-by André Aciman
-review by Saumitra Rai
What is love?
Is it raw sexual desire or is it the shame of being thoroughly smitten. Is it the envy for what the other possesses that enchants you so completely, or is it a miserable attempt to erase every trace of itself.
If anything then Call Me By Your Name is an attempt to answer this question.
This is a summertime romance and thus destined to end in tragedy and so it does. (No spoilers here) But this depends on how you define a tragedy. This book questions our idea of desire, love and shame. It challenges the pride in our rigid desires. It asks us if an experience that may forever alienate you from the normal is worth taking if it helps you in discovering yourself?
This is the story of Elio, a precocious teenager and his house guest Oliver. And how over the course of one scalding summer they find each other and then themselves.
The book is beautifully written. Long (very long) sentences that may or may not make perfect sense. The narrative is not straight, it is that of a person craving for a past, a past that almost seems dreamlike. Given that Elio is a teenager, his thought process is not expected to be coherent and that is why the parts in which Aciman describes Elio’s turmoil and mood swings are like waves forming only to be swept away at the shore, but the sea is breathtaking and so is his literature.
The humility he brings to Elio’s vulnerability towards Oliver feels so genuine. Elio’s desire for Oliver and later his shame, to have the courage to go through the experience is rare and precious and I envy him for that. Aciman basically exposes Elio in broad daylight, doing so he challenges us again, do you have the temerity to strip?
I wouldn’t claim that it is the best prose I have read but for reasons unknown to me, Aciman has enchanted me in a way only one other author has (Arundhati Roy) And perhaps it is because this book also challenges the love laws that determine-
Who should be loved?
And how much?