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9 Famous Works Written in Exile

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In August of 1815, Napoleon set sail for Elba, where the overthrown leader was allowed to keep his title of emperor, reigning over the island's 12,000 inhabitants. Not every exiled person got to possess political clout, but for a collection of creative thinkers, getting banished from their homelands (or banishing themselves, for that matter) helped some of their most famous compositions see the light of day.

1. Ernest Hemingway—The Sun Also Rises

University of South Carolina

Sent to France as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, Hemingway loved the expatriate culture he found there so much that he became one himself. He stayed in Paris on self-imposed exile, writing his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises there. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think some of the book’s passages had some autobiographical influence, too, with dialogue exchanges like:

Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.

2. Albert Einstein—Manhattan Project letter

Wikimedia Commons

A noted pacifist—he once said “I loathe all armies and any kind of violence”—Einstein escaped the growing control of Nazis in Germany by fleeing to the United States in 1933. Six years later, Einstein and Hungarian emigrant Leo Szilard wrote Franklin Delano Roosevelt a letter about the very real threat of German scientists building an atomic bomb, and urging the government to jump into uranium research.

That letter, along with meetings between Einstein and Roosevelt, ignited the chain of events that led to the Manhattan Project in 1942, leading the United States to be the only country in World War II to successfully create an atomic bomb. Five months before the scientist died in 1954, he reconsidered his actions, saying, “I made one great mistake in my life... when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification—the danger that the Germans would make them.”

3. Oscar Wilde—The Importance of Being Earnest

NYU

The Irish playwright was imprisoned in England on charges of sodomy and gross indecency as Oscar Wilde, but left Britain in 1897 as an exile named Sebastian Melmoth. Sick and completely broke, Wilde stole the surname from a character in his great-uncle Charles Maturin’s gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer.

In Paris, Wilde published The Importance of Being Earnest, though he refused to give himself credit on the playbill—the first edition's cover touted that the play was “by the author of Lady Windermere’s Fan." After writing the play, Wilde confessed that he had lost his joie de writing, despite loving the play: “The first act is ingenious; the second, beautiful; the third, abominably clever,” Wilde said.

4. The Rolling Stones—Exile on Main Street

Amazon

The Stones may have been exiled on Main Street, but they fled England in 1971 as tax exiles. “After working for eight years I discovered at the end that nobody had ever paid my taxes and I owed a fortune. So then you have to leave the country,” confessed snarling frontman Mick Jagger. “So I said f*** it, and left the country.”

Before the British government could seize the band’s assets, the band settled in France. When it came time to record Exile on Main Street, Keith Richards transformed his basement in Villefranche-sur-Mer into a makeshift studio using the band’s mobile recording truck. In 1972, the same year their ode to exile came out, the Rolling Stones started using banks in Holland, since there was no tax on royalties under Dutch law.

5. Victor Hugo—Les Miserables

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First kicked out of France for his vehement opposition to Napoleon III’s empire, Hugo was then banished in succession from both Belgium and the island of Jersey. In a letter written 26 miles from his native country, Hugo wrote, “Exile has not only detached me from France, it has almost detached me from the Earth.” But in October of 1855, Hugo found his “rock of hospitality and freedom” in Guernsey, a neighbor of Jersey in the English Channel.

It was there Hugo picked back up his earlier abandoned novel, Les Miserables, along with novels like Toilers of the Sea and volumes of poetry including Les Contemplations. Hugo wrote at a torrid clip with mortality-fueled motivations: Since the writer was in his 50s when he reached Guernsey, he feared his “present refuge” would turn into his “probable tomb.”

6. Dante—The Divine Comedy

Wikimedia Commons

As one of six politicians governing Florence, the poet exiled several of his own rivals before getting banished himself in January of 1302 for supporting the Holy Roman Emperor instead of the papacy. If the poet-politician returned to Florence without coughing up a hefty fine, his punishment would be getting burned at the stake.

During his 20 years of wandering through Italy, Dante composed his three-part epic poem The Divine Comedy, even dedicating the last canto of the poem ("Paradiso”) to the troubles suffered by exiles. He never returned to Florence, even when the punishment was dropped to house arrest, but the city eventually scrubbed the poet’s criminal record in 2008—about 700 years too late.

7. Pablo Neruda—Canto General

O Grifo e Meu

Referred to as “one of the great ones…A Whitman of the South” by the New York Times, Neruda left Chile for Mexico in self-imposed exile since his pro-Marxist stances weren't making him many allies. Spending three years in Mexico, Neruda wrote Canto General, a behemoth of a poetry collection that tried to chronicle the history of Hispanic America in 15,000 lines.

Neruda returned to Chile and, in 1971, became a Nobel laureate. Two years later, Neruda almost became a second-time exile—during the Chilean coup d’état of 1973, when a dictatorship took command of the nation, ambassadors from Mexico and Sweden offered to take Neruda and his wife in. When armed forces searched the political poet’s Chile residence, he quipped, “Look around—there's only one thing of danger for you here—poetry.”

8. Frédéric Chopin—Funeral March

The third movement of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Major is modeled after the often-parodied Rossini opera La Gazza Ladra—a bold move, considering the movement is a weepy funeral march. The Polish composer penned the composition in the 1830s, when he was an expatriate in Paris and part of Poland's Great Emigration. Chopin didn’t often perform publicly in France, but according to NPR, "His colleagues said that he often played in salons, and the only way to get him to stop playing was to get him to play the March.”

The haunting melody might be familiar to astute sci-fi fans too. “The Imperial March,” the John Williams composition that accompanies Darth Vader every time he first shows up on-screen in Star Wars, based its theme on Chopin’s iconic tune.

9. Sigmund Freud—An Outline of Psycho-Analysis

Barnes and Noble

Never mind that Freud was 82 when he arrived in London in 1938, fleeing from the Nazis in Germany. In his London home at 20 Maresfield Gardens, the aging doctor compiled a final summary of his life's work that he titled An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, which he had started writing in Vienna before leaving for London. 

By September of 1938 (he got to London in June), he had polished off three-fourths of the book, but due to his battle with cancer and one last surgery in 1938, the book went unfinished. A year after Freud's death in 1939, the incomplete three-section book was published posthumously.

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10 Classic Books That Have Been Banned
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From The Bible to Harry Potter, some of the world's most popular books have been challenged for reasons ranging from violence to occult overtones. In honor of Banned Books Week, which runs from September 24 through September 30, 2017, here's a look at 10 classic book that have stirred up controversy.

1. THE CALL OF THE WILD

Jack London's 1903 Klondike Gold Rush-set adventure was banned in Yugoslavia and Italy for being "too radical" and was burned by the Nazis because of the author's well-known socialist leanings.

2. THE GRAPES OF WRATH

Though John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, about a family of tenant farmers who are forced to leave their Oklahoma for California home because of economic hardships, earned the author both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, it also drew ire across America become some believed it promoted Communist values. Kern County, California—where much of the book took place—was particular incensed by Steinbeck's portrayal of the area and its working conditions, which they considered slanderous.

3. THE LORAX

The cover of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Google Play

Whereas some readers look at Dr. Seuss's Lorax and see a fuzzy little character who "speaks for the trees," others saw the 1971 children's book as a danger piece of political commentary, with even the author reportedly referring to it as "propaganda."

4. ULYSSES

James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses may be one of the most important and influential works of the early 20th century, but it was also deemed obscene for both its language and sexual content—and not just in a few provincial places. In 1921, a group known as The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice successfully managed to keep the book out of the United States, and United States Post Office regularly burned copies of it. But in 1933, the book's publisher, Random House, took the case—United States v. One Book Called Ulysses—to court and ended up getting the ban overturned.

5. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

In 1929, Erich Maria Remarque—a German World War I veteran—wrote the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, which gives an accounting of the extreme mental and physical stress the German soldiers faced during their time in the war. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book's realism didn't sit well with Nazi leaders, who feared the book would deter their propaganda efforts.

6. ANIMAL FARM

The cover of George Orwell's Animal Farm
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The original publication of George Orwell's 1945 allegorical novella was delayed in the U.K. because of its anti-Stalin themes. It was confiscated in Germany by Allied troops, banned in Yugoslavia in 1946, banned in Kenya in 1991, and banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.

7. AS I LAY DYING

Though many people consider William Faulkner's 1930 novel As I Lay Dying a classic piece of American literature, the Graves County School District in Mayfield, Kentucky disagreed. In 1986, the school district banned the book because it questioned the existence of God.

8. LOLITA

Sure, it's well known that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is about a middle-aged literature professor who is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl who eventually becomes her stepdaughter. It's the kind of storyline that would raise eyebrows today, so imagine what the response was when the book was released in 1955. A number of countries—including France, England, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa—banned the book for being obscene. Canada did the same in 1958, though it later lifted the ban on what is now considered a classic piece of literature—unreliable narrator and all.

9. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

Cover of The Catcher in the Rye

Reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is practically a rite of passage for teenagers in recent years, but back when it was published in 1951, it wasn't always easy for a kid to get his or her hands on it. According to TIME, "Within two weeks of its 1951 release, J.D. Salinger’s novel rocketed to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Ever since, the book—which explores three days in the life of a troubled 16-year-old boy—has been a 'favorite of censors since its publication,' according to the American Library Association."

10. THE GIVER

The newest book on this list, Lois Lowry's 1993 novel The Giverabout a dystopia masquerading as a utopiawas banned in several U.S. states, including California and Kentucky, for addressing issues such as euthanasia.

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11 Ridiculously Overdue Library Books (That Were Finally Returned)
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Last week, Massachusetts's Attleboro Public Library received a big surprise when one of its regular patrons returned a copy of T.S. Arthur's The Young Lady at Home ... more than 78 years after it had been checked out. 

The man, whose name was not revealed, was reportedly helping a friend clean out his basement when he came across the tome. He recognized the library's stamp, then noticed its original due date: November 21, 1938. “We were amazed,” said Amy Rhilinger, the library’s assistant director. “I’ve worked here for 15 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Because the library charges $.10 per day for overdue books, the total bill for this dusty read would come to about $2800—but the library isn't planning to cash in. “We’re not the library police," Rhilinger said. "We’re not tracking everyone’s things. Everyone returns things a few [days] late, and it’s one thing we joke about here.”

Though it's rare, the decades-overdue book's return is not unprecedented. Here are 11 more tardy returns.

1. The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World’s Most Healthful Foods by Sheryl and Mel London

LOANED FROM: The Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas
YEARS OVERDUE: 21

In 2014, someone anonymously returned this fitness-friendly cookbook, which had been missing since September 24, 1992. The volume, published that April, contains over 300 recipes—and it’s probably safe to assume that the culprit had plenty of time to try out every single one of them.

2. The Real Book About Snakes by Jane Sherman

LOANED FROM: The Champaign County Library in Urbana, Ohio 
YEARS OVERDUE: 41

Like the previous entry, whoever turned in this musty old field guide declined to reveal his name. But lest anyone question the man’s honesty, he also left the following note: “Sorry I’ve kept this book so long, but I’m a really slow reader! I’ve enclosed my fine of $299.30 (41 years, 2 cents a day). Once again, my apologies!”

3. Days and Deeds: A Book of Verse for Children’s Reading and Speaking compiled by Burton and Elizabeth Stevenson

LOANED FROM: The Kewanee Public Library in Kewanee, Illinois
YEARS OVERDUE: 47

According to Guinness World Records, the $345.14 fee paid by the borrower of this lyrical compilation stands as the highest library fine ever paid.

4. The Fire of Francis Xavier by Arthur R. McGratty

LOANED FROM: The New York Public Library, Fort Washington Branch, in New York, New York
YEARS OVERDUE: 55

In 2013, this one was discreetly mailed in and the perpetrator was never brought to justice (be on guard, Big Apple bibliophiles).

5. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

LOANED FROM: The Rugby Library in Warwick, England 
YEARS OVERDUE: 63

The item found its way home during an eight-day “fines amnesty period,” which shielded the guilty patron from a £4000 penalty. “It’s amazing to think how much the library has changed since that book was taken out in 1950,” said librarian Joanna Girdle. 

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

LOANED FROM: The Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Illinois 
YEARS OVERDUE: 78

Harlean Hoffman Vision found a rare edition of this novel nestled amongst her late mother’s personal effects and vowed to set things right. “She kept saying, ‘You’re not going to arrest me?’” recalled marketing director Ruth Lednicer, “and we said, ‘No, we’re so happy you brought it back.’”

7. Master of Men by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The Leicester County Library in Leicester, England
YEARS OVERDUE: 79

Oppenheim was born in the surrounding region and, hence, the Leicestershire County Council was thrilled to reclaim this piece of their literary heritage after it turned up in a nearby house—even though the library branch it originally belonged to had shut down decades earlier.

8. Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country by William H. Bartlett

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The New Bedford Public Library in New Bedford, Massachusetts
YEARS OVERDUE: 99

Stanley Dudek of Mansfield, Massachusetts claims that his mother—a Polish immigrant—decided to brush up on American politics by borrowing this volume from the New Bedford Library in 1910. “For a person who was just becoming a citizen, it was the perfect book for her,” says Dudek.

9. Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

LOANED FROM: The Camden School of Arts Lending Library in Sydney, Australia
YEARS OVERDUE: 122

An Australian copy of Darwin’s treatise on bug-eating flora was borrowed in 1889. After two World Wars, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, and the birth of the internet, it was finally returned on July 22, 2011.

10. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians (volume II) by Charles Rollin

LOANED FROM: The Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky
YEARS OVERDUE: 150 (approximately)

In 2013, this tome was discovered at a neighboring school for the deaf, where it had presumably been stored since 1854 (as evidenced by a note written inside dating to that year). The library owns no records from this period, so exactly how long it was gone is anybody’s guess, but, said librarian Stan Campbell, “It’s been out of the library for at least 150 years."

11. The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel

LOANED FROM: The New York Society Library in New York City
YEARS OVERDUE: 221

Five months into his first presidential term, George Washington borrowed this legal manifesto from the historic New York Society Library. For the next 221 years, it remained stowed away at his Virginia home, and organization officials wondered if they’d ever see it again. “We’re not actively pursuing overdue fines,” joked head librarian Mark Bartlett. “But we would be very happy to see the book returned.” His wish was granted when Mount Vernon staff finally sent it back in 2010 (luckily, they dodged a whopping $300,000 late fee).

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2014.

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