Last summer, when I picked up ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (CMBYN), I was nothing less than crushed by André Aciman’s way of communicating some of the deepest anxieties about one’s body and love in the most sincere manner. It isn’t a novel that leaves you the moment you turn over the last page and close the book. It takes you back into your own life, when you think of your younger naive self or a past love. After finishing the book, I wasn’t ready to leave that Summer of 83’, so I stayed with seventeen-year-old Elio and twenty-four year old Oliver for a year until I decided to pick up the sequel.
In ‘Find Me’, we meet Elio and Oliver a decade after that fateful summer in Northern Italy, but the book does travel other interesting tangents, and not particularly just about the two characters. While the first novel was entirely written from Elio’s point of view, the sequel is divided into four parts, namely: Tempo, Cadenza, Capriccio and Da Capo with some years passing between each section. Tempo is narrated by Elio’s father, Samuel, and is the longest section, taking up almost half the book. It is interesting to see what happens to the man who gave one of the most truthful monologues, acknowledging his son’s sexuality. Queer readers who were expecting to meet Elio and Oliver right away are likely to be disappointed by this section. In Cadenza, we meet Elio who is now a pianist living in Paris. He meets an older man named Michel with whom he has a short affair, and is reminded of Oliver once again. In Capriccio, we find Oliver at his retirement party where his thoughts wander off in Elio’s direction. Lastly Da Capo, the shortest section, is set in Italy and Egypt.
In an interview Aciman rightly says, “My whole life has been advocating for total fluidity—not just sexual, but political, nationality-wise, religious-wise, professionally. I believe people are transient.” The idea of fluid sexuality is present throughout ‘Call Me By Your Name’ as Elio and Oliver have flings with women and then with each other. We can also spot traces of it in ‘Find Me’, in the third section narrated by Oliver. A farewell party is thrown for him as he prepares to leave New York City. At the party, he spends most of his time with Erica and Paul – the two people he has been unconsciously pursuing for months. Aciman, in his nonchalant manner, talks about what Oliver particularly finds attractive about the two. In the case of Erica, her shoulders, her feet and the way she challenges him in conversations. For Paul, it’s his arms, his ability to play the piano and his grasp on multiple musicians. It all happens so naturally, that as a reader you’re not even acknowledging that Aciman is talking about bisexual desire, it is just desire. It normalises bisexual attraction for heterosexual readers who are attempting to understand this experience.
Love in Aciman’s novel is always hinted at but never directly spoken of; it is known to the reader and the characters but the word itself is never mentioned. In both the novels, there is the recurring idea of the lovers becoming mirror images of each other. Aciman establishes an absolute unspoken empathy between the lovers which is why the title ‘Call Me by Your Name’ makes sense as their identities have completely dissolved into each other. In the second novel too, Elio and Oliver seem to communicate with each other in the same way. For instance, in Capriccio, when Oliver is thinking of Elio “ If he asks how long I am staying, I’ll tell him the truth. If he asks where I plan to sleep, I’ll tell him the truth. If he asks. But he won’t ask. He won’t have to. He knows.” It is these rekindled moments of intimacy between the two which makes the sequel worth picking up.
In ‘Find Me’, we see that the years that have passed between the events of the two novels have changed Elio and Oliver. Elio, who was an extremely self-conscious teenager in ‘Call Me By Your Name’, is now a skilled pianist and much more self-assured about his body. On the contrary, Oliver who was slightly conceited and sure of himself, finds himself questioning his decisions and feels a little out of place with Erica and Paul, because of his age.
Even though the present has changed them into different individuals, their minds have been lingering over the past. In an interview with Goldman Sachs, Aciman says, “Nothing dies in life… even the people we have stopped loving and think we have stopped loving, if we met them again in the right circumstances with no one watching, we would be in love with them again, in a second. I don’t think anything dies, we forget nothing, we forgive nothing.” It is perhaps this belief that pushed Aciman to revisit Elio and Oliver and write ‘Find Me’. The book prompts the revelation of how the past was never dead for them and really is much more alive than the present.
If you dive into ‘Find Me’ expecting the gay utopia of ‘Call Me By Your Name’, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. But, if you are just curious about what follows, then you will enjoy this additional peek into the lives of Elio and Oliver. It is not as soul-crushingly beautiful as ‘Call Me By Your Name but ‘Find Me’ has its moments and Aciman’s writing keeps it thoroughly heartening.