I hate the word ‘ex-pat’. It has an ugly sound that captures an ugly feeling: a cocoon into which people snuggle and whisper their longings to be “back home”. Unlike my fellow English teachers in Korea, I never use the expression “back home”. I haven’t emigrated and I intend the remain a Canadian but going ‘back home’ - in the full sense of those words - seems less and less likely because being ‘here’ has changed me.
James Wood recently said the same thing in his article ‘On Not Going Home’ in the London Review of Books. Wood is the most interesting book reviewer in the English language. Published in The New Yorker and working at Harvard, he was born in England but lives in the USA. His writing in enjoyably brilliant. Every review shows wide reading but he cushions his erudition with personal memories that help readers locate the ideas in the real world. The LRB article is a wonderful example of this style. Wood works his way through Edward Said, Adorno, W.G.Sebald and Freud in order to explain that he is,
…no longer able to go home…it is too late to do anything about it now, and too late to know what should have been done. And that may be all right.
Readers might be interested in Wood’s list of best books since 1945:
Photo is of Wood and his wife, the novelist Claire Messud.