Cover image for Letters of transit : reflections on exile, identity, language and loss
Letters of transit : reflections on exile, identity, language and loss
Aciman, André.
Publication Information:
New York : New Press ; London : I. B. Tauris, 1999.
Physical Description:
135 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Published in conjunction with New York Public Library.
Editor's foreword : Permanent transients -- Shadow cities / André Aciman -- The new nomads / Eva Hoffman -- Imagining homelands / Bharati Mukherjee -- No reconciliation allowed / Edward W. Said -- Refugees / Charles Simic.
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HV640 .L36 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Haunting reflections on exile and memory from five award-winning authors.

Author Notes

Andre Aciman, author of Out of Egypt: A Memoir, teaches at Bard College.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Two notable collections, ideal for library patrons. In Letters of Transit, five noted authors address what it means to be an exile, to live in a place that both is and is not "home." Aciman, author of Out of Egypt (1995), describes his journey from Egypt to Italy and then the U.S., comparing his experience to the lack of roots that seems to be a modern condition. Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (1990, paper), came to the U.S. from Poland via Canada; here, too, her subject is languages old and new. Novelist Bharati Mukherjee addresses (as she has elsewhere) what assimilation means (or should mean) as we approach the millennium; critic Edward Said describes and defends the complex and conflicting allegiances his journey produces. Poet and translator Charles Simic recalls bureaucracy and confusion in his journey from Belgrade through Paris to the U.S., and the difficulty of learning how to "fit in" in his new country. All essays are new for this collection. Scanning the Future should appeal to readers curious about what lies across that bridge to the new century. In Part 1, Blumenfeld gathers futurological "methodologies and approaches." Selections by Bertrand de Jouvenel, Murray Gell-Mann, Merritt Roe Smith, Max Dublin, and others are particularly useful for readers wondering why futurists disagree. Part 2, "Interlude," provides a satire from Stanislaw Lem and a poem from Octavio Paz. Part 3, "Challenging Perspectives," consists of selections by Edward O. Wilson, Francis Fukuyama, George P. Brockway, Joel Kurtzman, Robert N. Bellah and associates, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, C. Owen Paepke, Tom Athanasiou, Steven Weinberg, and Nelson Mandela's 1994 speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Thought-provoking essays on important subjects. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

The five distinguished contributors to this volume agree that a homeland tends to be a nostalgic, imaginary place, not a real one, and that the home once lost can never be recovered. They also share a penchant for classifying the minute differences between refugees, exiles, immigrants and expatriates. Novelist Bharati Mukherjee adds another term: the assimilationist "mongrelizer" such as herself, who happily submerges oneself in a melting pot, while nonetheless retaining a sense of ethnic pride. Poet Charles Simic, originally from Belgrade, rejects the idea that exile or displacement means the permanent loss of any sense of home: he fell dizzyingly in love with his new country, and is amusing about his early attempts to assimilateÄwearing "jeans, Hawaiian shirts, cowboy belts." Aciman beautifully captures the role that imagination plays in one's experience of "home" by exploring how a tiny park in a traffic island on the Upper West Side of Manhattan came to powerfully evoke the cities of Europe for him. Eva Hoffman's essay on the "new nomads" of the information age is the most theoretical and least satisfying piece. The real heart of the collection is Columbia professor Edward Said's memoir, inspired when "an ugly medical diagnosis suddenly revealed the mortality I should have known about before." His experience of receiving a colonial education just as the colonial system crumbled, of loving the world opened to him in his education while being stung by teachers' constant invocations of his difference, is moving, deeply introspective and honest. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Andre AcimanEva HoffmanBharati MukherjeeEdward W. SaidCharles Simic
Editor's Foreword:
Permanent Transientsp. 7
Shadow Citiesp. 15
The New Nomandsp. 35
Imagining Homelandsp. 65
No Reconciliation Allowedp. 87
Refugeesp. 115
Acknowledgmentsp. 137
About the Authorsp. 139