James Baldwin’s Paris

Le baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville

How has the city changed since Baldwin arrived more than 60 years ago? A trip in his footsteps reveals some answers.

James Baldwin in 1962.


bright afternoon in Paris, on the terrace of the cafe Deux Magots, in St.-Germain-des-Prés, I found myself engaged in an increasingly animated conversation about the writer James Baldwin and the notorious feud that broke out between him and his fellow African-American expatriate Richard Wright.

It was late July, and the cafe’s terrace hummed with the casual banter of lounging tourists and residents. All the while a small battalion of crisp-collared waiters shuffled elegantly between the tightly ordered tables and stiff wicker chairs, their every gesture backed by the steady cadence of white porcelain cups tapping against saucers and the gentle clank of Art Deco silverware.



View through a window of Lâtoile Manquante, at left, a cafe on Rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais.

AVING spent nearly a decade living in Paris, I’d eaten at Les Deux Magots many times. That afternoon, however, I had a specific purpose in mind. I was retracing James Baldwin’s steps through Paris, while asking myself where Baldwin might be living if he were in the city now. To further my search, I had invited the expatriate African-American novelist and Baldwin enthusiast Jake Lamar to join me at Les Deux Magots, hoping he would catch any gaps in my itinerary.

Source: James Baldwin’s Paris – The New York Times


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