“The hardest thing in the world is simplicity, and the most fearful thing too. It becomes more difficult because you have to strip yourself of all your disguises, some of which you didn’t know you had. You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the aim.”

– James Baldwin, Interview with The Paris Review

‘But to look back from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.’

– James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

‘John’s heart was hardened against the Lord. His father was God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven, and John could not bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.’

― James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

‘She was in a terrible state, for she found that she could neither take her eyes off him nor look at him.’

― James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

‘And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’

– Revelation 22:17, King James Bible (quoted in Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin)

 

‘I do not know if his hair has been cut or is long – I should think it would have been cut. I wonder if he is shaven. And now a million details, proof and fruit of intimacy, flood my mind. I wonder, for example, if he feels the need to go to the bathroom, if he has been able to eat today, if he is sweating, or dry.’

– James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

‘He had not liked the book. He could not take it seriously. It was an able, intelligent, mildly perceptive tour de force and it would never mean anything to anyone. In the place in Vivaldo’s mind in which books lived, whether they were great, mangled, mutilated or mad, Richard’s book did not exist.’

– James Baldwin, Another country

‘He would be led into darkness, and in darkness would remain; until in some incalculable time to come the hand of God would reach down and raise him up; he, John, who having lain in darkness would no longer be himself but some other man. He would have been changed, as they said, for ever; sown in dishonour, he would be raised in honour: he would have been born again.’

– James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain 

‘Baldwin’s career as a novelist was spent walking over old territory with ghosts. Things became new to him this way. ‘Mountain is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else,’ he said years later. ‘I had to deal with what hurt me most. I had to deal with my father.’

– Andrew O’Hagan, Introduction to Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

‘Paris seemed, and had seemed the loneliest city under heaven. And whoever prolongs his sojourn in that city – who tries, that is, to make a home there – is doomed to discover that there is no one to be blamed for whatever happens to him.’

– James Baldwin, Another Country

‘All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.’

– James Baldwin

‘He did not seem to know enough about the people in his novel. They did not seem to trust him. They were all named, more or less, all more or less destined, the pattern he wished them to describe was clear to him. But it did not seem clear to them. He could move them about but they themselves did not move. He put words in their mouths which they uttered sullenly, unconvinced.’

– James Baldwin, Another Country 

‘Both feared the morning, when the moon and stars would be gone, when this room would be harsh and sorrowful with sunlight, and this bed would be dismantled, waiting for other flesh. Love is expensive, Yves had once said, with his curiously dry wonder. One must put furniture around it, or it goes.’

– James Baldwin, Another Country

‘But the face of a lover is an unknown precisely because it is invested with so much of oneself. It is a mystery, containing, like all mysteries, the possibility of torment.’

– James Baldwin, Another Country

“I used to have religion, did you know that? A long time ago, when I was a little girl… It’s funny, I haven’t thought of church or any of that type stuff for years. But it’s still there, I guess.” She smiled and sighed. “Nothing ever goes away.”

– James Baldwin, Another Country