Back in 2017, I wrote about my experience rereading A Lua De Joana – a favourite of mine when I was a teenager – as an adult.
At the time it was not a good experience. I’ve changed a lot across the years, and I like to think that I have become a more tolerant, open-minded person, so a lot of the main character’s personality traits fell short with me. I had gone from someone who could relate with Joana, to someone who thought she was rather judgmental and extremely self-assured when there was so much she had no idea of. Of course, Joana remained a teenager, and while I can understand what teenagers are going through and empathise with them, because they are still learning how to be a person (and so many teenagers are kinder than full-grown adults), some of Joana’s actions were directly related to her immaturity, and that really made me consider the person I’ve been across the years.
In having reread that book, I ruined my relationship with it.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were choosing what to watch during dinner and we settled for Call Me By Your Name, since he had never seen it, and I was longing for that summertime feeling and a bit of Italian beauty.
I’d read the book for the first time right after the movie came out because everyone was talking about it, and I’m always down for a love story, especially a queer one. I loved everything about it; for someone who really dislikes stream of consciousness, it somehow worked with this book. I felt the aches, the desperation, the infatuation, the insecurity that comes with having a crush on someone and yet harbouring some senseless feelings of hate for them too because you don’t know what their feelings for you are, and Elio’s ramblings encapsulated all of that so well.
At the time I didn’t even consider the age difference, and I can’t even remember if I paid attention to their ages at all: to me, they were two young people falling in love.
I watched the movie later, which only cemented my love for the book. But this was in 2017. From then till now, two important things have happened: I’ve read a lot of discourse surrounding the age difference in Call Me By Your Name, which made me consider my own views on consent and power dynamics in relationships, and André Aciman came out with that terrible interview for a Spanish magazine revealing he felt attracted to 12-year-old girls.
When I sat down to watch Call Me By Your Name, something about the movie felt off, so much so that we ended up turning it off after the volleyball scene, when Oliver rubs Elio’s shoulder. A scene that before had seemed intense and a reason for some good old screeching, now seemed to me extremely predatory and inappropriate.
Of course, all the rumours surrounding Armie Hammer, who plays Oliver, didn’t help the case. There were just too many problematics outside the art for me to focus solely on the art.
Another strange thing that happened was when I picked up the sequel to Call Me By Your Name, Find Me, and this before I had heard any rumours or interviews concerning the book or movie.
I preordered it because I was so eager to learn more about Elio and Oliver’s story, but as I picked up the book and started reading the first chapter, a creeping feeling started to dawn on me. Find Me begins with an older man on a train, who spots a much younger girl. They start chatting, and all the while I felt extremely uncomfortable with the male gaze falling upon that woman. Age differences never really bothered me before, especially in literature, but the main male character felt a bit too much like self-insertion, the delusions of an old man trying to recapture his youth by being desired by a much younger woman. It just did not sit well with me. After learning what I’ve learned about the author, I don’t think I can get back to the book, nor am I sure I want to.
Under these circumstances, I have decided I am not picking up Call Me By Your Name again. I can leave my recollections of the book as they are, independently of what happens with the author. If I don’t touch it again, maybe I’ll still be able to hold it dear in my heart.
There’s a Portuguese saying that goes like this: never return to the places where you were once happy, and I’d usually disagree vehemently with it. In this case, I do make an exception.
Some places you were happy in are worth not returning to, if only to save the sweet memory you keep of them untouched.
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