National Book Festival Presents Andre Aciman

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[ Applause ]>>Marie Arana: Thank
you very much. Good evening, ladies
and gentlemen. And as the voice of God, who
is really my good friend, Jared, just said I’m Marie. And I’m the Literary Director
of the Library of Congress. It’s a joy to see
you here tonight. Welcome to the National Book
Festival Presents Series, which is an exciting new
series of programs inspired by the National Book Festival,
and meant to bring you into the heart of this historic
and dynamic institution. The National Book Festival
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Hall or the Main Reading Room or the other impressive
halls in this building, please make a point
to walk around. But to cut to the task at hand,
I’m thrilled to be standing here to introduce a writer
whose work I have admired for a very long time. Andre Aciman was born in
Alexandria, Egypt, where he grew up in a Sephardic
family speaking French and attending British schools. By 14, he was living
in Rome and Paris, having emigrated
west with his family. He arrived in New York
in late adolescence, attended Lehman College,
studied comparative literature at Harvard, and went on to teach
literary theory and the works of Marcel Proust at Princeton,
Bard, New York University and the City University
of New York. He has produced a rich body
of work ranging from memoir to scholarly essays
about literature to novels and short fiction. He became known in
literary circles with his elegant beguiling
memoir of the vanished world of his childhood,
“Out of Egypt.” But he was shot to stardom
with his novel “Call Me by Your Name” published in 2007, and made into an Academy
Award-winning movie 10 years later. The book he just launched this
week — last week, “Find Me,” the sequel to that novel,
will debut at number five on the New York Times Bestseller
List this coming Sunday. Joining him in interview is
our very own Roswell Encina, Chief of Communications for
the Library of Congress. They have met on this
stage before to talk about “Call Me by Your Name.” And I’m thrilled to say,
in true sequel fashion, they meet again here tonight. Please welcome Andre
Aciman and Roswell Encina. [ Applause ]>>Roswell Encina:
Good evening everyone. And welcome back to the
Library of Congress. And welcome back,
Andre, to the Library.>>Andre Aciman: Thank
you for having me.>>Roswell Encina: Thank
you so much for being here. So I have to say though,
the last time you were here, we were talking about the
popularity of the movie, and the popularity of the book, and I had to ask you were
you going to write a sequel or was there going to be
a sequel to the movie. And this is what you said.>>Andre Aciman: The sequel is
going to be a bit of a problem, because you’re going to have
to bring in novel information. And that makes me a bit nervous,
because it might be distracting from what is actually
the story itself, so that the story
might move elsewhere. And we don’t know
where that might be. And we still don’t know that
there is going to be a sequel. [ Laughter ] What is he talking about? That’s not me.>>Roswell Encina:
So what happened? Where did the sequel come about?>>Andre Aciman: I decided
to just do it, and to come up and just say that there was. It wasn’t just sequel, it
was more a book inspired from “Call Me by Your Name.” So you have the same characters. They’re much older. And so it doesn’t continue the
story, it just fills in the gaps that were left wide open when
the book came out in 2007.>>Roswell Encina: So
like many of the “Call Me by Your Name” fans, I’m a
big fan of that book clearly, and I think everybody who’s a
fan of the original book feels like it’s very precious. And we feel like we know
everything about it. And we think we know what
should happen to Elio and what should happen
to Oliver. What response were you
getting from fans of what –>>Andre Aciman: Oh –>>Roswell Encina: Should
happen to these two characters?>>Andre Aciman: Oh, God, at
some point I had to tell people, “Please, stop writing to me
fanfiction, because if I go on writing this book, this
story, with these characters, and I accidentally
borrow something you said, you’ll not be happy with me.” So I cannot read the movie
scripts that people send me, the long sort of chapters
that people have sent me. I say, “I cannot read it because
I don’t want to be influenced in case I go on with the story.”>>Roswell Encina:
So as you can see, as a good library staff member,
I’m a good [inaudible] of books. And I should say,
though, as you mentioned, this is really inspired
from the first book. It’s a standalone book
as far as I’m concerned.>>Andre Aciman: Yes,
I think it is, yeah.>>Roswell Encina:
There’s a lot of — you know, there’s “Call Me by Your Names” sprinkled
all over it. But I feel like you
could read it without even reading
the first book. There’s a lot of
beautiful passages. I feel like there’s —
it’s so well written, you want to read some of
these passages out loud, or underline everything,
or is what I, you know, clearly have — that’s
what I’ve done.>>Andre Aciman: I see. I just can see this. It makes me very nervous why is
somebody underlining my book?>>Roswell Encina: How daunting
was it to write this book?>>Andre Aciman: It wasn’t
daunting once I decided, “Okay, let’s face it, this
man is Elio’s father, what is he going to do?” He’s going to meet Elio. Elio is going to appear, not at
the beginning as I always try to do, because I did try quite
a few times with Elio showing up at the beginning,
and it became like son of “Call Me by Your Name.” And I didn’t want to do that. So, eventually, once I
made my peace with that, it was just very smooth sailing.>>Roswell Encina: So
you mentioned Elio’s dad.>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: And in
the first book, you know, he’s part of the book, he has
that big speech at the end –>>Andre Aciman: Right.>>Roswell Encina: But
that’s his big thing. Why did you decide to give him
a bigger part in this book?>>Andre Aciman: First
of all, I think he’s a — if he gives that speech, which,
you know, people find very, very moving, if a father
can give that speech, he must have an amazing
background, have a past that suggests
that this is not just a speech that happens, it comes from
a long lineage of ideas and of a temperament as well. So I wanted to investigate it. I was interested in
who this father is, and what is his life like. And if he’s with his
wife, I thought — I mean, that happened to me. If he is with his wife, then we
won’t see how interesting he can be, unless he’s a stand-alone
character, he’s single, he’s in a train, he meets
this woman on a train. And I wanted to see
what happens.>>Roswell Encina: It
really humanized him, too. I think in the first
book [inaudible] –>>Andre Aciman:
I [inaudible] –>>Roswell Encina: He was
happy, he seemed perfect. And –>>Andre Aciman: But in
the film he’s very happy. He’s like this ecstatic man who
loves his wife, loves his son, loves his family, his
life is wonderful. I wanted to give him a few
more shades of problems.>>Roswell Encina: We saw
a lot of it, actually.>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina: So in
the first book, it was — you wrote it from
Elio’s point of view.>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: This time,
we hear from different people.>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina:
We hear from Samuel. We hear it from Oliver. I remember you saying, and
I know you’ve mentioned in several interviews,
people have been asking you, “Why don’t you write in
Oliver’s point of view?” And your response always
has been, “He’s too cocky, too confident to
write his own book.”>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina: So –>>Andre Aciman:
Why did I do that?>>Roswell Encina: Yes.>>Andre Aciman: There’s a
very — there are two reasons. One is Oliver is
now 44 years old. So it’s 20 years
after they separate. So he’s now a more
insecure person. He’s not totally insecure,
but he does say things like, “I used to have fun sort of
barging into people’s lives. Now they won’t even welcome me.” So he’s kind of saying,
“What happened?” Well, he got old,
that’s what happens.>>Roswell Encina: He does
seem less confident –>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina:
Very conflicted.>>Andre Aciman:
He is conflicted and he’s less confident. But the other reason,
which is more material, is that I don’t know how to
write in the third person. I can only write in
the first person. So I made him a first-person
kind of character [inaudible]. And, of course, when you have
a first-person narrator, you — it’s — the insecurities
are immediately attendant on that character. So you can’t have a first-person
character who’s cocky and self-confident. He becomes a ridiculous
character.>>Roswell Encina:
How was it writing it? Was it — because
some of the parts, they’re written differently,
even the punctuations. The voices are different. Was that hard for you?>>Andre Aciman:
There is more dialogue in this book, far more dialogue. And people say, “There’s
dialogue in this book.” I said, “Well, because the
other dialogue is happening in Elio’s head.” And now people are actually
talking to each other. And it’s — somebody
said to me that it feels like this movie script. In other words, the dialogue
on the train, for example, it goes back and
forth, back and forth. It’s almost like its stage
directions are missing. But, by and large, it was
not difficult to do it. It is a different book. And I think every chapter,
even though that’s written in the first-person, they’re
different, the first chapters.>>Roswell Encina: Oliver
seems to be very haunted –>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina: At
least from my point of view, during his chapter. And I want to read
one part that kind of completely reflects that. You wrote, “You fool, it takes
two of them to make one of me. I can be a man and
woman, or both, because you’ve been both to me. Find me, Oliver, find me.” So it feels like this entire
time Oliver was just completely hunted — haunted by Elio, while Elio felt more
confident or more grown-up. Was that deliberate
to make them more –>>Andre Aciman: Yes, yes.>>Roswell Encina: [inaudible]
contrast [inaudible]?>>Andre Aciman: In
other words, Elio — basically, it’s all
telepathic, almost telepathic. I don’t believe in telepathy. But it’s as if he’s imagining
having this conversation with Elio. And it turns out that Elio
is totally confident saying, you know, “What are
you waiting for? Come on, let’s get —
come and see me, find me,” which is the title of the book,
okay, in case you didn’t know. But it — it — it is — it’s — he’s a totally different
character. And so who is the passive
person of the two now? It’s Oliver who was kind of
trapped in this marriage. He has two sons who are now in
school, so he doesn’t see them. So he’s basically
freeing himself. And he doesn’t realize it.>>Roswell Encina: And you
took us out of the familiar. I think many of us wanted
to go back to that house –>>Andre Aciman: Oh, yeah.>>Roswell Encina: By the
sea with a rustic gate, and with the peach
trees all over. But you brought us
somewhere else. You brought us to Rome,
you brought us to France, you brought us to New York. Why the change of scenery? And I’m not trying to give
anything away, too, by the way, if you haven’t read it.>>Andre Aciman: Yeah,
because you haven’t given the fourth city.>>Roswell Encina: Yes.>>Andre Aciman: Okay, good. No, it’s just that
I want it to be. You know, when you write a book,
you want to experience the book. You want to live it also,
even though you’re writing, you have no idea how
you’re going to live this. But I wanted to be in
Rome, because I adore Rome. And I lived in Rome
for a long time. And I loved Paris, too. And I love Paris. And if you notice, all the
stories take place in November. So that is sort of the — and
November is a weird month, if you think about
it, especially — I mean, when else does
Indian summer occur? October, November. What is November? Is it winter? No, not really. Is it fall? Not really. It’s always in between the two. And I love everything that’s
in between two opposites. So I put everything in November. But I love the upper west side. I love Paris. I love — I like — by the
way, I’m writing about Paris. And for those of you who say,
“Give us more details of Paris,” and I haven’t decided yet
if the story’s taking place on the west — on the West
Bank or on the Left Bank. No, the East Bank and — no. What am I saying? Left Bank and Right Bank. Okay? I haven’t decided. I’m totally confused. So I left it vague. You decide. You know? What’s
the name of the — what’s the name of the church? I don’t know. It, say, has a “u” in it. Then leave it at that.>>Roswell Encina: So I
like that you mentioned that they were all in November. I wish — it was unseasonably
warm Novembers in the book.>>Andre Aciman: And –>>Roswell Encina: I wish it
was unseasonably warm outside right now.>>Andre Aciman: Well,
it’s already sort of past the 10th of November. But, you know, I
love Indian summers, because it is undefined. It is like this extra surplus
of summer in the middle of sort of arriving winter.>>Roswell Encina: One
of the biggest components of the book are these
things called vigils. Elio’s dad introduces us
to vigils, that he goes to certain places and he remembers
things or relives stuff. And I know — why did
you decide to do that? And I know you wanted to read
a passage [inaudible] vigils.>>Andre Aciman: Should
I explain vigils first?>>Roswell Encina: Absolutely.>>Andre Aciman: Vigils are
— for those of you who know, in old cities, especially
around the Mediterranean, you have a lot of little corners
in the old part of the city where you will have a
corner, and then there’s going to be a little shrine to a
saint or to the Virgin usually. And there’s a lit
candle or there’s a lamp. And people pass by, they stop
for a second, they do the sign of the Cross or they
make a wish or they think of the dead or whatever. And then they go on. And that’s a vigil. That’s called a vigil. The father, Elio’s father,
has this habit of going to certain places that he has
visited, or that he has lived in in the past, or
that he’s attached to. And so he goes back
to those same places. We all do. And we all go back to places — I mean, the typical example is
those of you who are sick enough to go back to your
second-grade classroom, how many of you have done that? Embarrassing, you know? You don’t want to admit
that you’ve done that. But you go back to that
classroom because a part of you has been left back there. And you’re trying to retrieve
it or to communicate with it. And it doesn’t succeed, but
the hope of doing so is enough to make it a wish that
needs to be fulfilled. And so not only has
the father done that, he’s gone there the day
before he meets his son, Elio, and he’s gone to one of
his apartment buildings. And with his new
girlfriend, Miranda. And he shows her
where he used to live. And she very nicely takes
pictures of him there. And he’s also taught his
son to do the same thing. So the son is also into vigils. And I was going to read
a passage about vigils, because you will all
recognize the passage. It is Elio, who is now walking with Miranda and
with his father. And it’s the father narrating. Don’t forget that this is
the father, it’s not Elio. “When we reached Villa Della
Pace, I thought Elio was about to take us to one of my
favorite churches in the area. Instead, no sooner had
we sighted the church, then he made a right
turn and took us to Villa Santa Maria
[inaudible]. Then after a few steps,
and just as I’d done with Miranda the day before,
he stopped at a corner where a very old lamp
was built into a wall. I never told you this, but I was
drunk out of my mind one night. I had just vomited by the
statue of the Pasquino, and couldn’t have been
more dazed in my life. Yet, here as I lean against this
very wall, I knew drunk as I was that this with Oliver holding
me was my life, that everything that had come beforehand with others was not even a rough
sketch or the shadow of a draft of what was happening to me. And now 10 years later,
when I look at this wall under this old street
lamp, I am back with him. And I swear to you
nothing has changed. In 30, 40, 50 years, I
will feel no differently. I have met many women
and more men in my life. But what is watermarked on this
very wall overshadows everyone I’ve known. When I come to be here, I
can be alone or with people. With you, for instance. But I am always with him. If I stood for an hour
staring at this wall, I’d be with him for an hour. If I spoke to this wall,
it would speak back.” So –>>Roswell Encina:
That’s lovely.>>Andre Aciman: This
is the spirit of vigil. [ Applause ] Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Roswell Encina: I also felt
like the book was like a vigil through the “Call Me
by Your Name” story.>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: From the
wall to certain pieces of music. I think readers of
the first book, memories of the first one
will instantly pop in. Was that intentional so it feels like the reader’s
going through a vigil?>>Andre Aciman: Yes. I wanted the reader to feel, especially with this
passage, “Oh, I know this. I know what happened. This was one of the most
touching moments in the novel.” And I wanted to revoke it. And to revoke it, to
bring it back to life, to say, “Hey, it’s not gone. It’s still germane.”>>Roswell Encina: And it was
very subtle, I should say, when you bring up passages
— it’s not passages, moments from the first book. So it felt like you
were part of the story, but not giving it away.>>Andre Aciman: No, I
— I — I — I don’t — I didn’t want to make
it into a message. He’s remembering something –>>Roswell Encina: Yeah.>>Andre Aciman: Here, no. No, it was more like — it was
as subtle as I know how to be. [ Laughter ]>>Roswell Encina: So
the book also makes use of three things I think that you
could see throughout the book: time, music and fatherhood. Let’s go through
them one by one. Time. I feel like — and it
defines time differently from, you know, life’s second act
to retracing life, regrets, a lot of would of,
could of, should ofs. And there’s one line
here that’s my favorite. It’s on page 83. I kind of typed it up so
that I wouldn’t be struggling to look for it in the book. It says, “Lobby’s never age. We don’t either I thought. Oh, but we do age. We don’t grow up.” So I feel like it’s the
entire theme of the book, at least for each one of them. Time affects them.>>Andre Aciman: Yes. Can I get the book?>>Roswell Encina: Absolutely. It’s yours.>>Andre Aciman: No,
it’s yours actually. But let me just read it. May I –>>Roswell Encina: Sure.>>Andre Aciman:
I don’t want to — I promise it’s not
going to be long. This is the father of Miranda,
who was a man about to — he’s confronting death because
he knows he’s condemned. He’s going to die. And so he’s thinking
about life and time and all those weird subjects. He says, “Some lives
wait their turn because they haven’t been lived. While others die before
they’ve lived out their time. And some are waiting
to be relived because they haven’t
been lived enough. Basically, we don’t know
how to think of time. Because time doesn’t really
understand time the way we do. Because time couldn’t care
less what we think of time. Because time is just a
wobbly, unreliable metaphor for how we think about life. Because ultimately it isn’t
time that is wrong for us or we for time, it may be life
itself that is wrong.” I mean, I’m not condemning life. I am a man who likes
lasagna, too. But it’s just a sense that this
person is about to die says, “You know, time is all wrong. I could live another lifetime. And, therefore, you,
my daughter, please live out my life,
because I’m not done.”>>Roswell Encina:
Because I feel like they’re all looking
at time differently. Maybe Elio’s dad, Samuel
and Oliver and even then –>>Andre Aciman: Michel.>>Roswell Encina: Michel
are all looking at it, I hate to say it,
like in a mid-age, mid-life crisis kind
of point of view.>>Andre Aciman: Yeah, yeah.>>Roswell Encina: While Oliver and Miranda are looking
at it differently.>>Andre Aciman: Elio you mean.>>Roswell Encina: Elio I mean.>>Andre Aciman:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.>>Roswell Encina: Yes.>>Andre Aciman: Yes. There is that. I mean, there’s a moment
in which they inherit, and this is my ties into the
music, Michel, who is the lover of Elio has inherited from his
father a score, a musical score, which the father received
from an older tutor of his. And there might have been a
relationship between the two. And so this score is
going to be played by Elio when it tours the United States,
and possibly revisits Oliver. So they have four generations. Each one have tugged alongside
or on top of the other. But I think this
is what life is. There is always lineage and
legacy or what you call — what they say — what — what
— what do they call tomatoes? They call — there’s
heritage tomatoes, is it? What is it?>>Heirloom [multiple speakers].>>Andre Aciman:
Heirloom tomatoes, yeah. Sorry, sorry. Heritage, heirloom, whatever. It’s the same word. I like heirloom tomatoes. Okay? But the point
is that nothing is in and of itself by itself. Everything is contiguous
to everything else, and sort of passes itself
onto the next generation.>>Roswell Encina:
You brought up music. So music plays a major part
of this book, even the titles of each part are music-based. Did you shape this book
similar to musical structures?>>Andre Aciman: Someone told
me this feels like a sonata. And I said, “Yeah, okay, fine. If that’s how you want
to see it, it’s okay. Thank you for telling me, because I hadn’t
thought of it that way.” But it — it — it
— it has a — it is very interested or
committed to the idea of music, especially classical music,
because there’s something about classical music that
is basically fantastic. And it — it — not only
is it the best thing that I believe was
ever committed to paper on this planet, except
for the King James version which I happen to like
as a work of literature. But the piece, a
quartet by Beethoven, it sort of challenges
creation, as it were. But I think the classical music
for me is something that brings out the best in us, and reminds
us when we are really lucky. When we hear fantastic music
that I wish I were like this. This makes me think
of who I could be if I only allowed
myself or knew how to be. And so it is a way — classical
music is an encouragement to reach the very best in us. It has nothing to do
with ethics, by the way. It doesn’t mean that you
have to do good deeds to become a better person. It’s just the better self
that you know you have, and you don’t know
how to access. So that’s what it is. And so in many respects I
think each person has a lover who brings out the best in them. So for me the musical metaphor
is exactly sort of allowing and sort of sits
alongside the love stories, because each one feels —
and I believe it’s true. But when you’re in love with
someone, what you really are in love with, without
being narcissistic, is who the person makes
you think you are. I love being in love with
someone who makes me love who I am, as opposed to
somebody who belittles me and makes me feel
like you know what. No, I mean, it makes
a big difference. And I think that this is what
classical music does for me. It’s a presence of
excellence in the world.>>Roswell Encina: You made
it very sexy, I should say, especially the Elio portion
when it came to classical music. Are you a trained musician? Do you have any interests in classical music
beyond writing about it? Did you grow up listening to it?>>Andre Aciman: I grew
up listening to it. But I cannot read a
single note of music. I know nothing about — I mean,
I listen to it all the time. And I know it. And I think I can talk
about it sometimes. And people are always
surprised that, “Oh, he seems to understand
what this is, but he can’t read
a single note.” But it’s okay. I love it. But I love it as
I love many things as a stranger, not
as an inhabitant. I’m always alien to many, many things that —
but I understand it.>>Roswell Encina: You
talked about Michel’s father. There’s that big mystery there. I don’t want to give it away. What was the inspiration
of that sheet music that he shared with Elio?>>Andre Aciman: All right. That gets passed on.>>Roswell Encina: Yes.>>Andre Aciman: Okay. I’ll be very brief
and have patience. Okay? It’s a piece
— it’s a score. But it’s not just
a musical score. It’s just a cadenza,
which is the moment that in every piano
concerto by Mozart, especially a violin concerto
by Mozart, Mozart just felt, “Let’s leave the performer,
let him have his time and show us how he can play. I won’t even write the cadenza. Let him compose it
or improvise it.” And this is a cadenza
that has been improvised. And Elio looks at the cadenza,
because Michel gives it to him, and he looks at it
and says, “Eh, this feels like bad Mozart.” And he’s almost made
up his mind. And says, “Oh, there’s
even some Beethoven in it, because I recognize
the Waldstein in there. This is a mess.” And then suddenly he
has this illumination. Again, you have layers,
always layers. He has illumination. And he realizes, “Oh, my
God, this is a Jewish prayer that has been snuck
into this cadenza.” And it’s completely concealed. And, of course, it
makes perfect sense, because the paper is very cheap, the cadenza has been
written sort of almost clawingly compact. It’s probably composed
in the camps. And the man who composed it died in the camps, beaten
up to death. And so, again, this music,
yes, it plays a role. But I wanted — again,
everything in this story, in this novel has many layers. And for those of you who remember the San
Clemente Syndrome, where you have one layer of the church overlooking
another layer. Underneath there’s a — what do
you call the [inaudible] temple, which is a pagan temple. You have three layers,
actually four. Everything is like that. And I think that ultimately
as Elio says in “Call Me by Your Name,” “We are
not made to be played on one instrument alone. We are many, many instruments.” And to use the words from the
New Testament, “We are legion, says the devil to Jesus.” If you remember that passage.>>Roswell Encina: Let’s talk about the third part,
fatherhood.>>Andre Aciman: Okay.>>Roswell Encina:
So I think the book from the very beginning
talks about, you know, Elio’s relationship with his
father, Miranda’s relationship with her father,
Michel and his father, and maybe everybody else,
everything in between, mixing father’s as humans,
fathers casting a long shadow –>>Andre Aciman: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina:
On their children. And there’s also
a strong reference to a father towards
the end of the book. So is fatherhood, or
even father figures, do you believe this the
main artery that kind of kept this book [inaudible]?>>Andre Aciman: It’s
one of the arteries. Yes. I think that
fatherhood is important. I didn’t plan it this way. But as I was writing, I
realized that Michel is talking about his father a lot. And it’s time for Elio to
speak about his father a bit, because he doesn’t
want to feel left out. But then we’ve seen
his father — we see the father in
“Enigma Variations.” And we see the father in
“Call Me by Your Name.” And fatherhood is important
because it’s a very close bond between two individuals who
are normally not perceived as being close. You know, fathers and sons
are usually embattled, because the son is supposed
to have an arrestee’s complex. And so I wanted to
demolish that myth, or at least show a father figure
who was kind, who is all giving, and at the same time not
necessarily sort of a silly man. And at the same — and also show
how the son revere’s the father without being blindly
respectful. But there’s a wonderful
moment where I was tempted, and then I contained myself. There’s a moment in which Elio
watches his father with Miranda. And he says, “Gee,
you know, Dad, I’ve never seen you
in love like this.” Meaning don’t mess it up. But at the same — I was tempted to have Elio give
him a speech, too. But I said, “No, we’ve had
the speech of the father, then you don’t need to echo it.” And so it was a moment where I
saw the two getting very close, a father who was being observed
by his son as he is in love, as if he were an adolescent,
I thought was a lovely moment. And I love moments
between fathers and sons, because they never
happen in literature. And it’s not that I
went out of my way. It just came naturally.>>Roswell Encina: And most of
the time they’re dysfunctional.>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: This
was an actual maybe healthy father-son relationship.>>Andre Aciman: Who knows? I mean, I don’t know
that it’s functional. But it worked for me. I mean, there’s a moment
in “Enigma Variations,” which I don’t want to refer
to today, where the father and the son go up on an
old, old demolished castle. And they’re overlooking
the mainland in Sicily where the lights are
twinkling at night. And the father says,
“By the way, you know Beethoven’s piece?” He says, “Yes, I know.” And so they’re talking a bit. And he says, “By the way,
I want you to remember this for the time [inaudible].” And he doesn’t even
finish the sentence. And the son says, “For
the time when, Dad?” And, of course, the
father says, “Yes, exactly. For the time when.” In other words, “I want
to block this moment, and make it into a
solid memory for you, so that when the time
comes you’ll remember that we sat here overlooking
the mainland, listening or thinking of Beethoven.”>>Roswell Encina: So
I know many people here in the audience probably have
one big question for you.>>Andre Aciman: Okay.>>Roswell Encina:
What is the status of the sequel of the movie?>>Andre Aciman:
Oh, you know what? I have the same question. Because the answer —
the good answer is, a, nobody has told me we
want to make a sequel. The people who were involved
have been very silent. So I have no answer.>>Roswell Encina: Lucah
was talking all about it like maybe [inaudible].>>Andre Aciman: Oh, that
was a year and a half ago –>>Roswell Encina: Yeah.>>Andre Aciman: Two years ago. It was easy then, you
know, because it — and the actor said, “We’ll drop
everything and we’ll do it.” But, of course, everybody
is extremely busy.>>Roswell Encina: Would you
like a sequel [inaudible] –>>Andre Aciman: Of course,
I would love a sequel. I’d love to watch this story
to understand it better. You know? [ Laughter ]>>Roswell Encina: Do you know
if [inaudible] or Lucha — I know Michael’s read it because
he recorded an audio book for this. Do you know if they
read “Find Me” yet?>>Andre Aciman: They
haven’t said anything. So, basically, silence
is also significant. You never know. No, but I know that
Michael loved it, at least that’s what he told me. I try not to believe anyone,
but he’s been wonderful. And he did a fantastic read.>>Roswell Encina:
It was beautiful. I did listen to some
excerpts of it. My last question before we take
questions from the audience, would you write a
third Elio and Oliver? Make it a trilogy? Call it “The Peach
Trilogy,” I don’t know. B [ Laughter ]>>Andre Aciman: You want
me to bring back peaches? Is that what it is?>>Roswell Encina: Well, you
opened the door [inaudible].>>Andre Aciman: Actually,
you know, it’s — it’s — it’s — it’s a temptation. It’s a little temptation. And I was just discussing
it with one of my sons today about maybe there’s
something there that I’m interested
in toying with. But I’ve got so many
other projects. So I don’t know yet.>>Roswell Encina: What
are you working on now, if you don’t mind
asking — me asking?>>Andre Aciman: Yes. I have a book of essays
coming out very shortly about the unlived life, which is
a topic that’s very germane –>>Roswell Encina: Yeah.>>Andre Aciman: Here. And I have a book
on Rome coming out. And I have a book on Audible
that’s already finished. And so we’re doing that. Because Audible bought it
and is going to release it as a spoken word text. And then I’m writing
a book about — or a novella about a woman
who is a Portuguese nun, or alleged Portuguese
nun, who was abandoned by a French soldier
after he seduced her. And she writes probably the most
beautiful complaining letter that has ever been
written in the 1600s. And I’m taking it up
and modernizing it.>>Roswell Encina: So
you’ve been very generous with your time visiting
us two years in a row. We decided before we take
questions, start thinking of your questions, I would like
to call my colleague, Sue Vita, she is the Chief of
the Music Division, to present you something
very special from the Library of Congress’s collection.>>Sue Vita. Actually, not from
the collection. We’re not giving
away the collection.>>Roswell Encina: Okay. [ Laughter ]>>Sue Vita: It’s a
facsimile, I promise.>>Andre Aciman: I
wanted the original. [ Laughter ]>>Sue Vita: We’ll have to check
his pockets on the way out. [ Laughter ] Well, as you heard, part of Elio’s story involves a
music manuscript which he comes to discover is a cadenza for Mozart’s Piano Concerto
Number 20 in D Minor. And the love that the author has for music is very
real and tangible. And, of course, that’s important
for us in the Music Division. So we see Mozart’s
portrait above his head. He’s talked about cadenzas. Mozart’s D Major — sorry, D Minor Piano Concerto is
part of Elio’s repertoire. Mozart composed the
concerto in 1785. He was the piano soloist
for the first performance. And on that occasion,
he played cadenzas that he had written
for the concerto. Subsequently, other people wrote
cadenzas for the same concerto, including Beethoven
in about 1809. You wonder how anyone
could improve on Mozart, but then Beethoven comes
along, and you say okay. And then followed
by other favorites of yours, including Brahms. And in the early 1890s, the
renowned Clara Schumann. Now, Clara whose 200th
birthday is being observed around the world this
year, was a true superstar when women were never
superstars. She was the first woman to achieve an international
reputation as a concert pianist. She was one of the
greatest concert pianists of the 19th century. She almost single-handedly
redefined the piano recital when the concert stage was
almost entirely male-dominated. She was born in 1819. And her career spanned
more than 60 years. She was bright, she was
talented and she was loved by not only her husband, Robert
Schumann, but also Brahms. The Library of Congress will
celebrate her 200th birthday with a concert on December 6th. So you might want
to check that out. And while as we think
about gifts that we would give here tonight, we didn’t have the Mozart
Piano Concerto 20 in D Minor. But we do have an
original manuscript written by Clara Schumann
for her own cadenza for Mozart’s Piano Concerto
Number 20 in D Minor. And we are delighted to
present it to you tonight. It’s a facsimile of the original
manuscript written on paper with a very colorful ivy border. And so we’re going
to give this to you.>>Andre Aciman: Oh,
my, thank you so much.>>Sue Vita: And I want to
actually point out something. We only have one page up here. But if you look very carefully
down at the very bottom, underneath the ivy,
you see some lines. Can you see them?>>Andre Aciman:
Yes, [inaudible].>>Sue Vita:Okay. So this was like in the days
before glue sticks I guess. The reverse of this
page is similar to this. You can see [inaudible]
here, but see these lines?>>Andre Aciman:
Oh, [inaudible]. Oh, oh.>>Sue Vita: So she revised this
and she sewed on the revision. And so those lines are the
stitches from the revision. So you see this is
a paste on in the –>>Andre Aciman: Yes,
yes, oh, my gosh.>>Sue Vita: And these
are the [inaudible]. So it’s kind of interesting
and special.>>Andre Aciman:
Thank you so much. Thank you.>>Sue Vita: I hope
you enjoy it.>>Andre Aciman:
Thank you so much. Absolutely, it’s wonderful. I’m so honored really. Thank you. Wow. [ Applause ] It’s so [inaudible].>>Roswell Encina: All right. Thank you, Sue. We are ready for
some questions here.>>Andre Aciman: Oh,
now I can see everybody.>>Roswell Encina: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: So
just raise your hand, and we’ll have somebody with
a microphone come to you. I’ll let you [inaudible]. We’ll go to this
young lady over here.>>Hi. Thank you so
much for coming today. My name’s Jessica. I already read “Find Me”
because I get obsessive and it was wonderful. I really appreciated the
voice that you gave Samuel. And I found the contrasting
voices of Elio in love and Samuel in love to be so
wonderful and contrasting. And I was curious to hear
how easy it was to write in these two different
voices, because Elio’s love is so young and passionate. And, you know, it
goes lines and lines and lines before
there’s a period. While I felt that Samuel’s felt
more measured and reflective. So I was wondering if both
voices were easy to write? Which came more naturally
to you?>>Andre Aciman:
You know, every — every chapter or every part
of a book asks to be written in the voice it’s — it’s
— you end up writing it. It’s ironic that “Call Me
by Your Name” is written in one voice and “Eight
White Nights” is written — another book of mine,
which nobody reads, but it’s all right, it’s
all right, it’s all right. I understand why, too. But it’s also written in one. But “Enigma Variations” is
written in many, many voices. And I think that authors
don’t want to have one voice. We want to have as many voices,
as many characters that take over the voice of
the actual narration. It’s something that I
find very necessary. And you learn it from
two great writers. One is Joyce, who never
wrote in the same voice ever. And the other one is
Dante, who made a point of constantly changing
the voice. So the style is always different
depending on who’s speaking. And I wanted that. I wanted — in fact, yes, there’s something
very even tempered in Elio’s father’s voice. Whereas Elio is far more
episodic, almost gushing. And I like that. And if you look at the parts
of Oliver, they’re halting. He’s hurting basically. And so he writes sometimes
in little fragments. So it’s not something you do
intentionally all the time, though you try to keep the
voice right for the character. But it comes naturally
depending on who it is. But it has to be in
the first-person. Otherwise, I’m lost.>>I have two questions. One, I had seen the movie
before I read your book.>>Andre Aciman: Where are you?>>Over here.>>Andre Aciman: Oh, okay, okay.>>I was terribly
moved by the capriccio. First, the guitar in the
tree that Elio was strumming. It sort of rang a bell. Of course, it appeared
in many forms later on. What in your background is — was this your idea to
introduce the transcriptions of that particular piece
of music box capriccio?>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>And its relevance you had
mentioned teasing Oliver –>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>In your book? Do you have a musical
background?>>Andre Aciman:
No, none whatsoever. I just — I’m just
totally passive. I listen. That’s what I do. But I’m interested in
what I’m listening. And I was very interested — if you notice, I don’t mean
to do this, but everything in “Call Me by Your Name” and
parts of “Find Me” are written in four parts, everything
is in fours. This is something
to write a paper on. You can forget it. But I was interested
in the guitar piece. Then there’s a piano
transcription or a piano version
of the same piece. And then there’s a Busoni
variation on the Bach piece. And then there’s a [inaudible]
variation on the Bach piece. So you have, again, four different variations
of the same piece. And, of course, Elio teases
Oliver with the piece, because he asked him to play
it the way he had played it the first time. And, eventually, he does. And it’s his way of speaking to
Oliver and saying, “You know, this music is for you. It’s for you. It’s my gift to you.”>>Hi. So I have a question
that relates to another novel of yours, “Harvard Square.” So that novel explores platonic
male relationship at its core. And then “Call Me by Your Name”
is a romantic male relationship. And I was just curious as
to why exploring intimacy between two male relationships,
one romantic and one platonic — but I just wanted to
ask about why exploring that intimacy was a theme
that like appeared in a motif that was exploring two novels?>>Andre Aciman: Well, the
one between Elio and Oliver, it’s an intimate relationship. And, as you say, it’s romantic. It’s about intimacy
between two men. And it goes very far
to show you what it is that they feel for each other. The other one is
more about something that you can call friendship, or the word in French is
far more sort of precise. It’s complicite. It’s a spirit of
complicity between two men. In other words, they
have something in common, and they understand each other,
and they watch each other. They’re just very good
friends, for a while at least. It’s just friendship
pushed to the ultimate form where you have the two
who could basically — if one had killed someone,
the other one would come to help him dispose of the body. There’s that kind of
complicity between the two. And I love that idea. And I was exploring it without
any sort of the foggiest notion that there was anything
sexual between them.>>Hi. First of all, thank
you so much for being here. And thank you for your word. You’re a masterful writer. I wanted to know about your
process writing the sequel, “Find Me.” Did you feel that it was
difficult coming back to these characters after,
you know, writing “Call Me by Your Name” so long ago? And did you feel that
the writing process for “Find Me” was affected by sort
of the worldwide expectation now that so many people have because
of the success of the movie?”>>Andre Aciman: Actually, no,
because I couldn’t write it if I — if I was — if I
was sort of influenced, or because people sort
of kept beckoning. You know, like, “Please
write something from Oliver’s perspective. Please continue. Tell us what happened
afterwards. We want to know.” There was a lot of [inaudible]. Then the fanfiction that sort of
was erupting all over the place. And I just can’t write this way,
because even with a film that is so successful, I couldn’t
continue what the movie sort of left — where
the movie left off. So I just went back into
my little hovel and wrote about the father, which was the
easiest way for me to get away from all the noise
that was going on. And it worked for me. It was not difficult. I liked rediscovering the
characters at a later age when I was older,
when they were older. And I liked that I
wasn’t continuing with an Elio who was so now 20. I wouldn’t know what to do with
an Elio at 20 and without Oliver around him, because almost
through the whole story of “Call Me by Your Name” is
Elio longing to be with Oliver. And so I couldn’t continue that. It was done already. So I’m glad that time went by. It wasn’t difficult
to write at all. Actually, once I decided
who the father was going to visit, it became easy.>>I just recently read both
of these books, “Find Me” and “Call Me by Your Name.” I wanted to ask you if there
was anything very personal, anything within you that you
put into these books that — is there anything in these
books that you have connection with that happened to
you, or just something that you resonate
with very well?>>Andre Aciman: A lot of — for example, the
character of Elio is me. There’s no question. I am diffident. I easily — I blush very easily. I don’t speak [inaudible]
you would think. You won’t believe me. I don’t speak much when
I have dinner guests. I’m the one who doesn’t speak. If you want me to get you more
food, I’ll get off the table and just — sort of to
avoid having the silence sit around me. I’m insecure. I’m diffident. I’m easily sort of flummoxed. So that’s me. But the story, the plotline
itself is not necessarily — I borrowed things from my life. And there is definitely a
wall somewhere in the world, when I go there I sit
in front of the wall, and I don’t sit, I stand. And I’m almost there. Now you’re talking
about many years ago. And, yes, that person
still exists. And I’m grateful that
this person is not dead. But at the same time, I’m sort
of going back into the past. And, of course, part of me
feels a great deal of regret. And so, yes, I borrow
from myself. And I borrow from a lot of
what my friends tell me, because sometimes they give me
a story that’s so wonderful, I have to use it, and so on. But it’s me. And, yet, if you look at
the furniture in the room, you would say, “I don’t
recognize any of the furniture.” It’s just that I’ve moved
everything around significantly to the point where you won’t
even recognize what really happened and who did it. Ironically, once I write
something, it becomes real. And so sometimes it’s as
if I’ve had the experience, which I never had.>>Roswell Encina:
I feel like I’m you. People are living the book. I mean, people are
going to Italy doing –>>Andre Aciman: Yes.>>Roswell Encina: Doing
a tour of where “Call Me by Your Name” was set. The peach industry should
be thanking you, honestly. But — [ Laughter ] What are the craziest
responses have you been getting from readers?>>Andre Aciman: Oh, I get
all kinds of responses. And they’re wonderful
responses, because it tells me that the book has an effect
on people’s lives to the point where people will
tell me, “You know, I came out to my parents
thanks to your book. It gave me the courage.” And there are parents who
say, “Thanks to your book, I was able to address this
about my children,” or whatever. But there are also people who
are sort of significantly old, older than me, who write to
me and say, “You know what? I had this, and then it never — it disappeared because
my partner died,” or whatever, “and I miss it.” Or there are people who
say, “I’ve never had this. And now it’s too late.” And so you get — I get
the whole gamut of people. And it’s — it’s — it’s
— some of it is sad. A lot of it is joyful,
which is lovely. And some people say,
“You’ve given us the template for the kind of love
I want in my life.” So I guess I’m useful. So St. Valentine’s Day
should also be grateful. [ Laughter ]>>Roswell Encina: We have time
probably for two more questions. The gentleman right here.>>Thanks for stopping by. The book ends a certain way,
specifically in part four. I won’t go any more than that.>>Andre Aciman: Oh,
you’re the gentleman.>>Did you know that
from the beginning of how that was going to end –>>Andre Aciman: No.>>Or was it a journey
for you –>>Andre Aciman: No.>>In your writing?>>Andre Aciman: I never know
where I’m going with a story. I have no idea. I’m not the kind of
writer who knows. It would be much
better if I did know, because then the job
would be done faster. And, no, I always struggle. I was writing about a chapter in
Rome, which I love, and Paris, which I love, and New
York, which I love. And then I said, “Wait a second. You’re leaving out the most
important city of your life. Why don’t you go there?” And so I did. It’s the city where I was born,
which is Alexandria in Egypt. And I wanted the part
to be spent there. And for me, it was
writing about Egypt. Again, it goes back
to what I said before. When you write something,
you are back there. You are there. And for me, it was important because it was a
way of coming home. And I leave you to guess what
coming home also can mean. Make sense?>>Roswell Encina: Good job without giving it
away [inaudible].>>Andre Aciman: Ooh,
it’s so tempting.>>Roswell Encina: We’ll
do one more question.>>You use music so wonderfully
in your works to evoke –>>Andre Aciman: I’m
sorry, say that again.>>You use music so
wonderfully to evoke sensuality and emotion in your writings. And I was wondering if you could
leave us maybe with one piece that has that sort of
emotional significance in your life that’s really
evoked that sensuality for you.>>Andre Aciman: The
name of the piece?>>Roswell Encina: We
have a piano out here that we could pull
out, if you want to. [ Laughter ]>>Andre Aciman: If I had to
say, I would say it is a piece that I automatically found
again in “Band of Brothers.” For those of you who know, it’s
a part of the Beethoven Quartet in C-Sharp Minor 131
I think, Number 14. And it’s a very short piece. It only lasts about
two and a half minutes. But it’s an amazing
piece of music. And if you can’t find it,
look at “Band of Brothers.” You’ll find it. Because that part
always comes out.>>Roswell Encina: Andre,
we want to thank you.>>Andre Aciman: Oh, thank you.>>Roswell Encina: Welcome back
to the Library of Congress. We hope to see you back when
you write the third part or your next book. [ Laughter and Applause ]>>Andre Aciman: Thank you,
thank you so much, thank you. Roswell, thank you,
thank you so much.>>Roswell Encina:
[inaudible] thank you.

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