Another Country

Another Country Study Guide

Another Country is a novel by noted American author James Baldwin, first published in 1962 by Dial Press. It took Baldwin over thirteen years to write, and he finished it in Istanbul on a trip he had taken to break out of his creative stalemate.

Another Country is set in 1950s Greenwich Village, and explores many themes considered risky at the time of publication, including bisexuality, interracial couples, and infidelity.

The book centers around Rufus Scott, a Black jazz drummer in New York City. Rufus starts a relationship with Leona, a white woman, with whom he becomes deeply enamored; however, he also begins to beat her. After she is eventually admitted to a mental hospital and his life deteriorates, Rufus commits suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. The novel examines the relationships between Rufus's friends after his death.

The novel was a bestseller but received mixed reviews and was banned in New Orleans and Australia for obscene content. Australian officials admitted to admiring Baldwin, but said his work was “continually smeared with indecent, offensive and dirty epithets and allusions.”

On the novel’s reception, Baldwin told Studs Terkel, it was “very bewildering... I don't know what I expected. Umm, I like the book myself. Of course one has to say that. But I mean I do. Umm, it seems to frighten some people. Why, it's very hard to say since in some way I draw, I like to frighten me first and now I can't remember precisely where my areas of distress were. You know when I was working it out, because it's something you blot out of your memory, I think. People think -- seem to think of it as a very harsh and bitter book and in some ways it is. But, umm, in my own mind anyway, it's a very affirmative book and if I may be corny about it, you know, it's meant to be bitter when it's bitter the way medicine is bitter. I'm trying to excavate, if I can use that word, something about what is really happening in America, according to me and from my very limited point of view, my limited vision, which is hardly ever expressed and it's really a book about the nature of the American loneliness and the -- and how dangerous that is. How hard it is here for people to establish any real communion with each other and the chances they have to take in order to do it.”