The Romance of Elsewhere

From a very early age I have suffered a version of Baudelaire’s horreur du domicile (horror of the domestic), an aversion that seems to coexist nicely with a strong attachment to the comfort, the privacy, the intimacy, and the pride of home. I’m not sure how this happened, this pull of the strange against the familiar and back again, but I do know that the rhythm of leaving and returning has kept me nicely unsettled for over forty-five years. And that without it, I would have drowned any desire to write in restlessness and regret.

Dreams of displacement began for me in childhood. Generally, they centered around something like a steamship, me at the rail, waving at those left behind, or me moving steadily into the distance, with the deck chairs and dancing and dressing for dinner, and time stretching out luxuriously to journey’s end. Perhaps the seed for this longing came from my grandmother, who, every year, would take off for England on the Union–Castle with her trunks and hatboxes, and then go on to America, seeking a cure for her deafness.

People on couch
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