.”  —Michael Ondaatje

“A young American involved with both a woman and a man. . . . Baldwin writes of these matters with unusual candor and yet with such dignity and intensity.”  —The New York Times

“Absorbing . . . [with] immediate emotional impact.”   —The Washington Post

“Mr. Baldwin has taken a very special theme and treated it with great artistry and restraint.”  —Saturday Review

“Exciting  . . . a book that belongs in the top rank of fiction.”  —The Atlantic

“Violent, excruciating beauty.”  —San Francisco Chronicle

“To be James Baldwin is to touch on so many hidden places in Europe, America, the Negro, the white man —to be forced to understand so much.”   —Alfred Kazin

“This author retains a place in an extremely select group; that composed of the few genuinely indispensable American writers.”  —Saturday Review

“He has not himself lost access to the sources of his being —which is what makes him read and awaited by perhaps a wider range of people than any other major American writer.”  —The Nation

“He is thought-provoking, tantalizing, irritating, abusing and amusing.  And he uses words as the sea uses waves, to flow and beat, advance and retreat, rise and take a bow in disappearing . . . the thought becomes poetry and the poetry illuminates thought.”   —Langston Hughes

“He has become one of the few writers of our time.”   —Norman Mailer

From the Inside Flap

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

What a beautifully written book!
K. Morris
Anyone who has been caught between desire and morality will relate and find that this book captures the genuine feelings of that difficult and tense struggle.
Alexandra Fortuna
Most of the novel is set in the Paris of the `50's.
John P. Jones III

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Now and then it is healthy and rewarding AND enlightening to revisit some of the books in our libraries that are time-tested, durable pinnacles of literature. Such is the case of opening the cover of James Baldwin's inimitable, cherished novel GIOVANNI'S ROOM. Baldwin died in Paris in 1987 after gifting us with great novels and strong social commmentary. It is only fitting to return to the Paris of this wonderfully rich novel when the need to reflect on how writers of stature had the courage to begin the genre of novels dealing with same sex relationships in a manner of pure literature.
GIOVANNI'S ROOM is a fluid, nonlinear exploration of alienation: the narrator is living in Paris (having escaped the US with the smilingly shallow American image descried by Parisians), heads toward a "comfortably normal courtship/engagement" with a very normal fellow American girl also living in Paris/Spain, and quite by accident encounters his repressed sexual self when he meets Giovanni, an expatriated Italian. The subcultures Baldwin details are palpably present on every page - many characters seem like enemies until their roles in the journey of these two men unfold and clarify. The title of the book is well chosen: Giovanni's room which he shares with David our narrator is claustrophobic, unkempt, dour, and threatening - an apt description of the mental environment this stumbling act of finding a new type of love creates. Baldwin lets us know from the start that we are entering a doomed affair of the heart and it is this atmospheric, eloquently written memoir that adds to the sense of the inevitable isolation that makes this a great novel.
Enough cannot be said about the beauty of Baldwin's prose, the richness of his terse description of the city of Paris, his uncanny ability to paint characters that are wholly three-dimensional. This book merits frequent re-visits. It is a rare vintage wine.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By vabookreader on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
James Baldwin's _Giovanni's Room_ (1956) is a challenging work of literature that explores a summer in the life of an expatriate named David who is living in Paris after World War II. David must come to terms with his own contradictory desires. David's life in Paris in the 1950s--where homosexuality, while not illegal, is stigmatized--affords him a certain amount of space to discover what he wants and what he can accept. His dilemma, on the surface, can be stated simply: he is passionately in love with a young Italian man, Giovanni, yet he is also engaged to Hella, an American woman with whom he can live, on the surface, a "socially acceptable" life. On a deeper level, the novel is a study of the loneliness that comes with an absence of self-acceptance.

David shares many characteristics with Ernest Hemingway's young, expatriate anti-hero Jake Barnes in _The Sun Also Rises_. In David, Baldwin has created a character who remains, ostensibly, detached from the world, which lends to his anti-hero a veneer of invincibility and hard assurance. There are a number of passages, especially intimate scenes, described from a mechanical third-person point of view. Giovanni at one point asks David, "Do you know how you feel? Do you feel? What do you feel?" to which David replies, "I feel nothing now, nothing." David's inability or unwillingness to be honest about his feelings, however, undermines his relationships with others and his sense of self, and ultimately leaves him profoundly alone.

The novel suggests, more hopefully, that the loss of innocence, if accepted, can be the beginning of a journey that leads to knowledge.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra Fortuna on January 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
James Baldwin is, without a doubt, one of the most eloquent and talented authors that I have ever been exposed to. In his novel, Giovanni�s Room, Baldwin explores the struggle between a man and his sexuality. Torn between his feelings for another man and another woman, we are taken through David�s journey of joy, love, anger, pain, and confusion. Through secrets and lies, the story unfolds, teaching that there are no excuses when it comes to real love.
This is by far one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Each sentence leaves you with a good taste in your mouth. Baldwin�s passion and power in writing is proved clearly all throughout the book. His word choice and sentence development is absolutely wonderfully printed, that each page simply flows one after the other. His ability to develop and express each character�s thoughts keeps the reader wholly engaged; feeling attached to their personal dilemmas. At the end of the book, you are left with the feeling of complete satisfaction. Although this is a story of a gay man�s struggle, it is a story that affects everyone regardless his or hers sexuality. Everyone who has ever been found in a conflict with themselves will discover that this book will touch the hearts, leaving the longing to come in touch with their true self. Anyone who has been caught between desire and morality will relate and find that this book captures the genuine feelings of that difficult and tense struggle.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Robert Ortiz on July 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is without a doubt one of the best literary works I have ever read! "Giovanni's Room" is all about a young American expatriate named David who finds himself torn between his fiancee Hella and an Italian bartender named Giovanni. They carry on a love affair but when Hella returns from a trip in Spain, everything starts spiraling out of control in a whirlwind of powerful and excruciating emotion. James Baldwin does an excellent job of presenting this passionate yet painful story in the form of a narrative. The character development is superb, so much so that one believes the characters really do exist. This is a poignant and compelling story that will definitely leave an impression on you. Reading this novel, one really experiences the pleasure, the pain, the loneliness and the suffering these characters experience and endure. This is a powerful work of literary art that gives the readers insight into the emotions that come with being in love and the struggle to find one's identity amidst confusion and self-loathing. The story takes place in 1950's Paris and you'll really feel like you're there as James Baldwin's writing is so descriptive you'll be able to see all the little nuances and minute details. "Giovanni's Room" is a solid testament to James Baldwin's remarkable talent and profound insight. This story would make an excellent addition to any library! Also a great place to start if you're just discovering the genius of James Baldwin. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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