James Baldwin's Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile

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Overview

Between 1961 and 1971 James Baldwin spent extended periods of time in Turkey, where he worked on some of his most important books. In this first in-depth exploration of Baldwin's "Turkish decade," Magdalena J. Zaborowska reveals the significant role that Turkish locales, cultures, and friends played in Baldwin's life and thought. Turkey was a nurturing space for the author, who by 1961 had spent nearly ten years in France and western Europe and failed to reestablish permanent residency in the United States. Zaborowska demonstrates how Baldwin's Turkish sojourns enabled him to re-imagine himself as a black queer writer and to revise his views of American identity and U.S. race relations as the 1960s drew to a close.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Covering a neglected period in James Baldwin's career, his time in Turkey from 1961 (a year after publication of Another Country and two years before The Fire Next Time) to 1971, Zaborowska follows in the writer's footsteps to analyze and put into context the significance of this seminal decade. Working by way of Edward Said, she examines a combustible mix of race, exile and gender through Baldwin's forays in a society that straddles East and West. Zaborowska, an associate professor in American and Afro-American studies at the University of Michigan, combines archival material and interviews with detailed critical interpretations of Another Country; Baldwin's little-known theater direction of John Herbert's Fortune and Men's Eyes, which was a smash in Turkey; the post-Stonewall No Name in the Street; and the Chekhov-inspired The Welcome Table. Of central importance is how Baldwin's so-called Turkish exile helped distance him from, while also focusing, his massive contradictions within a society of contradictions. Somewhat weighing down her text by close readings, Zaborowska otherwise displays the fascinating, delicious thrill she received from the people she interviewed. This is an at times probing but uneven look into Baldwin's tormented soul and work. 53 illus. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

“Of central importance is how Baldwin's so-called Turkish exile helped distance him from, while also focusing, his massive contradictions within a society of contradictions. . . . . Zaborowska . . . displays the fascinating, delicious thrill she received from the people she interviewed.” - Publishers Weekly

“Zaborowska is a charming companion as she follows Baldwin’s steps through Turkey, brimming with enthusiasm at the sights and at the warmth of her reception by his friends. . . . [S[he makes us feel how necessary such a refuge was as the sixties wore on.” - Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker

“[I]nformative and enlightening. . . . Zaborowska’s work will appeal to fans of Baldwin looking for an interesting take on the man’s life. . . . Her dedication and passion does shine through in the time and effort she placed in writing this book. . . .” - Derek Beres, Popmatters

“Zaborowska takes great delight in detailing her subject's adventures in Turkey, vicariously bathing in the limelight of a distinguished, outspoken writer who pushed boundaries well before his time, and graced the homosexual world with writing that transcended both color and gender lines.” - Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter

“[Zaborowska] scours [Baldwin’s] works for hints of Istanbul; she visits his stomping grounds and entertainingly interviews various Turkish luminaries. . . . [H]er reporting reveals as much about Turkey as it does about Baldwin, as well as the connections between this fledgling nation and the growing shadow America had begun to cast across the globe.” - Suzy Hansen, The National (Abu Dhabi)

“Zaborowska’s book will make you want to reread Another Country and his later works with a new context of understanding. The book illuminates, with a scholar’s focus and a writer’s nuance, how Baldwin’s exile in Istanbul was not simply a theme or escape from the racism and homophobia of the U.S., but also a deeply felt condition crucial to his intellectual and creative imagination. Indeed, the book reminds us that some of the most poignant and insightful writings about sexuality and race in the canon of American literature were composed well beyond our shores.” - James Polchin, Gay and Lesbian Review/Worldwide

“Zaborowska’s determined research and sharp interpretations recast Baldwin’s entire life project and show how his Turkish sojourn rendered American conceptions of sexuality, race, and citizenship more clearly. [A] beautifully imagined book. . . . Zaborowska shows the discontiguous routes of one particular writer to that destination and beyond it. In doing so, she reminds us that often the destination is as displaced as the traveler.”
- Shane Vogel, American Literature

“Magdalena Zaborowska persuasively argues that Baldwin’s Turkish years—1961 and 1971—are key to understanding his career. . . . I found her deceptively simple argument arresting: although the broad outlines of Baldwin’s Turkish years are well known, to date, no scholar has set out to foreground place and atmosphere of composition so extensively.” - Tavia Nyong'o, American Quarterly

Derek Beres

“[I]nformative and enlightening. . . . Zaborowska’s work will appeal to fans of Baldwin looking for an interesting take on the man’s life. . . . Her dedication and passion does shine through in the time and effort she placed in writing this book. . . .”
Suzy Hansen

“[Zaborowska] scours [Baldwin’s] works for hints of Istanbul; she visits his stomping grounds and entertainingly interviews various Turkish luminaries. . . . [H]er reporting reveals as much about Turkey as it does about Baldwin, as well as the connections between this fledgling nation and the growing shadow America had begun to cast across the globe.”
Tavia Nyong'o

“Magdalena Zaborowska persuasively argues that Baldwin’s Turkish years—1961 and 1971—are key to understanding his career. . . . I found her deceptively simple argument arresting: although the broad outlines of Baldwin’s Turkish years are well known, to date, no scholar has set out to foreground place and atmosphere of composition so extensively.”
Claudia Roth Pierpont

“Zaborowska is a charming companion as she follows Baldwin’s steps through Turkey, brimming with enthusiasm at the sights and at the warmth of her reception by his friends. . . . [S[he makes us feel how necessary such a refuge was as the sixties wore on.”
Jim Piechota

“Zaborowska takes great delight in detailing her subject's adventures in Turkey, vicariously bathing in the limelight of a distinguished, outspoken writer who pushed boundaries well before his time, and graced the homosexual world with writing that transcended both color and gender lines.”
James Polchin

“Zaborowska’s book will make you want to reread Another Country and his later works with a new context of understanding. The book illuminates, with a scholar’s focus and a writer’s nuance, how Baldwin’s exile in Istanbul was not simply a theme or escape from the racism and homophobia of the U.S., but also a deeply felt condition crucial to his intellectual and creative imagination. Indeed, the book reminds us that some of the most poignant and insightful writings about sexuality and race in the canon of American literature were composed well beyond our shores.”
Shane Vogel

“Zaborowska’s determined research and sharp interpretations recast Baldwin’s entire life project and show how his Turkish sojourn rendered American conceptions of sexuality, race, and citizenship more clearly. [A] beautifully imagined book. . . . Zaborowska shows the discontiguous routes of one particular writer to that destination and beyond it. In doing so, she reminds us that often the destination is as displaced as the traveler.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822341673
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Magdalena J. Zaborowska is Associate Professor in the Program in American Culture and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of How We Found America: Reading Gender through East-European Immigrant Narratives; the editor of Other Americans, Other Americas: The Politics and Poetics of Multiculturalism; and a co-editor of Over the Wall/After the Fall: Post-Communist Cultures Through an East-West Gaze and The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface: Sightings xiii

Acknowledgments xxv

Introduction: From Harlem to Istanbul 1

One Between Friends: Looking for Baldwin in Constantinople 31

Two Queer Orientalisms in Another Country 91

Three Staging Masculinity in Dusenin Dostu 141

Four East to South: Homosexual Panic, the Old Country, and No Name in the Street 197

Conclusion: Welcome Tables East and West 249

Notes 265

Bibliography 331

Index 359

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