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"The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright"
by Michel Farbre (Morrow)

Review by John Gabree

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 neglect.

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)

The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright by Michel Farbre
Native Son by Richard Wright



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