The Bern Book is a travelogue, a memoir, a "diary of an isolated soul" (Darryl Pinckney), and a meditation on the myth and reality of race in midcentury Europe and America.
In 1953, having left the US and settled in Bern, Switzerland, Vincent O. Carter, a struggling writer, set about composing a "record of a voyage of the mind." The voyage begins with Carter's furiously good-humored description of how, every time he leaves the house, he must face the possibility of being asked "the hated question" (namely, Why did you, a black man born in America, come to Bern?). It continues with stories of travel, war, financial struggle, the pleasure of walking, the pain of self-loathing, and, through it all, various experiments in what Carter calls "lacerating subjective sociology." Now this long-neglected volume is back in print for the first time since 1973.