Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.

September 2014

Writing Exile

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. 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

As these writers demonstrate, there is no typical exile, and no standard response to deracination.

The Witness

How does a person follow the path of a fairy tale?


The Stone Guest

“Salamalaykum, Uncle, your nephew sent me. Said you’d give me the cash.”

Exile is Born at This Moment

When blood is exiled, / nothing binds it to the race.

Exilium Ergo Sum

It is impossible to find one's own path in literature without a certain verbal violence.


The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile

Exile has been one of the places where Arabic literature has been able to communicate most strongly across linguistic borders.

Bag of the Nation

The surprise shook me like an earthquake.


Exiled in Europe: An Interview with Three Women Writers

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a medium who brings ghosts back from the past.”

Fragile States: Artwork from freeDimensional

A visual exploration of the physical and psychological experiences of persecution and forced displacement.

The Curse of the South

From now on I just have three compass points, not four.

Chicago: Present-Day Paradise, Future Magic

The Iraqi love of water has inspired me to learn about the rivers of every city I visit.


On the Fourth Day

Slowly but surely, exile erases us from the memory of our land.


Mad Marathon

I can't open my doors.


Book Reviews

Ondjaki’s “Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret”

Reviewed by Amanda Calderon

It is no surprise that this energetic and endearing novel is the work of a writer of such stunning accomplishment as Ondjaki.

Edgard Telles Ribeiro’s “His Own Man”

Reviewed by Julian Murphy

In "His Own Man," nations, like the individuals therein, adapt and change such that their contemporary states bear little resemblance to their earlier incarnations.

Recent Issues

Our Nueva York: Writing the City in Spanish

The Language of Identity: Kaaps Writing from South Africa

Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages

The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Writing from Malaysia

Backstories: Afro-Italian Women Writers

The Queer Issue XII

Movement and Multiplicity: Writing from Mauritania

On the Edge: Writing from Iceland

Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.