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A person in exile talks more openly: Sahar Delijani

Apr 01, 2015

Iranian author Sahar Delijani known for her popular novels like the Children of the Jacaranda Tree was in India earlier this year to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival. In an interview to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia, Sahar said that writers-in-exile motivate other people to come out with their own stories.

Sahar Delijani

OneWorld South Asia: What makes a person living in exile, a better writer?

Sahar Delijani: There are certain things about which a person living in exile talks about in a much more open way. When you are outside of your country, the limitations are not the same which make it easier for a person to speak out.

One also has to consider the practice of self-censorship but in practice it is easier to speak when you are living outside. For example, there could be stories which you are not able to tell if you are inside, but you can share the same stories if you are outside (of your own land).

OWSA: How do writings by those living in exile provide support to the people, particularly the women living in exile?

Delijani: When you are reading a book or watching a movie that you are identifying with, something that you have not been able to put into words for yourself in your head, that is already a little bit of horizon being open for you.

I think if these stories could help other people, and not just women to come out with their own stories, then there is something good that has been done.

OWSA: When you express yourself as an author how much of a woman inside you comes out in the form of words?

Delijani: That is extremely hard to answer. When I write it’s my thoughts that are put on a page but it is difficult to answer as to how much of a woman is expressed, but there is a little bit of me for sure.

OWSA: How according to you is life in exile a bigger challenge for women compared to that of men?

Delijani: I don’t know if it is more challenging for women. What I understand is that it is a difficult position for everyone. Huge violence is being done to both men and women who are not able to return to their country and, I guess, both suffer in the same way.

OWSA: Is there a possibility wherein living in exile becomes a boon for a person?

Delijani: Well, I think every experience through some kind of difficulty opens up your mind in some ways. When you feel uncomfortable, you try to absorb better things around you.

When you have a new eye and when you look at things, in some ways you see things which, may be, other people are not able to see. Being in exile, gives you a certain distance to the subjects that you want to talk about and that is what makes you more clear sighted.

When you live outside you have a broader view of things.

OWSA: Do you think writers-in-exile can become ambassadors for sufferings that people living in exile may have to endure?

Delijani: I don’t think a writer writes in order to be an ambassador for the suffering. The writer writes what he or she knows or what is important to him or her.

If someone finds some kind of redemption, relief or happiness through these writings then it is a good thing, but am not sure if that should be a conscious thing for the writer.OWSA: Do you agree to the thought that living in exile is as good as being dead?

Delijani: I think the human mind has no limits and the human condition has no limit. I don’t think there is just one condition of being in and out.

I don’t think we are dead, we are very much alive. And, we have to keep on doing what we do, whatever we do.

OWSA: Do you see a need to draw a distinction between general expats and those living in exile?

Delijani: It is really hard to make a distinction between the two. We do have to make a difference between people who can go back to their country and those who cannot. This difference makes the experience of immigration completely different and this difference must be underlined.

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