From the moment Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, exile has been a part of the human experience. The circumstances in which individuals or entire peoples are compelled to leave their homeland are as various as they are numerous, and how people react to exile also varies widely. Think of the wit of Alexander Herzen, or the quiet despair of Oscar Wilde, sitting outside the Cafe' de Flore in the Boulevard St. Germain in the hope that someone will pay for his coffee, or the comfortable life of Sir Richard and Lady Burton in their garconnerie in Trieste, or the angst of Albert Camus, or the wanderings of Jack Kerouac. Now, in The Oxford Book of Exile, John Simpson has brought together examples of exile from all over the world, and from all periods of history.
Here is an intense record of the experience of exile, with writers from Ovid to Solzhenitsyn describing their emotions, their struggle, and their despair. For those who have chosen a life in exile, Simpson shows how the response is more mixed: ambivalence about the country they have left and the country they have chosen suffuses the writing of these intellectuals. We read of literary expatriates, such as Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, and James Joyce. There is also the happy life of exiles in utterly foreign places, such as Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa or Paul Gauguin in Tahiti. And those persecuted for their faith--such as the Pilgrims at Plymouth or the Ayatollah Khomeini in France--rub shoulders with those fleeing from war, or from debt, or even from the weather.
Castaways and spies, premiers and princes describe their departure, their reception, and sometimes their return, in an anthology that is by turns inspiring, moving, and deeply thought-provoking. With sources ranging from police records, newspaper articles, interviews, letters, and memoirs, as well as verse and fiction, and settings as remote as Iran and Russia, China and Palestine, The Oxford Book of Exile provides fascinating insight into an experience that touches so many, and captures the imagination of us all.
'Mr Simpson has steered a course through these tricky waters with great skill and judgment, inclining always towards diversity. This is an extremely interesting book, continuously interesting, not just pleasant to dip into ... a brilliantly organised book and it is absorbing to read. One cannot ask for more.'
Barry Unsworth, Sunday Telegraph
'Some exiles ended in tragedy, others in triumph, and this lends the book a sense of great poignancy.'
Tim Hathaway, Birmingham Post
'he has an enviable narrative gift, and the 11 entries of his own are among the most interesting here ... One of this anthology's pleasing aspects is the way Simpson allows the same exiles to pop up to illustrate the cycle of banishment, unbearable nostalgia and return.'
Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph
'Simpson has chosen with admirably imaginative empathy, beginning at the beginning, with excerpts from the Book of Genesis, and covering all the world and the history of exile.'
Patrick Skene Catling, The Irish Times
`John Simpson's collection is to be commended for its range, both in interpretation of exile and in selection. This readable and enlightening selection is a delight to dip into and savour again and again.'
Victoria Ellis, Yorkshire Gazette & Herald
`intelligent and accessible book ... Simpson's light touch and his imaginative selection of 'exiled' authors - plus an optimistic chapter entitled The End of Exile - ensure that this is not too depressing a read.'
Robert Beaumont, Yorkshire Evening News
`delightful anthology of exile ... Simpson's anthology shows, again and agaqin the ecile's feelings of bereavement are darkly coloured by a sense of guilt and the struggle to find a reason for being cast away.'
Alberto Manguel, The Observer
`John Simpson's excellent collection of writings on exile includes some moving pieces from Jewish refugees, as well as some from Palestinians, which haunt us and crave our sympathy.'
Julia Neuberger, Jewish Chronicle
`altogether admirable anthology of exilement ... ingenious and imaginative book'
Jan Morris, The Spectator
`imaginately compiled by John Simpson, will be perfect for sporadic holiday reading'
Barry Unsworth, Sunday Times