Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt is an amazing book, I found it very hard to put down. At a time of increased hostility in the middle east it is heartwarming to read of a time when Jews lived in peace with their Muslim and Christian neighbors in Alexandria. Not a whiff of anti Jewish sentiments was reported by Aciman until after the Suez War. Aciman and his family left Egypt in the sixties.
Aciman, like many "Egyptian" Jews preferred to hold European nationalities and in some cases some were French or Italian without ever setting foot in these countries. Europeans had their own courts in Egypt and did not fall under Egyptian Laws. For Aciman, born and raised in Egypt and in many ways no different than many affluent Alexandrians life became unbearable after the waves of Nationalization in the early 60's.
Aciman writes of an Alexandria that no longer exists not just for Egyptian Jews. The population explosion in Egypt has transformed Alexandria beyond recognition;...
A really absorbing memoir, reminiscent in some ways of Nabokov's "Speak, Memory". Neither sentimental nor self indulgent, clear-eyed, humorous, yet moving and truly interesting. Having lived in Egypt myself around the same time (albeit in Cairo, not Alexandria), I was touched by recognition of places and types: a world "gone with the wind". That is of course very personal, but I believe this book should appeal to any one with a little curiosity about other places, people, times.
REVIEW OF "OUT OF EGYPT" for Amazon.com July 12, 2007
Andre Aciman describes his colorful and complicated life (and family)in Alexandria in the 1960s. Childhoods like that are often the preparation for a life of writing. The child absorbs all the peculiarities as part of normal life without knowing they are peculiar until much later. Then they need to make sense of it all. All this is heightened by the fact that the Acimans are Jewish, in a Muslim country still resonating with the after effects of British rule.His experiences in the theoretically best school in Alexandria, run by British teachers, would be funny if they weren't so awful. For complete cognitive dissonance,his parents force him to learn Arabic to survive. Reading about those lessons alone is worth the price of this book. At home they speak Ladino, the Sephardic Yiddish, among themselves. His beautful mother was born deaf. When provoked she can...
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