Posts Tagged ‘Aleksandar Hemon’

We to whom the world belongs

June 1st, 2013 | Alina Müller

‘It’s not about where you belong. It’s about what belongs to you.’, Aleksandar Hemon writes in his ‘The Book of my lives’. And as I read this, I’m filled with joy.

One of the most difficult things about being an immigrant is getting used to being one. When you move away, your position changes fundamentally but your desires remain the same. And for some time you continue to expect them to be fulfilled, seemingly unable to recognise that, from where you now stand, some of those things that most people can take as given for you have become out of reach.

The desire to feel rooted, to be a part of a community, to recognise something of yourself and your past in your physical surroundings, in the taste of the coffee, in people’s gestures, in the language – the things that make up that elusive sense of belonging – becomes, not unexpectedly, the hardest thing to realise once you’re no longer where you were ‘supposed to be in the world’.  So you have the impression that either you have to give it up – the sense of loss and sadness would be unbearable  -  or try to return ‘home’.

Unless of course, as Aleksandar Hemon writes, it’s not about where you belong but about what belongs to you.

If that’s the case, then we should adjust not only our expectations but also our strategy and tactics. From expecting that there is a designated place for us and looking for it by sampling humanity and its geographies or trying to blend in and assimilate, to instead focusing on finding ways of acquiring – a place, a community, a language.

So as I read, I think of people that have walked the streets of a city until it became theirs, that told and listened to the stories of others until they recognised themselves in them, that learned a language by shaping it with their own words – and also of those brilliant people that document it all and share it with us.

And the joy I feel in Hemon’s words is one grounded in the realisation that, in this default state of non-belonging, everything can belong to you.