The Loves Of A Man (Book Thoughts: Enigma Variations, Andre Aciman)

29875935I remember, years ago, I read André Aciman’s ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and was so touched by it. I started recommending it to everyone, and to this day, mention it as one of my favorite books of all time. Now he has written another book that I love, titled ‘Enigma Variations.’ The book consists of five novellas, all exploring the loves of one man : Paolo, Paul, Pauly. They come at different stages of his life, with different loves of both genders. My favorite is the opener, ‘First Love,’ wherein a twenty two year old Paolo goes back to the Italian island where he spent his summers as a young boy, and where also he first fell in love with his mother’s carpenter. As he tries to find this gentleman, he finds out discoveries about his family and specifically his father. This is a story of an awakening, of a young man accepting terms from his first infatuation. Aciman writes with such intimacy and frankness that we cannot help but see ourselves in this characters. Years later we see Paul in ‘Spring Fever,’ when he suspects the woman he is dating is having an affair, only to realize things are not always what it seems. Here Aciman’s tone is serious but becomes playful, and I loved the way Paul interacts with different characters in the book. ‘Star Love’ finds Paul dissecting his years-long friendship and courtship with Chloe, and while I found their relationship interesting as it crosses and tests the gray areas, I found this part a little tedious. ‘Manfred’ is about obsession – about how we change and move our lives because of another, how we analyze instead of do, and how unexpected sometimes life can be. I found this novella fascinating, its frank sexuality talk immensely powerful in conveying that feeling of wanting, the senation of deep desire, and its payoff.  I wouldn’t say ‘Enigma Variations’ is as good as ‘Call me By Your Name,’ but I know what book I will be recommending to friends this year.

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