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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

James Baldwin – Another Country

When James Baldwin refers to ‘another country’, he means ‘another world’, like the Pandora of Avatar. Mr Baldwin’s Pandora however, isn’t full of fluorescence colour plants and magical looking landscapes, it just simply isn’t black and white…‘He stared into his cup, noting that black coffee was not black but deep brown. Not many things in the world were really black, not even the night, not even the mines. And the light was not white, either, even the palest light held within itself some hint of its origins, in fire.’ And the inhabitants are not tall, lean and blue, instead they’re ‘You can’t see yourself all over, but I can. Part of you is honey, part of you is copper and some of you is gold…Part of you is black too, like the entrance of a tunnel’. By this, I think James Baldwin is suggesting that nothing is as it seems, our skins may be black, white, yellow or brown, but these colours are not entirely who we are. More importantly, if a society only allows a citizen to be his or her ‘colour’, then it is a society full of violence, segregation and suffering; a society without freedom, something which we have been fighting for since forever. Our identities, as portrays by Mr Baldwin, are complex, drilling deep into the sexuality residing within our blood, more delicately balancing on the scale of liberty holds up by our society and more mysterious than religions and faiths. Everything in the novel (such as sexuality, vulnerability, skin colours, pain, religions etceteras) exists in a spectrum of colours; and beauty is glorified through the raucous, rawness of our human behaviours (or more bluntly, there are plenty of sex scenes!!!). At the bottom of it all, only kindness and an infinite sense of acceptance of our characters would save the day (rather than the giant animals and the courage to be violent of Avatar…hehaha).

I thoroughly enjoy this work of literature from Mr Baldwin for the sharpness and originality of his expressions, for the simplicity of his lyrical writing and how relevant it is to our modern 2010 society. Although we have progressed so far with our technologies, with the weapons and the defence system of our country, yet our ‘terror’ and fear remain the same. Something in us has not progressed, is it our ability to see that each person is not just his or her colour, but colours? And/or is it our ability to resign to the uncertainties and mysteries within and outside of ourselves?

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