The article discusses the novel The Swimmer by Sri-Lankan English writer Roma Tearneand reads it against the contradictory rhetoric of tolerance and inclusiveness of millennium Britain. In this work, like other narratives revolving around issues of refuge and asylum, refugees and asylum seekers are portrayed as figures that are posited beyond the law of the nation. They embody new subaltern subjects, often confined to temporary and undefined internment in a “camp” situated beyond or in the proximity of the national borders, in those no man’s lands or new incarnations of the colonial “contact zones” (Pratt 1991) that reflect the residents’ insecure and fragile condition; or, as in the case of Tearne’s the Swimmer, they live hiding in precarious dwelling, shunning society for fear of deportation. In this way, they illuminate the “half-life” lived in the interstitial spaces of a “disseminated nation” that, in the words of Homi Bhabha, emerge out of “the scattering of the people […] in the nations of others” (Bhabha 1990: 291). Seen in this light, the novel The Swimmer projects an alternative vision of the nation and of national identity from its margins while elaborating on the insecure, unstable condition of migrant/exiled characters. The pain of exile along with the hope for a new home and identity is evoked by the characters’ negotiation with the loss of legal and geopolitical reference points and by highlighting the way they are reduced to what philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls “bare life” (1998) In the exposure of the bare life of refugees, literary inscriptions and visual representations are crucial, as they on the one hand, draw attention to the dehumanized conditions of living in a state of suspension, while on the other tend to provide a counternarrative of the widespread depiction of “the tide threatening to breach national borders” (Tyler 2006: 192). Narratives centring on refugees often revolve around some recurring motifs that are teased out in the analysis of Tearne’s The Swimmer, such as the question of the ethical responsibility of hospitality, the relationship between hosts and strangers and the ways in which the idea of nation, home and belonging become increasingly problematic for both arrivants and “hosts”. Another recurring motif is represented by the critique of both the role of institutions and the handling of human lives, problematizing the idea of England as a desirable destination and a safe haven. As the article argues, the novel invites a revision of space and place through the presence of the “infrahuman”, who is stripped bare of any status or security and therefore becomes a “disquieting element”, “breaking the identity between the human and the citizen” (Agamben 2000: 21). The locations explored are often quintessentially English settings, such as the secluded spaces of the English countryside or the cosmopolitan London setting, embodying the epitome of contemporary metropolis of which refugee narratives represent the “underside”, in sharp contrast to “glossy tourist representations” (Gibson 2006: 699).
|Data di pubblicazione:||2014|
|Titolo:||Reconfiguring Place and Identity in Roma Tearne's Narratives of War and Refuge|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||10.4324/9781315884370|
|Titolo del libro:||Representations of War, Migration, and Refugeehood. Interdisciplinary Perspectives|
|Tutti i curatori:||Rellstab, Daniel H.; Schlote, Christiane|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Capitolo/Saggio|
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