According to Svetlana Boym in her book "The Future of Nostalgia," the word "nostalgia" means "hypochondria of the heart." As recently as a century ago, it was believed that this condition could be medically cured. Today, however, the demands of the modern world almost command us to suffer from nostalgia, because of the difficulty we experience in differentiating past from present, and the present from thoughts of the future.
"Hypochondria of the heart" is the desire to find an illusory community and a sense of social solidarity in the present. William Faulkner was right; you cant go home again, because "home" is a psychological construct out of memories we desperately want to be true and meaningful. Home, in our modern world, can never be found in the present.
Memory plays strange tricks on us. Most probably this is what we really want it to do, because rapid change robs us of a sense of certainty of what the present means as we await the next leap in technological change.
This book is a brilliant exercise in how modernity is misunderstood and how it should be reinterpreted. Boym accomplishes nothing less than the creation of a new area of scholarly study, a new topology of nostalgia.
The reader is guided though the devastation and reconstruction of post-communist cities such as St. Petersburg, Moscow and East Berlin to determine the difference between what actually happened and what is remembered. The reader is asked to determine what is (most likely) really true in all of this. While doing so, she explores the imagined homelands of writers and artists such as Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Nabokov and Ilya Kabakov. But there is much more: Boyms specialty is really to discover the lost hopes of everyday folks, the memories and unrealized hopes of Russias diaspora, which remains largely forgotten in print.
If more people read books like this, there would be no need to read the writings of pundits such as yours truly. For Moscow-based readers, "The Future of Nostalgia" is at Anglia British Book Store for 660 rubles.