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The manuscript for this book came into my possession totally unexpectedly. A professor of psychiatry at my university introduced me to a man whom he was treating for amnesia. The man was ordinary looking, about thirty years old, well dressed and in possession of a large sum of cash. My colleague explained that the man could not remember where he had come from but thought his name was Aleshker. Since my wife and I had a large house and our children had already left home, the psychiatrist suggested that we let Aleshker live with us, as a paying guest, while he recuperated. We agreed. Aleshker turned out to be a pleasant person, polite, intelligent, and extremely inquisitive. He asked questions about every aspect of American life, and he seemed to remember, in photographic and phonographic detail, everything that he saw, heard, or read while he lived with us. Since he never recalled what his first name was, we called him Al. We took him everywhere we went: parties, the theater, opera, sports events.
Everywhere he was observant and everywhere politely curious. And he read, quickly and intently, everything from Plato to Superman comics. Aleksher had a dry wit, quiet and understated. As an outsider he saw things differently and commented on them with a wry sense of humor. Not everyone appreciated it.
Soon after he moved in he asked permission to use my computer to record the progress of his recovery. Every day he spent several hours at the computer, especially toward the end of his stay with us. Six months after he arrived, Al told us that he finally remembered; he had come from New York, he said, and he was ready to return there. He bade us a friendly good-bye, took with him the computer disks he had used, and departed. When I next used the computer I realized that, without Al’s knowledge, a hard-disc copy of all his work was still in the computer. I tried to trace h im in New York, unsuccessfully. He seems to have disappeared. Aleshker is apparently under the delusion that he is an extraterrestrial being. But his manuscript, written from a quite different perspective than that of American sociologists, may be of interest to what Aleshker calls “Earthlings.”