On Not Going Home

Apposite writing from the LRB archive by James Wood, Jenny Diski, Barbara Newman, Ian Hacking, Ian Hamilton, Iqbal Ahmed, Ronald Fraser, Stephanie Bishop and J.I.M. Stewart.

On Not Going Home

James Wood, 20 February 2014

A panic suddenly overtakes me, and I wonder: how did I get here? And then the moment passes, and ordinary life closes itself around what had seemed, for a moment, a desperate lack.

Diary: A Looking-Glass Land of Sorts

Jenny Diski, 23 February 1995

The lady who has embarked on a campaign to give me serene shoulders, my ‘massoose’ she calls herself, asks me what I do and gets the wrong end of the stick. No, really, I’m not here in search of plot ideas. ‘I expect you have to travel a lot to get stories to write about.’ ‘Not at all,’ I say. ‘I stay at home and make them up.’ 

‘Screw you, I’m going home’

Ian Hacking, 22 June 2000

By Book 9 of the Iliad the Greeks are terrified. The Trojans are on the march; their fires are visible at night. The enemy strength seems overwhelming. Agamemnon has treated Achilles shabbily, taking back the booty and women granted him for his heroic exploits. Achilles is bitter; he will decamp and sail home. Desperately needing Achilles’ army, leadership and charisma, Agamemnon offers to restore all the wealth and women, plus a good share of the prospective loot from Troy. Achilles says, in effect: ‘Screw you, I’m going home.’

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 14 January 2002

The waiting rooms are full of ‘characters’ / Pretending not to sleep. / Your eyes are open / But you’re far away / At home, am Rhein, with mother and the cats.

Short Cuts: Oh to be in England

Iqbal Ahmed, 28 November 2002

In December I was asked a bizarre question – what was I doing during Christmas. I was hoping the corner shop would remain open on Christmas Day for me to come to work. I took a long walk across North London to brave the cold on Hampstead Heath. The Heath was covered in snow like a layer of dust. I was surprised to find many people on the Heath wearing wellingtons and gloves. When I reached the Leg of Mutton pond, I came across an American whom I had seen a few times in the corner shop. He said Merry Christmas to me. It was like meeting a fellow-traveller in a far-off country.

Staying at home

Ronald Fraser, 27 July 1989

There is a terrible irony here. Had Lorca, in his panic of the days leading up to the Civil War, chosen to go almost anywhere but home to his parents in Granada, where the hatred against him was the greatest – had he stayed in Madrid, as some friends advised, or gone to Mexico, where he was awaited – he would certainly have lived.

I remember my / grandmother tending a patio of brilliantly / flowering impatiens, red and orange and / hot pink, and on her coffee table there was / always a vase of deeply perfumed roses / that she had grown herself. Perhaps she / told her daughter, my mother, to hurry on / now and not bother her and sort her / livingness out on her own because she had / houseplants to water.


J.I.M. Stewart, 19 March 1981

Milton went to Italy, hoped to go on to Greece, but returned home when things looked bad there. ‘Oh, to be’ and ‘Would I were’ are echoed often enough in English poetry composed abroad. But the writers of the Diaspora leave England because they hate it, and continue (with some significant exceptions) to hate it to the end. The nostos makes no appeal to them.

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