A Passenger from the West.

Author:Adsit, Janelle
Position:Book review

Nabile FarA[umlaut]s (author); A PASSENGER FROM THE WEST; Uno Press (Literary Collections) $16.95 ISBN: 9781608010080

Byline: Janelle Adsit

It is strange to place Nabile FarA[umlaut]s' A Passenger from the West under a genre heading. The work resists categorization. Is it nonfiction? Yes. The friendship between FarA[umlaut]s and James Baldwin, which is a main subject of the book, emerged concurrent with the book's writing. Although FarA[umlaut]s relays his actual experiences, Passenger from the West was first presented as a novel in 1971 when it was originally published by Editions du Seuil in French (titled Un Passager de l'Occident).

Is the work therefore fiction? Yes, too. The book is poetic, and it refuses to straightforwardly report. A hybrid term like "fictobiography" might seem appropriate, but this word does not account for what reads like philosophy or literary criticism. FarA[umlaut]s discourses on, among other issues, literary realism, Baldwin's work, identity, and politics.

One might best say that the book is multi-generic -- and, moreover, multifarious in style. There are passages that sound like diary entries, summarizing what the writer "was able to pick up yesterday." Turn a few pages and find an excerpt written in an analytical mode. Then encounter confessions of dreams. Following this morphing main section is a translated interview of James Baldwin conducted by FarA[umlaut]s. The transcription, originally published in a 1970 issue of Jeune Afrique, gives a direct...

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