Imagine being far from home, opening a foreign-language newspaper and reading a story about yourself.
Roger Pulvers was a 23-year-old when, over coffee in a Parisian cafe, he opened Le Monde and found a story reporting that he was, in fact, in Washington DC.
"For a few seconds, I wondered if I was myself, even," he says.
"Have you ever experienced any twang of neuroses, where you think, what's going on? Who am I?"
Until this moment in 1967, the young American had been an exchange student in Poland, learning the language and absorbing the culture, on a scholarship from the US National Student Association. But he found himself caught up in a spy scandal, when a liberal American magazine planned to publish an article exposing the association as a front for the CIA.
Like something from a classic spy novel, Pulvers, at the time the only American scholarship student studying in eastern Europe, was spirited out of the country with an air ticket to London, and then onto France.
It was there that he read about the scandal in the French newspapers, and understood that he had been framed; unbeknownst to him, his scholarship had been funded by the CIA, and he was thrust into a world that was entirely unfamiliar to him.
"It was this amazing unravelling of threads that I had no control over, in directions that I had no control over," he says.
The affair set Pulvers on a life journey even further away from his home country than he already was. He's speaking now, more than 50 years later, in a very different cafe, in an art gallery in Canberra's city centre. He's drinking a macchiato, in one of his favourite cities in the world, and musing on what it means to belong in a place, what it means to be a citizen.
"I never believed that the decisions I made were only made on the basis of rational thought and preparation, and I sort of feel the same about citizenship and what our country is like," he says.
I fell in love with Canberra from the very beginning. I'm not just saying that.Roger Pulvers
His autobiography, The Unmaking of American, explores this concept at length, from his birth to a Jewish-American family in Brooklyn, New York, to a childhood in Los Angeles, studies at the University of California and Harvard, travels through Scandinavia, Russia and Poland, and his growing love and affinity for languages and the arts.
He has translated plays in Japan, lectured at the Australian National University in Canberra, been a writer-in-residence at the Playbox Theatre in Melbourne, written numerous books and plays, and spent the summer of 1982 in the Cook Islands as assistant director on the film Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, starring David Bowie (Bowie was "very nice, very professional - it was after his drugs phase").
But it was the surreal experience over the newspaper in the Parisian cafe that taught him to surrender, somewhat, to the winds of life blowing him this way and that. How else to explain a new life in Japan, of all places, and later, Canberra, an even stranger place?
"I was quite happy to follow along wherever I was being taken," he says.
"I start my book out with a metaphor of sitting on the rim of a glass and the glass is being propelled through space. You look across the glass and you see someone sitting on the other side and it's you. It's not a mirror image of you, it's you, and they're going backwards and you're going forwards, or vice versa, and at one point there's only one of you left.
"It's a roundabout way of saying we're not the masters of our own fate, and we should accept that and isn't it a good thing?"
He returned to the United States, where he had become eligible for the Vietnam draft. He understood, quite quickly, that his future did not lie in America
"I couldn't stay there, I didn't want to be an American, I didn't want to live in America," he says.
"I felt an alienation from American society, which I still feel with the same degree of vehemence today, and that is because of the social injustice in that country. And there's social injustice in lots of countries, but it's the hypocritical attitude of Americans, that it doesn't exist, or if it exists it's the fault of the people who are on the bottom, since America is the land of great opportunity and anyone can get ahead, it follows that if you don't get ahead it's your own fault."
He decided to leave the States and start again in a new country. Poland and Russia were out: he chose Japan instead, a place where he had no family and no connections.
Before long, he had learnt the language (it took him six weeks) and had a lectureship at Kyoto Sangyo University, teaching Russian and Polish. Later, he taught American poetry, and published his first collection of short stories.
After five years, he accepted an invitation from the Australian National University in Canberra to teach Japanese. He flew here in 1972, the glass once again tipping.
"I fell in love with Canberra from the very beginning. I'm not just saying that," he says.
He was also enamoured of the atmosphere of Australia in the early 1970s, while working in the progressive surrounds of the ANU. He met and married a local, Susan - the couple would go on to have four children.
But early on in his time in Canberra, when then prime minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed in the constitutional crisis of 1975, Pulvers was so incensed that he became an Australian citizen.
In the years since, as he has travelled back and forth between Australia and Japan, and lived in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, he has watched with interest, and some level of dismay, at how Australia chooses to present itself at any given time.
"Canberra is a microcosm of what I would like Australia to be. I really think so," he says.
"It's liberal-minded towards gender, towards ethnicity, it's probably friendlier to women and children than a lot of other places in Australia, and we're not hidebound by ideas of what it means to be an Australian in the same way that people I think in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and even Perth are."
"[But] we shouldn't decide too early what it is to be an Australian. We've reached this point several times in our history where we've said, 'Now we're finally a country'," he says.
"We thought we knew in 1901 what kind of country we were, then we thought we knew in 1914 again with Gallipoli. And then WWII convinced us again what kind of a country we were, what kind of a people we were, what our values were."
I have one passport, and I identify totally as an Australian author, and if the country is not ready to say that I'm an Australian or that somebody from South Sudan, or from any other country, who happens to have a passport, is not an Australian, then that's pernicious nationalism as far as I'm concerned, and it's not my problem.Roger Pulvers
Despite his accent and upbringing, he had no doubt in his mind about where he has come from or where he belongs.
"There's no confusion in my mind whatsoever about who I am or what I am. Why should there be?" he says.
"I have one passport, and I identify totally as an Australian author, and if the country is not ready to say that I'm an Australian or that somebody from South Sudan, or from any other country, who happens to have a passport, is not an Australian, then that's pernicious nationalism as far as I'm concerned, and it's not my problem."
"[But] we should be more open-ended and more free and less narrow-minded about what it means to be Australian, let's not define it yet. We all know what it is to be Australian in 2019, it's whatever we have here, right now," he says, tapping the table for emphasis.
"But that doesn't mean that in 20 or 30 years from now it's going to be the same. If it were, we'll be toast, we'll be dead in the water."
He says he has an appreciation, today, of his typical American upbringing, with parents who were comfortable in the world and never felt the need to interrogate things too closely.
"[Leaving America] had nothing to do with my upbringing, I had a charmed upbringing, a charmed childhood," he says. "My parents were uneducated but they were kind. I have a brother, we had a lower middle-class upbringing, I had a very good education in LA, I got a scholarship to Harvard."
But, around 10 years ago, he found himself wanting to apologise to his four grown children for bringing them up in more enlightened times.
"I just felt like saying, I really have to apologise to you four children, I really do, because of the upbringing I've given you. I've brought you up in an educated household so you will never understand human nature," he says.
"If you want to know how 90 per cent of the people of this world think and act, you don't go to the Encyclopaedia Britannica to find out. It's a lot easier. One of my dad's favourite phrases is 'what's right is right'. Well, how can you argue with that?"
- Roger Pulvers book, The Unmaking of an American, is published by Balestier Press.