Harvard Square: A Novel
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“[Aciman’s] best so far. . . . An existentialist adventure worthy of Kerouac.”—Clancy Martin, New York Times Book Review
André Aciman has been hailed as "the most exciting new fiction writer of the twenty-first century" (New York magazine), a "brilliant chronicler of the disconnect…between who we are and who we wish we might have been" (Wall Street Journal), and a writer of "fiction at its most supremely interesting" (Colm Tóibín). Now, with his third and most ambitious novel, Aciman delivers an elegant and powerful tale of the wages of assimilation—a moving story of an immigrant’s remembered youth and the nearly forgotten costs and sacrifices of becoming an American.
It’s the fall of 1977, and amid the lovely, leafy streets of Cambridge a young Harvard graduate student, a Jew from Egypt, longs more than anything to become an assimilated American and a professor of literature. He spends his days in a pleasant blur of seventeenth-century fiction, but when he meets a brash, charismatic Arab cab driver in a Harvard Square café, everything changes.
Nicknamed Kalashnikov—Kalaj for short—for his machine-gun vitriol, the cab driver roars into the student’s life with his denunciations of the American obsession with "all things jumbo and ersatz"—Twinkies, monster television sets, all-you-can-eat buffets—and his outrageous declarations on love and the art of seduction. The student finds it hard to resist his new friend’s magnetism, and before long he begins to neglect his studies and live a double life: one in the rarified world of Harvard, the other as an exile with Kalaj on the streets of Cambridge. Together they carouse the bars and cafés around Harvard Square, trade intimate accounts of their love affairs, argue about the American dream, and skinny-dip in Walden Pond. But as final exams loom and Kalaj has his license revoked and is threatened with deportation, the student faces the decision of his life: whether to cling to his dream of New World assimilation or risk it all to defend his Old World friend.
Harvard Square is a sexually charged and deeply American novel of identity and aspiration at odds. It is also an unforgettable, moving portrait of an unlikely friendship from one of the finest stylists of our time.
hear me say don’t look now?” “Yes, I heard you say don’t look now.” “Then why did you look?” All I could do was apologize, say I’d always been slow on the uptake. “But this slow?” Sometimes there’d be a woman he was trying to avoid. Big embrace if he couldn’t duck in time, big introductions, kiss-kiss, and kiss-kiss again, then immediately turning to me, “Is he here?” “Is who here?” I’d ask ingenuously. “The immigration lawyer we’re supposed to meet?” he’d hiss, brandishing his stiletto grin,
pace slackened; the barber would stand outside his shop to smoke a cigarette, salesclerks at the Coop would be chatting it up among themselves, the waitress at Café Anyochka would still not have made up her mind whether to leave the glass door open or if it was time to turn on their rickety air conditioner. Cambridge in early August. I was staying the whole summer, holding a very part-time summer job in one of the Harvard libraries. The job paid a puny sum per hour. To make ends meet I tutored
tell me where to find Ekaterina. And if Léonie was nowhere, I wanted to find Ekaterina sitting alone. If only I had skipped the Master’s Tea and the cocktails immediately following. Perhaps it was the three sherries on an empty stomach speaking, perhaps it was too much sun, or perhaps it was just that we hadn’t had a real moment together except while swimming, and tonight it seemed there wasn’t going to be a similar moment again. And yet I was sure that something had happened when we were in the
mine. What do I tell them then?” “You tell them the truth.” “Do you tell them the truth?” he asked. I was going to say that I seldom did. Instead, I suggested he dodge the subject altogether and say that there is little he loved more than listening to jazz en sourdine on Storrow Drive. Harvard sucked him in during the fall semester. His crowning moment came when he was invited to two Thanksgiving dinners, one in Connecticut, the other in Boston. Same suit, same tie, same shoes, he joked. He
book, write to Permissions, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110 For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact W. W. Norton Special Sales at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-233-4830 Book design by Chris Welch Production manager: Anna Oler Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Aciman, André. Harvard Square : a novel / André Aciman. — First edition. pages cm ISBN 978-0-393-08860-1 (hardcover) 1. Harvard