Aciman’s short story collection Enigma Variations title comes from Edward Elgar’s piece called Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36 (1898), better known as Enigma Variations. I wasn’t aware of this connection until I finished the book and googled the title. I’ve spent about 40 minutes listening to Elgar’s piece and I just love it! It’s so beautiful!
I honestly don’t wish to butcher the synopsis of this short story collection so I’ll post the synopsis I found on Goodreads: “From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. Paul’s intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that ‘heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down’.” I feel like this synopsis sums up the book wonderfully and if I tried to do it I’d ruin its magic.
Enigma Variations consists of five short stories dealing with love, loss, infatuation and more. Aciman has the ability to masterfully showcase human emotion through words. In reading Call Me by Your Name I’ve noticed that Aciman’s so skilled in entering the human psyche and making the reader infatuated with words they’re reading. Although his stories are often sad Aciman writes with such precision that it feels as if he’s softening the ‘blow’. I have to say that the first two stories were my favourite because I loved Aciman’s writing in them the most and the way he described the village as well as the tennis court were perfection to me! By reading this review you’ve probably guessed that I adore Aciman’s writing style and the way he has with words so I’ll bore you no more with that. If I dive deeper into the analysis of each story I feel like I’ll ruin it for future readers so I won’t be sharing anything further but I have to say that Enigma Variations was a phenomenal read where although each story has about 50 (or more) pages it contains everything that satisfies the reader – from wonderful writing to a brilliantly crafted main character.
Fans of Aciman will definitely enjoy reading this short story collection and even if you’re not familiar with Aciman, you’ll fall in love with his writing in Enigma Variations.
Many thanks to the publisher Faber&Faber for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got the book from the publisher.
**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.
André Aciman was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist, and scholar of seventeenth-century literature. He has also written many essays and reviews on Marcel Proust. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Condé Nast Traveler as well as in many volumes of The Best American Essays. Aciman received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, has taught at Princeton and Bard and is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at The CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently chair of the Ph. D. Program in Comparative Literature and founder and director of The Writers’ Institute at the Graduate Center.