17 mai 2015

ENG - 'I Was Looking For a Street' - Chester Himes and Charles Willeford

I Was Looking For a Street is the title of the novel that Jesse Robinson vainly tries to get published in The End Of a Primitive  (1956). Himes had already given this title to the novel that Jethro is about to write in the autobiographical short story Da-Da-Dee (1948 - in Black On Black)*.

I Was Looking For a Street is also the title of Charles Willeford’s autobiography where he recalls his childhood and adolescence. Willeford’s’ parents died of TB when he was a child. During the Depression, from the age of 12, Willeford lived a vagabond life between trains, small jobs and soup kitchens. It is a beautiful book. To my knowledge, Willeford never explained why he had chosen this title, still it is probable that he thus paid homage to Himes. As a journalist in the Miami Herald, Willeford wrote in Himes’ obituary (1984): “He will be remembered as one of America’s greatest writers, black or white.
The 4 Willeford’s novels with Hoke Moseley as a main character (hero doesn’t  become him) are Miami Blues, New Hope For the Dead, Sideswipe, and The Way We Die Now. Danièle and Pierre Bondil have translated them in French (Miami Blues, Une seconde chance pour les morts, Dérapages and Ainsi va la mort).

* In the French translation: "On l'avait invité à la résidence pour travailler à un roman intitulé Le pigeon. Après avoir écrit une soixantaine de pages, il s'était arrêté pour commencer une autobiographie appelée Hier vous fera pleurer. Mais maintenant il était plein à déborder d'une histoire qu'il avait l'intention d'appeler Je cherchais une rue. Il l'avait trouvée, en effet. Il avait trouvé la rue, Congress Street, une petite rue pleine de boîtes noires, qui partait d'une colline pour rejoindre la rue principale."  Noir sur noir, Paris, 10/18, 1984. Translated by Yvonne and Maurice Cullaz.

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