Tomas Venclova – Being a world citizen (80/88)


How do you feel about American society? Have you integrated completely or do you still feel that
you’re on the periphery like an émigré? I do feel that I am, in part, on the periphery, but I like that. I like the fact that I am on the periphery,
my English isn’t very good. I can, of course, hold a conversation without any real difficulty, I can give my lectures in English but it’s far from being perfect. They say he’s the one who doesn’t speak English very well. Of course, in America it’s not clear
what it means to speak English perfectly, since everyone there speaks the language so-so. Almost everyone has either come from Europe
or their parents have come from Europe, and it’s far from the case that everyone there
speaks Oxford or Cambridge English. But what I can say is that I feel more of a world citizen. I feel as much at ease or not at ease in America,
as in Paris and in Lithuania, and anywhere else. I can make myself understood
if needs be in several languages. All of that, all those environments are,
well, quite close to me. I can orientate myself in them quite easily but in the depths of my soul, without a doubt, I remain a Lithuanian. And in part, I am still an inhabitant of the old Soviet Union, because my memories of it, as you can see,
are for me quite specific and eventful. To me they’re important and
quite interesting, unusually interesting, even though I don’t feel any nostalgia for those times. So, as I’ve said, I am a little on the sidelines in America,
but that’s what I happen to like. I would probably feel worse if I were fully integrated into
that society and were to live like all Americans. For example, my stepson, my daughter live like
all Americans with a large house, with several cars, but very boringly, in my opinion. We visit them and my daughter is really envious of me even though she probably lives materially better than I do, but she’s always saying to me, ‘Well,
one day you’re in Paris, another in Japan, and I get 10 days holiday a year
and that’s all I can allow myself. And you spend half your life in some exotic countries, in some interesting places and I’d very much like to live like that but I can’t’. That’s what my daughter says to me. Later, when she’s older, when she’s retired,
perhaps she can live like I live now. Whereas I’ve been living like that,
for about… the last 30 years.

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