The notion of exile

Narratives of Diaspora and Exile in Arabic and Palestinian Poetry

Saddik M. Gohar

United Arab Emirates University

1) Read.

Ian Buruma, in an article entitled, ‘Real Wounds, Unreal Wounds: The Romance of Exile’, argues:

Exile as a metaphor did not begin with the Jewish Diaspora. The first story of exile in our tradition is the story of Adam and Eve. No matter how we interpret the story of their expulsion from the Garden of Eden — original sin or not — we may be certain of one thing: There is no way back to paradise. After that fatal bite of the apple, the return to pure innocence was cut off forever. The exile of Adam and Eve is the mark of maturity, the consequence of growing up. An adult can only recall the state of childlike innocence in his imagination; and from this kind of exile a great deal of literature has emerged. (Buruma 2001: 3)

 Whether associated with the Jewish Diaspora or the fall from Eden, exile may be viewed as the forced or self-imposed moving away from one’s homeland. Thus, exile becomes a signifier not only of living outside one’s place of origin but also of the inner condition caused by such a physical absence. At the same time, exile may also connote the exclusively spiritual, intellectual or even existential condition of someone who is alienated from the surrounding community. Whether exile is physical or existential, spiritual or intellectual, it has always been a source of inspiration for poets and writers. As Buruma argues, the exilic experience has triggered a great deal of literature characterised by “the melancholy knowledge that we can never return to Eden” (3).

 Because the Palestinians, like the Jews, were destined to live in Diaspora – moving from exile into exile – Darwish wonders about the location of the next refugee camp. Nevertheless, he reveals that the bleeding wounds of the Palestinian refugees will blossom into fields of olive trees:

 Where shall we go, after the last frontier? Where will birds be flying, after the last sky?

Where will plants find a place to rest, after the last expanse of air?

We will write our names in crimson vapor.

We will cut off the hand of song, so that our flesh can complete the song.

Here we will die. Here in the last narrow passage. Or here our blood will plant

– its olive trees (Jayyusi 1987:208).

 2)Pick up at least 5 words in the above text which embody the notion of exile :

 3)To what extent are Jews related to the notion of exile ?


4)Choose one of the work to do

a)Write a poem on exile and find pictures or drawings to illustrate it.

b)Write a narrative or short-story about exile with illustrations

c)Write a letter in which you deal with exile.

d)Find a work of art on the internet (selection of poems, pictures, extracts from a novel) dealing with exile). Justify your choice.