Going to Meet the Man Hardcover – Import, 1 October 1965
Mass Market Paperback, Import
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- Hardcover : 252 pages
- Item Weight : 454 g
- ISBN-10 : 0718101685
- ISBN-13 : 978-0718101688
- Publisher : Michael Joseph Ltd (1 October 1965)
- Language: : English
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This isn't my favourite work by this writer, but still great and I would recommend.
The book is a collection of short stories: The Rockpile, The Outing, The Man Child, Previous condition, Sonny's blues, Come out of the Wilderness and, of course, Going to Meet the Man. These stories explore the nuances of human condition: love, racism and murder.
My favourite stories are This Morning, This Evening, So Soon and Going to Meet the Man. In `This Morning', a successful Paris-based Black American musician/actor plans to return to the US with his Swedish wife, Harriet, and their mixed race son, Paul. As our musician comes to terms with his return to the Old Country, his fears (and history) now become apparent; Europe was not just an escape from a stifling American form of racism but his redemption. He had become a man in every sense of the word in Europe. Alas, this was an opportunity that was denied him in the US. However, he wistfully contemplates his decision and decides to return to the US all the same.
Going to Meet the Man was simply haunting. It is set sometime in the 1950's in the American South. The Civil Rights movement is in full swing and Black protesters engage in a sit-in and singing session at the jailhouse, where one of their lot has been arrested. The Deputy Sheriff, Jesse, handles the situation the only way that he knows how to: with extreme violence. Alas, violence does not work. The Sheriff then remembers an event from his childhood: the lynching of a black man.
Baldwin does not describe the circumstances that led to the lynching. Instead, his description of the macabre, barbarous, dark lynching `party' itself is laid out in exquisite detail. Young Jesse thought that the black body hanging from the tree was the `most beautiful and most terrible' thing that he had ever seen. One sees the lynching through the eyes of an eight-year old boy. It is fascinating, wicked, twisted and somehow captivating. The lynching is over almost as soon as it had begun. The folks retire and have a picnic after the event. What a bizarre affair! All I could think about when reading this story was the song, Strange Fruit by Billie Holliday.
Going to Meet the Man is the first Baldwin novel that I have read. He, like Langston Hughes, my favourite American author, uses the metaphor of escape to Europe (to France) in order to discover oneself. Yes, Europe was not perfect but the Old World had done away with lynching by the 1930's. Baldwin is a master story teller. In Going to Meet the Man, while he uses words to paint a most haunting portrait of man at his worst yet there is no judgment. The reader has to distil his own meaning from the work. At the end of the story, it was not clear to me who the victim was - the black man who was lynched or the child who was made to witness and internalise such a horrible event.