The Honor of Exile

The Romanian sculptor Brancusi once said that when the artist is no longer a child, he is dead. I still don't know how much of an artist I have become, but I grasp what Brancusi was saying. I can grasp - even at my age - my childish enduring self. Writing is a childish profession, even when it becomes excessively serious, as children often are.

My long road of immaturity began more than half a century ago. It was July 1945, a few months after I returned from a concentration camp called Transnistria. I lived that paradisiacal summer in a little Moldavian town, overwhelmed by the miraculous banality of a normal, secure environment. The particular afternoon was perfect, sunny and quiet, the room's semi-obscurity hospitable. I was alone in the universe, listening to a voice that was and wasn't mine. My partner was a book of Romanian fairy tales with a hard green cover, which I had been given a few days before when I turned the solemn age of 9.

That is when the wonder of words, the magic of literature started for me. Illness and therapy began at the same time. Soon, too soon, I wanted myself to be part of that family of word wizards, those secret relatives of mine. It was a way of searching for ``something else'' beyond the triviality of everyday life, and also of searching for my real self among the many individuals who inhabited me.

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