From the Archives: Exiles

By Susan Harris

This month’s North Korean defectors join the numerous WWB contributors writing in exile. Most of April's Iraqi writers, many of November's banned Chinese writers, virtually all of our July and August 2011 Arab Spring authors, and many others write from countries not their own. Some are political refugees, expelled from their countries, often after brutal prison terms; others emigrated voluntarily, if not happily, fleeing starvation, oppression, poverty, and political and economic collapse. Many could write the truth about their countries only by leaving them. Najem Wali produces his luminous stories of his childhood in Basra from Germany, where he’s lived for thirty years. Muhsin al-Ramli writes of Saddam Hussein from the safety of Madrid. Kader Abdollah left not only Iran but Persian behind, mastering the language of his adopted country, the Netherlands, to write of Tehran in Dutch. And Alicia Dujovne Ortiz emigrated three times, leaving her native Argentina for France not once but twice. These writers may be deracinated, but their work retains its ties to their native countries. As Wali declares in his passionate essay “Homeland as Exile, Exile as Homeland”: “the writer's homeland is the language in which he writes, and his house is the world which he constructs through his work.”


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