I finally read it. I finally read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. For anyone who doesn’t know, this book means a lot to me. It was the first queer book that I ever heard of, and the first one that I ever attempted to buy when I was still living in Bermuda.
I went up to my local bookseller and shyly asked if they could order me a copy (there was no way they were going to have a copy of it in the store). Unfortunately, she told me that it wasn’t available to be ordered to Bermuda. I went home, defeated, thinking that there was no way that I would ever be able to get my hands on books that represented people like me.
Years later, after I moved to the UK, I finally bought the book. It’s been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read for most of this year. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little bit scared to read it. It has been such a symbol of representation and diversity for me that I was terrified that I wouldn’t like it, or that my expectations were too high.
I am so, so glad and overjoyed to say that this is not the case. Not even a little bit. I was overwhelmed by how simple and yet how complicated everything is in this novel – Aristotle in particular is a boy of very few words, yet what he does say and think says so much. I’m honestly not sure that I’ve read a book like this before.
I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. “Dante’s my friend.”
I wonder what 15 year-old me would have thought of Aristotle and Dante if I had been able to get ahold of a copy. I have a feeling I would have loved it.