Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Call Me by Your Name
Call Me by Your Name 

by André Aciman

What is the difference between the lover and beloved, the watcher and the one watched? In his story of Eros and education the author, Andre Aciman, considers these questions and with his narrative demonstrates the answers. With emphasis on the erotic, he has created an almost Proustian meditation on time and desire, a love letter, an invocation in words that one must call simply "beautiful". His novel, Call Me by Your Name, is a wonderful tale whose dream-like qualities continually evoke the narrator's obscure object of desire which is, by definition, inexpiable, and indeterminate. The story is one of a young man, Elio, and a slightly older man, Oliver, for whom Elio obsesses with a passion that is filled with Mediterranean fire, yet mediated by a classical patina not unlike that suggested in the less accurate translations of Plato's dialogues. For further details of the story I recommend you read the book, not because it is banal but rather because it is too beautiful to risk spoiling. 

This book constantly reminded me that it was fiction - the product of an imagination able to create an unreal dream world - yet I did not mind because it was simply, joyously readable. I was both entranced and intrigued by the narrator, whose name is withheld for much of the novel, but this is because, as the title implies, he is entranced and intrigued himself by his family's summer guest, Oliver, who seems to be nothing less than a Greek god. The subtle allusions to poetry and philosophy, the music of the senses, add to the magnificence of this short novel. Perhaps it will not effect everyone the same as it did me, but for those who appreciate the classical source of beauty this is a novel that ranks with Mann and Gide in its glistening presence.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Acimin. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 2007.

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