The Future Of Nostalgia

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9780465007073: The Future Of Nostalgia

Can one be nostalgic for the home one never had? Why is it that the age of globalization is accompanied by a no less global epidemic of nostalgia? Can we know what we are nostalgic for? In the seventeenth century, Swiss doctors believed that opium, leeches, and a trek through the Alps would cure nostalgia. In 1733 a Russian commander, disgusted with the debilitating homesickness rampant among his troops, buried a soldier alive as a deterrent to nostalgia. In her new book, Svetlana Boym develops a comprehensive approach to this elusive ailment. Combining personal memoir, philosophical essay, and historical analysis, Boym explores the spaces of collective nostalgia that connect national biography and personal self-fashioning in the twenty-first century. She guides us through the ruins and construction sites of post-communist cities-St. Petersburg, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague-and the imagined homelands of exiles-Benjamin, Nabokov, Mandelstam, and Brodsky. From Jurassic Park to the Totalitarian Sculpture Garden, from love letters on Kafka's grave to conversations with Hitler's impersonator, Boym unravels the threads of this global epidemic of longing and its antidotes.

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About the Author:

Svetlana Boym is a writer and Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at Harvard. She is the author of Common Places: Mythologies of Everyday Life in Russia and Death in Quotation Marks, as well as of short stories, plays, and a novel. She is a native of St. Petersburg, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

From Publishers Weekly:

The future of nostalgia isn't what it used to be, or at least it won't be once this book starts making its way through academic circles. A sort of training manual for the wistful, Boym's book alternates "between critical reflection and storytelling, hoping to grasp the rhythm of longing, its enticements and entrapments"; along the way, the author not only gives new life to an old idea but also offers a number of original terms that can be used to describe the experience. The first part of Boym's study surveys the history of nostalgia as a disease and introduces two varieties, a "restorative nostalgia" that may contain conspiratorial elements (the notion that a certain "they" have destroyed "our" homeland, for example), and a "reflective nostalgia" that leads to a sense of not being able to go home again. Part two deals with postcommunist cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg (where Boym, now a Harvard professor of Slavic and comparative literature, worked as a tour guide in the late '70s) and may be of more interest to pure Russophiles than to intellectuals in general. The book's third and final section examines the work of Nabokov, Brodsky and other artists whom Boym calls, in her most useful contribution to critical vocabulary, "off-modern." Neither modern nor postmodern, these artists (and their ranks include such odd ducks from the last century as Igor Stravinsky, Walter Benjamin, Julio Cort zar and Georges Perec) "explore side shadows and back alleys rather than the straight road of progress." Thus the past may be conceptualized in any number of ways, and apparently, at least according to the author, the only truly pernicious nostalgia is the prefabricated, Disney-fied kind that keeps one from thinking about the future. Otherwise, says Boym, the sky, whether it's the one you see overhead or the one you remember, is the limit. (Apr.) Forecast: This is an interesting addition to cultural history, but a bit esoteric, and is unlikely to find a readerhip outside of the literati.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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