I finished reading the book late last night. As Elio bid a final goodbye to Oliver, I stood by him. The mist in his eyes and heart was in mine too. And I hovered my glance on his name and let the pool in my eyes fill a little more. And then, in a pained resignation, I closed my eyes.
It has been almost a day since I read the last word of this book. And yet, the moment I picked it up to review its contents a few minutes ago, my eyes began to cloud again. Because everything read and felt and wept for, yesterday, came gushing back and I once again massaged my aching vein to quieten and take this only to be a story. But is it?
Italy. Summers. When Oliver, a 24-years old university scholar comes to stay with Professor Pertman who was to oversee his manuscript before it went into publishing, the Professor’s 17-years old son, Elio, begins experiencing hitherto unknown sensations inside him. The two young men have things in common – reading, biking, sun-bathing, swimming. But it is their different responses to their attractions that usher in an unusual yet memorable season of sensual tension and passionate love, which neither could have imagined getting caught in till that point in their lives.
Between the raw appeal of unexplored spots and the sensory turmoil of gasping breath, the unbearable tease of nubile skin and the obscure redundancy of sartorial shame, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is devastatingly beautiful. But those searching for this beauty in strength shall not be rewarded as much as those looking for it in vulnerabilities, and it is precisely in these vulnerabilities that Aciman’s characters shine. I began to appreciate the colossal damage Elio was knowingly inflicting upon himself for unearthing (and preserving) the truth of his heart. I began to appreciate the immense dignity Oliver was granting to their relationship by stitching himself up so Elio could breathe (and blossom). I began to appreciate the unconditional room Prof. Pertman was giving his son so he could venture out as far as he could and learn his lessons, first hand.
You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”
In Aciman’s languorously seductive, deeply measured and wholly hopeful prose, Elio and Oliver discover more than the heady magic of corporeal beauty; they discover a chest full of memories to last a lifetime. And they learn to embrace love the way it should be embraced – without conditions.
[Image courtesy inbedstore.com]