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Yanara Friedland’s Uncountry: A Constant Move Between the Real & the Mythical
Writer, translator, and Asymptote editor-at-large Poupeh Missaghi reviews Yanara Friedland’s Uncountry: A Mythology (Noemi Press, 2016) for EuropeNow, an online journal published by the Council for European Studies (CES) at Columbia University. Lily Hoang wrote of Friedland’s “permeable pages” that they “allow the reader entryway into a ‘mirror [that] becomes an open door,’ a door through which we hear the echo of Ana Mendieta telling us ‘There is no original past to redeem: there is the void.’” Missaghi clarifies: “Throughout the book, there is a constant move between the real and the mythical, the everyday and the poetic, the concrete and the imaginary.” More:
In Friedland’s masterful poetics, dreams, myths, and memory become as important and valid as facts, statistics, and documents; while facts become as unreliable as narratives of the psychic world. Absences become as important as presences, white spaces as readable as written words, the unknown as illuminating as the known, pain and beauty inseparable requisites of one another.
Of her attention to memory Friedland writes, “Both the loss and recovery of memory is a structural device throughout the work. The writing, whether fictional or memoirist, is bound up with memory.”[i] Friedland is “specifically interested in the potential of cross-pollinating multiple sources of memory:” personal memory, family anecdotal narratives and memories, public documents. Her aim is to see “What narratives emerge from collective remembrance and witnessing, and how does the engagement of the diverse memory banks disrupt cohesive truth telling?”
Another theme of the book is migration—journeys through which the male and the female, I, we, and you, and many other seemingly opposite or separate entities join together and find new intimacies. Friedland worked with asylum seekers in Brussels and London in 2009, and it was because of that work that she began her inquiry into narratives of home and migration, the legal and official versus personal languages, used to recount their histories, and the tensions between the two. “This project sets out to trace ancient themes such as home, belonging, movement, and exile from early mythologies to Jewish diasporas, migrations on foot during World War II, as well as confronting more contemporary literary and philosophical reflections on space,” Friedland explains.