Mar 272013

[T]he change was not confined to economic matters. The whole American universe was different. Strangers, the immigrants could not locate themselves; they had lost the polestar that gave them their bearings. They would not regain an awareness of direction until they could visualize themselves in their new context, see a picture of the world as it appeared from this perspective. At home their eyes had taken in the whole of life, had brought to their perceptions a clearly defined view of the universe. Here the frame narrowed down, seemed […] Continue reading >

Mar 212013

Exiles see two or more places at the same time not just because they’re addicted to a lost past. There is a very real, active component to seeing in this particularly heightened retrospective manner: an exile is continuously prospecting for a future home—forever looking at an alien land as land that could conceivably become his. Except that he does not stop shopping for a home once he’s acquired one or once he’s finally divested himself of exile. He goes on prospecting, partly because he cannot have the home he […] Continue reading >

Mar 132013

Eventually, of course, one does stop being an exile. But even a “reformed” exile will continue to practice the one thing exiles do almost as a matter of instinct: compulsive retrospection. With their memories perpetually on overload, exiles see double, feel double, are double. When exiles see one place they’re also seeing—or looking for—another behind it. Everything bears two faces, everything is shifty because everything is mobile, the point being that exile, like love, is not just a condition of pain, it’s a condition of deceit. Or put it […] Continue reading >

Feb 132013
Do What's Necessary, Seek to Make Choices

The bus ride last Saturday night to the Kultur Shock concert enlightened me on the difference between actions that you do out of necessity and those that you do by choice. Sticking with the bus analogy. On my commute to and from work, most people appear to be there by choice. They have jobs or school to go to, and they could drive but choose not to. Reasons differ: some refuse to pay exorbitant parking fees downtown, others believe in public transportation, others still—you can count me here—save a […] Continue reading >

Feb 072013
If You Plant a Man in America

If you exile a [Slovak] and plant him in America, he will be unhappy; he will suffer because people can be happy, can function freely, only among those who understand them. To be lonely is to be among men who do not know what you mean. Exile, solitude, is to find yourself among people whose words, gestures, handwriting are alien to your own, whose behaviour, reactions, feelings, instinctive responses, and thoughts and pleasures and pains, are too remote from yours, whose education and outlook, the tone and quality of […] Continue reading >

Jan 192013
In Praise of Weak Ties

When you leave your country you leave behind a crucial element of your life as a human being: your social networks.* You put significant physical distance between yourself and the 150 or so people in your circle with whom, according to the Dunbar number, you have a meaningful relationship. Whether the tie between you and the individuals in your network is altered, weakened, or severed altogether depends on its strength: whereas strong ties remain strong, weak ties may disintegrate. To succeed in your integration into a new country you […] Continue reading >

Dec 132012
A Heroic Image

Exile is morally suspect because it breaks one’s solidarity with a group, i.e. it sets apart an individual who ceases to share the experience of colleagues left behind. His moral torment reflects his attachment to a heroic image of himself and he must, step by step, come to the painful conclusion that to do a morally valid work and to preserve an untarnished image of himself is rarely possible. —Czeslaw Milosz in “To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays”

Dec 052012

It seems there is only so much writing a robotnik writer can do in a month in addition to working full time. Freelancing has pushed American Robotnik on the proverbial back burner. Enjoy these articles I’ve written for (and sold to) Oregon Jewish Life and The Bee this year. More to come in 2013: “Diversity in nursing,” Oregon Jewish Life, November 2012, p. 17 [pdf – article | pdf – full magazine] “Westmoreland coffee shop changes hands…and atmosphere,” The Bee, November 2012, p. 19 [pdf] “Oaks Park hosts Fresh […] Continue reading >

Nov 192012
Two Centers

Imagination, always spatial, points north, south, east, and west of some central, privileged place, which is probably a village from one’s childhood or native region. As long as a writer lives in his country, the privileged place, by centrifugally enlarging itself, becomes more or less identified with his country as a whole. Exile displaces that center or rather creates two centers. Imagination relates everything in one’s surroundings to “over there”—in my case, somewhere on the European continent. It even continues to designate the four cardinal points, as if I […] Continue reading >

Nov 072012

robotník, n. (Slovak) = worker, laborer, workman, operative, journeyman I write American Robotnik in my spare time as an effort to get some writing practice and get my writing career off the ground. The full-time job that I have on the side does take up a lot of time, which makes for a tight after-hours schedule and severe prioritizing. This calendar year, I got on a First Hour schedule, whereby the first hour of every work day, roughly from 6 to 7 am, I write a book. I am […] Continue reading >

Aug 252012
Made of Fragments

We slip between definitions with such acrobatic ease that straight narrative becomes impossible. I cannot conceive of my story as one of simple progress, or simple woe. Any confidently thrusting story line would be a sentimentality, an excess, an exaggeration, an untruth. Perhaps it is my intolerance of those, my cherishing of uncertainty as the only truth that is, after all, the best measure of my assimilation; perhaps it is in my misfittings that I fit. Perhaps a successful immigrant is an exaggerated version of the native. From now […] Continue reading >

Aug 112012
On the Peripheries of Imagination

Until now, Poland has covered an area in my head coeval with the dimensions of reality, and all other places on the globe have been measured by their distance from it. Now, simultaneously, I see it as a distant spot, somewhere on the peripheries of the imagination, crowded together with countless other hard to remember places of equal insignificance. The reference points inside my head are beginning to do a flickering dance. I suppose this is the most palpable meaning of displacement. I have been dislocated from my own […] Continue reading >

Jul 252012
All Places Are Distant

‘Tis a childish humour to hone after home, to be discontent at that which others seek; to prefer, as base Icelanders and Norwegians do, their own ragged island before Italy or Greece, the gardens of the world… All places are distant from heaven alike, the sun shines haply as warm in one city as in another, and to a wise man there is no difference in climes; friends are everywhere to him where he behaves himself well, and a prophet is not esteemed in his own country.” —Robert Burton […] Continue reading >

Jul 092012
Immigration and Identity: Identity Transformation Following Immigration, Part 2

This post completes the overview of Salman Akthtar’s “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation.” Part 1 tackled factors affecting the immigration experience; Part 2 dealt with the first two dimensions of identity transformation following immigration.  From Yesterday or Tomorrow to Today The pain of separation from home results in an idealization of your pre-immigration past, centering more on memories of places than of people. Immigration disrupts the connectedness of time while “the past continues to exert time dominance.” Like an emotionally deprived child with but one toy, the immigrant clings […] Continue reading >