48 pages 1 hour read

André Aciman

Call Me By Your Name

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2007

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Summary and Study Guide



Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman is a piece of literary fiction in the subgenres of romance literature and queer literature. Published in 2007, the novel became a bestseller, received positive critical reception, and won the 2008  Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction. The 2017 film adaptation of Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, won, among other accolades, the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

André Aciman is the author of a memoir and five novels, of which Call Me By Your Name is his debut. He published a sequel, Find Me, in 2019. Aciman was born and raised in Egypt, but his family left when he was a teenager due to rising tensions between Egypt and Israel. His family lived in Rome and Paris before moving to New York. His household spoke five languages including Italian and French, contributing to the multilingual nature of Aciman’s writing and as seen in Call Me By Your Name. He currently lives in New York City, where he teaches at CUNY Graduate Center.

This guide uses the 2011 Atlantic Books Kindle edition of Call Me By Your Name.

Plot Summary

The narrator, Elio, seeks out a memory of his first real love, which took place during the summer when he was 17 years old.

Elio grows up with intellectual parents who host a young scholar working on their manuscript each summer in their holiday home in B., Italy. Elio is instantly attracted to this summer’s scholar, a handsome 24-year-old American man named Oliver, who studies the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Elio is self-conscious around Oliver and hyper-aware of his American slang and casual mannerisms. Elio second-guesses everything he says or does around Oliver, whom he finds impossibly mature and glamorous. Elio pines for Oliver with deep passion; he becomes fixated on Chiara, a girl in town who Oliver dates briefly, and is envious of the time Oliver spends gambling or partying in town without him. Elio tries hard to keep what he believes is an obvious attraction to Oliver a secret. While playing tennis, Oliver briefly massages Elio’s shoulder, and Elio shoves him off, eager to hide his attraction.

Elio finally tells Oliver about his feelings, and Oliver admits that he has also wanted Elio for the entire summer. Oliver is hesitant, however, to start a sexual relationship because Oliver worries he won’t control himself. Elio has never been with a man before, but Oliver has. After Elio shows Oliver Monet’s berm, a spot nearby where it is said Monet used to paint, they kiss. This leads to sex, which Elio at first doesn’t enjoy because it makes him feel ashamed. But Oliver teaches Elio how to enjoy the sexual component of their relationship. They fall in love and explore one another’s personal and physical boundaries. Elio goes through a sexual awakening at this time. He continues to have sex with Marzia, a girl his age in town, while secretly having sex with Oliver. Elio remains unsatiated; he masturbates into a peach because the peach reminds him of Oliver. Oliver eats from this peach, showing Elio that there is nothing Elio can do to embarrass himself. Thus, Oliver and Elio are free to be at their most vulnerable with each other.

Intrinsic to this relationship and attraction is Elio’s sense that Oliver is more like Elio than Elio himself. There is a paradoxical component to their relationship, in which shame and pleasure are intertwined and identities are replicable and replaceable. An intimate sentiment they share is to call one another by their own names, demonstrating that their love makes them one and the same.

Oliver brings Elio with him on a short trip to Rome. They attend a book party with a gregarious group of literati, who invite them out barhopping. Elio loves the ambiance of this group and relishes the freedom of being with Oliver in public in Rome. But their time together is short-lived because Oliver must return to New York City for his job at Columbia University. Elio’s father, who knows about their relationship and fully supports it, encourages Elio to devote himself to taking risks for love.

Oliver and Elio keep in touch through phone calls and letters, but their long-distance relationship loses the passion of their summer heat. Oliver returns to Italy to visit over the holiday break, but his engagement and impending summer marriage stop him from restarting a sexual relationship with Elio.

Years go by, and Elio moves on to other lovers. Oliver gets married and has children. They live separate lives but occasionally stay in touch. Fifteen years after their summer together, Elio visits Oliver at his university when Elio happens to be in town. They rehash their past and agree that their love had been good. Oliver wants to introduce Elio to his family, but a part of Elio is still in love with Oliver, so he worries it’ll be too much for him to meet Oliver’s wife and kids.

Five years later, Oliver visits B. again. Elio and Oliver walk to their past haunts, and Elio hopes that their relationship meant as much to Oliver as it did to him.