Conversations with Chester Himes
Collected interviews with the celebrated African American novelist
The late African American novelist Chester Himes (1909-1984) is well known both in America and Europe for his moving depictions of black men destroyed by a pervasive racism and for darkly humorous stories of Harlem’s underworld. His novels and stories are all the more striking because they are infused with his own varied experiences as a petty criminal, convict, writer, and expatriate. Himes was equally revealing in the many interviews he granted during his long and tumultuous career in America and France.
Himes displays a remarkable candor in all his interviews. Although he never involved himself in any of the black political movements of his lifetime, he did not flinch from speaking his mind about racial politics in America. He was straightforward, as well, in speaking about his relationships with other black writers. As a contemporary of Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison, he could be brutally direct in his opinions of them and their work. He leavens such criticism by being equally frank about himself and his shortcomings.
Compiled here for the first time and drawn from many sources, these interviews span Himes’s career and present a bold picture of a proud, brilliant, and combative man who commands both attention and respect.