The Way Home, Professor Eli Evans

“The way home” | ELI EVANS, Professor of ENGLISH, 2018

In a chapter of his book The Century, first published in English translation in 2007, the philosopher Alain Badiou resurrects the ancient Greek soldier and writer Xenophon’s most famous work, Anabasis. In regards to this tale of a band of some 10,000 Greek mercenaries who after the death of their employer and their leaders must find their way back to safety amongst the Greek cities lining the shores of the Black Sea, Badiou writes: “Their march through Persia, toward the sea, follows no pre-existing path and corresponds to no previous orientation. It cannot even be a straightforward return home, since it invents its path without knowing whether it really is the path of return. Anabasis is thus the free invention of a wandering that will have been a return, a return that did not exist as a return-route prior to the wandering.”

I believe that, like those soldiers, first described by Xenophon centuries ago and more recently re-imagined by Badiou, we can only find our way “home” (wherever, or whatever, “home” will turn out to be for each of us) by believing, with all the force of faith, that our wending, wandering path through life will eventually turn out to have been the way, and traveling it accordingly: with discipline, with purpose, and utterly blindly. Perhaps the great, late American writer was thinking along these lines when, in his brilliant (except to critics such as Harriet Zinnes, who lamented its “substitution of something tinsel for art”) and totally unclassifiable Splendide-Hôtel, he wrote: “To love is to go consistently into the dark.”