The impossible city

Alan Frenkiel lives in the Molise province of Italy, where he tries to build dry stonewalls and keeps constant watch over his shoulder.

Cosmopolis, or an ode to a passport - real or fake

The city, its energy, its movement, the intellectual play, the social conflicts and commitments, the extreme image of the contemporary world - the metropolis.

But for one born in France at the beginning of 1941 to a Polish mother and a Lithuanian father, the city can have other implications. Having fled from Paris to Marseilles on the last train available, we undertook a night crossing into Helvetia. We
survived. Over 60 years later I try to think of myself as a cosmopolitan, a man of the world, who has lived in New York, London, Paris, Milan and can speak several languages.

Yet I feel defined by others, by phrases that range from the traditional extreme right - both religious and political - to the stagnant declarations of the Stalinist era: the Jew as deceitful, sly, the subverter of the traditional world order, the crafty financial manipulator of globalization who threatens our civilization and thus our well-being. I am the avant-garde of western imperialism, and the destroyer of personal freedom crushed by misguided leftist social concepts. I am he who is secretive, powerful, menacing, hateful: I am the enemy.

Perhaps worse still, I have the ability to narrate the uprooted life, bear the testimony of the exile - I am the negation of the concept of fatherland, nationalism, traditional family and moral values.

And so, for me, to be cosmopolitan, to be what I had always dreamt of being, someone common to the whole world, eclectic in my interests, a citizen among other citizens, belonging, integrated, creative, giving, active, dynamic, made me aware of the need to have a decent document of identification - and a light, sturdy suitcase to be ready for my next move.

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