Kirjaniku maapagu: eksiili rõõmust ja vaevast / Writerly Exile: Anguish, Joy, and Worldliness


  • Tiina Kirss Tallinn University



exile, refugee, nostalgia, emigration, 20th century literature


This article begins with a consideration of the problematics of exile as viewed in the essays of Tomas Venclova and Edward Said. On the one hand, exile has implications for the creativity of the writer as an individual. On the other, a „worldly“ perspective on literature in Said`s sense insists on keeping in view the global phenomenon of the mass displacement of refugees. The task of the article is to articulate a modest number of theoretical perspectives and concepts identified in research on exile over the past few decades , as well as others that may have become exaggerated, swollen with significance, or unwieldy from overuse. Terminological issues, such as nuances of meaning between the words refugee and expatriate, emigre and exile are considered with critical focus on Said´s useful situation of these concepts. The main sections of the article are devoted respectively to the effect of exile on the language of writing, nostalgia, and connections between exile and narration. It is argued that tension between the „home“ language (or mother tongue) and the language spoken in the place of exile can be a productive one, even as it may offer unforeseen alternatives, such as choosing yet a third language for creative work. Nostalgia, a „structure of feeling“, is not a necessary concomitant of exile, and can stand in multiple and complex relation to cultural understandings of loss. As Peter Fritzsche has proposed, nostalgia can also be related as to temporal ruptures , and seen as a disease of modernity. Narration, perceived by some theorists (such as Michael Seidel) as endemic to the condition of exile, may not prove to be such an imperative. Such broad statements need qualification, as well as the recognition that the imbrication of storytelling and exilic journeys harks back to ancient texts: Homer`s Odyssey and the cycle of Joseph stories in the Hebrew Bible. The last part of the article examines Julia Kristeva`s paradoxical relation to the topic of exile through her examination of the Stranger in Etrangers à nous-mêmes and her meditation on the mother tongue in the essay „Bulgaria, My Suffering.“ While exile can be a human tragedy, its „joys“ should not be disregarded, nor seen necessarily as a pale compensation for what is lost. Finally, the article briefly addresses the problematic of the exile´s return home—either for a visit or to stay. Milan Kundera`s concepts of lightness and heaviness, and in particular his novel on the returning exile, L`Ignorance provide insight into the ironies and lyricism of the post-exilic condition. 


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Artiklid / Articles