New Richard Wright book to be released years after death
“I have never written anything in my life that stemmed more from sheer inspiration,” wrote Wright after the book was denied by his publisher at the time
The author of Native Son has a new book coming out despite his passing in 1960.
Richard Wright may have passed away decades ago, but his words in the iconic novel, Native Son, and now his latest story, The Man Who Lived Underground, will live on forever. The posthumous work is now available for pre-order, per The New York Times.
“I have never written anything in my life that stemmed more from sheer inspiration or executed any piece of writing in a deeper feeling of imaginative freedom, or expressed myself in a way that flowed more naturally from my own personal background, reading, experiences, and feelings,” wrote Wright after his publisher Harper & Brothers denied the book.
In 1941, Wright submitted The Man Who Lived Underground, a story about a Black man who is falsely accused of murdering a white couple and being coerced into making a false confession. He escapes detainment after being beaten by police and hides in a cave discovered through the sewer system. He is able to take refuge in select businesses and places via the tunnels.
His daughter, Julia Wright, discovered the manuscript in 2010. The Library of America will release the full version on Tuesday, April 20. Although the book was written decades ago, critics are already calling it the most relevant book of 2021.
“It hit a little too close to home in 1941,” said Julia Wright, his daughter, “and to read it today, I would guess that ‘The Man Who Lived Underground’ lands a little too close to home — still.
“But it needed to come out,” she continued. “That it’s coming out during the Derek Chauvin trial, wow. Goose pimples. Hearing testimony of Darnella Frazier (the Minneapolis teenager who recorded video of Floyd’s death), I thought: OK now this is exactly what my father was writing all those years ago.
She felt guilty for not being able to stop Floyd’s death. She felt guilty of a crime she hadn’t committed, and that’s how my father felt. To an extent, my father wrote this book from his memories of being accused of things, and not being able to convince anyone that he was really innocent.”
Native Son, within the first three weeks of its publication, sold 215,000 copies. The editorial director of Library of America John Kulka calls The Man Who Lived Underground, a “worthy successor” to Native Son.
A film about the book Native Son was released in 2019 and follows 20-year-old Bigger Thomas who is looking for a life outside of his impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. Ashton Sanders of the Oscar-winning film Moonlight plays the main character and he tells NPR why a role such as this is so important to him.
“Along with the pressures of being a black man in this America, he’s also dealing with the pressures of being this other in America — being this Afro-punk and dealing with his circumstances and his environment,” said Sanders.
“It’s always been rough for a black man living in America,” said Sanders. “You know, there’s always pressures that are put on us. You know, I feel like the black man walks around with anxiety because of the way that America views him, the world views him, you know? And so yeah, it’s still very relevant, because this is still kind of the same America.”
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