Then Again: Travels in search of my younger self Paperback – 4 Sep 2009
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‘This original twist on the travel memoir is a brilliant way to distil a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, as Irma Kurtz gives advice to her younger self in a journey of reminiscence fifty years later.’ Rosemary Bailey
'There is so much that is vivid, wise and excellent in this book. With her generosity of spirit, love of people, untarnished curiosity about the world, laser-sharp observation and wry wit, she would make a wonderful travel companion. I for one, would be thrilled to find her sitting beside me on a long journey.' Val Hennessy, Daily Mail
'Racy, vividly ironic, this is a great intro to the States.' Observer
‘A love letter to London written with bristling intelligence.’ Independent
‘Leavened with jokes and raised to an art form by wonderful apercus.’ New Statesman
From the Back Cover
In 1954 eighteen-year-old Irma Kurtz left New Jersey to travel across Europe, intent on transforming herself and changing the world. She looked to the Old World for an alternative destiny to that mapped out by the traditional expectations at home. On her post-war Grand Tour she found what she believed in: Art and Culture and Beauty and Love, and some horror as a Jewish girl encountering the seat of much of her family's destruction.
Two years ago, sifting through a cardboard box filled with memories at her mother's house, she rediscovered the journal of her first journey, the one that marked the beginning of a life of writing and living abroad. Gripped by intense recollections of sailing across the Atlantic, and intrigued by the exuberant remarks of her adventurous younger self, she decided to leave her London home and retrace her footsteps, this time with herself as a guide.
Testing her theory that older women are invisible, Kurtz's journey is peppered with acute observations of human behaviour, not to mention some sharp advice for her ghostly travel companion – the teenager who thinks she knows it all, yet is blind to what lies ahead of her. Part-memoir, part-travelogue, THEN AGAIN contrasts the experience of two very different travellers, offering an insight into what has endured, and what has been lost, in the life of one woman and the altered environment of Europe at the dawn of a new millennium.
Beautifully written, moving and funny, THEN AGAIN is time-travel at its best, revealing the pains and pleasures of growing older and wiser.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
As a breathless student, young Irma aged 19 arrives mostly fascinated and only a little repelled by the Old Europe of the late fifties. Compare and contrast this with the aged, sage, wise-cracking Irma, now long-time resident of London, through which her youthful version had romped with enormous gusto. She invades Paris, whizzes through the Mediterranean and scavenges throughout Europe, falling in love rather often, avid for every experience. Old Irma has settled and brought up a son in London with all the painful insight, joy yet bemused affection of a Bill Bryson, but with more jokes.
Old Irma ticks off young Irma for her naivety and simple-mindedness and idealism. Old Irma is a frighteningly percipient sage who understands all too well the intricacies and vanities of her more youthful self, both its European and American aspects. Yet Old Irma still has moments of heady idealism mixed with a cutting cynicism, underclothed in the hair shirt of a hermit. And with good jokes.
For anyone wanting to travel in Europe with new eyes, anyone wanting to know how the Old World looked to the New in the immediate decades following the last World War, wanting to see it through the eyes of a female American Wag and Oracle, before the French washed or the British used deodorant, or anyone seeking wry observation laced with rich fumes of good jokes, this enchanting and evocative book will rivet you from beginning to end. Travel book, novel and entertainment, this book is most highly recommended.
I found myself skipping long passages and trying to find a thread that would make the story an interesting inward journey but all I found were bits of wisdom too specifically related to Irma's personal journey. Her musings did not have the depth necessary to make them universal or revelatory.