More on the idea of ‘home’

Perusing the drafts folder in my e-mail, I came across an excerpt from Svetlana Boym’s book, “The Future of Nostalgia.” I met Ms. Boym, a Harvard professor, in Boston a few months back and we chatted over coffee about nostalgia, its post 9/11 manifestation in the West (her book came out just before and she said she’d revise some themes today) and other pretentious-sounding topics.

It was a pleasant late-afternoon, one of those dominated by concepts rather than facts. For some reason I believe Thursday is the ideal afternoon for concepts to trump facts. That being said, here’s more theoretical ranting on the idea of “home.”

When exiles return “back home” they occasionally realize that there is nothing homey back there, and that they feel more at home in the exilic retreat that they have learned to inhabit. The exile became home, and it is the experience of returning to the country of birth that might become unsettling.

One shouldn’t ask writers in exile whether they plan to go back; it is condescending, and presumes that the biography of a nation carries more weight than the biography of an individual and his eccentric imagined community. The tear of nostalgia is not a tear of return; one doesn’t become one with the object of longing.

2 Responses to “More on the idea of ‘home’”

  1. So did you consciously self-sensor this thought, not allowing it to mature out of draft stage for fear of sounding terribly inconsistent? I wonder if we place too much emphasis on ourselves and that our own narratives are indeed puny.

  2. Definitely ‘Are you planning to go back home?’ (when you are living in a place other than your place of birth) falls (at least for me) in the category of stupid questions. Implied here is the idea that you cannot have a home somewhere else, that your original locus defines you, that you carry it with you wherever you go – and by inference, that wherever you go, you remain somehow a foreigner. What happened to the good, old “ubi bene, ibi patria”? My home is where I live.

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