Books·My Life in Books

The books and writers that inspire Call Me By Your Name novelist André Aciman

The adaptation of Call Me By Your Name scored Academy Award nominations nominations for best picture, actor in a leading role, adapted screenplay and original song.
Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman's 2007 novel, has been adapted into a critically acclaimed film. (Courtesy of TIFF)

The coming-of-age romance Call Me By Your Name scored four Academy Award nominations. The film, which is based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, is nominated for best picture, actor in a leading role, adapted screenplay and original song.

CBC Books spoke to André Aciman about the books and writers who inspired his life and work.

The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

Children's author Enid Blyton penned the bestselling Famous Five series about a group of young detectives. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

"It was the first time that I read a book cover to cover and I was very proud of myself for doing that. I did not know that I could read a book... and it was a wonderful experience: 'Oh my God, I just finished a book! I can read a book!'

"I wanted the experience repeated so I went and bought the next book by her — and the next book — and devoured each one of them to the consternation of my father, who wanted me to read the classics. But he let me [read them] and eventually I moved up to better books and more serious books."

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

The Pickwick Papers was serialized in 1836-1837 and was responsible for launching the writing career of Charles Dickens. (Modern Library)

"I had no idea that The Pickwick Papers was a comedy. It's a very sad book at the same time, but it's also a big long romp. I enjoyed it tremendously. Like Shakespeare, Dickens had a comic streak in him that was very powerful."

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov was published in 1859. (Penguin Classics)

"Oblomov is a book that's about a very pathologically passive human being who can't even get himself to move from one room to the next because he's so lazy and possibly depressed. The whole book is depressing, but at the very end it really brought tears from my eyes. I don't think I ever cried again for a book after that. It was the saddest book I ever read. It was also one of the most accomplished books I've ever read.

"It was extremely smart. He's a brilliant writer; not just the plot but the self-examination that goes into the character as he examines his own, what he calls, Oblomovitis, which is a pathological laziness."

Katherine Mansfield

Originally from New Zealand, Katherine Mansfield was a celebrated short story writer in Britain until her untimely death in 1923 at the age of 34. (Keystone/Getty Images)

"I've always admired and loved Katherine Mansfield. Occasionally I will go back to her stories because there's something so direct and intelligent and perceptive in her prose. It shakes me up and it reminds me of what simple prose can achieve.

"Whenever I want to brace myself or give myself a cold shower, I will read Katherine Mansfield. I discovered her around my 15th birthday and sometimes reading her takes me back to that particular year of my life when I was in Italy."

Marcel Proust

French author Marcel Proust is pictured above sitting outside a window, circa 1910. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"Marcel Proust essentially told me it was OK to keep looking into your heart and your psyche because that's where we spend most of our time anyway."

The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) was the result of tensions between Athens and Sparta. Thucydides wrote about the catastrophic war using eyewitness accounts and documentary material. (Prometheus Books)

"The book that really told me that I had been missing out on something fundamental is a book of history called The History of the Peloponnesian War, which essentially educated me about — not just history politics and war — but also human idiocy and the terrible and tragic mistakes we make, not just as leaders but also as human beings."

La Princesse de Clèves by Madame de Lafayette

Published in 1678, La Princesse de Clèves is often described as "France's first modern novel." (Penguin Classics)

"I wrote Call Me By Your Name with La Princesse de Clèves in mind. Madame de Lafayette's book was written in 1678 and is about two individuals who fall in love with each other, but cannot speak about it because she is married. All they have is, essentially, eye contact. It is all there and yet they can't move and they don't want to because she doesn't want to be unfaithful. It's basically a tragic story."