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The scene is a lavish party on Christmas Eve. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Up by Columbia University, on Riverside Drive. It is a beautiful winter evening with snow. A white Christmas.

A young man meets a young woman. Sometimes Eight White Nights, by Andre Acimanwhen that happens, sweet music fills the minds and hearts of those involved. Here there is more than music – a whole concerto. At least that is the case for the young man; and for a long time, that is all we know. We experience the situation through him. He is immediately completely taken with this young woman named Clara. To him, everything about her seems extraordinary – the way she presents herself to him, the sound of her voice, her voice when she sings, her intelligent, witty and playful talk. He is almost overwhelmed and finds it hard to express himself. Everything appeals to him.

All I could think of was her collarbone and its gleaming suntan. The lady with the collarbone. The shirt and the collarbone. To a collarbone. This collarbone in two thousand years would, if it was cold in the icy silence of the tomb, so haunt my days and chill my dreaming nights that I could wish my own heart dry of blood. To touch and run a finger the length of her collarbone.”

We fully share his passion and perceptions of that first meeting. Not only do we watch and follow what takes place; we are also given a full view of his inner mental processes – what he thinks, alternative comments and remarks to those he actually make, his profound uncertainties and his many alternative interpretations. Aciman is not only an excellent writer with a sensitive and delightful command of language, he is also an insightful and extremely perceptive observer – and has a profound and stunning ability to present almost an ongoing stream of consciousness report of the inner workings of the young man’s mind and soul!

But then, after the first rich, special, to him so exceedingly significant and otherworldly meeting, what will happen. Will he meet her again? Does she like him? Will they begin a relationship? Will they sleep together?

These and other questions are immediately raised by Aciman – partly implicitly, as parts of the situational understanding, partly explicitly as visible in the consciousness of the young man. But Aciman keeps us guessing, makes us long for answers though a series of meetings. Only after eight more nights will we know.

And in the meantime we follow an extraordinary romance and see what is in reality daily life in that magical cosmos which is Manhattan, through the eyes of a young man in love. A world in a sense detached from reality by a mind passionately in love, seeing only aspects and fragments of it. We never learn his identity – only that Clara calls him Oscar – but we know in detail what goes on inside him, how he lives contradictions and courageously moves forward. The young couple go to restaurants, visit old family friends of Clara’s, have a picnic on a rug, watch movie screenings.

The action for us, as readers, is mostly in the form of perceptions – we do a guided tour – exquisitely laid out and sensitively described – in a multi-layered inner landscape. And seeing – actually experiencing – this, we recognize situations and events from our own lives. The double-thinking, the self-scrutiny, the feeble attempts at analyzing – those frightening feelings that accompany the beauty of that which is love.

It is a marvel of a journey, driven by attraction, sexual tension and passion, delightfully and very intelligently told by a man who is a wizard with words. If you love beautiful sentences and superb language, then Eight White Nights is a book you want to give yourself a chance to love.

“The beauty of Aciman’s writing and the purity of his passions should place this extraordinary first novel within the canon of great romantic love stories for everyone.”–The Washington Post Book World.

“This smart book is rich with the details of how skittish lovers interact. Aciman creates a private vernacular for the two while rarely failing to miss a telling smile or let so much as a line of dialogue go wasted.” — Publishers Weekly

“Aciman charts a vividly insightful profile of the psychology of modern-day courtship, and for anyone who’s ever smarted from the sharp dreamlike unreality of those obsessive early stages of young love, it’s a blistering quick trip down the rabbit hole.” — The Boston Globe

“The novel also gestures toward and could be a sly update of Dostoevsky’s story “White Nights,” which was also narrated by an unnamed, lonely dreamer who walked his city’s streets and fell in love.” — Chicago Tribune

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Articles by Andre Aciman

Articles about Andre Aciman

Reviews of Andre Aciman’s books

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Bibliography

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Aciman is the author of a number of articles, essays and non-fiction works. You can read more about his scholarly production in his Google profile. His books and essays have been translated into many languages.

His memoir Out of Egypt (1995), which is an account of his childhood as a Jew growing up in post-colonial Egypt, won the the Whiting Award. In addition to this, Aciman has published three other books: False Papers: Essays in Exile and Memory (2001), the novel Call Me By Your Name (2007), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won the Lambda Literary Award for Men’s Fiction (2008). His most recent novel, Eight White Nights, was published in February 2010.

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