Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Eight White Nights by André Aciman (4/5)

The back says: Eight White Nights is an unforgettable journey through that enchanted terrain where passion, fear, and the sheer craving for love and to show love can alter who we are. A man in his late twenties attends a large Christmas party in Manhattan, where a woman introduces herself with three words: “I am Clara.” Over the following seven days, they meet every evening at the same cinema. Overwhelmed yet cautious, he treads softly and won’t hazard a move. The tension between them builds gradually, marked by ambivalence, hope and distrust. As André Aciman explores their emotions with uncompromising accuracy and sensuous prose, they move both closer together and further apart, culminating in a final scene on New Year’s Eve charged with magic and the promise of renewal.

I say: I can’t even know what to say about this… Or, well, actually I can, I just really don’t want to, but will anyway. The truth of the matter is that I’m disappointed.

Very much so.

And yet, at the same time, I’m not. If this had been a novel by anybody else, I’d have loved it. But because it’s by Aciman, who wrote my favourite book, Call Me By Your Name, I’m disappointed. Maybe this is unfair on my part, but I just expected so much and even though I was given a whole lot,

I wanted everything.

Here’s the thing; Aciman’s prose is so ridiculously beautiful I found myself clutching my heart and gasping (yes, I actually do those things) throughout the novel. His way with words; the way he dissects an emotion/event/place with such stupefying splendour and presents it without any airs is so beyond anything I’ve ever encountered outside poetry, I simply cannot get over it - or get enough of it. He notices things about life that he unpretentiously offers in such a way that it feels like he’s saying “this is the way things are, how could you not have noticed it before?” Like this:

I’d never spoken about him. Would I remember to think of him again on our way back? Or would I choose to hate myself for burying him with a second death, the death of silence and shame, which I already knew was a crime against me, not him, against truth, not love. The wages of grief are paid in large bills and, later, in loose change; those of silence and shame no loanshark will touch. – p 150

I am in literary love with him.

The reason why I was disappointed by this is because I didn’t really like the two main characters, the nameless narrator and Clara. At first I found them intriguing, especially Clara, then I found her to be obnoxious and conceited while he was still nice, and once she became likeable, he started annoying me. There was just so much game playing going on between them, and the neurosis going on inside his head really got annoying at one point – even for him (without giving away any of the plot) – it was exhausting.

Just be natural, a voice said.
Which is what?
Be yourself.
Being myself was like asking a mask to mimic a face that’s never been without masks. How do you play the part of someone trying not to play parts? – p 167

There was just too much of that in the book for my liking. And then, unfortunately, I didn’t like the end, but that’s because I like books to end a certain way and if they don’t, I get all disappointed.

So yeah, 4/5 is the most I can give this while I sit here hoping that Aciman will continue to write for all eternity. Or at least for as long as I live. That’s not too much to ask. It really isn't.

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