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Nostalgia by M. G. Vassanji

Nostalgia (edition 2016)

by M. G. Vassanji (Author)

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545308,140 (3.28)12
Authors:M. G. Vassanji (Author)
Info:Doubleday Canada (2016), 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Canadian literature

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Nostalgia by M. G. Vassanji



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Showing 5 of 5
Thanks to Goodreads and the publisher for a free copy of Nostalgia!

An amazing, thought-provoking book about memories and what makes us ourselves.

In a sort of dystopian future, people can start fresh by having their memories wiped and replaced with fiction, essentially achieving immortality. But this isn't without its many downsides: religious fanaticism, resentment from younger generations, and brutal class and country divides. And... a condition known as Nostalgia, where someone's old memories come flooding back.

The book starts with a patient and a strange memory about a lion. And from there, it delves into a beautifully-written commentary on identity, politics, and much more. While we may not be regenerating as the characters are, the parallels with our current world are thoughtful and eerie.

Highly recommended. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
"Nostalgia" by M.G. Vassanji is part fiction, part prophecy, and partial plea. It speaks of a not-so-distant future that enables society to eradicate old memories in place of creating fictionalized, new ones for a new, and in some cases, renewable identity.

Of course, with any bio-technology, especially that which tinkers with the brain and memory, it seems only natural for problems to arise, as it does in this novel in which its characters are conflicted between pursuing an immortal life through that of a Rejuvenist—obtaining a new body, new memories, and in essence a new life—or through those who are known to be BabyGens, the ones with existing, biological families; born, but engineered with near physical perfection.

Not to mention the protests of religious groups, which abhor the idea of man intervening with the natural process of life and death; a process preferred to be left to the work of a higher being, namely God.

But, the novel not only speaks to the morality of life and its longevity, and the means of manipulating memory in individuals, but also speaks to the wider issue of the disparaging view towards people and cultures that suffer from environmental chaos, financial poverty, government neglect, and political unrest.

The characters represent these dissident voices: the doctor whose role it is to provide new memories for eligible candidates that wish to remove themselves from the current life they are participating in, to analyzing those who suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, otherwise known as Nostalgia, when memories from one’s unknown past leak into the conscious mind threatening to unravel the person’s mind and body altogether.

To the BabyGens, whose “newness” to the world resents the longevity of their Rejuvenist predecessors who continue “living” through renewable and fabricated memory, as well as their continual hold on society’s financial privilege and power.

Then there are the Purists, who can neither afford Rejuvenist treatment, nor desire their memories eradicated for new ones, but would rather die with their true memories and original bodies in tact even if that means a living a shorter life span.

There are also the Monotheists, who protest the Rejuve Movement, which goes against the wishes of an Almighty God who planned a fixed life span for each soul. For the Hindus and Buddhists, rejuvenation interferes with karma and the cycle of rebirths.

And lastly, there are those in militant groups behind the lines of poverty who fight for societal change through the means of violence.

The plot in the book is simple, yet quietly cunning, while not overly immersed in action, still moves the story forward in pressing the dangers of pure government autonomy and memory manipulation.

Yet, the turn of the plot also seemed far too easily contrived rather than a natural conclusion.

To finish reading the rest of this review, please visit Zara's Closet:
http://zarasclosetblog.wordpress.com ( )
  ZaraD.Garcia-Alvarez | Jun 6, 2017 |
In a not-so-distant future, humanity has finally learned how defeat to death. There's only one catch: the mind can only hold so many memories and it doesn't always forget what you'd like it to. A fascinating read about memory and identity that questions whether the dream of immortality would be a nightmare if humanity ever managed to achieve it. A truly addictive book
  Gayle_C._Bull | Mar 30, 2017 |
While Speculative Fiction is not something I usually enjoy, I certainly did like this book. It tells the story of a near-future were near immortality has been achieved...and along with new bodies/organs, "rejuvies" receive new lives. Their old memories are erased and replaced with memories of an idyllic past. Sometimes, old memories intrude into new lives ( Leaked Memory Syndrome) and doctors like our protagonist , Dr. Frank Sina, can fix that. When Presley Smith arrives suffering from Leaked Memory Syndrome, Dr. Sina feels a strong connection to him, but doesn't know why. The novel explores their connection.

The author has created a believable future world. We have conflict between the rich, North Atlantic countries and southern states ruled by warlords and plagued with poor living conditions. We have conflict between young people and the "rejuvies" because the older people don't retire or leave inheritances to the young, making the future less bright for them than for previous generations. We have religious groups who oppose engineered immortality....all very plausible and similar to some of the societal conflicts we live with today. The characters are well developed and there's a good story here. I actually liked it! ( )
  LynnB | Mar 15, 2017 |
At the end of my last book review (for Company Town by Madeline Ashby), I mentioned that I do not read much speculative fiction. But I was confronted with another book of that genre, a dystopian tale of human engineering, when I picked up this other Canada Reads finalist for the book Canadians need now.

Nostalgia is set in Toronto in the near future when near-immortality is possible. People, tired of one life, may get refurbished bodies, new faces, and new pasts implanted in their brains. Unfortunately, the process is not perfect so sometimes memories from a past life intrude; those suffering from this nostalgia syndrome go to see a doctor like the protagonist of the novel, Frank Sina, who repairs the leaks.

A patient, Presley Smith, approaches Frank because of nostalgia symptoms, and he immediately feels a bond with this man although he doesn’t understand why. Even when the Department of Internal Security warns him that Presley is a national security risk, Frank persists in seeing Presley.

Meanwhile, a young reporter, Holly Chu, has been abducted in Maskinia, a lawless and barbaric country south of the Long Border that separates it from countries like Canada which are part of the North Atlantic Alliance. Frank follows the news of her fate very closely.

The novel examines a number of conflicts. There is, for example, a young versus old conflict. BabyGens who have real relatives and no past lives feel hostile towards GN people who have been regenerated. One BabyGen summarizes their case to Frank: “You had it so good, you were pampered right into middle age like big babies. Then, on top of all that security, you built up your lives and fat worths. What chance do we stand in this world that you’ve made? What do we inherit when our natural parents simply move on, taking their wealth with them” (83)? He also says, “My point is that while you, the elderly elite, find ways to prolong your existence with new organs and new lives and monopolize the world’s resources, what about us young people? When do we get a chance? Youth unemployment is approaching thirty percent” (183)!

There is also strife between rich and poor. Frank is asked, “Since rejuvenation is available to the rich, what about the poor? What is their place in this Brave New World of yours? Is your science a method to cull the poor from our midst” (179)? Economic disparity is also obvious between the inhabitants north and south of the Long Border. Those not part of the North Atlantic Alliance suffer from poverty; they are dependent on food donations from aid agencies: “Despite its natural wealth, Maskinia by all measures of development remains one of the poorest areas in the world, the majority of the population earning less than five dollars a day and lacking basic amenities such as electricity, running water, and sewage disposal” (172). Of course, the natural resources of Maskinia are exploited, and wealthy tourists take tours through this third-world region on the edge of collapse. In her tour of Maskinia, Holly realizes, “A small percentage of the people on earth wallowed in wealth while the rest suffered deprivation” (188).

Because of the unequal distribution of wealth, there are anxieties about immigration as people from south of the Long Border try to find better lives in the north. The Long Border was constructed “to stop the tides of desperate migrants sweeping upon European and American shores” (172). The border has created other problems, however: “Tighter clampdown and casualties at the Long Border are a cause of bitter resentment, used to advantage by the [ethnic and religious] militias to rally for recruitment into their ranks” (173). These militias carry out “abductions; attacks on development and aid networks; attacks on industrial activities such as mining; smuggling people to the north; and drug trafficking . . . [and send] personnel through the Long Border to carry out acts of terror” (173 – 174).

Of course, life north of the Long Border is not perfect. There are several Orwellian touches. For example, the government watches Frank by installing a camera in his office, hiding a device in his clothes, and having someone follow him. Computers have become like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey; Frank’s computer observes him and Frank admits, “He knew my innermost thoughts . . . perhaps before I did” (34). Frank’s records are accessed and he knows this is routine: “Any privacy you possess is a privilege that can be casually and briskly withdrawn” (108).

And, as one can expect with technological and scientific advances, not all problems have been solved. There are unanswered questions: “Can the soul (or the heart) be transmitted across generations? . . . [Can] personality traits or sensibilities such as the artistic” (85)? Even more significantly, “We who have violated personal history and personal relationships in our bid to become immortal, can we now really know for certain who we are” (126)? There is a fear of loss of self: those implanted with idyllic fictions can become fictions (206). The novel suggests that knowledge of one’s past and roots and a sense of connection through family and community are necessary for happiness.

There is much in the novel that will remind the reader of the present. Certainly, the current global refugee crisis came to mind with this description: “some sixty refugees had attempted last week to swim under the EuroBarrier section of the Long Border in the Mediterranean; some twenty-five survived, the remaining were electrocuted or simply drowned” (16). The Long Border sounds like Trump’s wall with Mexico, and the description of life in Maskinia could be a description of life in any number of Third World countries. Ethnic and religious wars, famine, economic subjugation, class divides, science versus faith conflicts, immigration anxieties, and concerns about the dehumanizing effects of technological and scientific advances are all found in our world.

That is perhaps the strongest element of this novel: it is set in the future but a future that is not impossible. Perhaps it is indeed the book that Canadians need now.

Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Mar 15, 2017 |
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They are spirits destined to live a second life / In the body; they assemble to drink /From the brimming Lethe, and its water / Heals their anxieties and obliterates / All trace of memory. Aeneid, Book VI, translated by Seamus Heaney
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It's midnight, the lion is out.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385667167, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 09 Aug 2016 19:11:29 -0400)

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