Read Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere by André Aciman Online


A Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 Celebrated as one of the most poignant stylists of his generation, André Aciman has written a luminous series of linked essays about time, place, identity, and art that show him at his very finest. From beautiful and moving pieces about the memory evoked by the scent of lavender; to meditations on cities like Barcelona, Rome, ParA Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 Celebrated as one of the most poignant stylists of his generation, André Aciman has written a luminous series of linked essays about time, place, identity, and art that show him at his very finest. From beautiful and moving pieces about the memory evoked by the scent of lavender; to meditations on cities like Barcelona, Rome, Paris, and New York; to his sheer ability to unearth life secrets from an ordinary street corner, Alibis reminds the reader that Aciman is a master of the personal essay....

Title : Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
Author :
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ISBN : 9780374102753
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere Reviews

  • Kelly
    2018-09-30 22:25

    Oh, I can't. I'm so sorry, Mr. Aciman, but I just cannot sit with you right now. Your world is not mine, and you make absolutely no effort to welcome me to it. You must understand that I want nothing more than do let you guide me, but you don't want to do that. You want to tell me about how pleased you are that you are in this world, and you are not interested in relating to anyone who is not already inside it. Aside from the first essay about lavender (in which I found something true enough to make me want to keep reading), this was a book of status symbols disguised as travel essays. Even his essay on Monet and his love for a particular painting, which, I love essays about peoples' obsession with art- even that was really about how he had a better travel experience than you. He could speak the language, and met Real People who led him, coincidentally, to what he wanted. Complete with musings about how all travel should be random and spontaneous to truly fulfill us. He wrote about the Place des Vosges in Paris and name dropped some of my favorite French historical figures, but the real point of the essay was the fact that he was in Paris, and knew things that you didn't. He would move to Paris, you know, but there is just no TIME for that in his busy life of writing essays at ritzy resorts and traveling. Yes, that's why most of us don't move to Paris, Mr. Aciman. I sympathize.Am I just envious? I don't know. I sound like I am a bit, don't I? I was thinking maybe I just resent reading about a man who's biggest problem is that he thinks he may have given erroneous directions to his gondolier in Venice, but doesn't want to sacrifice his cool pose enough to fix it. There's probably some element of that. But I think its really more about the purpose of these essays as contrasted to their presentation. This is a book about the reflections of a middle-aged man on the delicate nostalgia of his youth and the nuances and fleeting moments of meaning he seems to grab between plane flights and dinners on the Riveria. This is NOT a Fantasia of passions and European landscapes. It's about him. Which I thought would be fine after the first essay. I was even okay with that one about his childhood in Rome, as a kid who loved books and was too shy to talk to girls. But the rest of it where he tries to pretend that it is about travel, that's a problem because I think he gets what is important about travel wrong. I think he misses the good stuff. I do not care whether you went swimming at noon while tourists were out seeing things in Venice, thus making you like the native people who don't have to sightsee. Why on earth would you choose staying at your hotel and swimming to tell me about when you are in Venice, unless it was about how cool you are that you don't have to go see Venice? Lot of performance that I have no patience with. The priorities were off here, and I did not like it.I don't know. I might revisit it later and try again.

  • Selena
    2018-10-20 04:23

    from Intimacy: I was after something intimate and I learned to spot it in the first alley, in the first verse of a poem, on the first glance of a stranger. Great books, like great cities, always let us find things we think are only in us and couldn’t possibly belong elsewhere but that turn out to be broadcast everywhere we look. Great artists are those who give us what we think was already ours. In the words of Emanuele Tesauro: “We enjoy seeing our own thoughts blossom in someone’s mind, while that someone is equally pleased to spy what our own mind furtively conceals.” I was a cipher. But, like me, everyone else was a cipher as well. Ultimately, I wanted to peer into books, places, and people because wherever I looked I was always looking for myself, or for traces of myself, or better yet, for a world out there filled with people and characters who could be made to be like me, because being like me and being me and liking the things I liked was nothing more than their roundabout way of being as close to, as open to, and as bound to me as I wished to be to them.from My Monet Moment: It would be just like me to travel all the way to Bordighera from the United States and never one look up the current name of the villa. Any art book could have told me that its name was Villa Garnier. Anyone a the station could have pointed immediately to it had I asked for it by name. I would have spared myself hours of meandering about town. But then, unlike Ulysses, I would have arrived straight to Ithaca and never once encountered Circe or Calypso, never met Nausica or heard the enchanting strains of the Sirens’ song, never gotten sufficiently lost to experience the sudden, disconcerting moment of arriving in, of all places, the right place. She opens a door and we stop onto the roof terrace. Once again, I am struck by one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen. “Money used to come to paint here as a guest of Signor Moreno.” I instantly recognize the scene from art books and begin to snap pictures. Then the nun corrects herself. “Actually, he used to paint from up there,” she says, pointing to another floor I hadn’t noticed that is perched right above the roof. “Questo e l’oblo di Monet.” “This is Monet’s porthole.”from Temporizing: Proust’s novel is about a man who looks back to a time when all he did was look forward to better times. To rephrase this somewhat: he looks back to a time when what he looked forward to was perhaps nothing more than sitting down and writing… and therefore looking back. It is not even Egypt or the things he remembers that he loves; what he loves is just remembering, because remembering ensures that the present won’t ever prevail. Remembering is merely a posture that turns its head away and, in the process, even when there is nothing to remember, is shrewd enough to make up memories – surrogate, standby memories – if only to justify not having to look straight at the present.from New York, Luminous: In that spellbound moment when we’re suddenly willing to call this the only home we’ll ever want on earth, New York lets us into a bigger secret yet: that it “gets” us, that we needn’t worry about those dark and twisted, spectral thoughts we are far too reluctant to tell others about – it shares the exact same ones itself, always has.from Afterword: Parallax: The German writer W.G. Sebald, who died in 2001, frequently wrote about people whose lives are shattered and who are trapped in a state of numbness, stagnation, and stunned sterility. Given a few displacements, which occurred either by mistake or through some whim of history, they end up living the wrong life. The past interferes and contaminates the present, while the present looks back and distorts the past. Sebald’s characters see displacements everywhere, not just all around them but within themselves as well. Sebald himself cannot think, cannot see, cannot remember, and, I would wager, cannot write without positing displacement as a foundational metaphor. In order to write you either retrieve displacement or you invent it.----------------things that were my favourites:Lavender; a wonderful easing into the essays, into reflections on memory, on past, on how we look back on the past and frame it, on how it impacts us into adulthood. it reminded me of bosnia, of my grandfather (even though it was about aciman’s father).New York, Luminous; a walk through a city through movies and literary references. movies i hadn’t seen were brought to live, then the essay was re-read and i saw how perfectly they shine and how fitting they are.The Buildings Themselves Have Died; for being a perfectly named story. for making new york come alive in a different way than New York, Luminous. for reminding me of david foster wallace. though there are differences – dfw sees it through the older generations, aciman through the buildings themselves.

  • Ryan
    2018-10-17 04:18

    Nonfiction—Essay, Travel. Trade Paperback. Found after reading “Call Me By My Name” by same author.

  • Jennifer Bernstein
    2018-10-21 04:32

    On Monet: He is not even sure he’s not making it up. Which is also why he needs to paint it … What he was after hangs between the visible and the invisible, between the here and now and the seemingly elsewhere.This is Aciman’s project, his compulsion: to make material these wisps of feelings, impressions, the space between places and things.Alibis is fundamentally a book about longing infinitely displaced—longing for lives not lived, past lovers, abandoned cities—with the recurrent suggestion that all longing is about itself and the self. Aciman lives in an agonizingly evocative world, where any sight or sound can trigger an unending stream of associations and memories. No wonder that the first essay is about scents. It perfectly augurs all of the book’s concerns.Aciman understands that there is something about being a reader that prevents one from living in the present: that inescapable awareness of other times and places, such that they come to exist congruent and contemporaneous with one’s own, which loses all meaning and force in contrast, the tiny, arbitrary fulcrum against which balance the weights of the past and future. I cannot think of a more appropriate title than “Alibis.” All through the book, Aciman is saying: “I couldn’t have been here, experiencing my own life, for I was really there.” And what of the subtitle: “Essays on Elsewhere”? Elsewhere with respect to where? With respect to everywhere, wherever one is. Fitting that Aciman writes of himself as an exile, one who “is always in one place but elsewhere as well,” consequently in neither place, beyond the idea of place.Aciman is never where he is. He remembers remembering, he looks back to looking ahead, looks ahead to looking back; nothing is solid, merely shadows of shadows. Everything is done in memory of something else. Nothing is seen, but rather imagined. The idea of a thing is more real than the thing itself. Perpetuity is the essential quality of longing: it cannot be satisfied, fulfilled, by definition. Many of the essays feature Aciman going in search of something—a historical site, or a relic from his past—and failing to find it, finding only himself instead, which is what he sought from the beginning. The essays are shot through with a variously implicit and explicit loneliness and search for love, which, it strikes me, are characterized by the amorphous, discontinuous qualities Aciman also locates in memory, time, etc.And Aciman always contains his own negation; he acknowledges that his central obsession, the idea of other, better selves, may be the most convincing and deceptive mirage of all. All this deferring and yearning may be for naught. What reader doesn’t entertain this notion with some degree of regularity? But the sheer poignancy of Aciman’s essays diminish this doubt inasmuch as it can be diminished.

  • Karen Foster
    2018-09-27 23:22

    Read for the ReadHarder challenge 8- Read a travel memoir.... Not your usual travel memoir, this is a gorgeously written collection of essays on place and identity. I loved how personal each essay was, each meditation sharing intimate musings, so specific, so evocative.....

  • Mark
    2018-10-15 06:34

    In his novel Eight White Nights, Andre Aciman's narrator says, "...longing makes us who we are, makes us better than who we are, because longing fills the heart. ... The way absence and sorrow and mourning fill the heart." In the same way, the highly personal essays in Alibis explore the world of the author's memory: "It is not the things we long for that we love; it is longing itself--just as it is not what we remember but remembrance itself that we love." In the essays of Alibis the author remembers Paris, Rome, and Alexandria. There is a gentle sorrow at the core of Aciman's work, the sorrow, I think, of the exile. Aciman was born in Egypt in a French-speaking home where family members also spoke Italian, Greek, Ladino, and Arabic. His family were Jews of Turkish and Italian origin who settled in Alexandria, Egypt in 1905. Aciman moved with his family to Italy at the age of fifteen and then to New York at nineteen, and he currently teaches literature in New York. In his essay Temporizing, Aciman addresses his tendency directly: "What gives meaning to a life so clearly inscribed in temporizing is not someone's ability to confront pain, sorrow, or loss, but rather someone's ability to craft ways around pain, sorrow, loss. It is the craft that makes life meaningful, not the life itself." In Lavendar, the author uses fragrance as a springboard into his memories of youth, family, and place. Everywhere in his writing, he seeks the "shadow of the past", the world experienced at a "slight angle". Aciman "writes around" his past, and his essays are a remarkable exercise in the power of restraint. Thoughtful and beautiful writing, but very carefully distant.

  • Rachel Simone
    2018-09-19 23:06

    Absolutely gorgeous writing. Great essays on memory, being present (not sure if that is even possible), and belonging/existing between time and place.

  • Snem
    2018-10-17 02:21

    The essays on Rome, Tuscany, Venice and Paris were my favorite. They were very evocative. I also enjoyed how the author explored his self-identity through travel. The writing, while lovely, felt almost like a lecture or presentation. It wasn't at all engaging. The tone was a little pretentious, like he felt he travels better because he doesn't go sightseeing or because in Venice he swims at the right time when the light is perfect unlike all the rest of us who swim at the completely wrong times, as if!It's good, I recommend this to people who love to travel as long as you're willing to overlook a slightly pompous, highbrow tone.

  • Heather
    2018-09-20 00:28

    The flap copy of Alibis describes it as "a series of linked essays about time, place, identity and art," which probably sums it up more succinctly than I could. Aciman writes beautifully about places, about cities. He writes about Venice, about Paris, about Tuscany, about Barcelona. He writes about Rome, where he lived for three years as a teenager - he and his parents were refugees from Alexandria, waiting for their visas to America. He writes about New York, where he lives now. But he's not only writing about place as place, about what makes Rome different from Venice and different from Paris—though he captures that, too, the different sights and sounds and qualities of light of a given city. He's writing about these places and his experiences of them and his memories of them as a way to explore the experience of living in the world, and, more specifically, the experience of living in the world while also feeling a certain disconnect from it. Aciman is, in many ways, a reader's writer and a writer's writer: he writes a lot about the experiences of reading and writing and what reading and writing are/do: whether, for example, writing is a way to more fully experience the world or a way to avoid experiencing it. In an essay called "Temporizing" Aciman writes about Proust and how "memory and wishful thinking are filters through which he registers, processes, and understands present experience […] experience is meaningless,—it is not even experience—unless it comes as the memory of experience, or, which amounts to the same, as the memory of unrealized experience" (68). I like Aciman's thoughts on his own temporizing tendencies, and I like, too, his concern with memory and the multiplicity of selves and the multiplicity of possible selves—who we could have been if things had just been a little different.

  • Victoria Nikolova
    2018-10-09 03:33


  • Don
    2018-10-14 01:32

    (FROM MY BLOG) It's spring, and my neighborhood is full of flowers. I breathe in the smell with a smile as I walk or run down the sidewalk. Once in a while, rounding a corner, I suddenly catch a faint scent of daphne.Daphne. The slightest whiff, and I'm thrown back to the age of 13, possibly 12. We had moved to a new house. In the basement was a storage room we called the "fruit room," with a screened vent to the outside. Outside the vent was a bush of daphne, whose scent filled the basement. The new house, the novel sweet smell of daphne, the age of 13. All mixed up in my mind.I'm 13, it's spring, and my brother's practicing the piano, against his will. He's playing "To a Wild Rose," a tune that ever since has been attached to the smell of daphne. My brother and I have just met the other kids in the neighborhood. Some we would know for years; others moved away shortly after we arrived. But my memory of those first few kids we met is engulfed in the scent of daphne. About the same time, my mother suggested a book she'd just read, a memoir written by the mother of gifted 13-year-old twins. Their clever and imaginative lives fascinated me. I wouldn't know where to find that book, now. I have no idea of its title. But my memory of that book -- or the memory of my reactions to reading it -- also is bathed in daphne.Scent and memory are powerfully linked. [T]he olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala, the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory. So says an on-line source of unknown authority.Proust knew all about it. In his Á la Recherche du Temps Perdu, his protagonist famously experiences vivid flashbacks to childhood from the taste (scent) of a madeleine cake. Not surprisingly, André Aciman, a well-known author, and a specialist in the works of Proust, has had similar experiences, experiences he describes in his essay "Lavender.""Lavender" is the opening essay in his collection Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere. Aciman's madeleine cake is the smell of his father's lavender shaving lotion, remembered from childhood. As he grew up, he discovered that lavender shaving lotions and colognes, like good whiskeys, come in many subtle variations. He searched for the lavender that best exemplified his own personality, the "ur-lavender, as he calls it.You're right. He sounds a bit obsessive. But then so was Proust.His contemplation of lavender, like all good obsessions, segues eventually into thoughts of love. And of loves. And of death. And even of chemistry. Aciman arranges scents mentally by analogy with the chemical elements.As in Mendeleyev's periodic table, one could sort these scents in rows and categories: by herbs, flowers, fruits, spices, woods. Or by places. By people. By loves. By the hotels where this or that soap managed to cast an unforgettable scent over this or that great city. By the films or foods or clothes or concerts we've loved. By perfumes women wore. Or even by years, so that I could mark the bottles as my grandmother would when she labeled each jar of marmalade with her neat octogenerian's cursive, noting on each the fruit and the year of its make. During lonely years teaching college courses, he expanded his fascination of scents to those of tea -- hanging out at a small Harvard Yard café, sampling "each tea, from Darjeeling to Formosa oolong to Lapsang souchong and gunpowder green."I liked the idea of tea more than the flavors themselves, the way I liked the idea of tobacco more than of smoking, of people more than friendship, of home more than my apartment on Craigie Street.He finally discovered a lavender perfume, a very expensive lavender, that exceeded his every expectation of lavender, a perfume that evoked "the women in furs who smoked Balkans aboard a yacht while watching the Hellespont drift in the distance." A scent that reminded him of past experiences and present hopes for his future, all tangled together in what I suppose was the amygdala of his brain. A tempered joy, bitter regret, and a muddling of past, present and future bring him to ponder:Perhaps fragrance is the ultimate mask, the mask between me and the world, between me and me, the other me, the shadow I trail and get hints of but cannot know, sensing all along that talk of another me is itself the most insidious mask of all. But then perhaps fragrance is nothing more than a metaphor for the "no" I brought to everything I saw when I could so easily have said "yes" -- to myself, to my father, to life -- perhaps because I never loved any of the things of the world well enough and hoped to hide this fact from myself by thinking I could do better by looking elsewhere, or because I loved and wanted each fragrance and couldn't determine which to settle for, and therefore stored the very best till a second life rolled in.Aciman is a fine writer. He combines, painfully, an appreciation of the potential for joy in one's life and a tragic fear of having somehow missed the boat. Or, rather, perhaps, a sense of there being too many boats, each with a fascinating destination, and the ability to book passage on only one.I really have no interest in being 13 again, but I love the scent of daphne, because -- like a home movie -- it evokes my past so strongly. Not just my past experiences, but my emotional reaction as an adolescent to those past experiences. Why those emotions seem so important and worth recapturing isn't clear to me, but Aciman understands my puzzlement, a perplexity within each one of us that nothing, not even love or friendship, can unburden, the life we think of each day, and the life not lived, and the life half lived, and the life we wish we'd learn to live while we still have time, and the life we want to rewrite if only we could, and the life we know remains unwritten and may never be written at all, and the life we hope others may live far better than we have.... Well written, as always, and well felt. I 've read one of his novels and his memoir, and am now reading his essays. I enjoy his writing.

  • Emily Shearer
    2018-10-09 05:19

    Aciman is a man of many nationalities and none, he writes in a language not his mother tongue, but eloquently nonetheless, of all the concepts I contend with in my own writing and consciousness: home, travel, exile. My two favorite essays in this collection were "Place des Vosges" and its archaeological layers of Paris, and for me of friendship, love affairs, literature and memories, not unlike my Prague; and the one about Bordighera.I was reading this book on a trip to Chicago with one Italian friend after having been to Seattle with another. I met them both in Prague. We can all relate to Aciman's themes. His essay about Bordighera talks about knowing the Italian coastal town of Bordighera only through a painting, and going in search of it based on this knowledge alone. He eschews maps and guides, he esteems wandering and speaking to locals (even though, in this case, they could not answer his questions or satisfy his curiosity). The essay really spoke to me. On a moment alone in the Art Institute of Chicago, with no museum map and no expectations, I turned around in the Impressionism gallery and there it was, a Monet I'd never seen before, of a sunlit Italian coastal village, the cathedral's spire on a hill in the distance beyond the sparkling cove. The title of the painting? Bordighera. And out loud I spoke the words, "My Bordighera."

  • Khanh Nguyen
    2018-10-21 06:26

    After I finished "Call Me By Your Name", which has become one of my favorite novels ever, I decided to continue reading more books by Andre Aciman. "Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere" is very similar in tone. It's beautifully written, and in each essay he conveys feelings of longing, lost, love, nostalgia. My favorite is the first chapter where he explores the scent of lavender and the significance of colognes in his life. Strangely enough, I find myself identifying with what he writes and that's quite lovely and wonderful.

  • Andy Winnegar
    2018-10-14 01:30

    I enjoyed the essays. In some ways reminded me of Dreams of My Russian Summers by Makine. Mr. Aciman has lived in a lot of places Alexandra Egypt, Paris, NYC. He writes is clear sentences like the English Professor that he is. It seems that he desires to be where he isn't and regrets not doing enough for the people in his life. He spends a lot of time dealing with memories. I suppose most of us feel this way and it was nice to read his essays. I just started his memoir Out of Egypt.

  • Suzy
    2018-10-06 00:29

    Alibis is composed of personal reflections from André Aciman’s life and travels. The deeply personal stories mean that if you as a reader do not connect with Aciman, you probably will not enjoy this book. It is not a book focused on travel so much as Aciman’s inner thoughts in various locations. I appreciated André’s stories and reflections on life and “home”.

  • Jeffrey
    2018-10-11 05:15

    Not interested in the essays. Couldn't work up the interest to pursue this book.

  • Blue Polo
    2018-10-20 00:27

    I never liked Aciman at all, especially his treatment of the Roma.

  • Jodi
    2018-10-08 00:32

    4-1/2 ⭐️

  • Naila
    2018-09-22 01:08

    A few good essays here and there, but overall too caught up in sentimentality even as he claims to interrogate it.

  • Chelsea McInnis
    2018-10-19 03:17

    v good also v philosophical at times where it ended up losing me. Philosophy just hurts my brain

  • Vel
    2018-09-28 01:13

    He may have (mis)read Prrrowst twice or thrice.

  • Caitlin
    2018-10-12 06:22

    2.5 Stars - More of a travelogue than a memoir, and more of a memoir than a collection of essays. Not what I expected.

  • Margaryta
    2018-10-20 02:28

    Great books, like great cities, always let us find things we think are only in us and couldn’t possibly belong elsewhere but that turn out to be broadcast everywhere we look, Great artists are those who give us what we think was already ours. (p. 34)Sometimes, it’s nice to sit down and read a book that feels like you’re being talked to. I don’t mean the kind that makes you feel like you’re indirectly having a conversation with the author on the topic he’s writing about, rather more like an engaging lecture that you simply want to sit and listen to. This is very much what “Alibi” is like. It isn’t a collection that’s interested, I would say, in making the reader feel welcome or engaged with what its talking about – quite the opposite. Instead, it’s rather like listening to a prof who’s lecturing on a topic they’re very passionate about, a topic you might be interested in yourself or simply wouldn’t mind finding out more about, and so you sit there are enjoy the storytelling moment of the event, occasionally picking up bits that resonate with you or that strike you as something that relates to your own experiences.Aciman has a clear understanding of the direction in which his essays are going, and an excellent grasp of the language he uses to get him there. Unsurprisingly, some essays were more interesting than others – the opening “Lavender” was particularly strong, same with the epilogue “Parallax”, although the latter got a bit wordy in a couple places that were similar to moments when someone gets so engaged and lost in their own discussion that they forget they have an audience who might have trouble following along. I personally also preferred the more historical essays, or bits of essays, in this collection, simply because that is what I like reading frequently – I love the close proximity between the author’s personal experience and historical, textbook-like facts next to each other in one narrative. That is what I hoped to get when I picked up this book, and that is certainly what I received. There wasn’t a single essay that I disliked, merely some that I found simply good without any other thoughts or reactions attached to them.If you don’t like feeling like you’re potentially being talked-down to or lectured at, then perhaps this isn’t the right book for you. Aciman presents his thoughts and experiences quite clearly, and doesn’t make any open and direct invitation for the reader to say “I can relate to that” – such a reaction will come naturally to either a curious reader or a lucky one, depending on which side of the fence you fall on. The collection is certainly interesting well-written, and there’s no mistaking that the author is knowledgeable and well-spoken. The decision to read or dismiss this book, in the end, is just a matter of personal taste.

  • E. Ce Miller
    2018-09-20 06:32

    This was an amazing book to start my 2015 Reading Challenge. I have been a longtime fan of author André Aciman, but in my opinion this is by far his finest work. Most of the pieces in this collection are travel essays, taking readers to Paris and New York, Alexandria and Rome and Tuscany and Barcelona and on. Aciman explores these places with such careful intimacy--readers are not just walking alongside Aciman down the streets of Paris or Tuscany, they are closely observing the pattern of cracks in the terracotta pot on the windowsill of the third house on the north side of the street in Paris or Tuscany. The most minute of details are observed, and they matter; the smallest of elements inform the whole. Aciman often gets carried away by the immediacy of place--readers never experience Alexandria from a distance, observing the skyline and surrounding landscape. Instead Aciman places us right in the thick of it. The beautiful irony of all of this being, of course, that Aciman himself is writing from a great distance--one of both time and geographical space. While Aciman reads like an expert on place, he's also not afraid to doubt himself. He acknowledges that he could have (and has sometimes consciously) invented the details of these places in his mind. He could be making it all up; his memories altered and clouded by the passing of time and the myriad of places traveled. It is this honest doubt that I find so compelling about this book--Aciman's explorations of how Place is informed by one's experience in other places, the Place of present is impacted by the places of past and the places of future; by all the other places it isn't. Aciman himself admits he experiences a place best when he is somewhere else, yearning for it and reflecting upon his memories there. While each essay has something wonderful to offer it's readers, my favorite essays in the book were: "Lavendar", "Intimacy", "The Contrafactual Traveler", "Roman Hours" and "Rue Delta". So perhaps begin there.

  • Vera Marie
    2018-10-11 02:28

    André Aciman travels with a very different mindset than you and I. We are going away from our home to a different place. He agrees with T.S. Eliot, who said, “The end is where we start from.” A journey, he says, always is FROM somewhere. But in his case, home is elsewhere in time. Since it is difficult to pin down where he comes from–anywhere he goes is also elsewhere. His essays play with the idea of memory of place, trying to recover the past, fiction that sneaks into memoir, and the time-bending quality of anticipation. “I write about exile, remembrance, and the passage of time…” And he writes about himself. “If I keep writing about places, it is because some of them are coded ways of writing about myself…” As he says at the beginning of the Afterword to Alibis Essays on Elsewhere I was born in Alexandria, Egypt. But I am not Egyptian. I was born into a Turkish family but I am not Turkish. I was sent to British schools in Egypt but I am not British. My family became Italian citizens and I learned to speak Italian but my mother tongue is French..I am African by birth, everyone in my family is from Asia Minor, and I live in America.In Alibis, Aciman writes about Rome, Tuscany, New York City and other places. As you read his essays about specific places, you may say, “Yes, that’s exactly the way that city is.” More likely, you visit an entirely different city, because as he amply illustrates, we see ourselves wherever we go.The book is sometimes difficult, because so personal, but thought-provoking, particularly for travelers, as it explores our expectations as we travel.This review is excerpted from A Traveler's Library. You can read the entire review here.

  • Jose Moran
    2018-10-01 00:27

    I have a love-hate relationship with this book. When my boyfriend chose this book for our book club, I felt like I recognized the name ‘Andre Aciman,’ and felt like it was the right choice for us. The cover it beautiful and incited a fascination on what this book was going to be about. ‘Essays on Elsewhere’ sounds like a book about travel and reflection, which made me really excited to read. The first essay was beautifully written. It’s about how a smell of his father’s cologne drove Aciman to find his own scent and about how this familiar scent of lavender grounded him to his parents and his youth, even when both of these had passed. I was hooked! It wasn’t about travel, but it was about introspection, and Aciman has a way with words. His prose is great and superfluous and just takes you to elsewhere. The problem with Aciman is that sometimes, his essays border on being too wordy, too much fluff added to a (what would’ve been) beautiful piece on growth and the past and retrospection. Alibis took me over a month to finish, when normally I finish a book in less than a week). The writing got too much for me and I decided to only read it one essay at a time, in order to reflect on his words and thoughts. My recommendation is to not marathon-read this book. Keep it as your side-read, for when you are tired of your regular book and want to venture to the past with Aciman. It has been over 4 months and my boyfriend has yet to finish this book. Don’t get me wrong, Aciman had me hooked with his illustrative writing, but it was just not meant to be consumed in a small increment of time. I do look forward to reading more by him, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, in the future…but probably not in the near future.

  • Kaylee
    2018-09-25 06:07

    I don't think it should have taken me this long to slog through 200 pages, but there we have it. I definitely slogged. There's absolutely no other word for it. The writing is verbose without being enjoyable, and that's okay -- Aciman does state that he writes to find truth, not that he writes with an outline of where he's going. I'd expect meandering sentences and thoughts from that style of writing. These essays were repetitive, which also shouldn't be surprising -- the author is always in one place, thinking about being in another. He is searching for meanings but only defining them by falsified memories or imaginary happenings. It's human nature to reframe situations, but I honestly lost patience with the author's way of creating context that didn't exist for absolutely everything. The brief touching upon the difference between fact and fiction, especially in memoirs (and memories), set the tone for my entire enjoyment level of this book. Ultimately, he wants the reader to connect with everything -- his take on place, his idea about belonging, his tenuous grasp of truth. I don't like liars; I don't like people who make half-apologies for intentional lies; and I don't like someone who combines the two things and reasons through his choices to try to force the reader accept what he's saying -- and beyond that, to force the reader to say, "Yes, I completely agree with you! Well done!"

  • Bert
    2018-09-19 22:34

    "Ik ben ergens anders. (...) Sommige mensen hebben een identiteit. Ik heb een alibi, een schaduw-ik." (p.225)'Ik schrijf over plaatsen, of de herinnering aan plaatsen. Ik schrijf over een stad die Alexandrië heet en die me na aan het hart moet hebben gelegen, en over andere steden die me doen denken aan een verdwenen wereld waarnaar ik kennelijk wil terugkeren. Ik schrijf over ballingschap, herinneren en het verstrijken van de tijd. Ik schrijf naar het schijnt om het verleden op te roepen, in stand te houden en ernaar terug te keren, maar ik zou even makkelijk kunnen schrijven om dat verleden te vergeten en achter me te laten. (...) Ik schrijf dan wel over plaats en verplaatsing, maar eigenlijk schrijf ik over diaspora, ontsnappen, ambivalentie: alles wat ik schrijf bevat niet zozeer een vast onderwerp als wel een verhuizing. (...) ik schrijf eromheen. Ik schrijf ervandaan. Ik schrijf ervanuit... (...) Ik schrijf om mijn leven een vorm te geven, een verhaal, een chronologie (...) Ik schrijf om aansluiting te krijgen bij de echte wereld, hoewel ik weet dat ik schrijf om weg te blijven uit een wereld die nog altijd te echt is en nooit zo tijdelijk en ambivalent als ik hem graag zou zien. Uiteindelijk houd ik niet meer van de wereld zelf maar wel van het schrijven erover.' (p.106-7) "Schrijven is niet thuiskomen. Schrijven is een alibi." (p.232)

  • Scarlett Pierson
    2018-10-19 22:33

    DNFRead a few essays but they did not draw me in like I thought they would.

  • Ann
    2018-10-03 04:18

    p.102"...the most beautiful city on earth, just as it is the most serene. Not only is the weather and everything around us serene, but we ourselves become serene. Serenity is the feeling of being one with the world, of having nothing to wish for, of lacking for nothing. Of being, as almost never happens elsewhere, entirely in the present." p.168"He (his son) liked rituals. I liked rehearsing. Rituals are when we wish to repeat what has already happened, rehearsals when we repeat what we fear might yet occur. Maybe the two are one and the same, our way to parley and haggle with time."p.174 "Rue Delta"concerns their last night in Alexandria: the first seder of Passover, the family gathered, and then the two published versions of his non-"last walk" on the Corniche. One with his brother, one without. And how his brother was merged into the memoir.