Three major Paris-based Black writers died during the month of November - Richard Wright, Chester Himes and James Baldwin. If you plan to add a visit to their graveside to your European itinerary, be prepared to travel to cities that evoked in them a deep personal attachment.
For Richard Wright, that was
On a day too fine to be October, a small group of us went looking for Richard. He was a brilliant star in the firmament of literature and Franco-American politics, but in this cemetery, he lays cheek-to-jowl with the unknowns and the famous (Oscar Wilde, Stephane Grapelli, Jim Morrison, Sarah Bernhardt, Frederic Chopin, Molière, and Proust, to name a few).
The map said the Columbarium was north and west, in section 87. So we headed uphill, thin-soled shoes bending to the humps of cobblestone. And up, and up, trying to follow the various alley names.
Then the real work began. The Columbarium forms a u-shape of some hundreds of wall plaques, laid out in a grid on two levels. After fifteen minutes of reading each one, we found out from information services that we should have picked up the other map at the main entrance - the one marking the precise numbered niche where our Richard lay. Nothing to do but keep scanning. "It lies in a corner, under the stairs," are the last words of Madison Lacy's moving documentary 'Black Boy'. And sure enough, someone finally hollered out victory. And there it was:
Must see: see the link* below to view Julia Wright's tribute and reading beside her father's grave site, as featured on the blog of Kaleem Ashraf, PhD student at Sheffield University. It was recorded during the American University of Paris' Richard Wright Centennial this past June.
And, after his arduous journey to recognition and express his bitterness, Spain felt like a place for him to rest, a place to run from his inner demons. Himes' health deteriorated from 1974, beginning with arthritis, a stroke, and finally, Parkinson's Disease. He is buried in a tiny town a few miles down the coast from his home in Moraira, in
*Click here Journal of visit to Wright's gravesite and poetry tribute by Julia Wright:
And if you're in the south of
Photo credits: Angel http://wherestherevolution.blogspot.com/2008/03 ; Chester Himes by Claude 46500104 Find a Grave. All others copyright.