Monday, 6 May 2019

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by Andre Aciman

I decided I needed to re-read this wonderful book.  Reading it this second time I am struck less by the immediate story - the painful first love - as by the background story: the many years there were to mourn that first love.  I am surprised the first time I did not get that so clearly.  Here Elio is, for example, at the war memorial where he first (sort of) told Oliver he was interested in him: 

I wondered how many people here still remembered the young men they’d lost on the Piave River.  You’d have to be at least eighty years old today to have known them.  And at least one hundred, if not more, to have been older than they were then.  At one hundred, surely you must learn to overcome loss and grief – or do they hound you till the bitter end? At one hundred, siblings forget, sons forget, loved ones forget, no one remembers everything, even the most devastated forget to remember.  . .  In thirty or forty years, I’ll come back here and think back on a conversation I knew I’d never forget, much as I might want to someday.  I’d come here with my wife, my children, show them the sights, point to the bay, the local caffes, Le Danzig, the Grand Hotel.  Then I’d stand here and ask the statue and the straw-backed chairs and shaky wooden tables to remind me of someone called Oliver. 

I was also struck again with how wonderfully the summer was evoked, and an overwhelming urge to move to Italy and ideally to wherever this book takes place specifically.  This is what comes of reading in winter.  Let's just quote a length again, because it's my blog and I can do what I feel like: 
I look back on those days and regret none of it, not the risks, not the shame, not the total lack of foresight. The lyric cast of the sun, the teeming fields with tall plants nodding away under the intense midafternoon heat, the squeak of our wooden floors, or the scrape of the clay ashtray pushed ever so lightly on the marble slab that used to sit on my nightstand. I knew that our minutes were numbered, but I didn't dare count them, just as I knew where all this was headed, but I didn't care to read the signposts. This was a time when I intentionally failed to drop bread crumbs for my return journey; instead, I ate them. He could turn out to be a creep; he could change me or ruin me forever, while time and gossip might ultimately disembowel everything we shared and trim the whole thing down till nothing but fish bones remained. I might miss this day, or I might do far better, but I'd always know that on those afternoons in my bedroom I had held my moment
God it's an amazing book.  I don't think I'll read anything else by Aciman.  I see his next most popular book has a similar theme, and I don't want to be able to see through his tricks.  (I learnt that lesson when BLOOD MERIDIAN destroyed THE ROAD).

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