Articles with keyword: nostalgia

“The Alexandrians don’t Need a Guidebook to their City”: Literary Nostalgia in Harry Tzalas’ Seven Days at the Cecil
Jaidaa G. Hamada Alexandria University


Volume 2, Issue 1

 | pp.



This paper seeks to examine Harry Tzalas’ Seven Days at the Cecil (2009) as a specimen of nostalgic writing, highlighting the way subjective recollections are transformed into a shared collective experience; a rendering of an intangibly fleeting past into a work of art. Nostalgic literary works may thus be regarded as not only a means of preserving personal memories, but also as a means of vivifying places, historical eras, anecdotes and figures. What unfolds throughout the novel is a nostalgic revisiting of the past; of an Alexandria that had once accommodated the characters, but is now in the realm of the distant, the inaccessible and the vanishing. Their remembering of the past is not elegiac; rather it is life-giving and self-defining. By a fortuitous meeting, a varied cast of characters find themselves entangled with each other. Each day, for a period of seven days, they visit different places in the city of their childhood; places of yesteryear that are still alive in their memories, though some of which could not withstand the ravages of time. The locus of their encounter is the Cecil Hotel. Arriving there acts like opening a floodgate of reminiscences through which Tzalas probes into the nature of nostalgia and the whole gamut of human emotions it invokes. The choice of the Cecil Hotel is particularly apt, for despite the renovations it has witnessed, it is still coloured in hues of the past, very much like the city itself. It thus serves as a causeway between the past and the present. To the author and his characters, Alexandria is not a symbolic homeland or an ecological niche, nor is it a relic of the past; rather it is a sensuous city, vibrant with scents, tastes, colours, tactile sensations, audible sounds, and the lithe rippling of the sea waves - all of which remain alive in their memories. As it has occurred to them, the grip of their Alexandria is too tenacious to let go of them, and this leads the narrator to contend at the end of the novel: “The Alexandrians don’t need a guidebook to their city, they carry her in their soul”.