I need a room for part of the night, because i cannot find my own. (Bernard-Marie Koltès)
A stranger in one’s own country: I try to reconcile these two clearly irreconcilable concepts, but do not succeed. Combining them is a paradox, an error, another type of possibility that destroys the meaning of each word. How can one be a Stranger in one’s own Country? It is like saying that our own country is a stranger to us. It is like saying we are strangers to ourselves. It is something unspeakable, but yet it exists, it is real. I refer to Koltès’ monologue and to how many times the words stranger or foreigner are pronounced: many, too many times, like incessant rain. Yet their meaning is clear, explicit, written and spoken for what it is, in its fierce evidence.
“Stranger in one’s own Country” is an oxymoron, an expression born to justify an absence, a sense of uneasiness. It is a question that regards our identity, “that piece of plastic-coated paper called an identity card”. Our identity is built up with letters, numbers and codes that have an expiry date. Then what happens? When the clock strikes it is not only the document that expires, but us too. That piece of paper marks our end, until the next renewal it is as if we didn’t exist. This happens in our own country, but even more so if we live in a foreign country, waiting for an adoption that is always painful. Painful because we have to prove our right to exist to others, forcing ourselves to demonstrate our right to live to ourselves too. Only with that piece of paper can our existence be perfect, not mutilated. Only with that document, which expires every ten years, are we people, or rather symbols of people, with the right to grow, exist, procreate, die, and work. “They make you move on by a kick in the backside. If you want it, the work is over there, and then over there, further and further away. If you want to work, if you make work your life, the meaning of your struggle, you move. Your work is always somewhere else and you can never say: I am at home. It is not possible to create a house that is yours, to try to form a new idea, even a different one, a new approach to your work, to your existence. Each time you are forced to leave one house to go to another house, or one country for another country, so that eventually when you leave a place you always feel it is your home more than the next place you stop will be, and in the end in the next place where you stop you are more foreign, even more of a stranger than ever, even though everyone knows you because they have seen you passing through so many times.” The words of Koltès. We work, we produce, therefore we exist. But the work is somewhere else, you have to find it somewhere else. And once you have found it, it slips away, far away, always further away. Our work is always somewhere else, where we will never be able to say: I am at home. Each time we are forced to leave and to find another house, another country, so that eventually when you leave a place you always feel it is your home more than the next place will be. We are always forced to leave. When we do not agree, when we try to break the chain to find a new way, when we try to break the identity of a place to create a new one… at that moment those who wanted you until then, send you away, making you feel a Stranger in your own Country.Behind you lies the desert, in front of you more solitude. But “the solitude of the outcast, of the stranger” (as Koltès says) may also have a positive value, at least for me, perhaps because I have always tried to achieve the natural condition of “being a stranger”. It must have one. In this condition one can find a new way of living one’s everyday life, particularly when one has the courage to uproot oneself, becoming a stranger not only to others but above all to oneself. In this solitude we have to turn our backs on what we consider recognisable, or rather, on what we identify as knowable, to come to terms with a new “self”, to get to know ourselves but not to recognise ourselves, to meet ourselves and not to find ourselves. Being a Stranger in one’s own Country allows us to exploit the fact that we are not understood, particularly by ourselves, to find new languages. And with these new languages to speak to others and to ourselves as we have never done before. In fact, I think that the possibility of being a Stranger in one’s own Country may be a regenerative, liberating experience for many of us, even a necessary one, to avoid being killed before our time.