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The Elsewhere

On Belonging at a Near Distance

Adam Zachary Newton

Publication Year: 2005

"The Elsewhere." Or, midbar-biblical Hebrew for both "wilderness" and "speech." A place of possession and dispossession, loss and nostalgia. But also a place that speaks. Ingeniously using a Talmudic interpretive formula about the disposition of boundaries, Newton explores narratives of "place, flight, border, and beyond." The writers of The Elsewhere are a disparate company of twentieth-century memoirists and fabulists from the Levant (Palestine/Israel, Egypt) and East Central Europe. Together, their texts-cunningly paired so as to speak to one another in mutually revelatory ways-narrate the paradox of the "near distance."

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. ix

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Like black borders solemnifying a letter, four events surround the writing of this book. Each, in its dislocating effect, records the inscrutable shift between here and elsewhere—between what Henry James calls the nearer distances and clearer mysteries, and their remoter, less lucid counterparts. The first is the calamity...

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Introduction: Sta Viator

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pp. 3-40

This proposition reads like a riddle, but it is in fact an exegetical formula referring individual words in one verse to their clarifying contexts in related verses, drawn from a tractate in the Talmud that concerns boundary and movement, the nature of domain, and the mixing or pooling of areas for Sabbath observance...

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Place from Place, and Place from Flight: W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and Aharon Appelfeld’s The Iron Tracks

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pp. 41-95

“That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.” So, place and the reconstructive imagination are always in some tensed relationship. Eventually, the airy inscription that makes a syntax of the spaces between structures—spiderwebs of intricate relationships—overtakes and eventually outlasts the city of Ersilia itself. Place is abandoned and rebuilt elsewhere. ...

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Flight from Flight, and Flight from Border: Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary and A Kind of Testament and Essays and Short Fiction by Bruno Schulz

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pp. 96-154

Face and obverse, like a sheet of paper, with a figure on either side: let us imagine human countenance as itself such a page, its recto and verso two figures of authorial myth. On either side of that page, let the visages be those of Witold Gombrowicz (1904–1969) and Bruno Schulz (1892–1942), two colossi of minor modernism...

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Border from Border: Elias Canetti’s The Tongue Set Free and The Voices of Marrakesh and Gregor von Rezzori’s The Snows of Yesteryear

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pp. 155-206

Another ideogram with two faces, this time a border city between two deserts. But Despina’s two countenances are really two vantage points, maritime and terrestrial, envisaged from complementary and reversing distances. Seafarers make out a cityscape as if they had approached by land; overland travelers descry a vista that...

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Border from Beyond: André Aciman’s Out of Egypt and Edward Said’s Out of Place

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pp. 207-239

This would be the condition of nostalgia, an ache, a pang, a desire by turns melancholy and strangely sweet, the longing at the ambivalent heart of belonging at a near distance. Calvino’s conceit enlarges to the contours of the city the kind of reverberant nostalgia made famous by Heinrich Heine’s famous poem about the yearning...

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Beyond from Beyond: Dan Pagis’s Abba and Anton Shammas’s Arabesques

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pp. 240-278

The city of Eudoxia, the city of “good opinion,” may be an ultimately more reliable source of truth than the elegant, geometrical textile map transposing and correcting for its inscrutabilities. Or so ends Calvino’s lesson. In the case of this last of our five prefatory invisible cities, we see in operation something like the reverse polarity...


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pp. 281-352

Works Consulted

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pp. 353-378


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pp. 379-397

E-ISBN-13: 9780299208936
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299208905

Publication Year: 2005