Out of Egypt: A Memoir

Andre Aciman, Author
Andre Aciman, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $20 (339p) ISBN 978-0-374-22833-0
Reviewed on: 01/02/1995
Release date: 01/01/1995
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-57322-534-2
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-312-42655-2
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When Aciman, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, was asked his nationality as a boy, he automatically replied, ``French.'' His confusion was understandable; his family were Sephardic Jews who had wandered from Italy to Turkey, then settled in Egypt. His father owned a woolen mill and his parents were very rich, as were the rest of the exotic clan who lived with them or gathered regularly for elegant, memorable teas, fetes and fierce but transient squabbling. Like Russian nobility of old, they disdained the common language. Few of them learned Arabic but preferred French, English, Ladino or Italian. They concealed their Jewishness when Nasser was in power, a time of high Arab nationalism, intense anti-Semitism and then war. Eventually they fled to Paris, leaving behind much of their wealth but little of their culture, which Aciman-his mother's darling, his teachers' despair, his father's worry, a child spy in a house of eccentric, cultivated adults-here recalls with a magical sensibility streaked with antic humor. A marvelous memento of a place, time and people that have all disappeared. (Jan.)
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