Call Me By Your Name: A Poem
Call Me By Your Name, written by André Aciman, is told from the perspective of Elio, a cultured seventeen-year-old boy, son of two intellectual parents, who takes readers on both an academic and romantic journey. We wander the Italian landscape, sublime and languid, in a summer that we want to preserve.
In Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman explores Elio’s relationship with Oliver, an older college student, traversing themes of identity, heartbreak, pain, regret, and time. The novel is a poem of memories and begins with this one:
“Later! The word, the voice, the attitude. I’d never heard anyone use ‘later’ to say goodbye before. It sounded harsh, curt, and dismissive, spoken with the veiled indifference of people who may not care to see or hear from you again. It is the first thing I remember about him, and I can hear it still today. Later! I shut my eyes, say the word, and I’m back in Italy, so many years ago, walking down the tree-lined driveway, watching him step out of the cab, billowy blue shirt, wide-open collar, sunglasses, straw hat, skin everywhere.”
Elio is such a detailed character. In a way, he is a poem within the book. From the first moment, we see that Elio is very attentive to the way Oliver says the word “later.” This indicates Elio’s sensitivity to linguistics, as well as his interest in Oliver. The writer suggests that a romantic connection contains some sort of acknowledgment of oneself in another person. Elio and Oliver share interests in literature, music, and philosophy, and they are both Jewish. Elio sees himself in Oliver, and he recognizes that they are in many ways the same. This concept has been explored by several poets and writers and is especially reminiscent of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, when the protagonist says, “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
It is quite clear that Aciman reveals sorrow as a valuable human emotion. Elio knows that he will suffer if he allows his feelings to flourish, and this is one of the main reasons why Elio does not advance with Oliver at first. But after a while, and despite knowing that their romance is ill-fated, Elio quells his reluctances and embraces his feelings. The author, through the voice of Elio’s father, Mr. Pearlman, emphasizes the importance of not numbing the hurt one may feel. In an emotional speech about unconditional love, Mr. Pearlman says: “You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it.”
Diary-like, intimate and nostalgic, Call Me By Your Name is more than a love story. The subtext makes you reflect on the nature of desire and what could have been if you had followed a different path. Elio and Oliver ultimately separate; however their fondness never truly fades just as Call Me By Your Name mirrors the power of memory and its everlasting effects.