Letters of transit is a collection of distinctive and informative unique essays by five very well known writers who offer their contemplation on expulsion and recollection. The five essays vary in character and style. This collection of letters is a brilliantly created-blend of voyage, history, political study and personal experience. “Letters of Transit” is the refinement of the vibrant journeys Matthew Stevenson has made over a period of twenty throughout the world.
Stevenson steals the reader away from reality, with him on a variety of enthralling journeys that take place to places such as America, Serbia, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, South Africa and Korea. He takes us to Poland describing how he crossed it by a bicycle, then the story of a family holiday to Petra, bullfights in Mexico City, a visit to the battlefield at Guadalcanal, where his father fought, and a tour to Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Letters of transit takes over the imagination from the very beginning, written with wittiness, considerate and insight.
Contents of the Book Letters of Transit” is a compilation of five essays initially offered, in rather diverse form, as lectures supported by the New York Public Library starting from November, 1997, all the way through February, 1998. The editor and author of together the Foreword (“Permanent Transients”) and the major of the essays (“Shadow City”), Andre Aciman, focus on the idea of being an exile as opposite to being an emigrant or an expatriate or a refuge.
Aciman recommends, in his Foreword, that “What makes exile the pernicious thing it is not really the state of being away, as much as the impossibility of ever not being away. ” (Aciman, Pg 40). He goes on to give a detailed description, in his resulting essay, that the exile is not just a name “who has lost his home; it is someone who can’t find another, who can’t think of another. “(Aciman, pp. 79). Aciman, impressively explores the system in which existing in a new city can vividly revive the recollections of cities in which the exile has lived beforehand (the “shadow cities” of his title).
Aciman’s essay is charming, insightful and intuitive; it is a superb small portion which demonstrates why his greatly-admired memoir, “Out of Egypt”, has turned out to be a slight model of the sort. Likewise, Bharati Mukherjee’s essay, “Imagining Homelands”, presents considerate elaborations on the fine distinctions and implications of the words exile, expatriate and immigrant; she portrays very well and appealing peculiarities among these words and cautiously entangles these dissimilarities with an explanation of her own life experiences.
The rest of three writers, Eva Hoffman, Edward Said and Charles Simic provides classic advance into the perception of exile, individuality, speech, and defeat, which are significance to vigilant thought and consideration. All three suggests that the exile can only, in the end be cashed in by refusing illogical attachment to the constricted and narrow-minded tribalism of state, society, belief, and philosophy which so often hampers the exile community of the concept that salvation comes only through liberty, motivation and syncretism like Mukherjee who depicts herself as an integrationist and mongrelize.
Simic, in his concluding essays, writes as Refugees, that a poet is a part of that minority who eliminates himself from becoming a part of any official minority, since a poet knows what it is to feel right and belong to those who walk in broad daylight, as well as in the heart of those trouncing behind closed doors. “(Matthew Stevenson, pp. 89) Hoffman’s essay, “The New Nomads”, is apparently the finest of this collection. She cautiously demarcates the universality of the exilic familiarity, as an occurrence which can be instituted from the text of exile of Adam and Eve’s from the Garden of Eden.
She then talks about the way in which expulsion from ones home land can enlarge the desire to memorialize the history. The consequence, she proposes, is that exile deforms the mental picture of the past, nurturing to make it a highly romanticize mythic, static realm which everlastingly obstructs the capability to deal with the present which Hoffman delicately illustrates as the inflexibility of the exilic position. She then offers a remarkable debate of A. B.
Yehoshua’s stimulating essay, “Exile as Neurotic Solution”, in which he hypothesized that there were many occasions for the Jews to reconcile with Palestine and start living there with no trouble than in countries where they had preferred to exist, preceding to the formation of the current State of Israel, but it was the one scene they kept away from. In Hoffman’s words, “it was as if they were afraid precisely of reaching their promised land and the responsibilities and conflicts involved in turning the mythical Israel into an actual, ordinary home.
“(Matthew Steveson, pp. 100). The eventual effect of the continuous recollection of the past and the firmness of the exilic pose is that exile societies often cannot gather in the locus of the better society; somewhat, they imagine of themselves as unendingly “Other”. Edward Said’s essay, “No Reconciliation Allowed”, describes the displacement of the exile in stunning terms: “a Palestinian going to school in Egypt, with an English first name, an American passport, and no certain identity at all.
” (Matthew Steveson, pp. 158) Thus, he finds himself in a less important school in which only English is acceptable to be spoken, even though none of the students is a native speaker of English. Even though his complete learning practice is centered on English and there life style in most severity, he is still taught to recognize he is a “Non-European Other”, a name who can by no means hope to being British in any correct logic of the word.
Conclusion Letters of Transit is wonderfully written compilation of essays by five illustrious authors. There voices of exile are extraordinarily expressive ones even when all five authors are from different backgrounds and cultures and the only thing common between them in that they write professionally in English. For them, the ordinary duality and shakiness of exile are sharpened by the very nature of their work.
After reading this novel, I think that the essays in this compilation which have the maximum effect, nevertheless, are those of Eva Hoffman, Edward Said and Charles Simic. Edward Said has been condemned lately for supposedly feigning his past; he is fairly obliging in this essay in admitting his respect for self-discovery. In a few logic, Said’s essay and the description of his being imitates his theory, specially the idea that we can and do use language instrumentally to build social authenticity.
Whereas to some extent, an uneven, as all collections are, “Letters of Transit” at last presents a well-to-do, diverse and extremely intuitive variety of readings on what it means to be an exile.
References: Aciman, Andre. 1999. Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language, and Loss. Published by New York Public Library Steveson, Matthew. 2007. Letters of Transit: Adventures and Encounters from America to the Pacific Isles. Published by Tauris Parke Paperbacks
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