The Several Lives of Chester Himes

The Several Lives of Chester Himes

by Edward Margolies, Michel Fabre

Paperback(Print-On-Demand ed.)

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The Several Lives of Chester Himes by Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre

The writings of Chester Himes are colored by a fascinating blend of hatred and tenderness, of hard-boiled realism and generous idealism. His life was complex, his relationships complicated.

How did this gifted son of a respectable southern black family become a juvenile delinquent? How did he acquire self-esteem and a new sense of identity by writing short stories while in the Ohio state penitentiary?

Drawn from his letters, notebooks, memoirs, and fiction, this straightforward account of Himes's varied, episodic life attempts to trace the origins of his significant literary gift.

It details the socioeconomic, familial, and cultural background that fed his ambivalent views on race in America. His Deep South childhood, his adolescence in the Midwest, his young manhood in prison, his years as a menial laborer, his struggles as an author in California and New York City, and finally his glory days as an expatriate and celebrity in France and Spain are plumbed deeply for their effects upon his creative urges and his works.

In his native country Himes is recalled more as the author of successful detective novels such as "Cotton Comes to Harlem" than as a practitioner of the art of fiction. In France and Spain, his adopted countries, he is regarded as a literary master.

This critical biography detailing his multiple profiles reveals how autobiography is the genesis of his books. In "If He Hollers Let Him Go" and in the fratricidal shootout of his black detectives Grave Digger and Coffin Ed in "Plan B" Himes was an unsparing witness to our changing times. His painful experiences in America indelibly marked his fiction, which is filled with reflections on his difficult relationships, especially with women: his fair-complexioned mother, his African American first wife Jean, his many white lovers, and finally his English wife Lesley.

His career was so beset by controversy that he left America to live on the Left Bank in a colony of expatriates and as a colleague of Richard Wright. Eventually he settled in Spain and died there in 1984.

This critical biography is the bittersweet story of a troubled man who found salvation in writing.

Edward Margolies is Professor Emeritus, English and American Studies, College of Staten Island, City University of New York.

Michel Fabre (deceased) was Professor Emeritus, American Studies, Université de la Sorbonne.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934110966
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication date: 05/01/1997
Edition description: Print-On-Demand ed.
Pages: 209
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.52(d)

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