Tuesday, 29 December 2009

On exile

I was feeling particularly miserable on Sunday, partly, it turns out, because I was coming down with a cold. It made me think about home, though. And then I read that Dennis Brutus had died. Brutus was a prominent anti-Apartheid activist, poet and academic who spent many years imprisoned and in exile and ultimately settled in the US. I imagine he would resent the comparison but to my mind the scattered South Africans of my generation are the latter day exiles of South Africa, perhaps not forced by being banned and passports being revoked but forced or fleeing from South Africa for other reasons (economic need is still a form of coercion). Their reasons obviously affect their experience. For me at least, this time in South Korea is an exile from my native land.

So I'm going to use his words anyway, because he so eloquently captures, like a lepidopterist pinning a rare species to the board, the experience of being away:

from Sequence for South Africa

is the reproach
of beauty
in a foreign landscape,
vaguely familiar
because it echoes
remembered beauty.
PS Go read the whole poem - it's heartwretchingly eloquent.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly!

    I never met Dennis Brutus face to face, but our files crossed on the desk of some Pretoria apparatchik.