RARA-AVIS: Re: Cotton Comes To Harlem

From: Jim Stephenson ( jestephenson@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 23 Jul 2004

Jim Doherty wanted to know:

> Was there an English-language version (in the UK or
> elsewhere) of COTTON called BACK TO AFRICA that
> preceded the American edition?

No, the first published version was a French translation, and the English-language version followed about a year later. I went back and checked my authority record (the database is freely available to anyone with enough morbid curiosity to look at http://authorities.loc.gov/), and here's the justification for the heading:

670 __ |a Chester Himes, 1992: |b p. 9 (under Retour en Afrique; original manuscript title Back to Africa [first published in the French translation, Paris, 1964]; published in America under the title Cotton comes to Harlem, New York, 1965)

Basically, the rules tell us that when a work is published in a language not the author's own, we need to look to reference sources to provide a title. Looks like my source was *Chester Himes : an annotated primary and secondary bibliography* compiled by Michel Fabre.

> Did the American
> edition precede the film version (in which case the
> film title would not have affected the novel's English
> title)?

Yes it did, by about 5 years. The movie took the American title of the novel for its own.

Time to hit the road ... Comic Con awaits!

Jim Stephenson

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