Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Over the weekend I read a few chapters of Svetlana Boym's study: The Future of Nostalgia. It was interesting to find out that nostalgia was first "discovered" not by an anthropologist, or philosopher, but by a Swiss doctor, and for many years it was considered a disease. How did the medical professionals suggest you recover from a chronic case of nostalgia? Well, there were a few recommendations: leeches, an overhaul of your diet, and/or a trip to the Swiss Alps...know which one I'd pick. Today, nostalgia has come to mean something completely different. It's often described as a 'longing to return home', though many times it may be experienced simply as a sense of longing; what you're longing for might be a bit more difficult to define. I like how Boym describes herself studying nostalgia in the passage below, the way she writes about slowing down, prolonging time, and the way she pauses to present the reader with a series of images. A falling leaf, an unwashed window, a frozen squirrel, a moving cloud: a collection of moments that seem to bring us closer to her.

The study of nostalgia inevitably slows us down. There is, after all, something pleasantly outmoded about the very idea of longing. We long to prolong our time, to make it free, to daydream, against all odds resisting external pressures and flickering computer screens. A blazing leaf whirls in the twilight outside my unwashed window. A squirrel freezes in her salto mortale on the telephone pole, believing somehow that when she does not move I cannot see her. A cloud moves slowly above my computer, refusing to take the shape I wish to give it. Nostalgic time is that time-out-of-time of daydreaming and longing that jeopardizes one's timetables and work ethic, even when one is working on nostalgia.

Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia

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