When Aciman, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, was asked his nationality as a boy, he automatically replied, "French." His confusion was understandable; his family were Sephardic Jews who had wandered from Italy to Turkey, then settled in Egypt. His father owned a woolen mill and his parents were very rich, as were the rest of the exotic clan who lived with them or gathered regularly for elegant, memorable teas, fetes and fierce but transient squabbling. Like Russian nobility of old, they disdained the common language. Few of them learned Arabic but preferred French, English, Ladino or Italian. They concealed their Jewishness when Nasser was in power, a time of high Arab nationalism, intense anti-Semitism and then war. Eventually they fled to Paris, leaving behind much of their wealth but little of their culture, which Aciman-his mother's darling, his teachers' despair, his father's worry, a child spy in a house of eccentric, cultivated adults-here recalls with a magical sensibility streaked with antic humor. A marvelous memento of a place, time and people that have all disappeared.
Aciman has written a touching and affectionate portrait detailing the lives of his flamboyant Jewish family, from its bold arrival in Alexandria to its defeated exodus three generations later. In elegant and witty prose, Aciman introduces us to the marvelous eccentrics who shaped his life--his uncle, two grandmothers, and an aunt.
About the Author
Andre Aciman was born in Alexandria and raised in Egypt,Italy,and France.Educated at Harvard,he teaches at Bard College and lives in Manhattan with his wife and three children.He is the recioient of a 1995 Whiting Writer's Award and a 1997 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.