Distance-Sickness

Distance-Sickness

  Inside the Italian Quarter in Benghazi, Libya.

Inside the Italian Quarter in Benghazi, Libya.


[Upon returning to Benghazi for the first time in 22 years and walking its streets...]

At times I was experiencing a kind of distance-sickness, a state in which not only the ground was unsteady but also time and space.

I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn't really care.

When I first read those lines by Jean Rhys, I thought, yes, and then almost immediately resented the connection I felt. This is why returning to that pre-life is like catching your reflection in a public place. Your first reaction, before you realize it is you, is suspicion. You lose your footing but just in time regain your balance. I realize now that my walks, whether taken to pass the time or to better acquaint myself with a foreign city, or conducted in a hurry, all took place under the vague suspicion that I might somehow come upon myself, that is to say, that other self who lives in harmony with his surroundings, who exists, like a chapter in a book, in the right place, not torn out and left to make sense on its own.

— Hisham Matar, The Return


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