The Pain of Exile

Burmese Days

The Pain of Exile

It was so important that she should understand something of what his life in this country had been; that she should grasp the nature of the loneliness that he wanted her to nullify. And it was so devilishly difficult to explain. It is devilish to suffer from a pain that is all but nameless. Blessed are they who are stricken only with classifiable diseases! Blessed are the poor, the sick, the crossed in love, for at least other people know what is the matter with them and will listen to their belly-achings with sympathy. But who that has not suffered it understands the pain of exile? (George Orwell, Burmese Days, 2004, p. 232)

Just like the character Flory in Orwell’s Burmese Days suffers the pain of exile, many of the characters in The Escape to Myanmar suffers the same. They have an unclassifiable disease without a cure. Even though the outer conditions can get better because of exile to an other country, the inner condition can stay the same or even get worse. As an interpreter for political refugees from Burma/Myanmar, I have heared some of them say that they long for the life they had before, even though it was a life in uncertainty and fear. Some say they would even prefer a prison sentence in their home country to the difficulties of being in exile. These comments show how hard it is to live in a country that does not feel like home. In The Escape to Myanmar, I wanted to show this feeling of desperation in another context. Instead of writing a documentary about Burmese/Myanmar refugees in Sweden, I turned the perspective around and wrote about Swedish and other Northern European refugees in a future Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

A reader of the story, Laila Asplund, wrote (translation from Swedish):

“When I started reading your text it took a while before the penny dropped down. That it was Swedes who were refugees. Then they flee to a country with a colorful history. I reckon that Burma is not a country one does flee to today. You turn the reader’s (read ordinary Swedes’) reality upside down. Once I landed in the idea, I grasp the story. This insight is awakening.”

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