The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 1 December 2003

False Papers

Essays on Exile and Memory

by André Aciman

Nostalgia and its affects upon one in exile, one thinking of lost places and lost chances, are the theme for this collection of essays and ruminations. Aciman was born into a Jewish family living in Alexandria, Egypt. In the early 60s, the political climate forced him and his family (among many other Jews) to leave their beloved city for exile in Italy, France and America. That one event colors all of the fourteen essays in this short book. Memory and exile, indeed the subtitle of this book, make up a powerfully evocative emotional reality for the author and he conveys that in moving prose. All of these stories are steeped in the pain and wonder of memory. There is, of course, a strong Proustian thread running through the stories. The author even relates how his father introduced him to Proust when he was a teenager discovering the almost erotic beauty of Paris for the first time. He looks back upon Alexandria, now idealized in his memory, and wonders if the memory is now better than the reality. He even comes close to realizing that one can live an entire life without so much experiencing a place as living with just the idea of place and time and memory. Even standing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, one may think only of how he will look back upon the moment instead of experiencing the moment itself. It is a slippery slope, akin to a kind of madness. And yet, these are excellent essays, vivid, imaginative and evocative.

[Mail John][To List]

Also by Aciman: [The Proust Project]