Cover Image: Homo Irrealis

Homo Irrealis

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Member Reviews

I like Aciman's books ALMOST as much as I like this collection of short essays, in which the author describes some cities (including Rome and Alexandria), the director Rohmer and other famous poets and books, which gave me the opportunity to extend my already endless list of books to read.
Unfortunately, in some cases, I found the chapters a bit repetitive, so I recommend not reading the whole book in a row. 

I libri di Aciman mi piacciono quasi quanto questa raccolta di brevi saggi, in cui l'autore descrive alcune cittá (tra cui Roma e Alessandria), il regista Rohmer e altri poeti e libri famosi, che mi hanno dato l'opportunitá di allungare la mia giá infinita lista di libri da leggere.
Purtroppo peró in alcuni casi, ho trovato i capitoli un po' ripetitivi e quindi consiglio di non leggere il libro tutto di seguito.
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Andre Aciman has a beautiful, vulnerable, and poetic voice, and everything I've ever read from them has been gorgeous. This is no exception. That being said, these essays are quite dense, and I would recommend buying this with the intention to take your time to read them. One at a time, in order to reflect on our understanding of time, when you're feeling meditative.
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This collection of essays by André Aciman is highly intriguing that I spent my entire weekend digesting his thoughts of the irrealis form of thinking that most of us possess, and sometimes we express unconsciously.

In linguistics, “irrealis” moods are the set of grammatical moods that indicate that something is not actually the case or that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened at the moment the speaker is talking. (Loc. 45)


What the author transcribes as irrealis is how we often think in the form of “what should we have done” and the kind of longing for the alternate universe that might accompany us were we put that choice up instead of the choice that we finally ended up making. There are many ways irrealis moods could influence us, and it’s the author’s gift for having lived in various places around the globe, reading many classical books, as well as watching countless films that enable this thought to transpire in him. It all begins in his quest of searching for the real Alexandria, the place which rejected him due to his Jewish heritage, and the fact that he longed for that Alexandria which never was by the time he moved to Rome.

The irrealis mood knows no boundaries between what is and what isn’t, between what happened and what won’t. In more ways than one, the essays about the artists, writers, and great minds gathered in this volume may have nothing to do with who I am, or who they were, and my reading of them may be entirely erroneous. But I misread them the better to read myself. (Loc. 130)


From the start of the volume, the author has warned the readers about the implications of reading through the lens of irrealis mood. What we call reality, experience, or senses, they might as well disappear in face of the irrealis mood. And there’s no better way to get in touch with irrealis mood besides facing it inside works of art. In this volume besides from his own personal experiences, the author also provides us to the irrealis mood that he "thinks” present inside Freud’s sojourn to Rome, three French New Wave films directed by Eric Rohmer (My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee and Chloe in the Afternoon), paintings by the Impressionists, as well as Proust’s novel. His reading through those works never failed to impress me on how the irrealis mood is pretty much present in many art forms.

By the time I reached the last essay, it gives me an impression that we as humans have never truly lived in the present. There are many ways we reject reality by thinking of “what could possibly happen if…” and present ourselves with so many alternative cases. And that’s why we ended up inventing words such as 'remorse' and 'regret' to cope up with the daunting irrealis mood. Much more so, André Aciman uses many of his personal experiences that seem at times coherent with my own in the way that I interpret them as so. Perhaps we all have become slaves to probability.

This volume will be really engaging if you are a fan of art and literary essays, and have a general understanding of New Wave French cinema which occupies almost half of the volume. Through this volume, the author takes me into a journey to see that our lives might have been guided through so many random occurrences and serendipities more than what we realise.
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i don't know how i feel about this. some of the essays made me feel stupid, but andré aciman's style is very pretty. i enjoyed reading it even if i barely understood anything.
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