Andre Aciman: Exile, Writer, Graceful Liar

So every year I assign this extra Aciman piece to my writing class, after they’ve read his essay “Arbitrage” from Out of Egypt. In light of my students’ fascination with OprahFrey (because of my own, just maybe) it’s interesting that this ending has always been there:

“Perhaps this is why all memoirists lie. We alter the truth on paper so as to alter it in fact; we lie about our past and invent surrogate memories the better to make sense of our lives and live the life we know was truly ours. We write about our life, not to see it as it was, but to see it as we wish others might see it, so we may borrow their gaze and begin to see our life through their eyes, not ours.

“Only then, perhaps, would we begin to understand our life story, or to tolerate it and ultimately, perhaps, to find it beautiful; not that any life is ever beautiful, but the measure of a beautiful life is perhaps one that sees its blemishes, knows they can’t be forgiven and, for all that, learns each day to look the other way.”

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