André Aciman may very well be our finest writer on the states of desire and longing. His 2007 novel, Call Me by Your Name, was a brilliant dispatch from the shores of young, ravenous love, and his latest novel, Enigma Variations (FSG), picks up that theme and then modulates it in five separate but interlinked stories about the onset romantic infatuation. Aciman’s protagonist, Paul, isn’t bound by gender, age, country, or even monogamy, and I hesitate to call Enigma Variations a romance because the layered, conflicting, unpoliced emotions explored therein couldn’t fit inside such a tidy genre. Instead, through gorgeous prose—the author compares a man applying oil to wood to someone “washing the back of a wounded soldier”—Aciman offers us a window into that total, supernatural hold that one person can impose over the body and mind of another. I suppose this novel could be called a passion.
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