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(02/16/2008) The Bern Book: A Record Of A Voyage Of The Mind by Vincent O. Carter. New York. 1973. John Day. keywords: Literature Black America Switzerland Autobiography. 297 pages. Jacket design by Robert Palevitz. 0381982378.

An odd and fascinating book, that may not have been published at all if not for the efforts of writer Herbert Lottman. A thoughtful exploration of expatriation.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   THE BERN BOOK is Vincent Carter's meandering reflection on being the only black man in the town of Bern, Switzerland, where he lived for over 30 years. He had gone there from Kansas City, via Paris Carter had a desperate need to write-but not about black power, which was then the only subject one expected of a black writer. He rather needed to explore himself, as so many other expatriates had done before him. The book is more akin to Robert Burton's 17th-century AN ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLy than to Jimmy Baldwin's THE FIRE NEXT TIME. After a number of attempts to help get Carter's manuscript published, the literary biographer, Herbert Lottman, wrote an essay on this author that appeared in a cultural quarterly. Then, a New York publisher decided to bring out THE BERN BOOK after all-using Lottman's essay as an introduction.

VINCENT O. CARTER was born in Kansas City in 1924. At seventeen he was drafted into the U. S. Army. He landed on a Normandy beachhead and took part in the drive toward Paris. Back in the United States, he earned a college degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and spent a graduate year at Wayne State in Detroit. Eventually he returned to Europe, spending time in Paris, Munich, and Amsterdam before settling in Bern, where he spent the rest of his life in a sort of self-imposed exile. His only work published during his lifetime was THE BERN BOOK: A RECORD OF THE VOYAGE OF THE MIND, a memoir of his life in the Swiss capital during the 1950s. He completed a draft manuscript for SUCH SWEET THUNDER in 1963. Despite receiving enthusiastic support from some in the literary world, the manuscript did not deliver what publishers expected from 'Negro literature' at the time, and after enduring a round of rejections Carter shelved the project. He died in Bern in 1983.

 

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