Call me by your name by Andre Aciman


The narrator of this coming of age novel is a 17 year old very accomplished young man who finds he is attracted to men as well as women.  He struggles with all the universal feelings about the object of his affections, a young academic staying with the narrator’s family for six weeks in their home on the Riviera.  Those feelings, the intense longing, fear of rejection, the countless ups and downs, are given an edge by the forbidden nature of the act.  He knows his life will never be the same if his desires are fulfilled.  He feels powerful remorse immediately after the longed-for event, and of course, his remorse and declaration he would never do that again quickly dissipates.  I found this a pleasingly intense book.

There is a visit to Rome, including a party that lasts all night for a poet whose new book was just published.  The poet’s favorite was a poem called the San Clemente Syndrome, named for the Basilica which Abby and I visited.  It is notable because the site has an ancient temple to Mithras with several successive Christian churches built over it.  It is like love and memory, the poet says, because there is no first anything, just layers and passageways.

The lovers part, never to make love again, and only see each other twice in the years after.  Elio, the narrator, tells of his visits to the places they were together and I was reminded of the intensity and confusion of feelings I have when I have returned to places I lived long ago.



  • I’m not sure I would agree with a conclusion that Oliver and Elio never make love again after Oliver’s original six week stay in Italy. They keep in touch over the years, and in the last pages of the book 20 years later, Oliver visits Elio in Italy for an overnight stay, and they each admit that they are happier to see each other again “than they ought to be”. On the last page of the book, they agree to go to one of the spots where they had made love, and I’d say it wasn’t just to view the scenery.
    Elio’s father had known about their affair and was dead now. Elio says to Oliver “I know he would have wanted something like this to happen, especially on such a gorgeous summer day”.

  • I didn’t want to believe this when I read it — and I can see you managed not to let this enter your consciousness — at the end of Part 3 in a description of the end of their very long first night in Rome it says this was the last night they would ever make love again. So sad.

  • I remember the gut punch of Elio reminiscing that Rome was the last night they would ever make love again. And then page after page about all the years they didn’t get back together. The reminiscing ends on page 248….the last page of the book. Real time begins on the next page which is blank. That’s when they get back together at San Giacomo and make love again. Acimen’s skill is in leading you to this and not ruining the moment with a graphic description.

  • But Oliver had never been to San Giacomo. That was the point. That’s why Elio was finally taking him there. So in a way, it is a return too B. but it’s also a renewal and a look towards the future.
    It all hinges on when Elio is writing the story.
    If he is narrating (in the last paragraph of the book) to us what the thought he wanted to say to Oliver, so he must be writing it afterwards. “If not later, when?” But if he is writing it afterwards he would be able to know and to tell us if Oliver did call me him by his own name, if Elio did end up saying that, if they did go to San Giacomo, if Oliver did leave the next day, or whether they became lovers again. But doesn’t he tell us? Is it because there is no point in adding the very boring and disappointing phrase “and then he left the next day and I haven’t seen him since. By the way, I’m 65 years old.” Or he didn’t tell us because he wanted to preserve whatever happened after the last paragraph (which is when he is writing) for himself and Oliver?
    But these kinds of question are never very intelligent, because we cannot really realistically imagine Elio sitting down and writing all this. All first-person narrations are fake, because there is no way someone could remember all the dialogues, etc. They aren’t essentially different from a third-person narrator whose voice is completely detached from time. And maybe that is precisely the point – the voice of narrative is never IN time, even when we must be. But “we” can never be free of narrative. We narrate ourselves, our narratives shape us and people like Elio see the “present” as it will one day be remembered in the future.
    So I would say it is absolutely open and unknowable whether they get back together after the last page, for structural reasons of how novels work. But I’d say it’s pretty clear that they want to get back together.


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