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Exile and writing

A glimpse into the literary world created by immigrants

Exile and writing

Stefania Cardonetti

Writing is a practice that runs through immigration because it was one of the ways found by those who moved to unburden themselves on a daily basis and maintain a link with the country and the people they had left behind. In the intimate diaries, for example, experiences and sensations that perhaps could not be shared with other people were poured out, but which for the author meant a small daily refuge to unload the negative and positive experiences that migration or exile unleashed.

On the other hand, through the letters sent to family and friends, the migrants were able to tell how their journey was going: whether they had found work or not, whether they felt comfortable in the society that welcomed them, what things attracted their attention in a new and unknown society. Likewise, the epistolary exchange of information and affection helped to sustain promises of family reunification in the near future. It is also true that the rate of illiteracy was high, but this did not prevent these migrants from becoming acquainted with reading and writing. For example, those who did possess the ability to read and write served as intermediaries writing letters on behalf of those who could not.

However, this rich epistolary culture was also a refuge to narrate the sorrows of exile and a safe way to connect with people who could provide help and asylum in different parts of the world. Poets, academics and other members of the literate culture who had to emigrate for political reasons, in addition to writing letters, used the writing of their works as a refuge in times of distress.

The object featured in this article represents a specific link between exile and writing. This typewriter in the Museo de la Inmigración in Buenos Aires commemorates a diversity of writers who had to choose the path of exile in the first half of the 20th century. In particular, it is intended to recall through this object the Spanish Republican exile and its successive waves to different parts of the world, an important social and political phenomenon of the last century. The coup d'état that triggered the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and culminated in the victory of the so-called "rebel side" led by Francisco Franco, resulted in the forced exile of thousands of people, many of whom chose Argentina as their destination. An important portion of those persecuted by the Franco regime were professors, academics, poets and novelists who were able to make use of a wide network of personal relationships to leave the country.

The Spanish poet Rafael Alberti was one of those writers who came to Argentina in search of refuge and found what he called "networks of hope", that is, a group of intellectual friends and members of the local culture who welcomed them and allowed them to continue their literary work here. Writing was for many authors a way of taking refuge from fear, from persecution and, at the same time, a job and a way of life.

As can be seen in the photograph, the typewriter is accompanied by a small text. It is a fragment of "Memorias de la melancolía", a moving book about the experience of exile written by María Teresa León, writer and wife of Rafael Alberti. The trajectory of this couple who migrated from Spain to France and then to Argentina was marked by the nostalgia produced by the exile and writing was their great ally in that journey.

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