Enigma Variations: Book summary and reviews of Enigma Variations by André Aciman

Enigma Variations

A Novel

by André Aciman

Enigma Variations by André Aciman
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2017
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A passionate portrait of love's contradictory power, in five illuminating stories

Andre Aciman, who has been called "the most exciting new fiction writer of the twenty-first century" (New York Magazine), has written a novel in Enigma Variations that charts the life of Paul whose loves remain as consuming and covetous throughout adulthood as they were in adolescence. Whether in southern Italy, where as a boy he has a crush on his parents' cabinet maker, or on a snowbound campus in New England, where his enduring passion for a girl he'll meet again and again over the years is punctuated by anonymous encounters with men; on a tennis court in Central Park, or a sidewalk in early spring New York, his attachments are ungraspable, transient and forever underwritten by raw desire--not for just one person's body but, inevitably, for someone else's as well.

In mapping the most inscrutable corners of desire, Aciman proves to be an unsparing reader of the human psyche and a master stylist of contemporary literature. With language at once lyrical, bare-knuckled, and unabashedly candid, he casts a sensuous, shimmering light over each facet of desire to probe how we ache, want, and waver, and ultimately how we sometimes falter and let go of those who may want only to offer what we crave from them. Behind every step the hero takes, his hopes, denials, fears, and regrets are always ready to lay their traps. Yet the dream of love always casts its luminous halo. We may not always know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and others. But sooner or later we discover who we've always known we were.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Resorting occasionally to belabored and repetitive language, Aciman ... nevertheless portrays Paul convincingly as a sensuous and self-aware figure, forever treading the border between melodrama and tragedy. " - Publishers Weekly

"[Aciman's] sophisticated and erudite novel is constructed of chapters that feel like interlocking stories. Despite the plot's sexual feints and infidelities, the tone is curiously humorless." - Library Journal

"An eminently adult look at desire and attachment, with all the usual regrets and then some—but also with the knowledge that such regret 'is easy enough to live down.'" - Kirkus Reviews

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André Aciman is the author of Eight White Nights, Call Me by Your Name, Out of Egypt, False Papers, Alibis, and Harvard Square, and is the editor of The Proust Project. He teaches comparative literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He lives with his wife in Manhattan.

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