Beautiful but harrowing chronicles of three exiles that probe the
moral and personal risks of their encounters with totalitarianism.
Here are three tales about expatriates who attempt, with often
disastrous results to themselves and their families, to oppose the
totalitarian regimes of their homelands. A staff writer for the New
Yorker, Weschler (Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, 1995, etc.)
brings characteristic style and intelligence to bear on his
portrayal of the manner in which totalitarianism corrupts everyone,
including its most steadfast opponents. Weschler has chosen "very
edgy guys" whose quirkiness holsters them in their defiance. Kanan
Makiya adopted the pseudonym Samir al-Khalil for his books
attacking Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Aside from his record of Iraqi
state terror, Makiya also penned a critique of those artists who
collaborated with Saddam's regime. Prominent among them was his own
father, Mohammed Makiya, Iraq's foremost architect, whom he loves
and, in many ways, respects. While family ties lie most obviously
at the center of Makiya's conflicted feelings, Weschler
demonstrates that opposition to a regime often results in
fragmented families. Jan Kavan, a former student activist, spent
two decades smuggling opposition materials in and out of
Czechoslovakia, only to find himself, incredibly, accused of
collaboration when he came home following the collapse of the
Communist regime. Weschler describes the Kafkaesque situation,
illuminating the difficulties raised by society's need to both
forgive and to find someone to punish for its own failures. The
final and most stunning of these narratives focuses on Afrikaaner
poet and painter Breyten Breytenbach. We follow his journey to
exile, his foolhardy return to South Africa on a mission that gets
him jailed, and his collapse while imprisoned. Breytenbach's poetry
and comments are beautiful and penetrating, illuminating many of
the painful issues activists face in exile. Piercing and timely
essays that probe the profound ways in which modern totalitarianism
"turned out to be evil in a confoundingly complicated way." (Kirkus
From the author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, Calamities of
Exile combines three gripping narratives that afford a sort of
double CAT scan into the natures of both modern totalitarianism and
timeless exile. "Beautiful but harrowing chronicles of three exiles
that probe the moral and personal risks of their encounters with
totalitarianism...Piercing and timely."--Kirkus Reviews, starred
review "Weschler ...combines a novelist's gift for drama with the
objectivity and research skills of a journalist...The result is
three gripping profiles of very human but also extraordinary
men."--Publishers Weekly "[Weschler's] thorough accounting of the
men's covert operations, assumed identities and strained
relationships with fathers, wives, and colleagues creates a
disturbing triptych of the perils of totalitarianism."--Lance
Gould, New York Times Book Review "Weschler tells these three
tragic tales with an admirable combination of psychological
penetration, intellectual thrust, concision and
compassion."--Francis King, Spectator "Endlessly
absorbing...Breathtaking."--Jeri Laber, Los Angeles Times Book
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