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'.
André Aciman casts a 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 the very ones we want the most. We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we've always known we were.
A worthy successor to Aciman's Call Me By Your Name. It is a thing of beauty. taking simple words, everyday words, and transforming them into something new, into something that seems stolen from another language, something that translates that which had heretofore been untranslatable. (New York Journal of Books)
Aciman's description of love is devastatingly, excruciatingly real. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
This poetic novel charts rich emotional terrain that plumbs not only the depths of protagonist Paul's inner world, but also the many enigmatic expressions of love. Engima Variations is a trove of Proustian energies: the influence of memory, the anxiety around mothers, the sensual pleasure of smell and sight, themes which all enrich Aciman's already masterful and probing exegesis on love and longing. (LAMBDA)
Progress through Enigma Variations, André Aciman's fourth novel, is best calculated not by the number of pages read, but by the strength of readerly connection with the narrator. The project is one of recognition and revelation within the reader: the book wants nothing less than the dissolution of your consciousness into its pixellated moments of psychological precision.. Loneliness, fear of shame, unrequited love light these pages.. We go with him the way we go with Anton Chekhov's characters, enmeshed in the humanness of the drama. (The Millions)
You don't so much read André Aciman's novels as tumble breathlessly into them . . . Enigma Variations, an intoxicating, rueful tale of one man's life in love as he tries to determine which - if any - melody line will prove dominant . . . Aciman is a precise and sympathetic chronicler of the hopelessly infatuated . . . his extended, fervid sentences cunningly tuck away truths that become apparent only later in the narrative, reflecting the games we play to protect ourselves from our conflicted desires
'It's a spellbinding novel, which conjures up all the light and shade of longing. The intensity of feeling never lets up.(The Times)
Aciman is particularly strong at channeling the ache of infatuation in this intense book that reaches beyond the narrator's self-regard to ask big questions about sexual desire. (Observer)
'Be prepared for a tearful finale all over again.' (Gay Times)
'André Aciman is a brilliant magus of the human heart. He understands the capriciousness of human emotions and how we can feel one thing and something completely contradictory at the same time, with the same force . . . Really extraordinarily powerful and moving.' (Ted Hodgkinson, The Monocle Culture Show)
'Andre Aciman's profound, transporting novel, Enigma Variations made me consider the extent to which we humans are at the mercy of our secret and suppressed desires.' (Johanna Thomas-Korr Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR)