Literature and Exile

A speech delivered by Roberto Bolaño in 2000 in Vienna. From The Nation:

RobertoBolano I've been invited to talk about exile. The invitation I received was in English, and I don't speak English. There was a time when I did or thought I did, or at least there was a time, in my adolescence, when I thought I could read English almost as well, or as poorly, as Spanish. Sadly, that time has passed. I can't read English. By what I could gather from the letter, I think I was supposed to talk about exile. Literature and exile. But it's very possible that I'm completely mistaken, which, thinking about it, would actually be an advantage, since I don't believe in exile, especially not when the word sits next to the word “literature.”

It's a pleasure for me, I should say right away, to be with you here in the celebrated city of Vienna. For me Vienna is strongly associated with literature and with the lives of some people very near to me who understood exile in the way I sometimes understand it myself, which is to say, as life or as an attitude toward life. In 1978, or maybe 1979, the Mexican poet Mario Santiago spent a few days here on his way back to Israel. As he told it, one day the police arrested him and then he was expelled. In the deportation order, he was instructed not to return to Austria before 1984, a date that struck Mario as significant and funny and that today strikes me the same way.

More here.