Classics Book Club

Romance in Marseille


Claude McKay

FROM THE BOOK JACKET:
Buried in the archive for almost ninety years, Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American. Set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age, the novel takes flight along with Lafala, an acutely disabled but abruptly wealthy West African sailor. While stowing away on a transatlantic freighter, Lafala is discovered and locked in a frigid closet. Badly frostbitten by the time the boat docks, the once-nimble dancer loses both of his lower legs, emerging from life-saving surgery as what he terms "an amputated man." Thanks to an improbably successful lawsuit against the shipping line, however, Lafala scores big in the litigious United States. Feeling flush after his legal payout, Lafala doubles back to Marseille and resumes his trans-African affair with Aslima, a Moroccan courtesan. With its scenes of black bodies fighting for pleasure and liberty even when stolen, shipped, and sold for parts, McKay's novel explores the heritage of slavery amid an unforgiving modern economy. This first-ever edition of Romance in Marseille includes an introduction by McKay scholars Gary Edward Holcomb and William J. Maxwell that places the novel within both the "stowaway era" of black cultural politics and McKay's challenging career as a star and skeptic of the Harlem Renaissance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claude McKay (1889-1948), born Festus Claudius McKay, is widely regarded as one of the most important literary and political writers of the interwar period and the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Jamaica, he moved to the U.S. in 1912 to study at the Tuskegee Institute. In 1928, he published his most famous novel, Home to Harlem, which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature. He also published two other novels, Banjo and Banana Bottom, as well as a collection of short stories, Gingertown, two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home and My Green Hills of Jamaica, and a work of nonfiction, Harlem: Negro Metropolis. His Selected Poems was published posthumously, and in 1977 he was named the national poet of Jamaica.


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