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September 2014

Writing Exile

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. Elsewhere, Manjushree Thapa introduces writing from Nepal. Amar Nyaupane watches a young boy grow into his arranged marriage; Nayan Raj Pandey exposes a bumbling politician; and Sulochana Manandhar contemplates the night.

The Memory of Our Land: Writing in and from Exile
By Susan Harris
In late May I attended a writers’ conference in Sozopol, Bulgaria, sponsored by the admirable Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Sozopol lies on the Black Sea, less than two hundred miles south of Constanța,…
The Witness
By Israel Centeno
He rested in wildflower-whelmed cemeteries in the yards of wooden churches.—José Antonio Ramos Sucre, “El peregrino de la fe”When I chanced upon a weblog, whose text was also…
Translated from Spanish by Valerie Miles
The Stone Guest
By Hamid Ismailov
Suhrob Surataliyev’s friends used to tease him by calling him Zurab Tsereteli. Suhrob was a sculptor by trade, but he was somewhat less of a household name than the popular Tsereteli, whose oversized…
Translated from Uzbek by Shelley Fairweather-Vega
Exile is Born at This Moment
By Osama Esber
Oh, my love,while you are in my breath,I am a statue of snowat the entrance to Damascus,with eyes closed,nose breathing anger,ears tuned to the noise of death,mouth speechless,trying to say:when blood…
Translated from Arabic by Osama Esber
Exilium Ergo Sum
By Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
In Cuba, I was an exiled writer.First, because I wanted to isolate myself from that pair of collective hypnoses called the literary field and the national tradition. In Cuba, I didn't need to sail…
Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile
By M. Lynx Qualey
Fourteen hundred years ago and more, the poet-prince Imru’ al-Qais was banished by his father. The king exiled his son, or so the legend goes, in part because of the prince’s poetry. Thus…
Exiled in Europe: An Interview with Three Women Writers
By Olivia Snaije
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has often examined the question of exile in essays and articles. Exile is indeed a place, he has written, a desolate space where one must confront the question: “Is there…
The Curse of the South
By Mohammad Ali Diriye
“Two kinds of people live in this city: The ones who were born here, and those who came here, fleeing something. Me, I wasn’t born here!”When his fever peaked and he started to sweat,…
Translated from Arabic by Xavier Luffin
Bag of the Nation
By Osama Alomar
I took the big bag that I had inherited from my grandfather down from the attic. It was brightly colored like a storm of rainbows. I hoisted it onto my back and went out into the street. I closed my eyes…
Translated from Arabic by C.J. Collins
On the Fourth Day
By Koulsy Lamko
He arrived on a golden-yellow tricycle and offered to tow me. Frail sexagenarian, sickly thin frame, angular face, his craggy skin suggesting an old case of the chickenpox. A lightly broken-in cowboy…
Translated from French by Alexis Pernsteiner
Chicago: Present-Day Paradise, Future Magic
By Mahmoud Saeed
The great Iraqi writer Mahmoud Saeed was imprisoned in Iraq six times between 1959 and 1980. He left Iraq in 1985 and has lived in Chicago since 1999. He wrote this essay on the eve of his departure to…
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
By Nayan Raj Pandey
After leaving the Pajero at the district headquarters, the personal assistant and I headed out on foot. A village road. Dirt and dust. A horrid stench. Shit and dung. Why had the villages become so filthy?I…
Translated from Nepali by Weena Pun
The Latch
By Amar Nyaupane
On the thirteenth night of his marriage, sixteen-year-old Mannuram Chidimar is sleeping with his back turned to his fifteen-year-old bride, Sunwati. Sleeping with Sunwati is proving more torturous than…
Translated from Nepali by Ajit Baral
By Sulochana Manandhar
Elusive NightKnowledge was born from night’s womb,And from the same womb was light bornThis elusive nightStretching into a protracted darknessWhat, still,Will it bring to life?PossessionNight—My…
Translated from Nepali by Muna Gurung
Nepal’s Many Voices
By Manjushree Thapa
Formed in 1768, Nepal is South Asia’s oldest nation state, and yet it is extremely young in spirit.It joined the free world late, in 1990, when a democracy movement ended centuries of an absolute…
Mad Marathon
By Khayrullo Fayz
And my window fleesFollowed by my doorsMy chair is in a rush, tooI’m left standing in the middle of a bare roomThe room can’t withstand the volume of the lonelinessIt starts shakingBadlyThreateninglyUrging…
Translated from Uzbek by Khayrullo Fayz
Fragile States: Artwork from freeDimensional
By freeDimensional
Organized by freeDimensional, Fragile States is a group exhibition with artists from Iran, Burma, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Syria, and Malaysia. Fragile States explores the physical and…