André Aciman answers burning questions about the ending of Find Me
Warning: This article contains major spoilers about Find Me.
André Aciman didn’t always know that Elio and Oliver were going to end up together, but he did believe he was fated to write about Oliver again. After he published his best-selling novel Call Me By Your Name, which left readers wondering what the future held for the relationship between musician Elio and his older, often unrequited love, the author kept returning — unsuccessfully — to the same story. What he finally landed on is what we see in the new sequel, Find Me, which largely focuses on the budding romance between Elio’s father and a woman he meets on a train to Rome.
Find Me isn’t a sequel per se, as its timeline fits both between and after the years of Call Me By Your Name. But for all intents and purposes, it feels like an answer to the original title — an acknowledgement of every feeling readers were left with at the book’s ending. Here, Aciman explains to EW his inspirations for, and challenges with, writing the ending of Elio and Oliver’s love story.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A large part of Find Me feels as though it’s written in response to our collective questions post-Call Me By Your Name. What kind of reactions to the original book’s ending did you receive from readers, and how did that factor in to this story?
ANDRÉ ACIMAN: Most people who have written to me, I would say like 90 percent of them, they say that when they get to that last paragraph [of CMBYN], they start crying. I’m always saying, why are you crying? Well, because it’s the loss of love. I say no, it’s just that Elio is advocating in his mind how he’s going to say goodbye to Oliver. But it doesn’t mean that Oliver’s leaving. The way it’s written lets you think that this is exactly what’s going to happen. But I always end my books in a kind of conditional mood. So you don’t know if something is going to happen or it’s just sort of flitting through his mind. I was kind of thinking of that when I wrote Find Me. I was going to assume that Oliver is coming back.
There are parts of this book that could be interpreted as representative of either your point of view, or as trying to say something about love. Is there a certain message you want readers to take away from it?
I can’t predict what people will react to, because I don’t know how it’s going to be taken. And I don’t write with any kind of message or mission statement, that’s not me at all. The one thing I hope is that the thing that’s going to come out of this book is how honest every single person is with someone else. There’s a degree in which candor, and intimacy, is the most important thing that we can give to someone and take from someone.
[In this book] The son is intimate with his father, the son is intimate with Michel. It’s kind of obvious that relationship may not last very long, but they’re intimate. The same thing with the father and Miranda — everybody is extremely, extremely open. The only person who is only attempting to be open is Oliver: He’s open, telepathically, with Elio across the Atlantic ocean.
Did you always know that you wanted Samuel and Miranda to end up together, or did you consider writing it as just a fling on a train at any point?
It could have been a fleeting relationship, but both of them have enough experience to know that things don’t necessarily last — in her case especially. But there’s something compelling about their relationship because they find in each other something that they themselves don’t necessarily have. There’s a wonderful line that Miranda says to him, she says, “Everything that these men I’ve known have to offer I already have. And what they want, I don’t want to give them.” So there’s a sense of ill-balanced relationships throughout her life.
Many children of divorce would agree with me here, that it was surprising to read the multiple members of the extended family who wind up living in the house in Italy. It’s not often the old family would welcome the younger second wife and new son with open arms…
I wanted Miranda to not only stay in the family, but the mother, Samuel’s first wife. She comes back because she’s not well at all and she needs to live in the house — and so does Miranda. Also what I really wanted, and that gave me a great deal of pleasure as a writer, was to have a little boy called Oliver to be in the house. And to know exactly who he’s called after, to be the son of Sami, to be a kind of small brother to Elio, but also symbolically the son of Elio and Oliver.
It seldom works that way in families, but this is the kind of family I come from. Everybody’s welcome, everybody should stay together, we like each other. We can live together and we can take care of each other. That’s a very important thing that I’ve lived through and I’ve known in my own family, my childhood and etc. I come from a very big family, and I like the fact that people basically like each other. Nobody hates each other.
Place has always been very important to the story in your novels. Why did you choose these cities for Sami, Elio, and Oliver to be in this time around, and why was it important to have Elio and Oliver end up in Alexandria at the end?
As I was writing Find Me I knew the first chapter was going to be Italy, there’s no question. The place that I know the best in Italy is Rome, so I just made them go to Rome. The other place I know very well is Paris. And I like Paris in the winter, I don’t know why. All the chapters take place in November, by the way, this is something that I seeded into the book but it’s not that visible, it’s not that important. And then there’s New York. I love New York and placed it as a third chapter.
After I had written the third chapter, there’s one other city that means a great deal to me that I’ve lost and probably will never revisit. I want to go back to it, so I’ll go back to it on paper. It was Alexandria, where I was born. I come sort of full circle, I put Elio and Oliver in a city that means a great deal to me. And is also to me, the idea that fiction can give life. I go to literature to live something that I don’t have in my life, in this case going back to my birth city.
Call Me by Your Name