Biography / History / Middle East / Travel

‘Egypt had the longest hours in the world’ – André Aciman’s Alexandrian awakening

Out of Egypt

Set in Alexandria, Out of Egypt chronicles the exploits of André Aciman (author of Call Me By Your Name, now an Oscar-nominated film adaptation) and his colourful Sephardic Jewish family from its arrival in Egypt at the turn of the century to its forced departure three generations later. Aciman tells a story of childhood innocence, of intricate family life and the pain of exile from a place one loves. His memories are adorned with eccentric characters: mysterious Uncle Vili – soldier, salesman, Italian Fascist and British spy; the two grandmothers, the Princess and the Saint, who gossip in six different languages; his melancholy Aunt Flora who warns that Jews lose everything ‘at least twice in their lives’; and his father, who considers converting to Islam in order to stay in Alexandria. Elegant, beautifully-written, moving and witty, Out of Egypt bridges cultures and generations and provides a moving portrait of a by-gone world.

In these extracts we learn more about Aunt Flora, whose afternoon gatherings, accompanied by rainbow sherbets, are powerfully evoked here:

p50 OOE

p51 OOE

Later, Aciman ruminates on his Aunt’s time in Venice, capturing her love of music, and the melancholy of suspended existence brought on by the war years:

p.89 OOE

p.90 OOE

André Aciman was born in Alexandria and raised in Egypt, Italy and France. He is Professor of Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City and is the author of False Papers as well as Call Me By Your Name, which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film in 2017.

Out of Egypt: A Memoir is available to order now from the I.B.Tauris website.


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