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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

James Baldwin and his Olympia SM7 Portable Typewriter in Another Country

One person who didn't need the services of a street scribe in Istanbul was American author James Baldwin (1924-1987). But I can't necessarily say that was because he always had his own typewriter. Earlier in his writing career, at least, Baldwin seems to have been someone in a similar category to Tennessee Williams (and Brendan Behan). That is, he had a penchant for borrowing other people's typewriters and being reluctant (or totally unable, due to hocking reasons) to hand them back.
But in Istanbul in 1965, while working on his fourth novel, Tell Me How The Train's Been Gone (eventually published in 1968), Baldwin had a constant companion in an Olympia SM7 portable typewriter, as these shots taken by his Turkish-born photographer and filmmaker friend Sedat Pakay testify:
Sedat Pakay with Baldwin in Istanbul
From James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile  by Magdalena Zaborowska
"She said, 'Why do you think you have a right to my
typewriter because you are a writer and I'm not?'"
From James Baldwin: A Biography, by David Leeming
From James Baldwin, by Lisa Rosse
A restless James Baldwin flew from New York to Paris in October 1961, and from there to Israel. But rather than go on to Africa, as he had planned, Baldwin decided to visit a friend, actor Engin Cezzar, in Istanbul. It was to be the first of many trips Baldwin would make to Turkey during the next decade.
Baldwin found that, in the absence of people wanting to interview him or press him for social prophecy, there was time to work. On this first visit to Istanbul, he stayed for two months, and on December 10 finished Another Country
After 13 years spent mostly in France, in the period from 1961-71 Baldwin stayed for extended periods in Turkey. It remained for him a "refuge in which to write". But then he finally settled down in Saint-Paul de Vence in the south of France, in an old Provence house.
 With his Adler at Saint-Paul de Vence, March 21, 1983
With an earlier Adler, a Gabriele 35, at Saint-Paul de Vence

1 comment:

Taylor Harbin said...

Ah yes, cigarette, drink, and crumpled paper. The classic image of a writer. This is probably one of the few writers I've seen on blogs recently who isn't using an SM9.