Aciman is interested in the small, the sensual: in little plates of salted crackers, in good white wines, in where to buy the right kind of fish. Everything is civilised and organised. There are moments when reading the novel feels a bit like skimming through a very high-class travel brochure... Although the dialogue is stylised, there is a warmth and a humanity in Aciman’s prose that enraptures with its slow, easy embrace. Just don’t expect any easy answers, and certainly no happy-ever-after.
The theme is the need for love, the necessity of love. “Love is easy,” Samuel tells Elio, “it’s the courage to love and trust that matters, and not all of us have both…'
Aciman takes pleasure in his characters, cares for them and invites readers to do so too. He is out of tune with the spirit of our time, for he believes in the transforming power of love, and writes of joy and heartache with tender sympathy. Like so many novelists today he teaches in a university, in his case “comparative literature” to graduate students in New York. I would think them fortunate.
I finished Find Me with a new-found respect for André Aciman. He simply could have just listened to the fans and rehashed his first novel and cashed in on that. Instead, Aciman has, rather boldly, decided to just write an Aciman novel. Those familiar with the author’s other works will see this novel as business as usual (for example, fans of Aciman’s brilliant early memoir Out of Egypt will understand the resonance of the location in which he sets his final episode). However, those who only know Aciman from CMBYN will be taken aback by his refusal of satisfaction and minimalist plotting, all of which are characteristics of his wider oeuvre.
Having read much of Aciman’s work, I find his writing intriguing and maddening in equal parts. While the elegance of his prose and the sophistication of his characters are to be admired, his creations rarely seem human, speaking in a pompous fashion where everyone, regardless of age or circumstance, is intimately familiar with classical music and philosophy. Love lies at the heart of his books, but as a concept rather than a reality. No one in an Aciman novel can ever just go on a few dates and see how things work out. Instead they know from their first interaction that they’re destined to be together, revelling in the authenticity of their affections. Ultimately, it does not make them seem evolved but narcissistic, shallow and a little immature.
Find Me is an unashamedly romantic and philosophical novel. Characters fall in love with one another’s discourse, with topics ranging from literature and music to notions of time, desire and fate: “time is always the price we pay for the unlived life”. And yet Aciman manages, by immersing us in their emotional dynamics, to present this intellectual sparring without pretentiousness.
Aciman writes beautifully about the fear that the most important person in your life will become no more than a tangent. Desire in Aciman’s novels is an obliterator of the self and a reinforcement of it. His characters want to become their loved ones, or climb inside them, to experience the truest versions of themselves. He asks if age makes us less vulnerable to heartache, or less hopeful of romantic bliss. In our minds, we lead “many lives, one tucked beneath or right alongside the other”.