Entertainment » Books

Enigma Variations

by Christopher Verleger
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jan 9, 2018
Enigma Variations

In "Call Me By Your Name," the beautiful coming of age novel adapted for the film that is now generating Oscar buzz, author André Aciman examined what could easily have been viewed as a routine schoolboy crush but was, in turn, an awakening of senses and an inherent expression of love.

His latest work, "Enigma Variations," now available in paperback, resembles "Call Me By Your Name" in that the protagonist discovers impenetrable desire at a young age. Throughout his life, the haunted and seemingly tormented Paul longs for multiple partners of both sexes, some of whom he admires from afar and only in his own imagination.

The author follows Paul throughout five intertwined segments that are light on plot but heavy on the thought process of one individual whose attractions become intrusive obsessions. While the entries are not equally profound, each features Aciman's trademark melodic prose and conscientious attention to detail, as well as eleventh-hour plot twists that you won't see coming and may not accept easily. Nevertheless, the collective result makes for a remarkably poignant albeit occasionally maddening read.

The introductory chapter, "First Love," where a teenage Paul becomes infatuated with a cabinetmaker ten years his senior, leaves the most lasting impression on both the reader and the narrator. It effectively sets the tone for his mindset, because he never truly recovers from that adolescent experience.

As Paul matures (at least in age), he has relationships with women, including a college chum who reappears intermittently and unexpectedly. He also forges a friendship with a gay man whom he lusts after, and apparently, the attraction is mutual. The last and least convincing story has Paul supposedly yearning for a much younger woman who appreciates him for his intellect and more as a friend.

The illustrious venues include a New England college campus, Greenwich Village, an elite Manhattan dinner party and an exotic Italian island. Regardless of where the incorrigibly cultured Paul finds himself, Aciman reminds us how one simple word or look from the right (or wrong) individual can be immeasurably significant and even life-changing.

"Enigma Variations"
By André Aciman

Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.


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