You Think Your Pain and Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented in the History of the World, But Then You Read

James Baldwin? Jane Howard? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Reading about other lives and cultures can replace a narrow self-involved vision with a wide open vista. The pains and afflictions of one’s own life are placed into a larger perspective when one reads about the harrowing travails of others. The prominent novelist and playwright James Baldwin once made this point. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In May 1963 journalist Jane Howard published a profile of James Baldwin in “LIFE” magazine. He spoke about his early experiences. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1963 May 24, LIFE, Volume 54, Number 21, ‘Doom and glory of knowing who you are’ by Jane Howard, Start Page 86B, Quote Page 89, Column 1, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) … Continue reading

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was Dostoevsky and Dickens who taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who ever had been alive. Only if we face these open wounds in ourselves can we understand them in other people. An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian.

In 1964 James Baldwin provided a narrative describing his life for a television broadcast. “The New York Times” printed excerpts from the program. Baldwin employed a slightly different version of the quotation with “Dostoevsky and Dickens” replaced by the word “books”:[2] 1964 May 31, New York Times, James Baldwin Recalls His Childhood, Quote Page X11, Column 2 and 3, New York. (ProQuest)

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Think Your Pain and Your Heartbreak Are Unprecedented in the History of the World, But Then You Read

References

References
1 1963 May 24, LIFE, Volume 54, Number 21, ‘Doom and glory of knowing who you are’ by Jane Howard, Start Page 86B, Quote Page 89, Column 1, Time Inc., Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1964 May 31, New York Times, James Baldwin Recalls His Childhood, Quote Page X11, Column 2 and 3, New York. (ProQuest)