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The life of a human community rests on common experience. Yet in modem life there is an experience common to all that threatens the very basis of community—the experience of exile. No one in the modem world has been spared the encounter with homelessness. Refugees and fugitives, the disillusioned and disenfranchised grow in number every day. Why does it happen? What does it mean? And how are we implicated?

David Patterson responds to these and related questions by examining exile, a primary motif in Russian thought over the last century and a half. By “exile” he means not only a form of punishment but an existential condition.

Drawing on texts by such familiar figures as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Brodsky, as well as less thoroughly examined figures, including Florensky, Shestov, Tertz, and Gendelev, Patterson moves beyond the political and geographical fact of exile to explore its spiritual, metaphysical, and linguistic aspects. Thus he pursues the connections between exile and identity, identity and meaning, meaning and language.

Patterson shows that the problem of meaning in human life is a problem of homelessness, that the effort to return from exile is an effort to return meaning to the word, and that the exile of the word is an exile of the human being. By making heard voices from the Russian wilderness, Patterson makes visible the wilderness of the world.

David Patterson is associate professor of Russian and European literature at Oklahoma State University and author of The Shriek of Silence: A Phenomenology of the Holocaust Novel.

"Welcome to anyone who has ever thought of the dimensions of the problem of life and art and their interrelationship."—World Literature Today

"Succeeds in stimulating reader into the reappraisal and reconsideration of the universal human dilemma: 'Who am I? Where am I?'"—Philosophy and Literature

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Exiles' writings, Alienation in literature, Russian literature


Slavic Languages and Societies

Exile: The Sense of Alienation in Modern Russian Letters
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