André Aciman’s "Call Me By Your Name" Ahead of Movie Premiere

Over the last year, Luca Guadagnino’s film adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name has been premiering in theaters across the globe.

Unfortunately, the film (which is already fairing well among critics and audiences, and even sponsoring Oscar buzz for Timothée Chalamet) does not premier in Ohio until mid January. However, in anticipation for the movie, I, like many others, decided to read Aciman’s novel.

CMBYN reads like a diary written by a horny, intelligent, poetic, on-the-edge-of-manhood 17-year-old, which makes sense. The novel details an Italian summer in the 1980s from the perspective of a well-to-do, intelligent 17-year-old named Elio. Every summer, Elio’s father, a well-positioned scholar, invites a graduate student or professor into their home to research in the Italian Riviera. This year, a 24-year-old American named Oliver is destined to take over Elio’s room, in more ways than one.

Elio is quick to become infatuated with Oliver. He love-hates the Americanisms which spill from Oliver’s mouth, memorizes  Oliver’s swim shorts, dreams about Oliver, wakes to Oliver, and falls asleep to Oliver. The story is an honest one, exploring first-loves and the roller-coaster of teenage affection, and it never puts down the superfluous emotion of Elio, treating his love as you would anyone else’s. Elio’s story is one of sexual-awakening, and with every page he is on the brink of something new. Reading this book, it is impossible not to recognize yourself in Elio, regardless of sexuality or age.

Aciman writes beautifully, skilled in literary allusion. He will use language in ways you haven’t seen before, and will make you blush at any mention of peaches (read the book). The novel runs like summer, not knowing where days begin and end as they blend together in sun-drenched haze. The ending jumps in time to showcase the never-fading nature of first love, and although the novel does so much right, this ending feels unnecessary and displaced. As a reader, we realize Elio will see Oliver in every corner of his hometown-- without a twenty year gap to demonstrate. Readers may also be uncomfortable with the age difference at first, as Elio is only 17, but the nature of the romance is likely to soothe this thought by the end of the novel.

Nevertheless, the novel serves as a beautiful examination of adolescent love and sexuality. It does not apologize for being about a gay romance, it does not punish the two boys, it simply lets them live out their love without questions.