Philadelphia Fire

John Edgar Wideman

Philadelphia Fire by John Edgar Wideman (Paperback ISBN 9781786892034) book cover

Available as Paperback, eBook

The lyrical masterpiece from John Edgar Wideman, one of the standout black American writers of the modern age and winner of the 2017 Prix Femina Étranger

In 1985 police bombed a West Philadelphia row house. Eleven people died and a fire started that destroyed sixty other houses. John Edgar Wideman brings these events and their repercussions to shocking life in this seminal novel.

At the heart of Philadelphia Fire is Cudjoe, a writer and exile who returns to his old neighbourhood and who becomes obsessed with the search for a lone survivor of the event, a young boy seen running from the flames.

One of Wideman’s most ambitious and celebrated works, Philadelphia Fire is about race, life and survival in urban America.


“A passionate, angry and formally fascinating novel of urban disintegration”
new York Times

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Philadelphia Fire isn’t a book you read so much as one you breathe”
san Francisco Chronicle

“A pyrotechnic display … Wideman’s writing, like Toni Morrison’s, is so pure and convincing that he can break the rules of classical storytelling, even invent some new ones”
boston Globe

“Reminiscent of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
time

Philadelphia Fire delivers its message with a careening momentum and astonishing precision … Wideman has made fire his own, and there are fire figures everywhere, illuminating us and driving us back with heat and smoky confusion”
los Angeles Times


John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman’s books include Writing to Save a Life, American Histories, Brothers and Keepers, Fatheralong, Hoop Roots and Sent for You Yesterday. He is a MacArthur Fellow and has won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice and has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. In 2017, he won the the Prix Femina Étranger for Writing to Save a Life. He divides his time between New York and France.