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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

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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

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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

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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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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 118th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."

Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."

By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time
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istock (blank book) / Taeeun Yoo (cover art)

Madeleine L’Engle’s acclaimed science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time has been delighting readers since its 1962 release. Whether you’ve never had the chance to read this timeless tale or haven’t picked it up in a while, here are some facts that are sure to get you in the mood for a literary journey through the universe—not to mention its upcoming big-screen adaptation.

1. THE AUTHOR’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF.

She’s a revered writer today, but Madeleine L’Engle’s early literary career was rocky. She nearly gave up on writing on her 40th birthday. L’Engle stuck with it, though, and on a 10-week cross-country camping trip she found herself inspired to begin writing A Wrinkle in Time.

2. EINSTEIN SPARKED L'ENGLE'S INTEREST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS AND TESSERACTS.

L’Engle was never a strong math student, but as an adult she found herself drawn to concepts of cosmology and non-linear time after picking up a book about Albert Einstein. L’Engle adamantly believed that any theory of writing is also a theory of cosmology because “one cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life." The idea that religion, science, and magic are different aspects of a single reality and should not be thought of as conflicting is a recurring theme in her work.

3. L’ENGLE BASED THE PROTAGONIST ON HERSELF.

L’Engle often compared her young heroine, Meg Murry, to her childhood self—gangly, awkward, and a poor student. Like many young girls, both Meg and L’Engle were dissatisfied with their looks and felt their appearances were homely, unkempt, and in a constant state of disarray.

4. IT WAS REJECTED BY MORE THAN TWO DOZEN PUBLISHERS.

L’Engle weathered 26 rejections before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally took a chance on A Wrinkle in Time. Many publishers were nervous about acquiring the novel because it was too difficult to categorize. Was it written for children or adults? Was the genre science fiction or fantasy?

5. L’ENGLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CATEGORIZE THE BOOK, EITHER.

To compound publishers’ worries, L’Engle famously rejected these arbitrary categories and insisted that her writing was for anyone, regardless of age. She believed that children could often understand concepts that would baffle adults, due to their childlike ability to use their imaginations with the unknown.

6. MEG MURRY WAS ONE OF SCIENCE FICTION'S FIRST GREAT FEMALE PROTAGONISTS ...

… and that scared publishers even more. L’Engle believed that the relatively uncommon choice of a young heroine contributed to her struggles getting the book in stores since men and boys dominated science fiction.

Nevertheless, the author stood by her heroine and consistently promoted acceptance of one’s unique traits and personality. When A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbury Award, L’Engle used her acceptance speech to decry forces working for the standardization of mankind, or, as she so eloquently put it, “making muffins of us, muffins like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” L’Engle’s commitment to individualism contributed to the very future of science fiction. Without her we may never have met The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen or Divergent’s Tris Prior.

7. THE MURKY GENRE HELPED MAKE THE BOOK A SUCCESS.

Once A Wrinkle in Time hit bookstores, its slippery categorization stopped being a drawback. The book was smart enough for adults without losing sight of the storytelling elements kids love. A glowing 1963 review in The Milwaukee Sentinel captured this sentiment: “A sort of space age Alice in Wonderland, Miss L’Engle’s book combines a warm story of family life with science fiction and a most convincing case for nonconformity. Adults who still enjoy Alice will find it delightful reading along with their youngsters.”

8. THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST OF A SERIES.

Although the other four novels are not as well known as A Wrinkle in Time, the “Time Quintet” is a favorite of science fiction fans. The series, written over a period of nearly 30 years, follows the Murry family’s continuing battle over evil forces.

9. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY BANNED BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Oddly enough, A Wrinkle in Time has been accused of being both too religious and anti-Christian. L’Engle’s particular brand of liberal Christianity was deeply rooted in universal salvation, a view that some critics have claimed “denigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.” There have also been objections to the use of Jesus Christ’s name alongside figures like Buddha, Shakespeare, and Gandhi. Detractors feel that grouping these names together trivializes Christ’s divine nature.

10. L’ENGLE LEARNED TO SEE THE UPSIDE OF THIS CONTROVERSY.

The author revealed how she felt about all this sniping in a 2001 interview with The New York Times. She brushed it aside, saying, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really.''

11. THE SCIENCE FICTION HAS INSPIRED SCIENCE FACTS.

American astronaut Janice Voss once told L’Engle that A Wrinkle in Time inspired her career path. When Voss asked if she could bring a copy of the novel into space, L’Engle jokingly asked why she couldn’t go, too.

Inspiring astronauts wasn’t L’Engle’s only out-of-this-world achievement. In 2013 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored the writer’s memory by naming a crater on Mercury’s south pole “L’Engle.”

12. A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE ADAPTATION WILL HIT THEATERS IN 2018.

Although L’Engle was famously skeptical of film adaptations of the novel, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th; Selma) is bringing a star-filled version of the book to the big screen next year. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis are among the film's stars. It's due in theaters on March 9, 2018.

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