Exile is as old as humanity itself but a radically new fate for the "novice" exile, who falls into a world about which personal experience can tell nothing, but does know a great number of stories-myths, legends, allegories, biblical or historical accounts-about exiles. The novice's search for a foothold initiates a learning process in which the exilic tradition assumes a major role. The present book captures this learning process: it is a cultural history of exile as it was experienced by thousands of German and Austrian writers and intellectuals who opposed National Socialism: among them Brecht, Seghers, Remarque, the Manns, and Ludwig Marcuse. It shows how, slowly, exile becomes a reality, in part through one's growing awareness of the exemplary figures who shared one's fate. Scores of fellow travelers, from the mythic figures Odysseus and Ahasverus ("The Eternal Jew") to writers such as Heinrich Heine and Victor Hugo, frame the experience of exile, imbuing it with meaning, giving it depth, and even ennobling it with "High Moral Office." They also frequently make appearances in the narratives of the Nazi-era exiles. The Russian-American exile poet Joseph Brodsky called writers in exile "retrospective and retroactive beings." What their retrospective gazes yield as they search for meaning in banishment is at the heart of this book. Johannes F. Evelein is Professor of Language and Culture Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.
Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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