Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ten Greatest Dead Expat Writers

What is it about leaving the home of your birth and writing a book? The romance of new cultures? Cheaper living costs? bohemian sensibilities? Whatever it is moving away seems to remove writing blocks and sets an artist free. I've picked ten of my favorite expat authors who are no longer with us.

10) Although Joseph Conrad is considered one of the best English novelists he did not actually learn to speak English until he was 21. Conrad was born in Poland and orphaned at the age of 11. He joined the French merchant navy at 16 and spent much of his early years on the high seas. At many points in his life, he became involved in illegal activities (such as gunrunning) and was often embroiled in political intrigue.

9) George Orwell. Born in India and came of age as a young policeman in Burma. Down and out in Paris and London. George was often happiest away from home. A great writer and a great mind Orwell is also known as one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century.

8) Vladimir Nabokov. Forced to flee the Bolshevik revolution Nabokov moved to Cambridge and then Berlin, and then Paris. As the Nazis moved in closer he jumped on a ship to the USA where he penned the classic Lolita. One of the great novelists of the 20th cent, Nabokov was an extraordinarily imaginative writer, often experimenting with the form of the novel. Although his works are frequently obscure and puzzling—filled with grotesque incidents, word games, and literary allusions

7) Henry Miller. The grumpy old man of letters found solace in Paris for ten years before retreating to his isolated Big Sur home. "All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience."

6) Graham Greene. Travelled to what he called the worlds wildest and most remote places before finally settling near Lake Geneva. His observations on south Esat Asia have only been matched by modern writers such as Christopher G. Moore.

5) Anthony Burgess. Taught English in a Malaya classroom where he penned his Asian trilogy before being shipped back to England with a suspected brain tumor where he wrote A Clockwork Orange, reviewed books, and became a celebrity.

4) William Burroughs. Shot his wife in Mexico and fled to Tangiers where he hit the pharmacia for synthetic dope and hammered out Naked Lunch in the Socco Chico before landing at the Beat Hotel Paris. In Paris the Olympia Press published the nightmarish visions that became a canon of the counter-culture 20th century revolution. He returned to the states a cult legend in his sixties.

3) James Joyce. Emigrated in his early twenties to Zurich, Austro-Hungry and then Paris. This modernist legend lived in self-imposed exile his entire life, yet strangely only wrote about his native Dublin.

2) Somerset Maugham. Highest paid author during the 1930s, Maugham travelled to the pacific islands to research his novel on artist Gauguin. Wrote of the isolation and madness of the British colonials in the Far East.

1)Ernest Hemingway. As a young man formed part of the Parisian Lost Generation. Nobel-prize winner and legendary author spent many months shooting game in Africa and his later days in Cuba. Hemingway was a true expat at heart and some would argue that his spare economic writing style is the greatest prose ever published.


Thai Girl said...

An excellent survey much enjoyed.

For another similar one, google, "Malcolm Pryce's top 10 expatriate tales".

You'll find at number 2. Jack Reynolds', "A Woman of Bangkok". This great classic very happily has just been re-issued by Monsoon Books of Singapore. It needs a new review or two.

My own novel, THAI GIRL seems to have missed the top ten but then maybe it arrived too late. It's still selling well though!

Andrew Hicks

James Newman said...

Andrew, I should have clarified my survey was for writers no longer with us... Those that have sadly passed away... I would get in a lot of bother if I was to use living writers...Or perhaps I should...Ten greatest Thai expat writers..Hmmmmm. There's an idea...

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