Romance in Marseille

Claude McKay. Penguin, $16 trade paper (224pp) ISBN 978-0-14-313422-0
Harlem Renaissance writer McKay’s poignant, previously unpublished novel of 1920s black life in the French port city of Marseilles strengthens the legacy built by his novels Banjo and Home to Harlem. Lafala, a young and carefree traveler from West Africa, drifts “impressionably from change to change” until his heart is broken by Aslima, a Marseille prostitute. Lafala stows away on a ship bound for the U.S., only to be caught and locked up “in a miserable place” onboard, consequently losing both legs to frostbite. With the help of his lawyer and an American friend named Black Angel, Lafala wins a large settlement from the shipping company. More than the money, he wants his legs back, and lingers on the promise of the cork legs that will make him feel like a man again. Returning to Marseille to show his new self to his old friends in the “fascinating, forbidding and tumultuous” neighborhood of Quayside, Lafala encounters Aslima, and their affair resumes despite the increasing ire of Tintin, her violent pimp, and the machinations of others eager to get their hands on Lafala’s fortune. Marseille comes to life in McKay’s descriptions of Quayside cafés, frequented by a vibrant social mix of black intellectuals like the Marxist Etienne St. Dominique, white laborers such as the queer Big Blonde, and sex workers including the North African Aslima and her rival, La Fleur. This will move readers to consider large questions about the need to belong and the desire for love. Agent: Faith Childs Literary Agency of New York. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/02/2019
Release date: 02/11/2020
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-0-85989-403-6
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-85989-458-6
Book - 978-0-525-50598-3
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