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Chaste romance

The lure of Amish fiction

Calling someone nostalgic is an “affectionate insult at best,” Svetlana Boym has written, and few people appreciate the affection. Although the term has shed its medical connotations—it was first used in the late 17th century to describe the physical ailments of Swiss soldiers stationed in France and Italy—nostalgia remains an unwelcome diagnosis. (Nostalgia comes from nostos, meaning “return home,” and algia, meaning “longing.”) Viewed by many as “an ethical and aesthetic failure,” writes Boym, nostalgia usually evokes bathos and schmaltz. If memory is the respectable and even manly recollection of the past, nostalgia is its cloying cousin, the girl with the soppy smile.


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