Happy Birthday, André Aciman, born 2 January 1951.
- My love stories are about people who are reluctant to actualise what they so desperately want. They are timid, cautious, but eventually they dare to speak. My characters are not only hesitant; they are ambivalent about which way their libido flows: toward men or women? They are fluid in their sexuality, and this ambivalence says more about how we think about sex today than, say, Tinder. And this is a truly modern idea: Most of us don’t know who we are sexually.
- I may write about place and displacement, but what I’m really writing about is dispersion, evasion, ambivalence: not so much a subject as a move in everything I write.
- Writing the past is never a neutral act. Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons… provided we can live with the reasons. What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction.
- What great writers have done to cities is not to tell us what happens in them, but to remember what they think happened or, indeed, might have happened. And so Dickens reinvented London, Joyce, Dublin, and so on.
- As a memoirist, I may claim to write the easier-to-remember things, but I could also just be writing to sweep them away. ‘Don’t bother me about my past,’ I’ll say, ‘It’s out in paperback now.’
- Writing plays fast and loose with the past.
- With ritual, I punctuate my days till they no longer belong to who I am today but to who I’ll be when I look back in days and years to come.
- Don’t all writers have a hidden nerve, call it a secret chamber, something irreducibly theirs, which stirs their prose and makes it tick and turn this way or that, and identifies them, like a signature, though it lurks far deeper than their style, or their voice or other telltale antics?
- I write – so it would seem – to recapture, to preserve and return to the past, though I might just as easily be writing to forget and put that past behind me.
André Aciman is an American writer who was born and raised in Egypt. He teaches the history of literary theory and the works of Marcel Proust. He has written several novels, including Eight White Nights and Call Me by Your Name, and a memoir, Out of Egypt, which won a Whiting Award. Follow him on Twitter: @aaciman
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