Teju Cole, one of my favorite New York authors, rereads James Baldwin and writes a personal account of being black/African American in Alpine as well as in urban space.
The Dutch translation of “Black Body: Rereading James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village”” appeared last week in De Groene Amsterdammer. The original article appeared in the New Yorker.
Teju Cole about his sense of a “body-double moment”:
“The tinny sound from my laptop was Bessie Smith singing “I’m Wild About That Thing,” a filthy blues number and a masterpiece of plausible deniability: “Don’t hold it baby when I cry / Give me every bit of it, else I’d die / I’m wild about that thing.” She could be singing about a trombone. And it was there in the bath, with his words and her voice, that I had my body-double moment: here I was in Leukerbad, with Bessie Smith singing across the years from 1929; and I am black like him; …”
There are numerous other writings of Cole I would like to link, for now, this interview by Aleksandr Hemon
Cities as the shells for the hermit crabs we are:
“As for cities in general: I think they might be our greatest invention. They drive creativity, they help us manage resources, and they can be hives of tolerance. In a village, you can’t stick out too much. In the city, if anyone judges you, you tell them to go to hell. So, there’s that positive side. But the other side is that they are simply so congested with material history and the spiritual traces of those histories, including some very dark events. Your contemporary Chicago is haunted by the Chicago of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Chicago of innovation and of systematic exclusions. Rural landscapes can give the double illusion of being eternal and newly born. Cities, on the other hand, are marked with specific architecture from specific dates, and this architecture, built by long-vanished others for their own uses, is the shell that we, like hermit crabs, climb into.”
(Note on the Dutch translation: as usual in De Groene, highly enjoyable translation. However, (and unusual) no mention of the translator or of the original source of publication. And the article mentions that Open City will be published in Dutch this week – it has been translated and published years back. What is meant is the publication of “Every day is for the thief” in Dutch.)