Literary brain drain

There is a common denominator among my favorite authors: they are all in exile.

As I pondered about this fact, I thought about what is wrong with Latin American countries that governments are so messed up that the brightest minds are fleeing the countries (and in many cases, they don’t go back).

Right now, I’m reading “The Sum of Our Days” by Isabel Allende. In this book she is narrating her life in California, where she lives with her American husband, Willie. When I finish this book, which is her latest, I will let you know what I think about it. But for now, I am going to examine why the brilliant minds are leaving Latin America to go elsewhere.

Mainly, I believe their prominent status as literary geniuses in their countries leads them to get too involved. In other cases, they are forced to flee because of their connections with a vanquished regime.

As much as I like to think about myself as a citizen of the world, I realize my identity lies in Colombia. This really leads me to wonder about these people. How do they live in anonymity after spending years as local celebrities?

I came across a very thoughtful story mentioning Isabel Allende and her loss of identity. This piece also talks about Allende’ status as an expatriate and how one is not really adopted into another country. Also, the person’ status as a native of his or her own country, changes radically. This results in people not being from any one place. Somehow, expatriates are left in the limbo of citizenship and identity. When one returns to the country of origin, everything falls out of place and many times it is easier to live in the memory of the country, with all the former glory of the past.

In “My Invented Country”, Allende also talks about Chile and its former glory. She explores her own nationalism and her reaction to San Francisco when she arrived. The Chile she describes is the Chile of her memory.

When I read Allende’s books, I always wonder how different the Chile she is describing looks now because the Colombia of my childhood, is a very different one to the blooming one that I see every time I go back. Maybe she prefers the glory of old Chile, but I really want to know how she is really adapting to her new life with an American husband, without the decorations of a memoir for her daughter Paula, who died in the mid nineties. It really leaves me wondering of how much of the fantastic elements make their way into this “factual” piece.


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