André Aciman’s new novel, Find Me, is a beguiling sequel to his ode to obsessive love, Call Me by Your Name. Back in 2007, Aciman’s romantic adventure, helmed by 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver, earned a lasting place in the hearts of all of us who have succumbed to a compulsion that feels larger than ourselves. When the lush movie directed by Luca Guadagnino opened 10 years later, it was a worldwide art-house hit, bringing thousands more to the written version, which has now sold more than 700,000 copies in America.
The new book is really a group of novellas. Featuring Elio’s famously empathetic father, Samuel, who had been completely supportive of his son’s first romance, the first section is a classic “strangers on the train” episode. Samuel meets the much younger Miranda, for whom “men were like matches: they caught fire and were shaken off and dropped in the first ashtray that came her way.”
A beguiling sequel to Aciman’s ode to obsessive love.
Or so Samuel suspects, until he gradually discovers that all of Miranda’s flirting is real, and the middle-aged man’s fantasy of a young woman who genuinely prefers an older gentleman turns out to be completely within his grasp. When the two of them linger outside a building in Rome where Samuel lived decades earlier, he asks her if she would have entered his old apartment to meet him when he was a young man.
“No,” she replied.
“I like the older you better.”
Aciman’s characters are literate, well-traveled romantics, which is what makes it so pleasant to be in their company. They specialize in aperçus like this one from Miranda, when she is sizing up Samuel’s happiness: “Some people may be brokenhearted not because they’ve been hurt but because they’ve never found someone who mattered enough to hurt them.” This is the sort of dialogue that enables Aciman to make his readers nearly as interested in his protagonists as the protagonists are in each other.
City of Love
The second section begins with Elio, now a classically trained pianist in his early 30s, living in Paris. Once again, he is swept up by an older man, but this time the object of his affection is almost twice his age: “Tall, slim, elegantly put together, with a gray mane of hair that fringed the collar of his blue blazer.” This is how the older man explains their chance meeting at a concert: “Fate works forward, backward, and crisscrosses sideways and couldn’t care less how we scan its purposes with our rickety little befores and afters.”
An older man’s charms for a younger acolyte are captured in the senior lover’s description of the scenery outside his country house: “It reminds me of Corot. It’s always early evening and perpetually sunless here. Corot always has a dab of red on the boatman’s bonnet in his paintings—like a sprig of mirth on gloomy November fields where there’s never any snow.”
Aciman’s characters are well-traveled romantics, which is what makes it so pleasant to be in
The third section finds Oliver as a professor from New Hampshire completing a sabbatical on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The young man who left Elio for a woman is now married with two sons, but he remains as fluid in his interests as ever: “The libido accepts all currencies, and vicarious pleasures have an over-the-counter exchange rate that is considered reliable enough to pass for real. No one ever went bankrupt borrowing someone else’s pleasure. We go bankrupt only when we want no one.”
The final section is what makes the new book a true sequel—a reunion between the original lovers, Elio and Oliver, 20 years after their affair—and the wait for it is a big part of the suspense that propels the reader to the end of the book. It only takes a few pages to discover whether, after their years of physical distance, they should ever have been apart.
Find Me and Call Me by Your Name are the most literate versions imaginable of one of the most enduring tales of all time: “Boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy in the end.”