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Homo Irrealis

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The Past Is All We Have: André Aciman’s Homo Irrealis

Reviewed By Sukhada Tatke for Rumpus (https://therumpus.net/2021/07/homo-irrealis-by-andre-aciman/)

July 14th, 2021

As I write these words, I am aware that the thoughts I am on the verge of forming are rolling into the past even before I can convey them. The now is sliding from my grasp. Perhaps the now doesn’t exist at all.

This is not an emotional distortion of physical time. Outside of the human realm, the present holds no meaning in the greater universe. It is just the point at which the past turns instantly into the future. But, it is this shifting moment we are told to seize again and again if we want to taste an elusive slice of calm, or—who knows—even happiness. We set ourselves up on a path of mindfulness but find ourselves distracted instead. Our minds become hodgepodge newsfeeds of unmet passions and misspent lives scrolling past us without algorithmic logic or design.

“What do you do when you’re not inhabiting the present?” André Aciman asks in Homo Irrealis, his latest collection of essays, setting the meditative tone of the book and presenting a spirited manifesto on a theme as old as time itself. The answer comes straight away and lingers throughout the book: “You temporize, you defer, you anticipate, you remember.”

Aciman, for his part, lives in the past. We know this because every page quivers with a yearning for moments that have long ceased to be. Or perhaps not. He is, in fact, reaching for moments that could have been, should have been, might have been, but have never actually been. This gray wistfulness hovers all over the book.

We could call Homo Irrealis a travel book if the cities he dwelled on—Paris, Rome, Alexandria, St. Petersburg, New York—were not just points of departure for places in time that did not exist. In what seems like a homage to Aciman’s hero Marcel Proust, the book spreads from the past into the future, conveniently sidestepping the present: “The shadow of the departed and the embryo of something yet unborn sit alongside each other.”

Aciman’s are far from aimless meanderings of the mind. Each of the essays is an intuitive and a visceral response to a particular piece of art, the kind that makes one reach one’s “truest, deepest, most enduring selves by borrowing someone else’s skill, someone else’s words.” His modus operandi seems deceptively simple—he wrings, say, a Proust novel, a John Sloan painting, an Eric Rohmer film or a Fernando Pessoa poem, to drain it of whatever its creator may have intended, and assigns to it a dash of illusoriness based on his own life experience that the work of art has stirred.

He is not alone in his melancholic wanderings. He follows in a long lineage of people who were always out of sync with the present, pushed and pulled by that which was inexpressible and contradictory, that which was never there. Sigmund Freud, for instance, experienced a “deeply neurotic” longing for Rome, while putting off going there because Rome once visited would no longer hold the charm of a Rome unvisited.

Of course, a city where time pours pell-mell from one century to another can get overwhelming. In Rome, Aciman writes, you touch time “the moment you lean on a wall to tie a shoelace and realise that this old, flaking wall was already quite old when men like Goethe, Byron and Stendhal stood by it and remembered that Winckelmann himself must have touched this very same wall and then rubbed his hands to shake off the same dust that Michelangelo himself might have rubbed against.” This is perhaps why the weight of history is comforting: the things that devastate us have devastated others before.

 

Those familiar with Aciman’s work can identify in Homo Irrealis the familiar strain of elsewhere-ness present in almost everything he writes. The essays made me come fully alive, as good literature does, in a way that intensified my senses. But isn’t to be alive to breathe in the present? Aciman posits the opposite: most of us are fated to live precariously on the margins of this presumed continuum.

He himself floats in an “indescribable, counterfactual time zone” that linguists call the irrealis mood. “Caught between the no more and not yet, between maybe and already, or between never and always, the irrealis mood has no tale to tell—no plot, no narrative, just the intractable hum of desire, fantasy, memory and time. The irrealis mood can’t really even be written in, much less thought in. But it’s where we live,” he declares.

Not only does Aciman think and write in it, his fluency to say the unsayable is remarkable. He touches the irrealis mood, refashions it, reifies it into a shape we recognize but have never dared articulate. Any meditation on time and remembrance can feel overwrought and schmaltzy. In Aciman’s hand, it becomes a strobe light with which he probes himself in tenses and tones that course like dreams without structure or form. He dips almost fanatically into his memories, bouncing from one recollection to another, fluttering everywhere but around the source that leads to these synesthetic bursts of association.

In Aciman’s world, everyone is banished in time. Charles Baudelaire forever longed “to go back to something he could not name.” Sloan wanted to “preserve the ugly, junky, beaten-up old” simply because it was familiar. Pessoa desired impossible things “precisely because they were impossible.”

Another manifestation of the irrealis mood is that we remember best what never happened. We nod our heads in recognition when Aciman evokes an unfulfilled, therefore haunting, desire from his youth. He hopes that one day he might run into the old almost-lover who would tell him that he had been an idiot for having misunderstood the cue that night in her apartment when she said her mother would wake up in the adjacent room: “All she might have meant was, let’s go to my bedroom instead.”

Drawing from another almost-romantic adventure of his youth, he writes: “Two ex-lovers who’d never been lovers, forced to be friends without really caring to be, yet neither daring—while possibly wishing—to be other than just that.” This, right here, is the classic Acimanian (or Proustian) mood: you prolong a fantasy or defer a desire just for the frisson of anticipatory pleasure.

True to form, everyone who arrives on the pages of the book lives in, and for, the trembling sensuality of unconsummated moments. Isn’t this also why we turn to art? To live out our fantasies. To make tangible that which is not laid out before us. To consume life as it could, should, or might have been. Above all, “art is how we quarrel with time,” Aciman writes.

Isn’t remembering a way of quarreling, too? Every instant, our synapses erect dams against the flood of time. This is perhaps why we spend our lives recalling, reminiscing, recollecting, even though we have been warned that doing so could turn us into pillars of salt. Remembering, however malleable and inaccurate, is the deepest and most flawed investigation into our deepest and most flawed selves. It is perhaps both the gentlest and mightiest riposte to the merciless dual juggernauts of time and mortality.

Aciman invokes a Cavafy poem titled “The Afternoon Sun,” in which the poet returns to an old room where he made love as a young man. The house is now unrecognizable, having transformed to an office space. There he stands and the old details—the bed, the carpet, the chairs, the table—rush back to him. This is how the poem ends:

    …One afternoon at four o’clock we separated
    for a week only… And then—
    that week became forever.

Cavafy must have been certain when he was with his beloved that he would recollect the room in all its specifics, several years hence. He had always been preparing, it seems, for this bittersweet jolt of mono no aware by the simple act of memorizing.

 

There’s a photograph I have looked at more these last few months than I ever have before. I am sitting on the floor. Across me is my father holding a cup in one hand and saucer in another, over which I am bent, sipping the last drops of tea. I do not know that my father will soon die, and my world will be turned on its head. My world is about as big as my three-year-old self.

Thirty-three years have passed since someone, presumably my mother, captured that scene. The vast desert of time between my father and me has now closed in. Now I am as old as him. Hereafter, I will overtake him in age while he will stay forever frozen as a thirty-six-year-young man.

The accident of my father’s death, like the accident of all life, boiled down to chance. He could have continued to be alive just as he continues to remain dead. Like many whose parents die very early, I have always had a fractious relationship with time, finding comfort mostly in the past where the future, that is the present now, is still an oyster. This is probably why I swallowed Homo Irrealis in two massive gulps, pausing only to catch my breath. Away from the stay-in-the-moment path to happiness, here was someone telling me it was all right to rubberneck into the past. Is it not in the warm chambers of the past, after all, that we are immortal, invincible, and alive?

But I hesitated while writing the three preceding paragraphs. Did my life have any place in someone else’s creation? Patricia Lockwood, in a recent essay on Elena Ferrante’s work, spoke of her discomfort about inserting the “I” after reading a piece that lamented the autobiographical book review. Oh no, she said to herself, she had been doing it all wrong. But then she paused. “I thought, what else do you read a book with but your body, your history?”

Aciman, too, writes, “All great art invariably lets us say the same thing: This was really about me.” I felt this acutely when I read the essays, stopping every few minutes to note down the thoughts and emotions that were triggered by his words. Just as Aciman shoehorned himself into the lives and longings of others through their creative work, I squeezed myself into his.

I share nothing in common with the author. Aciman is a displaced Jew from Egypt; I am an Indian woman who has never had to question identity or belonging to a piece of land. More than three decades separate us in age. But he helped clarify one thing for me: if Aciman’s penchant for nostalgia can be traced to his expulsion from his homeland as a teenager, I can now trace mine to my father’s sudden and violent death. My mother and I left the city I would or should have called home, and all my life, I have been haunted by a version of me that simply does not exist.

Aciman looks at a photo of him as a young boy just about to leave Alexandria for Europe. He wants to commune with his younger self like I want to with the stranger who holds the saucer to my lips. Like Aciman, I want to ask him who of the two is real. And like Aciman, I know the answer: neither of us is.

 

Singular points in our pasts have the potential to fan out in innumerable directions. And yet, it is this one present life, whether by chance or choice, that we end up leading. This does not mean we must shy away from measuring ourselves against the sum of all the selves we could have been.

Aciman asks: How can one be happy when faced with daily reminders of so many wasted years? Put it another way, what is it about our pursuit of the past that makes us forgo the conventional wisdom of staying in the moment? For me, it is the guarantee of our survival, resilience, and endurance. Those of us who reject the overbearing present to embrace nostalgia do so not out of an idle pining for the past but to dive into the many-bodied lives we could have led. It is really a quest for who we are in the fleeting here-and-now.

To read Homo Irrealis in a pandemic is to inhabit the irrealis mood in its realest sense. Locked in an escape-less present, the doors of known temporality have slammed shut on us and all the usual tenses have eroded. The future seems to have collapsed; the past is all we have. Many of us have, in the last year, obsessively waded through the debris of regrets and remorse, unspoken words and unfinished goodbyes.

We’ve realized that we can no longer count on chance to bring back almost-lovers whom we misunderstood, former partners we wounded with our words, friends we lost to silence. The responsibility is ours. To prevent our tomorrows from being littered with what-ifs and why-nots, we must not dither. We must journey inward in our hearts and emerge with remedy on our lips. Thus we can lay the ground for a golden future past.

For those of us who will be out of the woods at the end of this, at least physically, the pandemic will have been a lease on life. A cautionary tale, perhaps, of how to live, or how not to live. All the cumulative losses will have merged into a long and seamless sequence of grief. It will have allowed us to glimpse the end. Would this be enough?

In Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, there is a moving scene where Marcel, the narrator, is separated from his beloved grandmother at a time when telephones are not commonly used. When he speaks to her on the phone, he is deeply moved by the tenderness of the sweet voice—so solitary, so removed from the face and the body it belongs to. “A real presence indeed that voice so near—in actual separation. But a premonition also of an eternal separation!” he says.

He turns the premonition to repetition. Marcel begins to rehearse his grandmother’s death convinced that doing so would soften the agony when the moment finally arrives. When she does indeed die, Marcel narrates the experience rather coolly. He’s been let off quite easily, he thinks.

A year later, on a visit to a hotel filled with memories of his grandmother, he is struck by a wave of sorrow. The past suddenly gets stretched into the never-ending present. He, who had been practicing grief all along, comes undone.

Perhaps this will be our undoing, too—no grand rehearsal will ever prepare us for the closing act.
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I didn't quite get into the rhythm of these stories unfortunately.  I found the style of writing hard to read.
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This book voiced out my inner thoughts in ways that I'm not able to thoroughly express in words. Aciman treats memory and recollections as neither static or fixed. These essays brought my own memories and made me revaluate the way I view them.
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3/5 stars 

Thanks for providing this precious arc in regards to the publisher and author!

It was a fine piece of work. Not too dazzling but fine piece of literature.
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In a collection of deeply contemplative essays, André Aciman ponders over the essence of time in art with the help of additional themes of travel, nostalgia, memories and sundry, taking the reader on a trip spanning the entirety of his life and career. Essays range from his brilliantly rendered memories of his visits to Rome, spliced with his observations of Freud and even bringing references of Julia Child in the same piece ("Like Freud's fantasized Rome, where layers of time zones.........,and memory are still being folded into one another..... To paraphrase Julia Child, folding is a sort of zigzagging,...."). He goes on to dissect the works of Sebald, Rohmer, Beethoven, and Proust. The essay on tracing Dostoyevsky's footsteps in St. Petersburg titled Adrift in Sunlit Night is perhaps one of the highlights of the book for me because of the sheer accessible brilliance of its prose. Although I savoured each essay as it is meant to be, taking time as I re-read some passages, some sections got too philosophical and made me swim languidly in their somewhat dense themes. Yet there's much to enjoy in the book.
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I think writers and other creatives will like these essays. Aciman has a fascinating approach to the imagination that keeps this from being pretentious navel-gazing!
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If someone were able to feed all my dream aesthetics and literary interests and the thoughts that plague me when I am in the midst of a fit of nostalgia-infused melancholy and produce the perfect book for a person like me (or at least the person I aspire to be), it would definitely be a "Homo Irrealis". This is a well-written, well-argued collection of essays about some of Aciman's favorite creators and the literature and art that has haunted him throughout his life. A certain familiarity with the people in question (though not their entire artistic production) might make this more interesting to a reader, but I don't think it's a requirement to enjoying this book. 

Aciman being who he is, he is less interested in the facts or plot details and more in sensations, and more importantly, the sensations that each work evokes in him. And in all honesty, that is one of my favorite type of criticism: the one that provides historical and artistic context for each work, but then delves in to the sensations, memories, feelings that it has produced in the reader. I find those types of essays far more illuminating, or at least more entertaining. 

I do think the introduction is the pièce de resistance of this entire collection, not least because it makes an argument for nostalgia not as something that we feel towards the past as it was, but rather about the future that could have been, when we longed for things to change and for us to be happier, more like ourselves in another place, in other circumstances. 

Still, if you like Aciman's style, maybe first check the table of contents to see how interested you are in the authors he discusses, but definitely don't miss out on this.
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Andre Aciman has a beautiful way with words. This warms my little academic heart. It makes me long to see Rome again, just to experience it through Aciman’s eyes as he experienced it through these different historical figures’ eyes. He portrays this hunt for an identity, purpose, and meaning through the lenses of artists and cities. I learned that there's wonder in being lost and in the middle. As a young adult who is still trying to find their direction in life, it's this in-between state of should haves, could haves, would haves can create something remarkable. 

    Having read some of Aciman’s work before, I was able to appreciate some of the connections to his other work, especially Call Me By Your Name. I can understand how some people could find this slow, but I thoroughly enjoyed the pace. It is a contemplative work — you cannot rush these thoughts. He discusses this irrealis figment each artist projects onto a city, yet he is doing the same thing with his writing - making you long for an experience that could happen but might never happen. He makes the irrealis mood a safe space. 

    I do feel like I missed out on some of the references to literature or movies that were not completely explained, but it did not hinder my overall enjoyment of this book. I would recommend this to someone who enjoys analysis of the world or is looking to have an existential crisis.
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Irrealism is a term that has been used by various writers in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art to denote specific modes of unreality and/or the problems in concretely defining reality.

These essays were quite literally and covered the range of art, literature, cinema and memoir. Place and time.
Enjoyed some, some I felt lost in like I was being consumed by the irrealis. His life in Egypt, France walking through Rome, St Petersburg. Enjoyed the part on Sebald and his enthusiasm for each subject whether a painting, a poem, watching a movie in the cinema.

I took this slow, there is much to consume, ponder. A mixed read for me but an interesting one.

ARC from Netgalley
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When I think of André Aciman, the thought immediately goes to “Call me by your name”. Who expected him to have written such a unique and enlightening collection of essays? In “Homo irrealis” I was pleased to discover the more reflective and intellectual side of him.

The leitmotif of this collection is the unreal, the imaginary. Each word is capable of making us think, and we find ourselves reflecting on how much time we waste thinking about "what would have been if ...", thus giving rise to regrets and remorse. But in the course of reading, in addition to discovering the author's hidden sides, one feels transported to a parallel world. That world made of memories that we cannot help but think about, but that change over the years and make us doubt their existence.

"The irrealis mood knows no boundaries between what is and what isn’t, between what happened and what won’t."
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Aciman's essays have an eviden both personal and universal feel, and although his writing style is flowing and delicate, I could not relate as much as I expected to.
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In this essay collection, André Aciman uses various forms of art - cinema, literature, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture - to examine the concept of the irrealis mood. Here are two attempts to explain the irrealis mood by using the author's words: 1) "It's not about what did not, will not occur, but about what could still but might never occur" and 2) "might-have-beens that haven't really happened but aren't unreal for not happening and might still happen, though we hope - and fear - they both will and never will happen."

This book reads as the midnight thoughts that creep in our minds uninvited, making us question everything - our place in the world, our path, our interpretation of our life, the concept of time. "If time exists at all, it operates on several planes simultaneously, where foresight and hindsight, prospection and retrospection are continuously coincident," explains Aciman. 

As humans we often wonder if we live the life we should, if we took the right path. "So many of us don't really belong here - not in the present, or the past, or the future - but all of us seek a life that exists elsewhere in time, or elsewhere on-screen, and that, not being able to find it, we have all learned to make do with what life throws are way." But even though we make do with what we have, we never really forget the life we imagined we should have. "The life we're still owed and cannot live transcends and outlasts everything, because it is part yearned for, part remembered, and part imagined, and it cannot die and it cannot go away because it never, ever really was."

This book will also make you consider how much time alters memories. "Whatever it is I am trying to preserve may not be entirely real, but it isn't altogether false." That in actuality "we remember best what never happened" and that "the feelings that hurt the most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd: the longing for the impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else, dissatisfaction with the world's existence." 

I would give this 4.5 stars just because some essays I enjoyed more than others, but I'm overall thankful for having encountered this book that gave a voice to some inner thoughts. In retrospection, "I have always felt as if I had no place in reality, as if I were not there at all." And if you've ever felt the same, you should read this book.
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Unfortunately I didn’t like the authors writing style so it was quite hard to get into the short stories of this one. That being said I’m very happy that I got the chance to read some of his work so I know what to expect if I am to pick another book that he has written. It’s a bit too philosophical and abstract for me are times and I don’t think that is my cup of tea at the moment. One really needs to connect with the author’s train of thought in order to be able to enjoy such a collection of essays, in my opinion.

That being said I would like to thank netgalley for providing me a copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.
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Whilst beautiful and immensely lyrical, I am not sure I am the perfect audience for this collection of essays. I for sure will recommend it to friends, however, who are looking for contemplative and reflective works. I can definitely see myself trying to reread some of these chapters in the future.
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Well, André Aciman’s latest essay collection is certainly more intellectually bracing than his fiction, especially the rather tepid ‘Find Me’. Whether or not this will appeal to the average reader of ‘Call Me By Your Name’ remains to be seen.

‘Homo Irrealis’ is a play on the linguistics term ‘irrealis’, which Aciman defines as per its Wikipedia entry, “because the Oxford English Dictionary does not house the word.” He explains that “the irrealis mood knows no boundaries between what is and what isn’t, between what happened and what won’t.”

As an example, Aciman references his ‘many worlds’ immigrant experience: <i>What happened to the person I was actually working on becoming but didn’t know I was about to become, because one never quite knows that one is indeed working on becoming anyone?</i>

If this sounds far more complicated than it should be, Aciman does relax a bit as the essays progress. Probably the best is the candid ‘In Freud’s Shadow, Part 2’, where he recounts as a schoolboy frequenting a large remainders bookstore on the Piazza di San Silvestro in Rome, ferreting out a copy of ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’ by Richard von Krafft-Ebing.

One would think that haunting bookshops to get a glimpse of salacious reading is practically a guarantee of sexual dysfunction later in life. Well, some critics have frowned at the age difference in ‘Call Me By Your Name’, as well as at the old man/young woman section in ‘Find Me’. However, is this a surefire indication of pathology, or just wishful thinking on the part of cancel culture?

One afternoon after leaving the bookstore, the young Aciman takes the 85 bus. This is crowded, which results in a young man being pushed up against him from behind and grabbing his upper arms as well to steady himself. The encounter is almost unbearably erotic to the lonely Aciman, and becomes a mental lacuna that he spends his entire life excavating and refilling, like sand in an hourglass: <i>Now, whenever I come to Rome, I promise to take the 85 bus at more or less the same time in the evening to try to turn the clock back to relive that evening and see who I was and what I craved in those days.</i>

That is the ‘irrealis mood’ at its most plangent. If you think this is an early indication of homosexual tendencies in Aciman, the reality is far more complicated. He subsumes his erotic fantasies of the young man on the 85 bus with his lustful pining after Gina, who “smelled of incense and chamomile, of ancient wooden drawers and unwashed hair…” This results in a kind of polymorphous frenzy that must have driven the young Aciman wild with unrequited desire:

<i>Night after night, I would drift from him to her, back to him and then her, each feeding off the other and, like Roman buildings of all ages snuggling into, on top of, under, and against each other, body parts stripped from his body were given over to hers and then back to his with body parts from hers.</i>

One wonders how encounters such as these must have fed into Aciman’s literary imagination, becoming grist for novels like ‘Call Me By Your Name’, which is practically brimming over with the irrealis mood. I am also reminded of ‘The Motion of Light in Water’, wherein Samuel R. Delany writes powerfully about the refractive effect of memory.

Aciman certainly can’t quite summon the same playful, transgressive and libidinous tone of Delany in full linguistic flight. Indeed, there is something almost strained about ‘In Freud’s Shadow, Part 2’. The author is on far more familiar ground when he waxes lyrical about art, cities and famous writers. This seems to give him the necessary distance in which to examine both his thoughts and desires with the necessary dispassion. An example is Aciman’s postcard of the Apollo Sauroktonos statue in the Vatican Museum, which is like a message from a younger to an older self: 

<i>All I had at home was my picture of the Sauroktonos. Chaste and chastening, the ultimate androgyne, obscene because he lets you cradle the filthiest thoughts but won’t approve or consent to them and makes you feel dirty for even nursing them. The picture was the next best thing to the young man on the bus. I treasured it and used it as a bookmark.</i>
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📕Happy #Pubday to this series of essays which are bunch of love letters to Alexandria, Paris, New York and all memories that comes with them. Love letters to all shoulda, woulda and couldas
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📗Aciman takes you to his childhood and opens you up the times that he wouldn’t think that exists. He takes you from cinema to cinema to show you different films where he reflects on different moods (or as he calls irrealis moods) that might or might not happened in his real life
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📘Some essays left me thinking did I understand what actually happened here while some others made perfect sense. Based on your mood and level of imagination that you can incorporate into these essays change how much you’ll enjoy it. I’d say give it shot; you might find something that sticks with you
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Andre's style of writing is really some of the most beautiful I have ever read. He truly just has a magical way with words and how he describes things. He knows how to make you feel wherever he is, whether physical or mental. i didn't love all these essays, some I found myself getting lost a bit, but overall this was a great read. I especially loved all the essays set in Rome, as it is one of my favorite places in the world and he describes it so well. Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC.
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Thank  you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for allowing me to read this book.

Homo Irrealis is a collection of essays written by André Irrealis. These essays are surrounded by the irrealis moods “a certain situation or action is not known to have happened at the moment the speaker is talking”. In this collection, Aciman explores the themes of time and the hypothetical situation in which everything exists and does not all together regardless of what happens and did happen.

Throughout this collection, the theme of exile emerges from the mind of Aciman regardless of what topic the author focuses on. There seems to be a place in which the author is stuck between the realities or perhaps yearning for a reality that has never happened or might have happened. This resembles being an exile, immigrant, and migrant; being stuck between worlds yearning for the past but also the future. Nostalgia is a major part of a migrant’s identity: the inexplainable yearning for a home and past, that is no longer available to the exile: “Perhaps I wanted the scene to exist outside of time, with no real indication of where, when, or in which decade the picture was taken”. It is not longing for that specific period of time, country, or place, it merely is longing for something that does not exist within time or space.

Moving from place to place forms an identity that no longer belongs to the person. There is not just one identity anymore but multiple ones serving for adaptability. Now in that subject, alienation comes to mind to explain why one person seeks another identity or a new country. It has multiple answers but in a general sense the difficulties of a providing better opportunities for certain living style pushes its citizen out or those people are pushed out of their country in horrible circumstances. As it is in case here, André Aciman did not feel welcomed in Egypt due to his family being Sephardic Jews. Therefore, once being alienated it is easy to fantasise for a new reality, that may or may not be real. It is explained so well by Aciman in this quotation:

"But once in France I soon realized that France was not the friendly and welcoming France I had dreamed of in Egypt. That particular France had been, after all, merely a myth that allowed us to live with the loss of Egypt. Yet, three years later, once I left France and moved to the Unites States, the old, imagined, dreamed-of France suddenly rose up from its ashes, and nowadays, as an American citizen living in New York, I look back and catch myself longing once more for a France that never existed and couldn’t exist but is still out there, somewhere in the transit between Alexandria and Paris and New York, though I can’t quite put my finger on its location, because it has no location. It is a fantasy France, and fantasies—anticipated, imagined, or remembered—don’t necessarily disappear simply because they are unreal."

Homo Irrealis had a personal touch for me as I have had similar experiences of being in a transcendental position, being in between two worlds. Yearning for a home or the past life, that is never existent in reality as we know it. But it exist beyond our mind and time, it stands still in a place, where we can only reach in our mind. When you leave a place, it will never be the same when you get back to it. Just like it is for Giovanni in Giovanni’s Room and Raif Efendi in Madonna in a Fur Coat: they yearn for the past but also the future in present time but they only exist in their minds.
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The author writes in a beautiful lyrical style. tithe essays need to br read slowly to absorb all the thoughts in them.A book that stays with you even after the last pages.#netgalley#fsg
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Decent story, easy enough to follow.  I would read more books by this author.  Overall, I liked the characters, the plot, the dialogue, and the wrap up.

3/5 Stars
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