By the time I became aware of "Native Son"
in the early '60s, Richard Wright's reputation was already returning
from its lowest ebb. It was a book by which I began to feel the impact
of the black experience in America, a book that was passed around among
young people who's interest in change was being stirred. Wright was
honored as an inspiration by many who were active then.
So it was a surprise to learn from Michel Farbre's monumental
biography how steep had been Wright's slide into obscurity, at least
in academic circles. It's hard to believe that the writer of a work
so powerful and so important to so many people could fall victim to
If Wright's grave needs a monument to help us remember
him, Farbre's chronicle is it. Even if he hadn't been a great writer,
Wright's story would be worth reading for what it reveals about the
stresses of a life committed to both art and politics.
As it is, this the definitive accounting of the life
of a major American artist. Wright had an enormous number of friends
among the intelligentsia both here and in Europe, and Farbre seems to
have talked to them most of them. The book makes entertaining reading,
despite being exhaustively thorough, but it will have its greatest effect
if it inspires the reader to rediscover Wright's prose. (1979)
Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright by Michel Farbre
Son by Richard Wright