Call me By Your Name, Won’t You?
Andre Aciman’s dialogue at Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, on Love. A study in writing on desire
In conversation with Siddharth Dhanwant Sanghvi at Zee JLF Aciman spoke about his love for writing, the craft and of course on his novel! ‘How mortifying to want someone without knowing anything about that person. It is the shame of desiring someone that we carry in our heart’. said, Professor Andre Aciman, memoirist and essayist and a professor of comparative literature. He was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. He is currently distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York, where he teaches the history of literary theory and the works of Marcel Proust.
The influence of Proust clearly visible in his theory of writing and life. ‘A reading of Proust changes you as a person, it alters your attitude towards and your understanding of people. I see myself as someone not living in the present, but in the slightly past and the slightly future, looking back at myself’.
‘Desire is when we want something from someone, but hesitate as we feel we don’t deserve it. When I write about sex, I want it to be slightly vague, but at the same time not make it ‘too cute’. I want to allow the reader to know exactly what happened – not give nick names to body parts- but also catch them by surprise and retain the element of vagueness.’
He talked about how ‘authors usually insult the reader by making everything transparent- with no space for ambiguity. The reader I feel will get what you intend saying if you’re doing your job well. So the silences in the book are interpreted by the reader well.’
Call Me by Your Name critically acclaimed book became an eponymously christened blockbuster movie. Talking about the book’s title Aciman explained, ‘You become me and I become you, the origin of the ‘Call Me By Your Name’ title. I had two friends who were in a relationship and who had the same names, so I mischievously asked my wife if while making love, they call each other’ name? It is really a cleansing of oneself of oneself and giving yourself to the other.’
‘I wanted to avoid the stereotypical tropes of the same sex stories as a one that is doomed. I wanted to depict this shame of keeping the love in our hearts and never being allowed to blossom’
About his writing process, he says that he is not a disciplined writer, and is not sure of what’s coming out of his pen the next day. Coming from the humble writer, this should be encouragement for us!