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“I feel a bit like Trump — I have nothing prepared to say.”
With such improvisation started André Aciman’s Nov. 11 talk and reading of his new novel, “Find Me,” the sequel to “Call Me By Your Name,” at the Brattle Theater. The sold-out reading was organized by the Harvard Book Store as part of their author series.
A graduate of Harvard University, Aciman began his talk with stories of the places he frequented throughout his time in Cambridge, recounting the various “nostemes” — a word Aciman and his friends made up meaning “the smallest unit of return, from the Greek, ‘nostos,’ or ‘nostalgia’” — to which his heart is attached. Declaring this to be the true theme of the novel, he went on to read a passage from “Find Me,” in which Elio recounts to his father, Sami, the night he spent in Rome with Oliver and kissed against a wall, a scene all too familiar for fans of the original novel and the Oscar-winning 2017 movie adaptation.
While writing the novel, Aciman said he’d often try to draw out the inner motives of each character, forcing them to sit in a scene without any plot to push them one way or the other. “What is each person saying to the other that they’re not quite saying?” he would ask himself while writing.
Most of the evening entailed Aciman discussing various themes — the layering of identities, the passage and stagnation of time, and nostemes, to name a few — and then relating the themes to various passages in “Find Me.” Each passage brought up memories of Elio and Oliver’s romance in the summer of 1983 and was greeted by warm applause from the countless fans in the audience. Throughout, he spoke of “Find Me” as a way to become more intimate with his characters, while also providing Elio and Oliver the chance to finally live the “unlived life” between them.
Later in the talk, Aciman opened the space up for questions. When asked why he believed the story of “Call Me By Your Name” had captured so many audiences, his answer was blunt. “There is absolutely no plot,” he said, bringing up the idea his novels being those whose characters’ purposes are only to reevaluate themselves. He continued “It is about a boy desiring another person, and that’s it… and some little bike rides thrown in.” His goal with any of his novels, he told the audience, is simply for the reader to be able to get lost in the characters.
Many asked questions about “Call Me By Your Name,” rather than “Find Me.” Another audience member asked him if he liked the film, to which he jokingly said, “The ending of director Luca Guadagnino’s film is better than the ending of my book.”
Another audience member asked whether there were any passages in “Call Me By Your Name” which were almost wiped away, to which he responded a particularly memorable answer about the book’s inclusion of the peach scene. “I had written a scene I thought I should destroy and I asked my editor… that was the scene with the peach,” Aciman said. Though he thought the scene was “too embarrassing,” it did end up making its way into the book and its eventual movie adaptation.
For many at the event, their knowledge of Aciman began with Guadangino’s film.
“I first saw ‘Call Me By Your Name’ two years ago in theaters, and that was an exciting moment for me because I’m a queer man and I’ve always been afraid to talk about this and this movie inspired me to talk. So when I saw that the author was coming to Harvard, I thought to myself, ‘I might as well take this opportunity,” said Anthony J. Veneziano ‘23.
“It’s a beautiful book, and I’m excited to look at the sequel,” said Nicholas M. DiSabatino. “It’s a beautiful story. I think it resonates with so many people.”
The talk and reading concluded with a signing, in which Aciman signed new copies of “Find Me” as well as copies of “Call Me By Your Name.”
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