Nov 112014
 

A case could be made that they would have been better off melting into the landscape as no doubt many now forgotten did, adopting native tongues, stories, places to love, ceasing to be exiles by ceasing to remember the country they were exiled from so that they could wholly embrace the country they were in. Only by losing that past would they lose the condition of exile, for the place they were exiled from no longer existed, and they were no longer the people who had left it. —Rebecca […] Continue reading >

Sep 232014
 

Yet migration like birth is heroic: the soul is signing away her safety for a blank cheque. A social animal like man cannot change his habitat without changing his friends, nor his friends without changing his manners and his ideas. An immediate token of all this, when he goes into a foreign country, is the foreign language which he hears there, and which he probably will never be able to speak with ease or with true propriety. The exile, to be happy, bust be born again: he must change […] Continue reading >

Jul 252014
 

I bump into plenty of people in America who tell me that they miss their native countries – Britain, Germany, Russia, Holland, South Africa – and who in the next breath say they cannot imagine returning. It is possible, I suppose, to miss home terribly, not know what home really is anymore, and refuse to go home, all at once. Such a tangle of feelings might then be a definition of luxurious freedom… Logically, a refusal to go home should validate, negatively, the very idea of home, rather in […] Continue reading >

Jul 212014
 

From Around the Web Immigration experience “On Not Going Home” by James Wood, London Review of Books, Vol. 36 No. 4, 20 February 2014, pp. 3-8 – Why, even as a voluntary migrant, you can never go back Home. “Losing my voice” by Chika Unigwe, Aeon Magazine, 14 March 2014 – “When I left Nigeria for Belgium, I made my husband’s home my own. But homesickness lodged like a stone inside.” How an African immigrant dealt with the “sorrow of migration.” “Reflections on Exile” by Edward Said, Reflections on […] Continue reading >

Jul 092013
 

Immigration, exile, being uprooted and made a pariah may be the most effective way yet devised to impress on an individual the arbitrary nature of his or her own existence. I knew something they didn’t, something hard to come by unless history gives you a good kick in the ass: how superfluous and insignificant in any grand scheme mere individuals are. And how pitiless are those who have no understanding that this could be their fate too. —Charles Simic, “Refugees”, in: Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language […] Continue reading >

Jul 032013
 

To be sure, in our human condition, it takes long, strenuous work to find the wished-for terrains of safety or significance or love. And it may often be easier to live in exile with a fantasy of paradise than to suffer the inevitable ambiguities and compromises of cultivating actual, earthly places. And yet, without some move of creating homing structures for ourselves, we risk a condition of exile that we do not even recognize as banishment. And paradoxically, if we do not acknowledge the possibility and the real pain […] Continue reading >

Jun 272013
 

[T]hese days we are wont to say not so much that all fiction is homesickness as that all homesickness is fiction—that home never was what it was cracked up to be, the haven of safety and affection we dream of and imagine. Instead, home is conceived of mostly as a conservative site of enclosure and closure, of narrow-mindedness, patriarchal attitudes, and dissemination of nationalism. And, indeed, the notion of “home” may have been, in recent times, peculiarly overcharged, as the concepts of “country” and “nation” have been superimposed on […] Continue reading >

Jun 192013
 

[T]he potential rigidity of the exilic posture may inhere not so much in a fixation on the past as in habitual detachment from the present. [T]his posture, if maintained too long, allows people to conceive of themselves as perpetually Other, and therefore unimplicated in the mundane, compromised, conflict-ridden locality that they inhabit; it allows them to imagine the sources and causes of predicaments as located outside, in a hostile or oppressive environment, rather than within. —Eva Hoffman in “The New Nomads”, in: Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, […] Continue reading >

Jun 112013
 

[A]s a psychological choice, the exilic position may become not only too arduous but too easy. Perhaps the chief risk of privileging the exilic narrative is a psychic split—living in a story in which one’s past becomes radically different from the present and in which the lost homeland becomes sequestered in the imagination as a mythic, static realm. That realm can be idealized or demonized, but the past can all to easily become not only “another country” but a space of projections and fantasies. Some people decide to abandon […] Continue reading >

Jun 032013
 

In a way, we are nothing more—or less—than an encoded memory of our heritage. It is because these things go so deep, because they are not only passed on to us but are us, that one’s original home is a potent structure and force and that being uprooted from it is so painful. Real dislocation, the loss of all familiar external and internal parameters, is not glamorous, and it is not cool. It is a matter not of willful psychic positioning but of an upheaval in the deep material […] Continue reading >

Apr 252013
 

Since [Eden], is there anyone who does not—in some way, on some level—feel that they are in exile? We feel ejected from our first homes and landscapes, from childhood, from our first family romance, from our authentic self. We feel there is an ideal sense of belonging, of community, of attunement with others and at-homeness with ourselves, that keeps eluding us. The tree of life is barred to us by a flaming sword, turning this way and that to confound us and make the task of approaching it harder. […] Continue reading >

Apr 232013
 

I had come here doing what all exiles do on impulse, which is to look for their homeland abroad, to bridge the things here to things there, to rewrite the present so as not to write off the past. I wanted to rescue things everywhere, as though by restoring them here I might restore them elsewhere as well. I wanted everything to remain the same. Because this too is typical of people ho have lost everything, including their roots or their ability to grow new ones. It is precisely […] Continue reading >

Apr 152013
 

[W]anderers to the wide world often yearn toward the far direction whence they have come. Why even the birds who fly away from their native places still hasten to go back. Can a man feel really happy condemned to live away from where he was born? Though by leaving he has cut himself off and knows he never will return, yet he hopes, by reaching backward, still to belong in the homeland. —Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People

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 >