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Just Above My Head (Anglais) Broché – 13 juin 2000


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THE DAMN'D BLOOD BURST, first through his nostrils, then pounded through the veins in his neck, the scarlet torrent exploded through his mouth, it reached his eyes and blinded him, and brought Arthur down, down, down, down, down.

The telephone call did not go into these details, neither did the telegram: urgently demanding my arrival because my brother was dead. The laconic British press merely noted that a "nearly forgotten Negro moaner and groaner" (this is how the British press described my brother) had been found dead in a men's room in the basement of a London pub. No one told me how he died. The American press noted the passing of an "emotion-filled" gospel singer, dead at the untidy age of thirty-nine.

He had been losing his hair, that rain forest of Senegalese hair, I knew that. Jimmy had not been with him; Jimmy had been waiting for him in Paris, to bring him home. Julia had been clearing up their rooms in her house in Yonkers.

I: sat by the telephone. I looked at the marvel of human effort, the telephone. The telephone beside my bed was black--like me, I think I thought, God knows why I thought it, if I did. The telephone in the bathroom was gray. The telephone in the kitchen was blue, light blue.

The sun was shining that morning, like I've never known the sun to shine before.

He had been found lying in a pool of blood--why does one say a pool?--a storm, a violence, a miracle of blood: his blood, my brother's blood, my brother's blood, my brother's blood! My blood, my brother's blood, my blood, Arthur's blood, soaking into the sawdust of some grimy men's room in the filthy basement of some filthy London pub.

Oh. No. Arthur. I think I laughed. I think I couldn't cry. My brother.

The house was empty. Ruth was out shopping, Tony and Odessa were at school: it was a Thursday morning.

My brother. Do you know, friend, how a brother loves his brother, how mighty, how unanswerable it is to be confronted with the truth beneath that simple word? Simple. Word. Yes. No. Everything becomes unanswerable, unreadable, in the face of an event yet more unimaginable than one's own death. It is one's death, occurring far beyond the confines of one's imagination. Or, surely, far beyond the confines of my imagination. And do you know, do you know, how much my brother loved me? how much he loved me! And do you know I did not know it? did not dare to know it: do you know? No. No. No.

I looked and looked and looked at the telephone: I looked at the telephone and I looked at the telephone. The telephone was silent. This was the black telephone. I stumbled to the gray telephone, in the bathroom. Perhaps I thought that it might have mercy on me if I humbled myself on the toilet. Nothing came out of me, not even water, and the phone did not ring. I walked to the light-blue telephone in the kitchen, and looked at it and looked at it: it looked at me, from somewhere over the light-blue rainbow, and it did not ring, it did not ring, it did not ring! It did not ring. How can you do this to me, how can you tell me what you have just told me, and now, sit there like that, over the motherfucking goddamn rainbow! and hold your peace? Oh. If you were a man, like me. Oh. Oh. Oh. Arthur. Speak. Speak. Speak. I know, I know. I wasn't always nice to you, I yelled when I shouldn't have yelled, I was often absent when I should have been present, I know, I know; and sometimes you bored the shit out of me, and I heard your stories too often, and I knew all your fucking little ways, man, and how you jived the people--but that's not really true, you didn't really jive the people, you sang, you sang, and if there was any jiving done, the people jived you, my brother, because they didn't know that they were the song and the price of the song and the glory of the song: you sang. Oh, my God my God my God my God my God, oh my God my God my God oh no no no, my God my God my God my God, forsake me if you will and I don't give a shit but give me back my brother, my God my God my God my God my God!

I did not cry. Nothing came out of me, not even water. I stood, as dumb and naked as a horse, under the shower. I dried myself, and I shaved--very very slowly, very very carefully: I was shaving someone else. I looked into my eyes: they were someone else's eyes. I combed my hair. The phone did not ring. Soon I would have to pick it up and dial a number and get on a plane. London Bridge is falling down. My fair lady.

Ruth found me naked, flat on my back, on the bathroom floor, my razor in my hand: and the phone was ringing.

Two years ago: if Arthur were alive now, he would be approaching forty-one. I am the older brother, and I will be forty-eight this year.

My name is Hall: Hall Montana. I was born in California, but Arthur was born in New York and we grew up in New York.

Our father, Paul, died several years back--died, I think, from having crossed a continent to find himself in New York. He had been born in Tallahassee, grew up in New Orleans, and had had a rough, rough time in California. He died, anyway, while Arthur was still Arthur, thank God; he split the scene before Arthur started down. Florence, our mother, once Arthur was in the ground, went back to New Orleans--where she and Paul had met--and she's staying there now, with one of her younger sisters. Ruth, and myself, and the kids try to make it down there for a couple of weeks every summer, and sometimes I bring Mama up here, for Christmas. But she doesn't like it up here. Maybe she never did--but now, when she visits, I can feel her flinching. She doesn't say anything, the pain is at the very bottom of her eyes. I catch it sometimes, when she's just sitting still, looking at television or looking out of the window, or sometimes, when she's walking along the street. She doesn't like to go to church up here. She says that the people don't have any spirit, that their religion ain't nothing but noise and show: they've lost the true religion. That may be true. I don't go to church myself. But even if what she says is true, and I remember, too, how these people treated Arthur when he branched out from gospel, that's not the reason. Any church up here might have Jesus on the main line all day and all night long, and Mama would never so lower herself as to go anywhere near that phone. No, never. She doesn't like this city because it robbed her of her son, and she feels that the people in the church, when they turned against him, became directly responsible for his death. She goes to church down home, though, where she can grieve and pray, away from all the spiteful people whose tongues so lacerated her boy. She can sing to herself, without fear of being mocked, and find strength and solace in the song that says, They didn't know who you were. And she's not singing about Jesus, then, she's singing about her son. Maybe all gospel songs begin out of blasphemy and presumption--what the church would call blasphemy and presumption: out of entering God's suffering and challenging God Almighty to have or to give or to withhold mercy. There will be two of us at the mercy seat: my Lord, and I!

Two years ago: and I have never really talked about it: not to Ruth, not to my children, Tony and Odessa (who love their uncle), not to Julia, not to Jimmy: and they can't talk about it until I can talk.

I know I'm wrong to trap them in my silence. Maybe it's partly because I was Arthur's manager. I had to talk about him for years, living, and then, dead, as a property, as a star: I had to protect him because Lord have mercy that nappy-headed mother did not know how to protect himself. That made me afraid that I'd lose him as my brother: that he would think that I also thought of him as the can of beans anybody could buy and which everybody sold--and down the river, baby, at a mighty handsome profit.

I don't think that he thought of me that way. I know he didn't. If he had, he would have died much sooner. I know it because I know that he never tried to hide anything from me, though sometimes, he tried to protect me, too. I know I loved him, and he knew it; with all my heart, I loved him; even when he made me so mad sometimes that I felt like I wanted to beat his brains out. He made his life so hard! Well. That's not true, either. He lived the life he lived, like anybody, I guess, and he paid his dues, like everybody. Maybe what I mean when I say he made his life so hard was that he always tried to pay his dues in front. That isn't always possible: it can even be called a bad habit. Maybe some dues are paid. Some dues may be just a bad memory; but you can't really take that for granted unless you can trust your memory. The truth, anyway, is that I wouldn't really give a shit about all these abstract speculations if I weren't trying to talk about my brother. He was on stage. He caught the light, and so I saw him: more clearly than I will ever see myself.

Revue de presse

"If Van Gogh was our 19th-century artist-saint, James Baldwin is our 20th-century one."
--Michael Ondaatje

"The work of a born storyteller at the height of his powers...  glimpses of family life in Harlem, rapturous music-making in the churches, moments of uneasiness in even the most casual meetings between whites and blacks--scenes that Baldwin seems preternaturally gifted in understanding."
--The New York Times Book Review

"A fine novel...it seems impossible for [Baldwin] to write with anything other than eloquence.  His great and peculiar power is to re-create the maddening halfway house that the black man finds himself in late-twentieth-century America."
--The New Yorker


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THE DAMN'D BLOOD BURST, first through his nostrils, then pounded through the veins in his neck, the scarlet torrent exploded through his mouth, it reached his eyes and blinded him, and brought Arthur down, down, down, down, down. Lire la première page
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Amazon.com: 18 commentaires
39 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Wish I could rate it 6 stars 10 janvier 2000
Par Frank Cunat - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
This is one of the best written, most beautiful books I've ever read. If any one book could be said to distill James Baldwin's entire life, this could be it, at least among his fiction. The sense of love, compassion, and empathy Baldwin has for his characters is tangible. Many of the passages are poetic in their power; Baldwin excels at finding the nuance, the meanings in a gesture, a glance, a touch. Baldwin was a black gay man but I believe that in this book he has transcended both race and sex, and is writing about something more basic and yet more complex: relationships between *human beings*. For those who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, it's impossible to overstate the impact Baldwin had on many of our lives (even in my case, and I'm Caucasian).
I was lucky enough to hear Baldwin lecture 20 years ago; Just Above My Head had been out for about a year and I was able to get my copy autographed and personalized. He was as arresting a speaker as he was a writer.
In the short list of the most deeply felt, most moving, most powerful books written in the 20th century, this has to come near the top.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Baldwin captures the essence of human emotion. 27 janvier 1997
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
When I read this book for the first time I was so deeply moved that I was left ranting and raving to all of my friends who share a passion for great American literature. Baldwin's even-handed, almost objective analysis of the American preoccupation with race and human sexuality leaves the reader with a changed perspective on being American. Too many books have love and politics central to their themes, however Baldwin takes this overworked subject matter and creates something truly original and timeless
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Literary Wonder 5 mars 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I first came across the book as a teenager, rooting around amidst the books my brother left behind. I was just coming out then, and decided to try and read it. Much of it flew over my head then, but upon returning to it as an adult, I found much here to treasure. The characters not only inhabit the pages, but leap right off them at times, and the reader feels like he would want to sit in a room with them, talk with them, laugh with them and grieve with them. As a black gay man, it's nearly an autobiographical read, showing how far ahead of his time Baldwin was. It definitely comes highly recommended from this reader.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Just Above My Head 16 décembre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
The people of Just Above My Head-- all of them, not just Julia, or Hall, or Arthur-- but the "little" characters too, all live truly as one reads. I've lost track of how many times I've read the book in its entirety, much less in bits and pieces, but every time I go down into it these characters overwhelm me. I can smell them, feel their heat. Absolutely one of my favorite books of all time.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Epic in its scope, human in its focus, and one of Baldwin's best 28 mai 2009
Par D. Cloyce Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
In some respects, "Just Above My Head" seems to be a successor to "Another Country"; Baldwin has taken the sexual and emotional imbroglios of his earlier novel and reimagined them on a broader historical and geographical stage, with characters whose interwoven lives are no longer confined to the bedrooms of New York. Grounding the narrative is the relatively straight-laced character of Hall Montana, the anti-Baldwin of the book, whose tender, middle-class worldview serves as calm counterpoint to the troubled, explosive, even neurotic lives of Montana's friends and--most of all--his brother Arthur.

Hall's coolness is almost essential to the novel because of messiness of the whirlwinds that swirl around him, in the form of three disparate yet overlapping families: his own childhood household, which provides a supportive environment for the fledgling musical career of his brother Arthur; the Millers, Baldwin's most brilliantly conceived dysfunctional family, whose exploitation of their coddled child-preacher daughter, Julia, all but insures their demise; and the Trumpets of Zion, four Harlem-based teenagers who form a gospel music quartet led by Arthur and who each meet a sordid and tragic end (murder, drug addiction, insanity, and alcohol-fueled death). Framing the novel and connecting the three groups is Hall's family in the "present day" of the 1970s, from which Hall looks back at how this motley crew lived through the turmoil of the civil rights era and the chaos of their own lives. We know at the outset of the book what happens to each of the main characters; we just don't know how they got there.

While the novel is ostensibly about Arthur, whose singing career peaks and wanes through the vagaries of international fame and notoriety, the most memorable and interesting character of the novel, aside from Hall himself, is Julia. One of the most worldly, enchanting women in modern fiction, Julia endures (and survives) early adulation, childhood incest, and prostitution to become an endearing suburbanite. Arthur, on the other hand, seems idealized at times--a stoic, somewhat jaded celebrity whose enigmatic aura proves hopelessly alluring to his friends and family and to his two lovers: Crunch, one of other members of the quartet, and Jimmy, Julia's underappreciated and seemingly unloved brother.

For its epic sweep, episodic structure, and epigrammatic wit, "Just Above My Head" ranks among the best of Baldwin's novels. While "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is still praised for its lyricism and "Giovanni's Room" is beloved for its passion, this book--his longest by far--combines both qualities on a vast social and historical panorama that never loses its focus on the lives of the very authentic human beings conjured out of the tumult of Harlem's streets. In his last great novel, Baldwin once again proves that the political is the personal.
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