Friday, May 27

André Aciman on writing Call me by your name: ‘I fell in love with Elio and Oliver’ | How i wrote

me I started to write Giving me a call by your name as fun. I had no idea it was going to be a story, much less a novel. One morning in April I was dreaming of being in an imaginary Italian villa overlooking the sea. It was a real estate fantasy: a swimming pool, a tennis court, a wonderful family and friends, plus the assistant staff: a cook, a gardener, and a driver. He had even chosen the house from a painting by Claude Monet.

All I was doing that morning was writing in my journal before picking up where I had left off working on an ambitious and challenging novel that I had promised my editor I’d deliver on December 31 of that year. It was just a distraction. It did not “count.” He certainly wasn’t going to think twice after breakfast.

It all has to do with my personality: I lack the confidence in myself that allows so many artists to take themselves and their work seriously. Instead, I am indecisive by temperament. I let my mind drift away from demanding projects in search of pleasure, any pleasure, partly because I can’t believe I’m actually working on something. that significant. It is no wonder then that, as I pursue an ambitious novel, I dabble in a few sentences about a house in Italy overlooking the sea. Just a few sentences, maybe a couple of paragraphs, maybe even a hint of romance, but certainly no more.

André Aciman: 'I let my mind run away from demanding projects in search of pleasure'.
André Aciman: ‘I let my mind run away from demanding projects in search of pleasure’. Photograph: Agenzia Sintesi / Alamy

And yet I found myself writing not a paragraph or two, but four pages that morning. This was fun. Usually I worry about every sentence, every clause, every shaken cadence. But here I didn’t have to answer anyone. All I had to do, what I always loved to do when we rented a house in Tuscany, was to imagine myself lying on the edge of a swimming pool, with one foot dangling in the water, listening to classical music on my headphones and quietly allowing myself to drift. Just a few paragraphs, nothing more, I promise.

But as I continued to write about Italy, I was not unaware that I was basically turning the clock back by more than three decades to my own childhood growing up in Egypt. Without an Egypt moved to the Italian coast, none of Giving me a call by your name it would have been possible. The pages I was writing allowed me to bring my family’s beach home to Egypt, and everyone on it, to Italy. My difficult parents, slightly upset now, were also sent to Italy. My late adolescence, bristling with so many unfulfilled desires, also landed on the Italian coast.

At some point that morning I knew I was right. It is true that I had a deadline for another novel, but this was irresistible because it was exactly like love. I fell in love with Elio, I fell in love with Oliver, I fell in love with his love and with this completely new world that I was improvising minute by minute. That morning, after showering and dressing, I emailed the pages that I had typed on my computer at work. I couldn’t think of anything else. I’d give this three, maybe four months, not one more day.

André Aciman’s Find Me is a Faber post (£ 8.99). To order a copy, go to Shipping charges may apply.

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