As whistleblower Edward Snowden’s predicament grows worse by the day, the author points to historical exiles to pep him up.
Ask not if your country did you in. Whistleblower Edward Snowden, snowed in by an upset U.S., doodles on an atlas somewhere in Moscow. His is a curious status of exile — detested by his government, but celebrated by the world. However, he is not alone. Throughout history, big names — some with personalities to match — have achieved rock star status, in exile.
Asterix and Obelix
When he heard of France’s proposed ‘supertax’ of 75 per cent, Gérard Depardieu choked on a bottle of wine, one of three he admittedly guzzles every day. Among France’s best known actors — he played Obelix — and owner of vineyards and restaurants around the world, the gourmand decided he’d rather drink Russian milk whiskey than be milked dry in France. While Depardieu was busy dropping menhirs on French Prime Minister Hollande, Christian Clavier, who played Asterix in the movie, quietly moved to London. The French government was left fuming over the gall of these Gauls.
Arriving in the U.S. in the 1930s, Marlene Dietrich straddled stage and cinema with eye-popping ease. Legs that go higher than stockings will, and coattails you’d love to hang on to, she was <insert wolf whistle>. But there was another layer she wore, an attitude that made her the favourite pin-up of the Allied Powers of WW-II. When Adolf Hitler, dictator and connoisseur, called her back to Germany, Marlene snubbed him royally, saying, “The Germans and I don’t speak the same language anymore.” Furious, it is said the Fuhrer kept up his scowl for three years.
When the turquoise hourglass of WikiLeaks began to light up screens, countdowns began in government clocks the world over. Interesting skeletons danced out of government closets and gigabytes of data triggered a flood of headlines in the media that all ended with ‘gate. Then the inevitable hunting began and Julian Assange is now precariously protected in the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. He’s the toast of free press advocates, but if he sets foot in the U.S., he’s toast!
Giacomo Casanova lived in the 18th century, mostly in Venice. ‘Lived’ might be a bit of an understatement. If the average Joe took the occasional nibble of the forbidden fruit, Casanova munched down the seeds too. By the age of 30, his shenanigans had rocked the gondola a bit too much and, after a spell in prison, he escaped to star in evermore preposterous escapades. ‘I delighted in going astray,’ said diplomat, author, lawyer, clergyman, dramatist, mathematician and the man who makes dictionaries blush.
Aristotle was a student of Plato, who was a student of Socrates. He was a polymath, which means he was the sort of know-it-all who really knew it all. His student was more of an outdoor guy, Alexander the something, who liked horse-riding and sword-fighting. After Alexander’s death, the new Senate accused him of ‘impiety’, which roughly translates to ‘not satisfactory’ on a report card. Miffed with the biased grading, he went on a self-imposed exile to Chalcis, which had better parks and smarter pupils.