BOOK REVIEW / Miles away from home alone: Border Lines: Stories of Exile and Home - Ed Kate Pullinger Serpent's Tail pounds 8.99

SOME years ago when living in Vienna, I was chatting with a Kurdish friend, about the difficulties of adapting to a country that was not our own. 'Ah, but Liz,' she sighed, 'You are lucky. You can go home.'

Vienna was awash with exiles in those days, from Iraqi Kurdistan, from Chile, Argentina, eastern Europe, Iran . . . None could accept that residence in the land of exile was anything other than an interruption in the normal flow of their lives. Meanwhile years, decades, went by, friendships blossomed, children were born, grew to adulthood and had themselves to confront the experience of being children of exiles, torn between competing homelands.

The editor of these short stories by 18 authors promises 'a huge range of experience' on this theme. She casts her net wide, and some experiences are a bit thin. Barely half are memorable, but those that are serve their purpose: you want more, of both the writer and the writer's homeland. Janette Turner Hospital most successfully combines the experience of real geographical exile and an individual's existential uprootedness in Litany for the homeland. A childhood encounter in her native Australia with a rough kid from the wrong side of the tracks shakes a young girl's assumptions of home and place, and imbues her with a lifetime fascination for outsiders. Throughout her adulthood, in another hemisphere, she spots these characters, beckoning from beyond the pale, spiriting her home. 'They whisper: no little man from Customs and Immigration stands at the doors of memory or imagination demanding to see your passport.' In the margins of life, she concludes, you are ignored, but free. That is your homeland.

Several stories of isolation and heartache are weakened by their failure to address the fundamental question of whether or not you are free to go home, and if you are not, what it is that stops you. This has to be something bigger than just a reluctance to go back to mum. A woman adrift in a north European city; an encounter with a busker on the Central Line; a woman returns to an emotional void and leaves, lightened. These episodes explore psychological alienation but lack the political thump that makes you care.

My favourite is Leena Dhingra's La Vie en Rose, a bubbling celebration of Paris by a young Indian woman who has lived there since she was four and has appropriated it as her home. Now about to leave, perhaps for ever, she revels in her city and the life she has led with her parents, who were forced from India by partition in 1977.

She describes the little flat they inhabit, which is crammed with lovely old books assembled by her intellectual father and festooned with fabulous cashmere shawls which her mother collects from Parisian flea markets. 'The flea market was a veritable Aladdin's cave - full of shawls, all gradually finding their way to our small apartment. We slept over them and under them. Four trunks of shawls with a mattress over them made a bed, and my sister and I each slept on one of these. Shawls also served as blankets, as covers and my mother put them to their proper use by wearing them.' Her mother's obsession sums up a lifetime of exile: it is a gesture of both affirmation and yearning.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific