In the early 1930s, Gertrude Stein, Oakland-raised oracle of the Lost Generation, revisited her hometown. It was the trip that inspired her infamous and oft-contested line: “There is no there there.” Stein reportedly gazed upon the site where her house had once been, razed to make way for new developments. “That is what makes your identity,” Stein writes in her autobiography, “not a thing that exists but something you do or do not remember.”
Ask an American expatriate “Why did you leave the country?” and more often than not you’ll get an explanation that begins “There was this guy…” or “I met a woman…” Ask Jeffrey Hawkins, a former foreign service officer who has lived in some ten countries on four continents since graduating from Cal 30 years ago, and you’ll hear a different story. “In my case,” he says, “I met a language.” Although actually, in the very beginning, there was a woman too.
Posted on July 3, 2018 - 11:22am