god’s zoo he suggests, unlimited freedom for the émigré writer. ‘Solitude,’ he writes, ‘is a miraculous soil on which the ability of an objective view of human aff airs is born.’ One passage from his piece is of particular relevance:
In Spanish, there exists for describing an exile, the word destierro, a man deprived of his land. I take the liberty to forge one more defi nition, destiempo, a man who has been deprived of his time. Th at means, deprived of the time which now passes in his country. Th e time of his exile is diff erent. Or rather, the exile lives in two diff erent times simultaneously, in the present and in the past. Th is life in the past is sometimes more intense than his life in the present and tyrannizes his entire psychology. Th is has its good and bad aspects. An exile living in the past is threatened by many dangers. For instance, by the danger of pining for trifl ing things whose real or alleged charm has gone for ever. He is threatened by the danger of pining even for the stage properties employed by older, today no longer living, worlds … Th e life of the exile, like the life of any other person, speeds onward to its end, but an exile, as it were professionally, moves backwards. Hence, often serious and even tragic, confl icts arise. It happens that the émigré lives in a complete vacuum which his imagination fi lls exclusively with phantoms of a dead world.
Time, or the loss of it, is one of my themes. What happens, say, when people move from Arabic to World Time? What happens when even the countries they’ve left behind enter World Time? What does one have to do in order to preserve one’s creative voice inside Greenwich Mean Time? What happens to those whispered promises of love at closing time? Time plays havoc with most people, especially as they get older, but I think it does so all the more with people who are exiles or émigrés. Th ere would appear to be a tendency in them to recreate time not according to what it actually was, or is, but to what it might be. (My Hungarian provided a masterclass in imaginative historical reconstruction.) Wittlin remarks on the dangers of being too passionately rooted in one’s time because to be so is to be its slave. ‘Only a destiempo,’ he concludes, ‘can be really free.’ Th is