This richly colored memoir chronicles the exploits of a flamboyant Jewish family, from its bold arrival in cosmopolitan Alexandria to its defeated exodus three generations later. In elegant and witty prose, André Aciman introduces us to the marvelous eccentrics who shaped his lifeUncle Vili, the strutting daredevil, soldier, salesman, and spy; the two grandmothers, the Princess and the Saint, who gossip in six languages; Aunt Flora, the German refugee who warns that Jews lose everything "at least twice in their lives." And through it all, we come to know a boy who, even as he longs for a wider world, does not want to be led, forever, out of Egypt.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Product dimensions:||5.86(w) x 8.58(h) x 1.11(d)|
About the Author
André Aciman is the author of False Papers and Call Me by Your Name. He teaches comparative literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center and lives in Manhattan with his family.
Table of Contents
Soldier, Salesman, Swindler, Spy 3
Rue Memphis 43
A Centennial Ball 95
Taffi Al-Nur! 153
The Lotus-Eaters 217
The Last Seder 295
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is Andre Aciman's memoir of growing up Jewish in 1950's Alexandria, Egypt. An only child, he was showered with attention from a large and eccentric assortment of great aunts and uncles. The city of Alexandria shimmers, and is itself a character in the book. Aciman's family was expelled from Egypt in the early 1960's, and his bittersweet nostalgia for his Edenic childhood permeates the book.
I read these memoirs with strict concentration on all features of the environment that provided the interesting material to this book.
From childhood of elderly relatives that was somewhat unhappy and bordering on deprivation, the family living off charity, in areas where the primary social groups' life revealed a pattern of neglect, moral degradation, and disregard for law.
I watched a collection of things making people of the same feather sharing a common attribute. Perhaps I should say that a small part of these features I lived myself (1952-56). The message Andre Aciman is giving me is also addressed to every member of a clan feeling alien in the environment in which one was found, and resisted to share.
You are taken back in time to the beginning of the twentieth century until the mid fifties. I never felt strange to uncle Vili, Aunt Clara, or Tante Lotte, like these people exist in the annals of many families' chronological account of events in any successive years.
How much true it is when one had become a success story and thus an object of intense jealousy on the part of his less fortunate confreres. One would definitely feel better off to keep ones apart from ones fellows.
Walking on tight ropes during WWII to keep balance between complete annihilation and survival is not impossible, or unethical, though the uncomplimentary remarks Uncle Vili used to make about the warring parties - about them both - in private, now remained no secret. We all tend to do the same thing when cornered; won't we? This is legitimate quest for survival amid a world run in madness, Uncle Vili appeared uncomplicated enough.
Those were the people we came to know in Egypt in the mid-fifties, their private life, their intimate charm, their gentleness, their direct and affectionate manner, their kindness and modesty which remained unchanged even at the very height of their predicaments.
We knew people like Uncle Vili, their sense of humor, coupled with caustic wit with their servants - Egyptians and/or Sudanese - that their good nature forsook them and their tongue became capable of mordant, wounding remarks. In the company of their intimate friends, they would throw off the habitual reserve they displayed on public occasions and behave like the big boy scouts which they remained in one corner of their personality - Pashas attitudes.
Andre Aciman: I salute you.
I don't read 1000 books a year and don't attend book clubs, so my opinion is not supported by qualifications. Out of Egypt is a sweet and sour collection of portraits and memories of a world gone by, that of Egypt of the 1960's. It is a world of errand jews facing the precariousness of their condition with humour, sadness and resourcefulness. It is also a meditation on identity and how it is shaped by what may seem fickle details of early life. Last but not least, it is also very funny and will keep you company well after your will have turned the book's final page.
Our book club members began to read this as our October selection for discussion. After receiving complaints from several of us, our group moderator selected another book for us to read. Since I had already ordered this one, and had subsequently learned about the substitution, my interest in Out of Egypt was piqued. Sorry to say, that this is the only one of about 1,000 or more books I read a year, that I just could not read beyond a third of the way. It seems as though the author got in a rut and was replaying the activities and conversations over and over. I understand that actions can be limited and societal activity stifled by many outside and internal forces. The best I can say for this work is that the scenes are richly detailed. The writer has a keen eye for the depth and layered texture of surroundings and people. On the other hand, you should read it if you are having problems falling asleep. If anything, this will work better than any sleeping aid, including warm milk.