Change is inevitable. Just when you become adjusted to your surroundings, something changes. Stability does not last forever. In the article Shadow Cities by Andre Aciman, the aspect of change is looked at by the viewpoint of an exile. From his first attempt to deal with change to his final acceptance, Aciman describes in an abundance of ideas, what he is feeling throughout this process.
After leaving Alexandria
as an exile, Aciman came to call Manhattan, or more precisely Straus Park his home. But Straus Park is not just one place. It is a multitude of different places coming together to form a rather dingy, grubby park with park. Straus Park is whatever you want it to be. It can be far off destinations such as Paris or a small place
in one’s imagination. Whatever the place, it creates a bit of stability.
When Aciman walked by the Park one day, he realized that it was in ruins. Assuming that the city of Manhattan was closing the park, he began to contemplate what this change meant to him. He began to realize “that even if I don’t disappear from a place, places disappear from me.”
New York became his home not because it was where he wanted to be but because he led him to new places. Through Straus Park, he met a variety of people each with their own story that eventually added to Aciman story. By sitting on the park benches usually covered with bird droppings, he encountered people and dreamt of unknown places he wanted to go.
After a while of contemplating, Aciman realized that he did not want to go to these places but was satisfied living the life he was living. The statue that helped him through his adaptation to America was soon replaced. However, whereas he thought he was a statue of a nymph
, it was actually a statue of Mneumsyne, a greek goddess of memory.
Straus Park did not close but instead was revived to let more people experience a bit of stability the same way Aciman did. Aciman realized from this revamp, that things do not have to always be the same. Some things actually get better with change. Straus Park helped change Aciman as much as the city of Manhattan changed Straus Park.