Friday, March 9, 2012

Writers [on Writing] Andre Aciman

Andre Aciman, Alexandria and my Pappou

Andre Aciman is a displaced Alexandrian. My Pappou on my father's side was the same, albeit it Greek rather than Jewish. The Alexandrian-Greeks I knew as a child always seemed so cultivated. Pappou was a history buff who sculpted and painted; like Aciman, he was a polyglot, speaking Greek, Arabic, Italian, French, English and Turkish. Here in Australia he owned and ran a fish and chip shop, which illustrates, as with so many migrants, that the surface veils a much larger story.

Alexandria and Egypt were never too far from my Pappou's thoughts, even though he tragically lost his brothers to typhoid there.

Aciman writes about 'place and displacement' but ensures the reader that he is actually writing about dispersion, evasion and ambivalence. His essay struck a chord with me .

"Thus I turn to Alexandria, the mythical home of paradox. But Alexandria is merely an alibi, a mold, a construct. Writing about Alexandria helps me to give a geographical frame to a psychological mess...Ask me to be intimate, and I'll automatically start writing about Alexandria."
                                                       Andre Aciman, 'A Literary Pilgrim Progresses to the Past'

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