One man approached author Andre Aciman at a book signing and burst into tears. Another confessed that he had left his copy of Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name” on a plane, lest his wife realize that he had always been attracted to men.
Twelve years after its publication, the 2007 novel — and the swoon-inducing, 2017 film based upon it — continues to draw a response that Aciman holds tenderly.
“There are wonderful things and very moving things that tend to be very personal,” he said of his meetings with readers. “And I understand.”
So it’s no surprise that the book’s sequel, “Find Me,” has generated notable buzz, and a book tour that will bring Aciman to Seattle’s Central Library on Monday.
The book fulfills fans’ wishes for a reunion of Oliver and Elio, the two protagonists of “Call Me By Your Name.” Oliver is a handsome, 24-year-old doctoral student who arrives at a notable professor’s Italian villa for a summer of research work; and Elio is the professor’s gifted teenaged son.
They meet, they spend long, languid summer days talking, swimming and riding bikes, trying to avoid the inevitable: A love affair that is brief and intense, and that ends when summer does, and Oliver returns to the States and becomes engaged to a woman.
“Find Me” picks up years later, and opens with another life-changing encounter — this one for the professor and Elio’s father, Samuel Perlman. As the book continues, readers catch up with Elio, now an accomplished pianist, and Oliver, now a teacher, husband and father. Neither has ever forgotten the other.
Aciman wanted to capture that certain longing for a first love, which he believes most readers admit to themselves, but no one else.
“We all want to return to that person,” Aciman said. “And one of the reasons I am able to do this is that I tend to be candid and frank about what most feel.”
Aciman started writing “Find Me” well before the film version of “Call Me By Your Name” made Timothee Chalamet the youngest Academy Award nominee for Best Actor since 1939; won James Ivory an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay; and was nominated for both an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Picture.
“I was always trying to go back,” Aciman said of the book. “I loved the story, I loved the setting, I loved the family. I loved their love.
“I wanted to go back, and I have written many beginnings, but it wasn’t coming out right.”
Then Aciman encountered a woman (and her dog) on a train, headed to see her father: “As soon as she got off the train, I knew what I had to do,” he said. “I knew I had the story right there. Now, all I have to do, I just have to write it.”
He put professor Perlman on the train, headed to see his son, which allowed him “to bring Elio in from the wings, not directly, and tell the story.”
He wrote the book in 13 months at his apartment in Manhattan, where he teaches literary theory at the graduate center of City University of New York.
“I have written about so many places in Italy, and yet here I am on the West Side with nothing Italian at all,” he said with a laugh. “And I just imagine being in Italy instead. And if you let yourself go, your imagination is full of energy. And you go with it.”
It’s not clear whether the new book will be made into a movie. In March, the film site IMDB.com listed “Find Me” as the “untitled sequel to ‘Call Me By Your Name.'” Both Chalamet’s and Hammer’s credits list the movie as “announced.”
But for Aciman, it remains as much a mystery as love itself.
“There was talk of a film before the sequel came out, but now, nobody’s talking,” he said. “Maybe there is going to be a movie, maybe there won’t be. As a writer, you don’t have a say.
“We don’t know,” he said with a sigh. “We don’t know.”