Exit Stage Left

The Outside: beyond wall and watchtower, on the far lee of the border, the place of the Other, the place of exile. Now that the walls are crumbling around the world, helped along by the crowbars of angry patriots; now that the faces of the other look pretty much like our own, the Outside seems to be shrinking. In its place we have some dawning version of the Global Village, whereby a denizen of Zamboanga wears the same sneakers and listens to the same pop music as a Manhattan sophisticate, and one nation blends imperceptibly into another.

All this worries Andrei Codrescu, the Romanian exile, poet, and radio commentator who since 1966 has lived in the United States, exercising his surrealist magic. Like his fellow exiles Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, Codrescu has made the English language his home, and he has written 26 noteworthy books of poetry, fiction, and fact that outstrip most native production. His latest, The Disappearance of the Outside, announces his emergent technophobia and his fond hope that the world will retain at least some places to escape the machine; in the age of the computer and the networked planet in which the Global Village has devolved into World Empire, Codrescu frets with just cause that "we may become mere images, trapped like shadows in some collective hell. . . . In another generation, people raised by images will not be able to imagine escape. The walls of Plato's prison-cave...

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