Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quote: Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

Chester Himes
"Chester Himes arrived in Paris on April 11, 1953, with a broken toe, the result of another pre-departure altercation with his former girlfriend Vandi Haygood. This was not the dramatic incident referred to above; it was just another in a series of disputes with Haygood. On the voyage over, he had begun a romance with a middle-aged white woman from Boston, Alva Van Olden.* On debarking she was met by her husband, a dentist from Luxembourg, and set off with him for their home in that country, having vowed to return to Himes by May. But at the moment of his arrival in France, Himes had no idea of what to make of this affair. He was simply hoping that his old friend Richard Wright and Yves Malartic would be on hand to meet him at the train station in Paris as they had promised. He was toting several suitcases. His toe hurt. He had no idea where to put up for the night in a strange city in a strange country. "It is no small thing to leave the United States at age forty-three--especially if you ar ea black man and have never been farther than Montreal.," Himes remarked. But here he was, in the middle of the night in Paris, and no one was there to meet him."

"After waiting at the Gare St.-Lazare for a while, Himes took a taxi to Wright's. A concierge, however, quickly appeared in front of Wright's building, barring the way. By then the taxi had departed and Himes was left on the street with his mountain of luggage. Eventually he got another taxi, went back to the station, then finally to a hotel he remembered Wright had recommended in one of his early letters, just a few blocks from his house. The next morning Himes was awakened by a furious pounding on his  door. When he opened it, a frantic Richard Wright stood in the hallway. They exchanged stories of the mixup. As it turned out, Wright and Malartic had been at the station to meet him but had been on the wrong end of the platform. When Himes did not appear, Wright became quite concerned. That morning he decided to notify the police, and he stopped by the hotel to cancel the reservation he had made for Himes. It was then that he learned Himes was asleep upstairs.

--Christopher Sawyer-Lauçonno, from "The Legacy of Hurt," in The Continual Pilgrimage: American Writers in Paris, 1944-1960, San Francisco, City Lights Books: 1992, p. 184.

1 comment:

  1. This quote was completely lost on me. Was there a particular reason you posted it?