She opens a door and we stop onto the roof terrace. Once again, i am struck by one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen. Money used to come to paint here as a guest of Signor Moreno. I instantly recognize the scene from art books and begin to snap pictures. Then the nun corrects herself. Actually, he used to paint from up there, she says, pointing to another floor I hadnt noticed that is perched right above the roof. Questo e loblo di monet.
The millions: books and reviews: Marcel Proust: Swann
Great artists are those who give us what we think was already ours. In the words of Emanuele tesauro: we enjoy seeing our own thoughts blossom in someones mind, while from Intimacy: I was after something intimate and I learned to spot it in the first alley, in the first verse of a poem, on the first glance. In the words of Emanuele tesauro: we enjoy seeing our own thoughts blossom in someones mind, while that someone is equally pleased to spy what our own mind expository furtively conceals. I was a cipher. But, like me, everyone else was a cipher as well. Ultimately, i wanted to peer into books, places, and people because wherever I looked I was always looking for myself, or for traces of myself, or better yet, for a world out there filled with people and characters who could be made to be like. From my monet Moment: It would be just like me to travel all the way to bordighera from the United States and never one look up the current name of the villa. Any art book could have told me that its name was Villa garnier. Anyone a the station could have pointed immediately to it had i asked for it by name. I would have spared myself hours of meandering about town. But then, unlike ulysses, i would have arrived straight to Ithaca and never once encountered Circe or Calypso, never met nausica or heard the enchanting strains of the sirens song, never gotten sufficiently lost to experience the sudden, disconcerting moment of arriving in, of all.
Always there is something new to look at and share with Aciman. So, acimans essays were not easy reading at first, and it took a while to attune to his deeply personal style, but they are a wonderful new discovery for. Another pleasure is that my paperback edition has the most elegant cover, attractively textured as well as illustrated, and the text is printed on dates lovely, flexible cream paper in an elegant font. It is only right that such a beautifully crafted and deeply thought writing has an appropriate setting. Paperback edition New York: Picador, 2012. From Intimacy: I was after something intimate and I learned to spot it in the first alley, in the first verse of a poem, on the first glance of a stranger. Great books, like great cities, always let us find things we think are only in us and couldnt possibly belong elsewhere but that turn out to be broadcast everywhere we look.
How very, very long ago it seems, and yet as I look at the lights across the park it feels like yesterday. And like all visitors to the Place des Vosges, i wonder whether this is an instance of the present intruding into the past general or the past forever repeated in the present. But then, it occurs to me, this is also why one comes to stay here for a week: not to forget the present, or to restore the past, but to forget that they are so profoundly different. I love these little essays on different parts places in Europe, which have me seeing something new about them through his unique aciman lens. He follows Monet to bordighera on the Italian riviera and finds with difficulty the shadowy remains of what he painted in the modern town. He returns to barcelona with sadness, and reflects on how completely Spain had effaced all sign of its Jewish past, such that contemporary attempts to recover them misfire. When he goes to venice he reflects not on the usual treasures of the archipelago, but on the 20th century phenomenon of the lido, and he looks outward to the Adriatic, rather than inward to the lagoon.
I think he wants to reveal all this over time and the course of the book, then give us the answers at the back. Acimans sensibility is multi-dimensional, made up of place and time. One of his filters is history, including his own heritage, and this makes his essays on places beautifully dense. An essay on Paris concentrates on the Place des Vosges, and through his eyes we see not only the modern day parisians enjoying its beaty and atmosphere, but also its 17th century inhabitants, such as the aristocratic bluestockings les précieuses, with their philosopher, libertine, (failed). Their disputations and duelling resonate down to the present day for Aciman. One evening, he sees a group of daring young men, roaring through the square on skateboards in the dark, scattering everyone with their acrobatic moves. He thinks of 17th century young bloods erupting into the square, swords drawn for a notorious duel. I can hear the ring of rapiers being drawn, the yells of the frightened, everyone on the Place suddenly alert, peering out of their windows, petrified. I look out and try to imagine how the torches of the four swordsmen must have swung in pitch darkness that cold night in January 1614.
Essays, by sam smith
The first essay, lavender, is so dense, so Proustian, so elusive and allusive, that it almost made me give up, though I found myself intoxicated by his prose. It is an extended meditation on memory (his fathers lavender cologne and his quest to find it) and self (his attempt to find a scent that represents the essence of himself). The second essay, intimacy, is an equally extended exercise in recall not him just of the details of his life, but of how it felt to be him, in the three years he spent as an adolescent in Rome, en route with his family from their. What he reminds me of in these two essays is a watchmaker, taking apart memory and experience, laying all sales the little pieces and parts before us, then putting them back together again. Its quite an experience. Throughout the book, we are sharing the experience of Aciman being Aciman exploring these memories or visiting these places.
He talks of films overlays and filters in front of the scene that hes writing about. Gradually we can piece together what a uniquely layered heritage he brings to these essays. Right at the end, in his Afterword. Parallax, only then does he lay out for us his own and his familys history, all of which comes together to give him the cosmopolitan sensibility that infuses these essays. The easy thing for me would be to give you the potted version here, but it seems to me that there is such a deliberate structure to this collection that it would be inappropriate.
I think it was reading Tony judts wonderfully moving collection of essays. The memory Chalet that helped me recognise a taste for beautifully crafted, lapidary short form writing. Sometimes, it is just the sort of reading pleasure i need. André Acimans layered, concentrated perception and supremely elegant prose style deliver about as much reduced food for thought and imagination in one of his essays as i am able to feast on in one. This is the first work of his that I have ever read, and it tempts me to find more.
This review, therefore, is the untutored impression of a reader unprepared for Aciman by prior knowledge either of his work or his reputation. I do recommend that approach, if you have not found him before i found it quite exhilarating to dive right. Acimans approach is deeply personal; he writes from the standpoint of someone who is an exile from his native country, whose ancestors were in turn exiled from theirs. He has found a vocation, a home and a family life in New York, travels widely, with the layers of his heritage and his own experience of exile as the lens through which he sees what is around him. He could be described as a travel writer, and indeed, the descriptions of the places that spark his explorations of the present, the past, history and memory, are vivid and alluring and make me want to visit them too, in the light of his insights. But the uncharted territories he really explores are his own mind, memory and heritage and he brings his unique approach to a sense of place. If this book of essays is the readers introduction to Aciman, he plays a subtle game with.
Alibis : Sigmar Polke
Writing of Monets painting in Bordighera, with on the riviera, he speculates that Monet realized that he liked painting this town more than estate he loved the town itself, because what he loved was more in him than in the town itself, though he needed the town. And he describes his own experience as a young refugee in Rome thus: Id grown to love old Rome, a rome that seemed more in me than it was out in Rome itself, because, in this very rome Id grown to love, there was perhaps. What is one to make of this insistent ostinato? Certainly it gives a picture of Acimans mind: his love of recursion and contradiction, of being elsewhere (this is how he defines the alibis of the title of cultivating shadow-selves and always feeling out of place. And certainly, memory is nothing if not repetitive. But it is also evident that some of these repetitions are simply due to the essays having been written at different times for different magazines and journals. This leads to some inconsistencies of tone, and some infelicities in the otherwise fine text. For instance, having already written on Monet, Aciman mentions, in the course of another essay, the painter Claude monet, as though we had never heard of him; la princesse de Clèves is introduced twice; and a metaphor about old houses leaning on each other for. André Acimans reputation as a writer of deep and fine prose is, i discover, well established in the usa, but i am not sure that his work is so well known in Britain.
The intercalated reversals owe something to the ironies of the 17th-century roman danalyse. Aciman cites Madame de lafayettes Princesse de Clèves, which was particularly dear jeb to him; in it, a woman who wishes to regain her lover doesnt merely feign indifference, but feigns an effort to mask her feigned indifference. But there is something more than mere irony or dissimulation going on in Acimans case. In one passage he writes: What we missed was not just Egypt. What we missed was dreaming Europe in Egypt — what we missed was the Egypt where wed dreamed of Europe. On revisiting an apartment building in Rome, he recalls: At 15, i visited the life i wished to lead and the home i was going to make my own some day. Now, i was visiting the life i had dreamed of living. Of Cambridge, mass., he writes: Here, at 25, i had conjured the life i wished to live one day. Now, at 50, i was revisiting the life Id dreamed of living.
him resides in the pleasure of his company. He knows a lot, and often gets carried away, but he also knows how to doubt himself. If his destinations seem conventional — paris, barcelona, rome — his engagement with them is idiosyncratic. His mission is to unlock memorys sluice gates, and it is a mission he accomplishes through the art of the essay itself: you write not after youve thought things through; you write to think things through. Photo Credit Olaf Hajek, aciman returns to memory obsessively, looking for the words that can help him understand it better, finding solace in the idea of being in one place while desiring another, not for the sake of being in that other place, but for. Visiting Egypt, he remembers how the smell from a certain falafel place in New York used to fill him with a deep longing for the small falafel establishments he had known in Egypt. But in the course of this memory, he also realizes that the falafel place in New York matches his dream of Egyptian falafel more closely than can Egypt falafel itself. This displacement of desire is Acimans favorite move, one he deploys in several of the essays in Alibis.
The fragrance in this case is lavender. Lavender, first encountered in his fathers aftershave, and then used as a home cure for migraines, is the madeleine — acimans debt to Proust is deep and freely acknowledged — that opens up a cascade of memories. Memories of childhood, youth, marriage and fatherhood are skillfully narrated in counterpoint with a dizzying tour of the varieties of lavender. The essay becomes a story about Acimans discovery of different lavenders, lavenders associated with people, places and half-forgotten encounters. His enthusiasm, expressed in meandering, enumerative sentences, is intense and catching: There were light, ethereal lavenders; some were mild and timid; others lush and overbearing; some tart, as if picked from the field and left to parch in large vats of vinegar; others were overwhelmingly. Some lavenders ended up smelling like an herb garden; others, with hints of so many spices, were blended beyond recognition. I experimented with each one, purchased many bottles, not just because i wanted to collect them all or was searching for the ideal lavender — the hidden lavender, the ur-lavender that superseded all other lavenders — but biography because i was eager to either prove.
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When, in 20, a mysterious sweet smell wafted across Staten Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan, it discomfited already jittery new Yorkers. The same thing happened again three years later, and the smell was finally identified: fenugreek, carried on breezes from a new Jersey flavor and fragrance factory. The incident reminded me of a passage. André Acimans fine 1995 memoir, out of Egypt, in which he writes about the fragrance of hilba, fenugreek. Arab Egyptians drank it for its curative powers, and reeked afterward, but for many Alexandrian Jews who aspired to parts being European, nothing could be more déclassé than the smell of hilba. Acimans father called it une odeur darabe, an Arab smell, and hated any trace of it in the house or on his clothes. But, Aciman points out, all homes bear ethnic odors, and from the various smells of foods and perfumes the stories of communities and persons emerge. The opening chapter of Alibis, Acimans beautiful new book of essays, is an extended aria on the sense of smell.