Skip to main content
Outdated Browser

For the best experience using our website, we recommend upgrading your browser to a newer version or switching to a supported browser.

More Information

Writing Exile

September 2014

september-2014- Alexey-Titarenko-Havana-Cuba
Image: Alexey Titarenko, "Havana, Cuba,” 2003. Copyright Alexey Titarenko, courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

Image: Alexey Titarenko, “Havana, Cuba,” 2003. Copyright Alexey Titarenko, courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY

This month we present writing about and from exile. Although not all exiles flee political persecution or war, they have in common an involuntary departure forced by adverse circumstances. In fiction, poetry, and autobiography, writers explore the notions of departure and absence, memory and loss. Israel Centeno’s disgraced detective comes to a shocking fairy-tale ending. In Paris, Olivia Snaije talks with three Middle Eastern women writers. Syrian poet Osama Esber mourns his lost Damascus, while his countryman Osama Alomar carries cultural baggage. M. Lynx Qualey explores the rich theme of exile in Arabic literature. In two pieces from Uzbekistan, Hamid Ismailov shows a long-assimilated émigré bound by unexpected family ties, and poet Khayrullo Fayz is caught in an endless attempt at escape. Mohamed Diriye leaves the South but can’t escape it. Cuba’s Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo tells of leaving the island. Koulsy Lamko sees through a fellow exile’s serene front. And on a cheerier note, the great Iraqi writer Mahmoud Saeed pens a Valentine to his adopted home of Chicago. 

The Memory of Our Land: Writing in and from Exile
By Susan Harris
As these writers demonstrate, there is no typical exile, and no standard response to deracination.
The Witness
By Israel Centeno
How does a person follow the path of a fairy tale?
Translated from Spanish by Valerie Miles
The Stone Guest
By Hamid Ismailov
“Salamalaykum, Uncle, your nephew sent me. Said you’d give me the cash.”
Translated from Uzbek by Shelley Fairweather-Vega
Exile is Born at This Moment
By Osama Esber
When blood is exiled, / nothing binds it to the race.
Translated from Arabic by the author
Exilium Ergo Sum
By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
It is impossible to find one’s own path in literature without a certain verbal violence.
Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile
By M. Lynx Qualey
Exile has been one of the places where Arabic literature has been able to communicate most strongly across linguistic borders.
Bag of the Nation
By Osama Alomar
The surprise shook me like an earthquake.
Translated from Arabic by C.J. Collins
Exiled in Europe: An Interview with Three Women Writers
By Olivia Snaije
“Sometimes I feel like I’m a medium who brings ghosts back from the past.”
Fragile States: Artwork from freeDimensional
By freeDimensional
A visual exploration of the physical and psychological experiences of persecution and forced displacement.
The Curse of the South
By Mohammad Ali Diriye
From now on I just have three compass points, not four.
Translated from Arabic by Xavier Luffin
Chicago: Present-Day Paradise, Future Magic
By Mahmoud Saeed
The Iraqi love of water has inspired me to learn about the rivers of every city I visit.
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
On the Fourth Day
By Koulsy Lamko
Slowly but surely, exile erases us from the memory of our land.
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner
Mad Marathon
By Khayrullo Fayz
I can’t open my doors.
Translated from Uzbek by the author