A Letter from Helene Roux Jeandheur
I am honoured to express my wholehearted support to the genesis of His Place In Provence. The project of this organization is to « protect, acquire, and renovate James Baldwin’s former home in Saint Paul de Vence. » The ultimate objective as such is to establish the property as a retreat for artists and writers.
This endeavour is not only concerned with saving a homestead of historical and cultural significance. It is about sheltering and investing in the education of emerging authors, with the promise that they may find the potency of their own voice inspired by the magnitude of James Baldwin’s legacy.
I am a native of Saint Paul de Vence. I grew up around James Baldwin, as he was a very close friend of my mother, Yvonne Roux. I now presently live next door to his former home. Throughout my childhood Jimmy and his brother David were adopted and adored by the townspeople of Saint Paul. I find it hard to accept that very soon, there could be no evidence at all of James Baldwin having lived, written and died here. Rarely a month goes by without my bell ringing with a visitor asking directions to his now abandoned home. How do I explain what happened?
How lucky I am to remember what his house, now a ruin, was like. It was a home away from home for so many artists and writers; a retreat from the turmoil taking place in Jimmy’s native land, a home which reflected his presence, kindness and generosity, his intelligence and abundant humanity … a sanctuary.
I am aware that there are many obstacles to realising this project. The house has by now suffered extensive demolition. It is slated for a development complex. Since being approached by Shannon Cain and experiencing her passion and commitment, I have been enticed to get involved. Ms. Cain has the temperament, the skills and the experience to resuscitate this long lost dream for this property, which was after all James Baldwin’s own wish.
Today James Baldwin’s words and vision seem more pertinent than ever. And while there is a renewed interest worldwide in his writings, it is unfathomable to realise that in this little French village where he took refuge, evidence of his existence could be erased for all time.
I have in my possession many of Jimmy’s books, including his intimidating, well-consulted and massive Webster’s Unabridged. He entrusted them to my mother, who passed them on to me.
I know exactly where their home should be.
Helene Roux Jeandheur