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 another way: exiles can be supremely mobile, and they can be totally dislodged from their original orbit, but in this jittery state of transience, they are thoroughly stationary—no less stationary than those displaced Europeans perpetually awaiting letters of transit in the film Casablanca. They are never really in Casablanca, but they are not going anywhere either. They are in permanent transience.

—Andre Aciman in Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language and Loss

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