My book is more than a story of gay romance, says Andre Aciman at JLF 2019
American writer Andre Aciman, whose novel “Call Me by Your Name” has been hailed as the Romeo & Juliet of our times, discussed his thoughts on romance, writing, and the book that made him a household name, at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.
The novel, Aciman said, is more than a story of gay romance.
Set in the Italy of the 1980s, Call Me by Your Name explores the romantic relationship between a 17-year-old American-Italian Jewish boy named Elio and a 24-year-old American Jewish scholar named Oliver who visits his house for the summer.
It is an exploration of desire, intimacy and a study of the profound emotions one can experience, even in a seemingly fleeting affair, he pointed out.
Aciman shared that while he had initially considered writing a girl-boy love story, he eventually decided to “chuck the cliche” and try “something new.
He, however, was clear from the onset of not having an external obstacle in the narrative.
“I wanted to avoid the typical challenges of a gay love story.”
Rather, Aciman wanted to delve into the depths of his characters’ inner worlds.
“Elio’s shame is that of wanting someone else, not necessarily wanting someone of the same sex. It’s the shame of desiring someone you have not spoken to, someone who doesn’t know you... that shame is devastating,” he said talking of his characters.
When asked for his thoughts on the lessons that readers could learn from Elio’s vulnerability, Aciman said that he had “nothing to teach” as he himself believes in nothing.
“I have no particular loyalty to an ideology. I am hardly interested in other people,” he said.
However, the writer, who has been called a “grammarian of desire,” shared his understanding of true intimacy and how it influenced the book’s title.
“Whoever you are, the other person is. Which means that whatever you want to be, the other person already knows about, and whatever happened in your past that you are deadly embarrassed of, the other person needs to know, so that there are absolutely no shut doors,” he said.
“Call Me By Your Name” was adapted into a movie in 2017.