Professor Priya Kumar
SC- 6, MA English Sem IV
Enrolment no.: SV- 88/09
April 21, 2014
Writers and Intellectuals in Exile
“It may be that writers in my position, exiles… are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt”1 said Salman Rushdie. The loss and love of home is not what constitutes an exilic existence; what actually and in true sense constitutes it is the chasm between carrying forth and leaving behind and straddling the two different cultures from two different positions. In my paper, I propose to look at the two sides of an exilic existence- the negative that which has the horrors and trauma with reference to Adorno and Said; and the positive, that which provides the intellectuals and writers a critical and reflective insight, and here I would refer to JanMohamed and Salman Rushdie with special reference to Said’s “contrapuntal” effect. I would then proceed to the ‘enabling’ aspect of exile which involves the agential process of hybridity where I will bring in Homi K. Bhabha’s take on it and his concept of “third space”.
“Exile originated in the age old practice of banishment. Once banished, the exile lives an anomalous and miserable life, with the stigma of an outsider”2 said Edward Said. Adorno in the 13th terse “Protection, Help and Counsel” of Minima Moralia asserts that, “every intellectual in emigration is without exception, damaged and does well to acknowledge it to himself… He lives in an environment that must remain incomprehensible to him… Relation between outcasts are even more poisoned than between long standing residents.”3 Adorno’s reflection epitomizes the common understanding of exilic experience as one of trauma, estrangement and paranoia. Numerous autobiographical accounts confirm this devastating assessment and testify to the exiles frequent sense of pain and loss.
Edward Said brings out this quandary as well in “Reflections on Exile” where he expresses that,
Exile is a jealous state… It is in the drawing of lines around you and your compatriots that the least attractive aspects of exile emerge; an exaggerated sense of group solidarity, even those who are in the same predicament as you… perhaps this the most extraordinary of exile’s fate; to have been exiled by the exiles (Said, 178).
Exile in itself is a traumatic experience and becomes more aggravated owing to the formation of strong opinionated groups based on the political affiliations or the social construct. Both Adorno and Said enunciate this predicament of the exiles where isolation becomes so worse that exiled groups start suspecting their own members. The moment the formation of politically directed groups begin to take shape, the suspicion and hostility towards “those branded as the members of others” (Adorno, 33) too simultaneously commences. Adorno says, “The moment when you hope for the slightest sigh of the same solidarity from them, or even mere sympathy...