Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: July 13, 2021
The Stone Face
by William Gardner Smith, introduction by Adam Shatz
First published in 1963, The Stone Face tells the tale of a young African-American man who takes refuge from American racism in France, only to find himself complicit in a racist order of another sort. Simeon Brown, a journalist who, as a teenager, lost an eye in a racist attack, lives in his native Philadelphia in a state of agonizing tension, and after a violent encounter with some white sailors on shore leave, he decides to pack up and leave for Paris, known as a safe haven for black artists and intellectuals. At first, the City of Light seems close to idyllic to Simeon: He can do what he wishes and go where he pleases without fear. On the streets he meets Babe, a long-standing black American émigré, who introduces him to a whole cadre of interesting friends—among them the Chester Himes stand-in James Benson, a famous black novelist now retired, and Maria, a mysterious Polish actress and concentration camp survivor who is awaiting surgery to keep from going blind. But soon Simeon discovers that Paris is not the racial wonderland he took it to be—not when Algerians are being raided, beaten in the streets, sent to detention centers, and eventually killed en masse in the 1961 Paris massacre—and his friendship with Hossein, an Algerian radical, will lead him to realize that he can no longer remain a passive spectator to French injustice and that he must decide where his loyalties truly lie.
While there is much to improve in how we support each other at home and across the globe, Smith’s novel reminds us of the immense power in solidarity and our duty to always rise up for justice and freedom.
—Zeena Yasmine Fuleihan, Ploughshares