Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska

Excerpt from “The Last Days of James Baldwin’s House in the South of France” by Magdalena J. Zaborowska

“When I returned to the site of James Baldwin’s house in June 2017, its remnants were hard to see from the street. The developer who owned it, and had had two-thirds of the structure bulldozed in 2014, erected large, colorful billboards advertising soon-to-be built luxury villas clustered around an expansive swimming pool. The ironic name of this new incarnation of the famous writer’s house and garden was to be ‘Le Jardin des Arts’; the sales were held by Sotheby’s and advertised 19 ‘grandly’ chic apartments with ‘a panoramic view of the sea,’ urging potential buyers to ‘reserve yours now!’

Outside the James Baldwin's study, 2014.

In 2014, Baldwin scholar Magdalena J. Zaborowska returned to James Baldwin’s home to discover an abandoned and dilapidated building. This photograph was taken outside Baldwin’s study.

Photo by Magdalena J. Zaborowska

“Behind a new, locked, black metal gate stood the gatehouse, stripped of its hot pink flowering vines and carelessly transformed into a real estate office for those who could afford the best views of the Mediterranean. It was segregated from the main house by a huge billboard sporting the image of the future swimming pool, with the inevitable couple of frolicking vacationers in the water. A cleverly camouflaged door inside that image led to the site; Chez Baldwin’s diminished façade, only partially visible behind it, appeared blackened, as if by smoke.”