Sunday, May 20, 2007

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 2, Louis Adamic

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 2, Louis Adamic

Now, because of my Guggenheim Fellowship, we were going to Europe.
One day eary in April, Stella said, "We'll visit your folks in
Carniola, of course." She evidently thought that would be the
natural thing to do.
"Of course," I said."Of course," I repeated inaudibly to myself,
then added aloud, "Just a shortvisit, though-for an afternoon,
She said, "I suddenly realized that you told me you have people
over there-in Carniola (I like the sound of the name)-and now I'm
curious about them-what they're like."
"So am I," I said, though actually, I think, I wasn't; not in any
deep, vital sense, at any rate.
None the less, I wrote to my family in the old country that my
wife, who was an American and spoke no Slovenian, and I should, in
aa probability, visit them on Sunday afternoon. May 15th. The ship
that we decided to sail on was scheduled to arrive in Trieste on the
14th, and I figured that we might as well get the visit over with
the first thing; then we should immediately find a place in the
mountains somewhere in Italy or Austria and I should begin to work
on my new book dealing with America.

 Three weeks later, in mid-Atlantic, I said to Stella, "I'm a bit scared of this home."
 "I thought something was bothering you," she said. "Why?"
 "Well," I began to explain, "although" in a way it seems like the day before yesterday, it's a long time since I felt home. I was very young and I think I've changed a great deal-fundamentally-since then. All my emotional and intellectual life now seems to be rooted in America. I belong in America. My old country, somehow, is a million miles away-on another planet-and my old country includes my people."
Stella listened sympathetically.
 "Of course," I went on, "I remember my parents as they were before left home, but now my memory of them is seriously blurred by the idea which abruptly intrudes itself upon my mind, that in these nineteen years, which have been a drastic, turbulent period for everybody in Europe, they, too, must have changed-not merely grown older, but changed, probably, in their characters. This adds to the distance between them and me.
 "I have four brothers and five sisters in Carniola. Seven of them were already in the world nineteen years ago. Of the two born since then, I have, of course, no notion, except that their names are Yozhe and Anica, and their ages seventeen and fifteen, respectively. The other seven I remember but dimly as they were in 1913. I was the oldest (three children before me had died). My oldest sister, Tonchka, was thirteen. My oldest brother, Stan, was ten. My youngest brother, France, was a little over a year. Now he is nearly twenty-one. Tonchka is thirty-two, married, and has two children. Stan is twenty-nine. Another sister, Mimi, was four when I left. Now she is twenty-three, a nun in a hospital, and her name is Manuela. Why she became a nun is more than I know. Then there is my brother Ante and my sister Paula and Poldaka-barely more than names to me. In fact, I have to strain my memory to tell you their names. And now I'm going to visit them because that, somehow, seems the proper thing to do."
 "It'll probably be very interesting," said Stella.
 "Probably very awkward," said I. "During the last fifteen years my contact with home has been exceedingly thin. For two years after America's entry into the war I could not write to my people because I was in the American army and they were in Austria. We were 'enemies.' For two or three years after the war my circumstances were nothing to write about to anybody; so I didn't. In the last eight or nine years after the war I wrote home, as a rule, once in six months-a card or a short note, to the effect that I was well and hoped they were all well, too. I could not write much more. For one thing, I could not begin to tell them about America and myself; how I felt about America, what a wonderful and terrible place it was, how it fascinated and thrilled me. They might misunderstand something; something I'd say might disturb them; then I'd have to explain, and so on; there would be no end to writing-to what purpose? At the end they would really know nothing or very little about America or me. One has to live in the United States a long time to even begin to know it. Besides, if I got them interested in America, some of my brothers and sisters might want to come over --and I did not want that. I had troubles enough of my own. And they were possibly as well off in Carniola as they would be in America …. Another thing : of late years I could express only the most ordinary things n my native tongue. I could not write in Slovenian of involved matters, such as my life in America.
 "At home, of course, they did not understand me, what I was up to in America, why I wrote so little ; and they, with their peasant patience and pride (which, as I recall, does not break down even before members of their own family) -they, in turn, asked me for no explanations, and their letters to me were almost as brief as mine to them. They-mother or one of my sisters or brothers-usually answered that they were well, too, thank you. Occasionally they added some such information at that Tonchka had married or had had a child, or that Stan or Ante had had to go into military services, or that Mimi had become a nun-bare facts, nothing else.
 "So I don't know what I'll find. I have no idea how they stand economically. When I felt for America my father was a well-to-do peasant in the village. Now, if one is to believe American newspapers, all of Europe is in a bad way and I don't know what's happened to my people lately. Then, too, you must remember that I'm coming from America, and when one returns from America one is supposed to bring with him a pot of money and help those who have stayed at home-while all I have is a Guggenheim Fellowship, barely enough to keep you and me in Europe for a year!"
 Stella was optimistic. "Chances are it won't be bad as you think. Perhaps your people are as scared of you, what America has done to you, and the kind of girl you married, as you are of them and what the nineteen years have done to them."
 "Maybe," I said. I felt a little better, not much, and not for long.

Odyssey of an Immigrant American 2, Louis Adamic
Copyright(c) Shouzou Tahara
Odyssey of an Immigrant American 5, Louis Adamic

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