Eight White Nights: A Novel by André Aciman (PDF)

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Ebook Info

  • Published: 2011
  • Number of pages: 368 pages
  • Format: PDF
  • File Size: 1.58 MB
  • Authors: André Aciman


A LUSHLY ROMANTIC NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF CALL ME BY YOUR NAMEA young man goes to a Christmas party in upper Manhattan where a woman introduces herself with three simple words: “I am Clara.” Over the following seven days, they meet every evening at the cinema. Overwhelmed yet cautious, he treads softly. The tension between them builds gradually―marked by ambivalence, hope, and distrust―culminating in a final scene on New Year’s Eve charged with magic and the passion. André Aciman yet again explores human emotion with uncompromising accuracy in this piercing new novel. Eight White Nights is a brilliant performance from a master prose stylist.

User’s Reviews

Editorial Reviews: Review “Eight White Nights … envelop[s] the reader in its wintry spell.” ―Jennifer Egan, The New York Times (Editors’ Choice)“A modern New York City fairy tale.” ―Time Out (New York)“A bravura re-creation of all the feints and counterfeints, yearnings and frustrations, of modern courtship. It possesses the psychological acuity and intensity one associates not just with Proust but also with Dostoyevsky.” ―Michael Dirda, The New York Review of Books“Psychologically charged, deeply Dostoyevskian . . . original to the core. Then again, Aciman has never failed to be original. Nor is he a stranger to questions of love. ” ―Marie Arana, The Washington Post“Aciman brilliantly continues his examination into the minefield of longing and attraction. . . . 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.” ―Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe About the Author André Aciman is the New York Times bestselling author of Call Me By Your Name, Out of Egypt, Eight White Nights, False Papers, Alibis, Harvard Square, Enigma Variations, and Find Me. He’s the editor of The Proust Project and teaches comparative literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He lives with his wife in Manhattan. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. FIRST NIGHTHalfway through dinner, I knew I’d replay the whole evening in reverse—the bus, the snow, the walk up the tiny incline, the cathedral looming straight before me, the stranger in the elevator, the crowded large living room where candlelit faces beamed with laughter and premonition, the piano music, the singer with the throaty voice, the scent of pinewood everywhere as I wandered from room to room, thinking that perhaps I should have arrived much earlier tonight, or a bit later, or thatI shouldn’t have come at all, the classic sepia etchings on the wall by the bathroom where a swinging door opened to a long corridor to private areas not intended for guests but took another turn toward the hallway and then, by miracle, led back into the same living room, where more people had gathered, and where, turning to me by the window where I thought I’d found a quiet spot behind the large Christmas tree, someone suddenly put out a hand and said, “I am Clara.”I am Clara, delivered in a flash, as the most obvious fact in the world, as though I’d known it all along, or should have known it, and, seeing I hadn’t acknowledged her, or perhaps was trying not to, she’d help me stop the pretense and put a face to a name everyone had surely mentioned many times before.In someone else, I am Clarawould have sprung like a tentative conversation opener—meek, seemingly assertive, overly casual, distant, aired as an afterthought, the verbal equivalent of a handshake that has learned to convey firmness and vigor by overexerting an otherwise limp and lifeless grip. In a shy person,I am Clarawould require so much effort that it might leave her drained and almost grateful when you failed to pick up the cue.Here, I am Clarawas neither bold nor intrusive, but spoken with the practiced, wry smile of someone who had said it too many times to care how it broke the silence with strangers. Strained, indifferent, weary, and amused—at herself, at me, at life for making introductions the tense, self-conscious things they are—it slipped between us like a meaningless formality that had to be gotten over with, and now was as good a time as any, seeing that the two of us were standing away from those who had gathered in the middle of the room and who were about to start singing. Her words sprung on me like one of those gusts that clear through obstacles and throw open all doors and windows, trailing April blossom in the heart of a winter month, stirring everything along their path with the hasty familiarity of people who, when it comes to other people, couldn’t care less and haven’t a thing to lose. She wasn’t bustling in nor was she skipping over tedious steps, but there was a touch of crisis and commotion in her three words that wasn’t unwelcome or totally unintended. It suited her figure, the darting arrogance of her chin, of the voile- thin crimson shirt which she wore unbuttoned to her breastbone, the swell of skin as smooth and forbidding as the diamond stud on her thin platinum necklace.I am Clara. It barged in unannounced, like a spectator squeezing into a packed auditorium seconds before curtain time, disturbing everyone, and yet so clearly amused by the stir she causes that, no sooner she’s found the seat that will be hers for the rest of the season than she’ll remove her coat, slip it around her shoulders, turn to her new neighbor, and, meaning to apologize for the disruption without making too much of it, whisper a conspiring “I am Clara.” It meant, I’m the Clara you’ll be seeing all year long here, so let’s just make the best of it. I am the Clara you never thought would be sitting right next to you, and yet here I am. I’m the Clara you’ll wish to find here every one day of every month forthe remainder of this and every other year of your life—and I know it, and let’s face it, much as you’re trying not to show it, you knew it the moment you set eyes on me.I am Clara.It was a cross between a ribbing “How couldn’t you know?” and “What’s with the face?” “Here,” she seemed to say, like a magician about to teach a child a simple trick, “take this name and hold it tight in your palm, and when you’re home alone, open your hand and think, Today I met Clara.” It was like offering an elderly gentleman a chocolate- hazelnut square just when he was about to lose his temper. “Don’t say anything until you’ve bitten into it.” She jostled you, but instantly made up for it before you’d even felt it, so that it wasn’t clear which had come first, the apology or the little jab, or whether both weren’t braided in the same gesture, spiraling around her three words like frisky death threats masquerading as meaningless pranks.I am Clara.Life before. Life after.Everything before Clara seemed so lifeless, hollow, stopgap. The after-Clara thrilled and scared me, a mirage of water beyond a valley of rattlesnakes.I am Clara. It was the one thing I knew best and could always come back to each time I’d want to think of her—alert, warm, caustic, and dangerous. Everything about her radiated from these three words, as though they were a pressing bulletin mysteriously scribbled on the back of a matchbook that you slip into a wallet because it will always summon an evening when a dream, a would-be life, suddenly blossomed before you. It could be just that, a dream and nothing more, but it stirred sofierce a desire to be happy that I was almost ready to believe I was indeed happy on the evening when someone blustered in, trailing April blossom in the heart of a winter month.Would I still feel this way on leaving the party tonight? Or would I find cunning ways to latch on to minor defects so that they’d start to bother me and allow me to snuff the dream till it tapered off and lost its luster and, with its luster gone, remind me once again, as ever again, that happiness is the one thing in our lives others cannot bring. I am Clara. It conjured her voice, her smile, her face when she vanished into the crowd that night and made me fear I’d already lost her, imagined her. “I am Clara,” I’d say to myself, and she was Clara all over again, standing near me by the Christmas tree, alert, warm, caustic, and dangerous.I was—and I knew it within minutes of meeting her—already rehearsing never seeing her again, already wondering how to takeI am Clarawith me tonight and stow it in a drawer along with my cuff links, collar stays, my watch and money clip.I was learning to disbelieve that this could last another five minutes, because this had all the makings of an unreal, spellbound interlude, when things open up far too easily and seem willing to let us into the otherwise closed circle that is none other than our very own life, our life as we’ve always craved to live it but cheat it at each turn, our life finally transposed in the right key, retold in the right tense, in a language that speaks to us and is right for us and us alone, our life finally made real and luminous because it’s revealed, not in ours, but in someone else’s voice, grasped from another’s hand, caught on the face of someone who couldn’t possibly be a stranger, but, because she is nothing but a stranger, holds our eyes with a gaze that says,Tonight I’m the face you put on your life and how you live it. Tonight, I am your eyes to the world looking back at you. I am Clara.It meant: Take my name and whisper it to yourself, and in a week’s time come back to it and see if crystals haven’t sprouted around it.I am Clara-she had smiled, as though she’d been laughing at something someone had just said to her and, borrowing the mirth started in another context, had turned to me behind the Christmas tree and told me her name, given me her hand, and made me want to laugh at punch lines I hadn’t heard but whose drift corresponded to a sense of humor that was exactly like mine.This is what I am Clarameant to me. It created the illusion of intimacy, of a friendship briefly interrupted and urgently resumed, as though we’d met before, or had crossed each other’s path but kept missing each other and were being reintroduced at all costs now, so that in extending her hand to me, she was doing something we should have done much sooner, seeing we had grown up together and lost touch, or been through so much, perhaps been lovers a lifetime ago, until something as trivial and shameful as death had come between us and which, this time, she wasn’t about to let happen.I am Clarameant I already know you-this is no ordinary business-and if you think fate doesn’t have a hand in this, think twice. We could, if you wish, stick to ordinary cocktail pleasantries and pretend this is all in your head, or we can drop everything, pay attention to no one, and, like children building a tiny tent in the middle of a crowded living room on Christmas Eve, enter a world beaming with laughter and premonition, where everything is without peril, where there’s no place for shame, doubt, or fear, and where all is said in jest and in whimsy, because the things that are most solemn often come under the guise of mischief and merrymaking.Excerpted from Eight White Nights by André Aciman.Copyright 2010 by André Aciman.Published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher. Read more

Reviews from Amazon users which were colected at the time this book was published on the website:

⭐At the time of this review, I would rate this novel as the best book I have read in 2010. First, let me just say that I am a huge Andre Aciman fan and am pre-disposed to like anything he writes! That being said I really must say that this book is a masterwork of prose. I have read some of the online reviews posted here and it seems that the main objection they raise is that “nothing happens” or that there is “no action” in this novel. I take issue with these reviews because I think a tremendous amount does “happen” and that there is alot of “action” in this novel…it just takes place internaly. Indeed, there is not even that much dialogue written but when you can write as well as Mr. Aciman does, dialogue seems superfluous. I found myself underlining and highlighting various sentences and passages (something I never do in works of fiction) so as to return to them often. Here I am thinking of page 62…see Clara’s explanation of people she has met and lightness and darkness…amazing writing. The main character “the man” or “the narrator” is not given a name throughout the entire novel. This was a stroke of brilliance on the author’s part…this character is ME and maybe even YOU…he does not need an identity…that would only act as an impediment to understanding him better. What is interesting is the small amount of “page time” his mother and father are given considering their importance. “the man” is a product of those people (and who amongst us isn’t?) and all that he does when he meets Clara, all of his discomfort, insecurity etc. stem from them…and again, who amongst us can say otherwise? But, while he (and us) are a product of his past…the novel progresses to an ending “rich” with possibility, and it all hinges on a “chance” meeting, at a party that he didn’t even want to go to. To me, the theme of possibilities, that nothing is “set in stone” and that even someone who is 28 can evolve and be open to chance is incredibly encouraging…happy ending? You decide!!! I must also take a moment to say a few words about the “bonus” gifts Mr. Aciman’s books give me. When other writers use outside references, say…art, literature or music to give us a “feel” for the character I tend to read over them even if I am not familiar with those references cited. However…for some reason…Mr. Acimans books make me want to read the books he references and especially, listen to the music refrenced. Trust me, listen to the Bach Sonata transcribed by Siloti and that passage in the book will resonate even more!!! Listen to the Beethoven and you will understand the importance of the gift “the man” gives Clara. By no means is this listening a requisite…but trust me…you will want to!

⭐Boy meets girl on p.1, and after p.360 you close the book and think “wtf happened here?”The answer is, nothing very much. They try, sometimes quite hard, to launch a relationship but they’re thwarted time and again by their own intellectual analysis of the possibilities, like chess players mentally paralyzed because every possible move leads to some knowable disaster six moves ahead.So instead, they see all of Eric Rohmer’s films — during which they eat and drink so much that you imagine them bloated by the end — and take one car trip together. They demonstrate their polyglot talents to each other by inventing their own language, which is mainly used to maintain smugness and baffle their other friends. It certainly does not draw them closer together. Most of the action takes place on the outskirts of the campus of Columbia University at Christmas time, but the district is not portrayed in any kind of way to make you wish you knew the place better. There are snowy streets. There is a park. There is a patrolman. There are buses. An occasional taxi.The couple never get into bed, although I suppose an optimistic reader is allowed to hope that this blessed event is imminent as the book ends. A more realistic reader will assume that they’ll simply move on from Rohmer to Resnais or Rivette and keep munching. He gets a hard-on somewhere around p.200 and she possibly feels it against her, or possibly not. Nothing is done with it.Pity.

⭐A superbly written, psychologically sophisticated book that reports one man’s thought progression as he encounters and pursues a captivating woman. Aciman unfolds the ebb and flow of the narrator’s engagement with this woman with incredible skill. It’s a cliffhanger romantic novel without being sentimental or sensational because the narrator speaks with the depth of insight and honesty that is extraordinary in this age of opportunistic hook-ups and utilitarian attachments. It will broaden the way people think about themselves when pursuing that special person. His hero’s internal conversations remind me of the best non-fiction writing about human attachment, belonging, internal security and trust, but without sounding like behavioral science writing. For anyone who’s traveled the bumpy road from unsettling attraction to being part of a satisfying connection, this writing will reassure us that the work of becoming involved with another can be worth the effort.

⭐Yes, this book has too many words 🙂 The author is in love with writing. Those sentences are long. The main character overthinks everything. Are there even people like that? But, it’s good reading for the winter holidays, I guess…

⭐What a book! Such joy, such stress, such pain! So much life in just a week!I’ve never read such poetic prose in my life. Each sentence is a treasure.I love the narrator. I love how he voices thoughts I didn’t even know I had. I love that he is insecure and confident, shy and bold, light-hearted and deep, confused and certain. He’s me. He’s all of us.I want to re-read this book again and again, highlighting every sentence that moves me, but I’m afraid I’ll have to highlight the whole thing.Highly recommend.

⭐I was not really impressed. I had high hopes for this book after reading another story from the same author however I felt really bored reading this. I only finished it because I had a goal of finishing it to start another book.

⭐I did not get past the protagonists first conversation. Beautifully written but oh so boring and drawn out!Will look forward to his latest book as I am sure that it will be better, as were his previous books

⭐A book that takes some reading. The pace is slow and you constantly hope something will actually happen. The charactersare a bit weird and it is not really a love story. Good descriptions of New York and the Hudson river in the grips of winterand the atmosphere of Christmas. Maybe not appeal to the English mindset

⭐Uno splendido libro sul desiderio e su New York . Chiunque vorrebbe essere approcciato nel modo in cui Clara approccia Il protagonista maschile del libro di Aciman. “I’m Clare” nella pagina iniziale ha un che di magico e spiega il continuo rincorrersi degli otto giorni (e delle otto notti) che separano il lettore dalla fine del libro

⭐I adore anything that Aciman writes. This is my least favourite but, still excellent.


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