Recapitulations

Vincent Crapanzano. Other Press, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59051-593-8
Recognizing the incomplete nature of recollection and admitting to the glow of childish romanticism, distinguished anthropologist, philosopher, and literary critic Crapanzano (The Harkis) nevertheless deftly conducts us, sometimes ploddingly and haltingly, often brilliantly and dazzlingly, through the twists and turns of a life lived reflectively. He takes us from his childhood on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital—where his father worked—to his peripatetic life through Europe and America as a teenager, his college and graduate school years at Harvard and Columbia, respectively, studying with Paul de Man and Clifford Geertz among others, and his anthropological work in various parts of the world. The structure of his life provides only the thinnest veil beneath which lies Crapanzano’s elegant probing of identity, nostalgia, memory, and loss. In a meditation that illustrates the shortcomings and the promise of his own memoir, Crapanzano reflects: “An autobiography strives to resurrect that life, but is destined to fail, if only because, like Narcissus, seduced by his own image, the autobiographer is seduced by his or her story. To resist that seduction is to recognize the artifice of the endeavor, its inevitable deceits, and elaborations.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/2015
Release date: 03/17/2015
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