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My writings are obliquely biographical: Andre Aciman


IANS Kolkata
American author Andre Aciman, whose celebrated novel "Call Me By Your Name" (CMBYN) adapted onscreen by Luca Guadagnino won big at the Academy Award last year, says he hates stultifying facts and his writings are "obliquely biographical".
"My writings are always biographical, but sort of obliquely biographical. I elaborate and embroider them. It is because I hate facts as they are stultifying and don't allow imagination to broaden itself," Aciman, 68, told IANS on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here.
He said he wants his writing to "allow me to become the person I am not" and wants to explore the self that "wants to exist but is afraid to do so".
"I am looking to reconcile, to find who I am and who I could never become. Because the way life and history move sometimes, they interfere with our own trajectory. So I have an emotional trajectory that goes its own way and my lived trajectory is this way. They don't necessarily correspond," said the man who was born in Egypt, learnt English at the age of five and grew up speaking French.
The coming of age novel about two boys, Elio and Oliver, was published in 2007.
Speaking about his work "Enigma Variations" that explores the journey of a boy's love life, he said: "All things are enigmatic, because the protagonist doesn't know, like most of us don't know what our sexuality is. To give it a name is to turn it into a fact, which I hate."
Somebody who has desires can have desires for a man or a woman; the next day it can switch and one day it can be for no man, only a woman, he said.
About handling erotic themes without crossing the line, the veteran writer said: "There was an ugly line in my book (CMBYN) I decided to remove but didn't. I am a very tame, chaste writer and that line goes against my nature, but I wrote it because it says it all. I wanted their sexuality to be explored accurately and didn't want to make it foggy."
That was Aciman's first novel and he wrote it in three months. Presently he is writing its sequel.
"I was not careful enough. I went very fast because I was carried away. That doesn't always happen to a writer because the book was writing itself. I was just the typewriter," he noted.
Even in the age of Tinder, he feels that "love happens only once and never goes away".
He said that he is trying "to avoid the use of Internet" in the sequel.
"Things happen very fast on the web and I don't want to go in that direction," the connoisseur of classics said.
Asked about the universal appeal of his writings, Aciman said: "As I am a foreigner, I have to watch myself. I am very fussy with the subjunctive (which almost nobody uses in English), so I have to be careful. I have to write sentences that challenge the very boundaries of English."
(Binita Das can be contacted at

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 2:24 PM IST

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