The state of exile is often described as being without a country. Born in Tehran but living in Germany, the eminent Iranian writer Said has suffered two forms of exile. Estranged from Iran for political reasons, he was also separated from his mother shortly after his birth when his parents divorced. At the age of forty-three, however, Said received word that his mother was traveling abroad and wanted to see him. Landscapes of a Distant Mother is the account of his journey to her and their wrenching reunion. An autobiography of longing and loss, the book offers a haunting portrait of a son's broken relationship with his mother and the Islamic dictatorship that shadows both their lives. Landscapes of a Distant Mother gives English-speaking readers an introduction to one of Europe's most important immigrant writers. Unsentimental and spare, the book chronicles the discomfiting sensation of viewing one's mother as a stranger and all the psychological implications of their mutual disappointment.
Said's distance from his mother - whom he describes almost clinically, with her "particular way of speaking, the style laced with religious formulas, inclined to emotionalism, self-pity and expletives" - becomes a measure of the alienation he feels from everything around him. In this sharp, extended letter to his mother, Said gives voice to the full meaning of modern exile - its political force, profound sadness, and perpetual yearning.
Said, who publishes only under his first name for security reasons, was born in Tehran in 1947. He is the author of several books, only one of which, Be to Me the Night: Love Poems, has been translated into English. The recipient of numerous awards, including the Premio Letterario Internazionale "Jean Monnet" and the German PEN Center's Hermann-Kesten Medal, he served as president of the German PEN Center and director of the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN. Kenneth J. Northcott is professor emeritus of German at the University of Chicago. He has translated a number of books for the University of Chicago Press.