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Definitions of Exile. Unwilling Tourist (1941–1942): Adolf Hoffmeister's Odyssey into Emigration (1939–1940)

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Adolf Hoffmeister's (1902–1973) travelogue The Animals Are in Cages (1941)/The Unwilling Tourist (1942) is a semi-fictitious account of the protagonist Jan Prokop's (i.e. Adolf Hoffmeister's) escape (1939–1941) from Prague – via Paris, Bordeaux, Casablanca, Tangier, and Lisbon – to New York. While the account of the actual events: occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, exile and internment in France (1939–1940), escape from Europe to the USA via North Africa and Lisbon after the fall of France in June 1940, was quite a typical refugee experience, Hoffmeister's humorous-ironic style – accompanied by some two dozen illustrations – is anything but typical compared with similar (semi-) fictitious accounts in exile literature covering the period 1939–1940.

Also unusual – and pivotal to Hoffmeister's travelogue – is the attempt half-way through the book at defining what constitutes a 'refugee': an analysis of 14 'definitions' given by various passengers aboard the S.S. Lorient, sailing from France to North Africa, leads to the conclusion that a refugee is an unwilling tourist (the title of the English edition), barely surviving the present, and concerned about the future only in so far as it would lead to a revival of the past. This, in fact, was quite a unique – and highly critical – assessment, rarely officially shared by fellow exiles, but nonetheless in many ways probably closer to the truth than many refugees were willing to admit.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2009


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