Nostalgia and Memory: The Long View
July 9, 2014 § 1 Comment
I was listening to Deltron 3030‘s recent album, Event II, the other day. Deltron is a project between producer Dan the Automator, rapper Del The Funky Homosapien and the turntablist, Kid Koala. Their first album, Deltron 3030, came out in 2000 and was a futuristic romp, whereas the new album is more of a dystopian view of the future. But. What struck me whilst listening to this and writing about nostalgia in Griffintown was, well, nostalgia. There is a funny skit in the midst of the album by the American comedy troupe, The Lonely Island, called “Back in the Day.” In it, two old men, “sitting on the stoop of the future” reminisce about how it was back in the day, a day that has yet to happen, I might add.
Nostalgia is a powerful force. I am also in the midst of reading Maria Rosa Menocal’s The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. In it, she discusses the Ummayad founder of the Muslim state in Iberia in the 8th century, Abd al-Rahman. He was a rather singular figure, he was the sole survivor of the massacre of the Ummayad’s by the Abbasids in Syria when he was 20. He escaped across Northern Africa, eventually making it to Spain, where he settled in Córdoba. He was overtaken by nostalgia in his exile, however, and even the Great Mosque of Córdoba is an homage to his lost homeland. As he got older, he got more forlorn, writing poetry evoking Syria and he pined for his homeland, even going so far as to re-create his family’s Syrian estate outside Córdoba.
That Abd al-Rahman should be nostalgic for his homeland is not surprising, as any immigrant knows. But I always find it interesting to think of nostalgia and remembrances in ancient times. Nostalgic yearnings run all through the Ancient Greek, Roman, and Persian works that we have today. Carthage was the site of great museums and libraries before the Romans destroyed it in the 2nd century of the Common Era.
Sometimes it feels like we in Western Europe and North America in the late 20th/early 21st centuries invented nostalgia and yearning for an imagined past. Clearly, we did not.
Coincidentally, I was just mentioning over on my blog that the earliest historical fiction I remember reading was a youth-oriented novel about Abd al-Rahman’s escape from the fallen Ummayad caliphate to Spain.