Wright's Exile

SINCE Richard Wright's death, much has been written about his selfexiled life in Paris and his relationship to America, white or black. During his life, he was frequently attacked in the columns of the American establishment press, and very little was written which aimed to defend him or to explain the near-necessity and the true meaning of his exile. Any attempt to summarize the reactions of the American press to Wright's books from 1946 to the present, or to trace the effect of Wright's supposed "anti-Americanism" or American critical attitudes, would amount to a full study in itself. Therefore, I shall only briefly allude to it. Similarly, the attitude of the white American colony and the government services in Paris toward Wright deserves a long analysis of its own. My lecture is thus bound to be somewhat sketchy, and many of the subtleties and intricacies of political attitudes, personal antagonisms, and literary jealousies can only be hinted at. In order to present what I consider the most important facet of Wright's relationship with America while in exile, I shall limit myself to examining Wright's own point of view. This point of view, deeply logical though sometimes changing, informed his public declarations, his political stands, and even his writing during the late 1940s and the '50s. This period was of course one of the most tense in American history, witnessing not only the birth of the cold war but also the frantic rise of McCarthyism -- a period during which the prewar investigations of the Dies Committee seemed innocuous in comparison with the probings of the Senate Subcommittee on Un-American Activities, a period during which Wright certainly would have suffered, had he remained in America, both from his former membership in the Communist Party, and from his vigorous fight against racism. The younger people among you should bear in mind that, a few decades ago, the spoken criticism of one's country was considered dangerous enough to be re

-176-

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The World of Richard Wright
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 3
  • Wright's First Hundred Books 12
  • Black Cat and White Cat: Wright's Gothic and the Influence of Poe 27
  • From Revolutionary Poetry to Haiku 34
  • Beyond Naturalism? 56
  • Wright's South 77
  • From Tabloid to Myth: "The Man Who Lived Underground" 93
  • "The Man Who Killed a Shadow": A Study in Compulsion 108
  • Fantasies and Style in Wright's Fiction 122
  • Wright's Image of France 144
  • Wright and the French Existentialists 158
  • Wright's Exile 176
  • Wright, Negritude, and African Writing 192
  • Appendixes 215
  • Index 263
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