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Nostalgia
Cover of Nostalgia
Nostalgia
Borrow Borrow
From one of Canada's most celebrated writers, two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji, comes a taut, ingenuous and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen.
In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain's storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities—all traces of a person's past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction—a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank's office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley's past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank's suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?
As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient.
From one of Canada's most celebrated writers, two-time Giller Prize winner Moyez Vassanji, comes a taut, ingenuous and dynamic novel about a future where eternal life is possible, and identities can be chosen.
In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain's storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities—all traces of a person's past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction—a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank's office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley's past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank's suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?
As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book ONE


    His name was Presley Smith. It was the seventh or eighth time he'd had it, he told me. Each time this phenome- non in his mind began with one persistent thought, a string of words that had no meaning for him. It's midnight, the lion is out.
    —And the rest of this condition? I asked him.—Any thoughts that follow? Pictures, images in the mind? They do come?
    He waited, before responding,—Yes, they come scattered- like . . . not always the same. I forget . . . A few times the red bumper of an antique car, and part of the fender. I don't under- stand them—and why this one thought like a prelude . . .
    —Do you see these words or hear them?
    A longish pause.—I don't know. Hear them, I think.
    —Any other phrase or words that follow these?
    —No. Just this one.
    —You know what it implies—this kind of recurring thought? You came to me, so you appreciate its significance.
    He nodded, spoke slowly, uncertainly.—Something left over from a previous memory? A life I left behind a long time ago. But I can't relate to this thought, this image. They are alien.
    —That's how they often come—you don't understand them. And the trick then is not to try and understand them, unravel the thoughts—that only feeds the syndrome and revives those dead circuits in the brain—and brings more of them back. And you don't want that.
    —No.
    I watched him stare away at the window behind me, losing himself; he uncrossed his legs, crossed them back again, returned his gaze to me. The window always had that effect on patients, drawing them out, calming them. On the moni- tor, hidden from him, Presley's pulse had already steadied.
    I asked,—Do you see in your mind what might be a lion— out stalking, perhaps? Do you have an image of it?
    —No.
    —Not at all? . . . And midnight—do you see midnight, darkness?
    He shook his head, repeated drily,—No.
    He was listed as a patient who'd seen two doctors in the city in recent years. Once for a severe attack of Border flu, during the Outbreak three years ago. And then a year ago a consulta- tion with an orthopaedist. I looked up from the monitor.
    —Any physical symptoms—racing heart, sweating—to accompany this, er, phenomenon?
    —No . . . But I'm not sure, Doctor.
    —What?
    —A couple of times I thought . . . burning . . . some smoke, meat. I'm not sure. It could be the new neighbours, they like to barbecue.
    He grinned sheepishly. But now his pulse had gone up, the fear index risen. This was surprising, the first alarm bell.
    —And how exactly did it first appear, this thought about the lion out at midnight? Suddenly, full-fledged, or did it approach gradually, begin with a hint, sort of?
    —The latter . . . I think . . . like an approaching some- thing, it began with a feeling, an expectation, I think.
    —A certain mood—that feeling? He nodded quickly.
    —A low mood?
    —Yes.
    Presley Smith had an Afro-head with red hair and pale skin; striking green eyes, planar nose, large ears. A well-done reconstruction job if somewhat eccentric. The average body frame was, I guessed, as before. He would not be an ethnic purist, or an idealist, I surmised from those eclectic features, not someone hung up on history and origins. And he would not be one of those religious fatalists for whom another, per- fect life lies somewhere else, in abstraction, why not let this one fade...
About the Author-
  • M.G. VASSANJI is the author of six novels, two collections of short stories and two works of nonfiction. His first novel, The Gunny Sack, was the winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean. He has won the Giller Prize for both The Book of Secrets and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, and the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction for A Place Within: Rediscovering India. His novel The Assassin's Song was shortlisted for both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. He was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania, and attended university in the United States. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons. The author lives in Toronto, ON.
Reviews-
  • Literary Review of Canada "This entertaining novel opens in the vein of Conrad, alludes to Mary Shelley, and works in aspects of The Bourne Identity and the drama of Patty Hearst. Who knew Vassanji could be this much fun? . . . [Nostalgia] is a brilliant success."
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    Doubleday Canada
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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