Reviewing “Call Me by Your Name”

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One hour, Elio is on cloud nine – eying the stranger’s shadow from his French window, eagerly awaiting for whatever is either going to destroy his life, or redeem it. The next, he’s in a place of torment. His conscious is filled with shame and self-disgust and he doesn’t understand how he can even allow himself for having these feelings. 
This is just one of the many rollercoaster-emotions that André Aciman’s main character; Elio has to go through in the duration of Oliver’s summer-stay in his parents Italian residence. But do we ever get to the bottom of his frustration? Is there any closure between them? Are the feelings reciprocated or was it all just a strange illusion of a dream? 

These were my questions ten pages into the book. I was hooked, frantic, steamed up. I had to find out how all this would end. Yet, to my astonishing surprise … the further I came to the finish-line, the more I found myself lost in confusion. And towards the last paragraph, nothing. They had shared their love and intimacy alright. Years had passed. Wounds had healed. They met again. But wasn’t there even a dramatic declaration in the end? A solid denouement that would put both their agonies at peace? 

In order to resolve my inner conflict, I decided I had to make a review on this book. It’s the only way possible for me to pick up the pieces, investigate the area and glue them back together again. So let’s just get on with it!

Beginning, middle and end 

The beginning is narrated with a firm directness. It is clear for everyone that the author does not care to mystify Elio’s enchantments for his father’s new student. In other words, no slow introduction. No beating around the bush: 

“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. Suddenly he’s shaking my hand, handing me his backpack, removing his suitcase from the trunk of the cab, asking if my father is home. 

It might have started right there and then. 

(p. 1)

I think what the author is trying tell you (the reader) by these opening lines, is merely this: The story is all about the analysis of one person; Oliver. From beginning to end. How he is, how he behaves, how his every move, word and encounter is analysed and observed through the eyes of Elio. It’s all about Elio’s perception of Oliver; a recurrent theme which never changes throughout the course of the novel. 

Middle: They are still walking around in the beautiful casa, reading, transcribing music, writing on manuscripts, swimming, casually chatting about philosophers and musicians, reciting their words – everything is normal. Yet, so much is different. They have been taking trips together to the lake. Elio has been showing him around. An innocent eye-contact has turned into a passionate kiss on the beach. A modest “care to join me to town” has turned into “We shouldn’t go further than this…”. What are they doing now, and how are they going to put an end to their mutual attraction? 

Before I dive into my analysis on the subject – Elio is perfectly aware of his parents liberal world-view. He knows that they would have nothing against him forming an attachment with another man. As a matter of fact, they seem to like Oliver very much, and they are constantly encouraging their son to spend more time with him. Yet, Elio himself cannot help but see the shamefulness and pure distaste in the feelings he’s having. He wants him, yet he doesn’t. He feels a huge disappointment every time he doesn’t meet up for dinner, but he also loves Marcia’s (his girlfriend at the time) smell, her smile, her lips. One day, he only wants to be with her. The other, with Oliver. Does he ever make up his mind? Is it women or men that he’s attracted to? Maybe both? Still, I’m confused, but – I’m only in the middle of the book, after all … 

Ending: These conflicting feelings seem to dissolve a bit towards the end, when the reader realises that it is only Oliver, Elio wants. Perhaps he was just trying to persuade his own mind to want Marcia this whole time. And by the time they go to Rome together – alone, he’s given up everything called shame and remorse. It is Oliver he likes to be with, hold hands with, sleep next to. In a way, it’s nowhere near a normal kind of love. Elio loves Oliver because Oliver is just like Elio. In a way, when looking at Oliver, he feels as though he’s looking at himself. Was it the love for himself that he was experiencing this whole time? Had it noting to do with Oliver, but everything to do with himself?

“… it would finally dawn on us both that he was more me than I had ever been myself, because when he became me and I became him in bed so many years ago, he was and would forever remain, long after every forked road in life had done its work, my brother, my friend, my father, my son, my husband, my lover, myself.”

(p. 243) 

I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what this actually means, but my ultimate conclusion is that Elio was looking for himself during his 17th year (which isn’t an unfamiliar thing, considering that it happens to most kids that age)  – and found who he wanted to be, through Oliver. In other words, the discovery of himself must have been a feeling so strong, that it was (perhaps) mistaken for being love. Now, I’m sure they were attracted to each other and the interest was definitely there – however, it’s not an abnormal thing that teenagers feel love much more strongly than most grownups. It’s because they’re encountering a very impressionable age; they have not yet found their purpose in life and they’re confused about their own values and principles. And when they meet this one person (in this case, Oliver) who makes them think; That’s who I want to be! – then of course, they’ll end up admiring this possible version of themselves so much that they’ll eventually become crazy in love! (or think, they have become crazy in love) Which is what suspect, happened to Elio. 

Towards the ending, the story fast-forwards twenty years into the future, and by then, Oliver is already married and settled. They meet again, they share their memories, but strangely enough, they don’t go back to where they initially were. In fact, they even hesitate to talk about it. Suddenly, it seems like their fling during the summer was just a dream within a dream – something which had happened in their minds, but not taken place in reality. I don’t know the actual truth. But the ending goes like this: 

“He looked at me and smiled. It cheered me. Perhaps because I knew he was taunting me. Twenty years was yesterday, and yesterday was earlier this morning, and morning seemed light-years away. “I’m like you” he said. “I remember everything.” I stopped for a second. If you remember everything, I wanted to say, and if you are really like me, then before you leave tomorrow, or when you’re just ready to shut the door of the taxi and have already said goodbye to everyone else and theres not a thing left to say in this life, then, just this once, turn to me, even in jest, or as an afterthought, which would have meant everything to me when we were together, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.”

Elio remembered everything. But do we ever really get to know Oliver’s point of view? No. We don’t. So wether or not this was an imagined dream, we can never know. Perhaps in the continuation – if there is going to be one …? 

The tone

First person; Elio. Narrative.

I like the author’s voice. The words, the obvious, yet exceptionally vague undertone in every sentence makes you so hooked that in the end, you find yourself enslaved to the book – need to read it all the time, you need to repeat every sentence in your head at least twice – because the prose is so subtle and poetic. No complains about the prose. The author handles it very well, and I respect him a great deal for that. 

 

The theme 

Romance and internal conflict are the two things that come into my head, at once. But then theres also a lot of fine prose in there too … hmmm … I think I would go for … A psychological romance in the form of a beautiful prose. 

 

Criticism 

I must admit, even though I fell in love with this book – there was something which I feel could have been left out; The sex-scenes. Don’t get me wrong. Erotism can be very exiting in a novel. It usually spices things up a notch and gets the reader even more hooked to the story. However, when reading this book, I felt that the love between them was so strong, passionate and confusing ALREADY – so the sex-scenes ended up becoming superfluous. Also, I think the story would’ve been much more mysterious, complex and romantic if they had never shared anything intimately. A whole, undiscovered world would’ve stayed in Elio’s imagination. There would’ve been a sincere, platonic love between them – something which is, in my opinion, the most romantic feeling of them all! At the same time, I feel like the ending reveals that there was in fact, first and foremost, a major admiration that Elio had for Oliver. It wasn’t sexual at all. In other words, it wasn’t eros, but … pure, legitimate, unconditional love. Like a brother to a brother, a mother to a child, a father to a son. If it were me, I wouldn’t have included a sex-scene. Maybe, only maybe … a kiss, but nothing more. Mysticism is always great! 

Recommendation 

Anyone. No matter the age group. But maybe especially teenagers and people in their early 20s … 

Dice (1-6) 

Had it not been for the sex-scenes (which were very well written, but I feel like it interrupted the plot) I would’ve given this book a 6, without hesitation. Because I love the prose and I love the confusing open-to-interpretation-ending. But .. sadly, I have  to be true to myself. I give it a 5. 

 

Hope you enjoyed my review, and comment down below if you would like to add your opinion♥

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reviewing “The World of Yesterday”

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Stefan Zweig (1881-1942).

He was a poet, he was a novelist, a dramatist and a nomade. But first and foremost, he was a hopeless romantic; Like one of those academics who enjoys every single second of the mere beauty of just living. He treasured each traveling-experiences. He adored his friends and schoolmates. On the whole, you could say that he never took anything for granted. Yet, life failed him immensely during his last years on earth. Friends, politicians, the development of the culture, the aesthetics, the government, the hopeless future of Europe – it all hit him so hard, that in the end, despite all of the things he had worked towards, despite all of the values and ideals which he had hoped to transform into reality – he found himself better off leaving this world, than to stay in it. On 23 of February 1942, Stefan Zweig and his wife were found dead, after intentionally having swallowed an overdose of barbiturate. They were lying in their bed in the city  of Petrópolis, holding hands. Finally, they were in a better place. 

So how could his view on Europe have changed so drastically? How could death be a better solution than to continue living in the 20th century? Zweig claimed that it was the big contrast between the world before the war and the precent world (as in the 1940s) which eventually lead to his Great Depression. Still, I had my doubts. There has to be another reason! I thought. Thus, I began reading his memoir and last published book; “The World of Yesterday” … 

 

Beginning, middle and end 

The beginning is wonderful. The world seems rich of both good and evil, full of possibilities, full of poverty, diseases, crime and anxiety – yet, shockingly alive and heated with young, enthusiastic youths, ready to dive into knowledge and later, conquer the world with their heroism. 

Towards the middle of the book, Zweig starts narrating the pre- and postwar times, which evidently sets the mood down to a more melancholic place. More and more, he’s witnessing the world he loved so dearly, fall and dissolve into ashes. And as a result of this, his nationalism for Vienna grows, his values and principles are strengthened and his nostalgia of the past feels like a time he hopes to, but knows he can never regain. Change is happening all around him. People are more emotional about small matters that seemed ridiculous, even childish before the war. Trust and loyalty  becomes only a concept – not a sincere action, like during the old schooldays. In short, the whole memoir starts going downhill in atmosphere. Beautiful, enthusiastic descriptions about crossing borders without a passport turn into mournful anthems about a lost kingdom and a fallen unity. 

In the end, I had already anticipated what was to come; Some dreadful last sentences about it all being lost and how it would take an everlasting time to be able to rebuild it again. Yet, I couldn’t help but seeing the very discrete, underlying optimism behind his words. In the end of his last page, he writes: 

“And I knew that yet again all the past was over, all achievements were as nothing – our own native Europe, for which we had lived, was destroyed, and the destruction would last long after our own lives. Something else was beginning, a new time, and who knew how many hells and purgatories we still had to go through to reach it? The sunlight was full and strong. As I walked home, I suddenly saw my own shadow going ahead of me, just as I had seen the shadow of the last war behind this one. That shadow had never left me all this time, it lay over my mind day and night. Perhaps its dark outline also lies over these pages of this book. But in the last resort, every shadow is also the child of light, and only those who have known the light and the dark, have seen war and peace, rise and fall, have truly lived their lives.”

True, the beginning of this paragraph is highly depressing, BUT – towards the end of it, the mood switches. For example, when he writes “But in the last resort, every shadow is also the child of light” he is basically saying that the fall of the West could be a beginning of something great – a reaction might come, probably not before a hundred or more years have passed, but some time it WILL COME! 

Then theres yet another ray of sunshine to be found in his last sentence, “and only those who have known the light and the dark, have seen war and peace, rise and fall, have truly lived their lives” – in which he is abruptly implying that everyone who comes after him, basically anyone in our generation has not yet lived. But Zweig did. He experienced the horrors of a fallen kingdom, the death of his relatives and friends …

In the end (after a lot of debating with myself) I came to the conclusion that this is why he killed himself – because he had already lived a fulfilled, experienced life. How many more horrors did he have to face in order to feel alive? None! 

His underlying optimism made me understand the reason to why he chose death. A contradiction I know – but, it also makes a lot of sense. He had nothing more to give to this world, nor had he anything to gain from it. He had written his memoir. He had told the public what they needed to hear. The world had changed, but it hadn’t changed with him. Zweig was still living in the optimism of the 19th century. His body was in the 1940s, but his mind was somewhere else. And when time flies you by, and theres no possible way for you to fly away with it, then the only solution would be, to enter another dimension, namely the kingdom of death. 

I do not blame Mr. Zweig for doing what he did. In fact, I think it’s the only solution he was granted at the time. Because after all, the solution of death is granted to you everyday, every morning when you wake up, it’s there, calling your name, asking you if its a yes or a no. You could just grab your racer or your kitschen-knife and juts get it over with. Instead, you wait. You wait for death to choose you. Why? Because you still have so much to offer to the world. To yourself, to your loved once, and maybe also to the mass of people around you. Zweig had already accomplished these things. Therefor, he said yes to the overdose of barbiturate, and he offered his wife to join him to a better place. 

The tone

First person. Very descriptive. Highly reflective. One would say that his tone changes from a light summer-breeze to a dark melancholia towards the end – but in my opinion, despite all the nice things he has to say about his early twenties and thirties in the beginning of the memoir, it’s still narrated in a slightly heavy-hearted tone, as in him saying directly to the reader; I know that it’s wonderful now, but you just wait and see, it will get worse and you will understand why I decided to kill myself! 

For me, every word, every single sentence in his entire work is written with the feeling of a strong, wistful nostalgia – a longing from his heart, a grave loss in which he will never allow himself to recover from. 

The theme 

Nostalgia. It’s the only word I can come up with. And no, I wouldn’t say biography, drama, political piece, historical piece or tragedy. To me, the theme is pure nostalgia. No more, no less. 

Recommendation 

I would recommend this book to anyone in their teens or older. Wether or not you’re interested in history, this book is more than just recalling of past events. It’s deeply emotional and his words will resonate with everyone. 

Dice (1-6) 

I give it a 5. 

 

That was it for today! Do tell me if you liked this, if you shared my thoughts or if you think I should make more of these reviews! And know that I always appreciate your suggestions – because you guys are what keeps me going! Until next time … 

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourites in literature

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Someone asked me to list down all my favourites, including authors, poets, books, poems, quotes, genre, writing place etc. So I’ll just get straight to business and do it! I hope you guys enjoy♥


Authors 

  •  Jane Austen 
  • Stefan Zweig 
  • Kazuo Ishiguro 

Poets 

  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Edgar Allan Poe 
  • Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe 

Books 

  • “The Royal Game” (Stefan Zweig) 
  • “Persuasion” (Jane Austen)
  • “Victoria” (Knut Hamsund)

Poems 

  • “A Dream Within a Dream” (Edgar Allan Poe) 
  • “In my head” (Ernest Hemingway) 
  • “We’re Waiting for Tomorrow” (Ernest Hemingway)

Quotes 

  • “I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”           – F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” – Charlie Chaplin

  • “There are some games you don’t get to play unless you’re all in. And the thing that’s so interesting about being alive is that you are all in. This is gonna kill you. So I think you might as well play the most magnificent game you can while you’re waiting, because… do you have anything better to do?” – Jordan Peterson 

Genres in writing 

  • Magical realism 
  • Metafiction 
  • Dramatic and romantic fiction 

 

Writing spots 

  • In my office, which is in an atelier at the moment (love that combination)
  • At a train 
  • Any local library 

 

Music while writing 

(I don’t always do this, because it can be a distraction, but at times – it can be really helpful and fun! 

  • Soundtracks by Hans Zimmer 
  • Soundtracks by Max Richter 
  • Soundtracks by Nicole Portman

 

Current obsessions  

  • Ernest Hemingway’s poems!
  • Reading my own writing (I know, I should be reading a book at the moment, but sometimes I get stuck in a project) 
  • Poetry in general ( More and more, I’m starting to find the amusement in reading poems – something I couldn’t find before when I refused to read anything else but fiction. However, now I’m starting to love this literature-form, I might even make a blogpost about it soon!) 

 

Favourite inspiration (apart from books and poems) 

  • Philosophical discussions with a group of people 
  • Traveling to a new place 
  • A midnight-conversation with my best friend 

I guess I’ll wrap it up here! 

I hope you all liked this post –  and by the way, I am thinking of posting a review of the books I’ve read recently. Tell me which one you would like me to review, and I’ll do it♥ The three choices are:

  • “The World of Yesterday” by Stefan Zweig
  • “Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse 
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe 

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Looking forward to hearing your answers!

Love, 

Aftur S. Nerdrum 

 

 

The things we stay alive for

 

 

People who show you to beautiful music and good novels 

The first cup of coffee in the morning

Smelling a new book 

An inspiring teacher 

 A game of chess and a bottle of whisky with an old friend

A newborn neoclassical-styled building in your era

 A real-life Rembrandt painting

That first glass of wine at the end of a tough working-day 

Waking up at 5am to see the sunrise 

A thought provoking quote 

 Learning how to play your favourite instrument

A poem that touches your soul 

A midnight-stroll in a narrow, cobbled street in an ancient town,            together with your love 

Laughing out loud about something you just read in a book 

Late-night conversations about everything and nothing 

A full hour of experiencing the “flow” in your creative work

 

Doesn’t all this sound wonderful? And guess what – Social Media is not included in any of these suggestions! 

Why reading has helped me understand this 

One of the biggest reasons why I read – is not because I want to intellectualise my mind. It’s not because I want to improve my eyesight and it’s not because my life is so boring that I feel the urge to live through somebody else’s.

It’s because by reading – I get reminded on the fact that everyone is more or less, the same. We are all aiming for the same thing. We are all struggling with the same problems. Getting recognition from the outer world is something that we all crave. We would all rather talk about our own problems than to indulge into others. We would rather do the thing that is convenient for us, than the thing that’s convenient for our neighbour. 

But we also thrive on beauty.

We become happy by discipline.  

And even happier by breaking that discipline just a little bit, every once in a while – so that we can do the things mentioned in the list above. 

Because after all – isn’t that the very essence of a beautiful life? The small things we usually take for granted? 

They are things that dont really require much out of you. In fact, some of them might even be included in your daily routine. You probably just never stopped to notice how great they actually are …? 

Wasn’t  Mr. Keating right, after all? 

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There is a quote by the American novelist and poet, Jack Kerouac which goes: 


the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”


Jack was right in so many ways. Don’t we all wish to spend our time with people who lifts us up, not down? People who crave interaction, music, poetry and the exchanging of exciting new ideas. 

But why are these people so hard to find today? 

Could it be that the youngsters today are just too fed up with all kinds of stimulation from Social Media on the internet? 

Has our generation failed to appreciate the beautiful, little things? 

The other day, I was reading in a book called; “Love Letters” – a cute little selection of romantic declarations exchanged between famous people and their lovers of the past, including Oscar Wilde, Scott Fitz Gerald, Napoléon Bonaparte and Mozart. 

When reading some of these letters, I came to the conclusion that these people were much more passionate about everything! 

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“I look down the tracks and see you coming – and out of every haze and mist your darling rumpled trousers are hurrying to me – Without you, dearest dearest I couldn’t see or hear or feel or think – or live – I love you so and I’m never in all our lives going to let us be apart another night.”

– Zelda Fitzgerald to Scott Fitzgerald 

 

You can buy this book here 

So how do we change this? How can we make people fall in love again – with the mere beauty of our everyday existence? 

 

What Social Media does to your brain 

According to Billi Gordon, a Ph.D doctor and psychologist – The Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) of the brain monitors social needs by releases dopamine when we achieve social success and inspiring neurochemical deficits when we don’t. Tragically, social media is not the VTA’s friend.

The physiological cues that the VTA uses to determine social status from negative social media experiences are the same as those occurring in our ancestor’s brains when the tribe banished them. In other words; Not getting enough likes on Facebook or Instagram can be compared to the feeling that one of your ancestors got when being left alone with wild animals in the desert. 

Crazy right? 

Not really. When you think about it, the correlation makes a lot of sense. I can see people stressing about Social Media all around me. I see my friends slowly loosing grip of reality and the simple beauties of life, because of being too much on their phone. 

It is corrupting our minds everyday, making us weaker, dumber and far less excited about life. And we know it. Still, we continue feedings our brain with it, as if the thing that we’re holding in our hands (the iPhone) is the one in control. Not us.

Why do we hold on to it so much? 

The answer is quite simple. It’s because letting go of something that you were so used to pick up and play with when feeling bored or sad – is of course, extremely difficult. 

How about, every time you feel the urge to pick it up – you do one of the things listed above, instead? Or just do something productive with that free time of yours, like drawing or reading.

See what it does to you. Recognise the changes in your mood. 

Because these are the things we stay alive for; poetry, beauty, creativity, romance, love. Not Social Media. Instagram and Facebook can be great. But they should not determine wether or not your life is great today. You should be the judge of that.

 

Aftur S. Nerdrum