On Exile

If you read Spanish, I highly recommend an essay the Venezuelan novelist Israel Centeno has posted at his blog this week, entitled "París no se acaba nunca y Sefarad: Un viaje vertical hacia el exilio." The essay was presented in England, France and Spain earlier this year and addresses the theme of exile in relation to the work of Spanish novelists Antonio Muñoz Molina and Enrique Vila-Matas. Centeno also explores his own experiences with exile, in particular the internal exile the Venezuelan government is currently imposing on those writers who dissent against Chavismo.


"Displaced, we will always displace ourselves. I feel an urge to drink my coffee, I hear myself becoming pessimistic when I don't find coffee on the supermarket shelves, it is a bourgeois custom that absolutely all Venezuelans practice; drinking coffee, filtering the grinds when one awakens, sharing a cup at a bakery while talking shit, even when they have turned you into a ghost or when you no longer exist. It's likely that I'm writing impertinent things, I will not change what I've written because expressions are fatalities; but I should warn you that my state of mind is elastic as I write these pages, because the airport from where I'm supposed to depart in order to share my digressions on exile with you is now further away from me than London, than Paris, than China. And the bridges are collapsing. And the misfortunes never let up. A specter is haunting my country, the specter of the caudillos and the civil wars of the XIX century. And I am on a list. My name has been written, typed, denounced and exposed to the consideration of the nation.

At this moment I should ask myself if I shouldn't assume my circumstance as something natural, with resignation, since that is what I have been writing about and it corresponds with certain theses I have sustained for a while now. Forgive me, I have to give myself the change, I have to answer to myself and to you. There is no fracture in my discourse, I should merely establish a differential narrative among the various types of displacements. Are displacements catalogued by any chance? People are displaced and move throughout the world, the affected and the disaffected, like the characters within a novel or a short story. No one returns to the womb or to Eden. If one day you cease to be healthy you will never again cease being sick, even when you recover your health. To have left is to have ceased existing, it is to exit, and if you exit you don't return, because all exits change whoever leaves, as every journey transforms the traveler."

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