Canada Reads Shortlist: Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

February 25, 2017     The Bluestocking Bookworm     Books, Reading

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji
258 pages
Published: September 20th, 2016 by Doubleday Canada

M.G. Vassanj is a two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize winner.

About the Book: 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

About the Author: Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics. From 1978-1980 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he was a research associate at the University of Toronto. During this period he developed a keen interest in medieval Indian literature and history, co-founded and edited a literary magazine (The Toronto South Asian Review, later renamed The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad), and began writing stories and a novel. In 1989, with the publication of his first novel, The Gunny Sack, he was invited to spend a season at the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. That year ended his active career in nuclear physics. His contributions there he considers modest, in algebraic models and high spin states. The fact that he was never tenured he considers a blessing for it freed him to pursue his literary career.

Vassanji is the author of six novels and two collections of short stories. His work has appeared in various countries and several languages. His most recent novel, The Assassin’s Song, was short-listed for both the Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Prize for best novel in Canada. It has appeared in the US (Knopf) and India (Penguin) and is scheduled to appear in the UK (Canongate).

His wife, Nurjehan, was born in Tanzania. They have two sons, Anil, and Kabir. He lives in Toronto, and visits Africa and India often.

About the defense – Jody Mitic: A 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Jody Mitic served as a master corporal and sniper team leader on three active tours of duty over the course of seven years. One day in 2007, while on a mission in a small Afghan village, he stepped on a landmine and lost both of his legs below the knees. Within three years he was not only walking again – he was running. By 2013, Mitic was starring in the blockbuster reality TV show The Amazing Race Canada. In 2014 he reinvented himself again, winning a seat as a city councillor for Ottawa.

Why Jody Mitic thinks Nostalgia is the book Canadians need now: Nostalgia is based in the future in a world that’s been divided into the haves and the have-nots. The haves have figured out a way to live forever, but they don’t want to bring their pasts with them. This book will show you that no matter how much you want to change who you are and change your reality, you can never leave your past behind you.

My initial thoughts: As a fan of dystopian and science fiction, Nostalgia seems right up my alley. I hadn’t heard of it before I became involved with blogging about Canada Reads, but I am definitely excited to read it.

*With information from http://www.goodreads.com and http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads

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