Field of Study:
Tandem – Author with Translator – Translator with Author
PoM Pontica Magna
Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan
Assistant Professor of Literature; Writer
A collection of four novellas published in September 2021. Four thematically linked novellas that focus on obsessive relationships, stolen identities, and illusions of grandeur in the post-1989 Carpathian-Balkan region: An American expat in Europe appropriates the identity of a Romanian orphan in her desperate search for love. A dictator’s daughter learns, while on a study trip to France, that her parents have been overthrown and are about to be executed. A minor character from a novel confronts her own insignificance. A wife announces to her husband of forty years that she’s just been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Mircea Eliade’s “The Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent” was written by the teen-aged author in the 1920s. It was not published until 1989 (after its author’s death), when it was rediscovered in a Bucharest attic. Max Blecher’s novel, “Adventures In Immediate Irreality” was published in 1936, when the author was 27 years old. While examining the temporalities of each novel, I will show that our knowledge of the 20th century history will inevitable intrude on our reading of these first novels, adding layers of meaning never intended by the authors.
My first task will be to show that the ‘vectors’ of each novel point in different directions. Eliade’s novel is “centripetal” (full of voluntaristic self-fashioning and self-affirmation) regarding the narrator’s personality. It points to the future: the first person singular future verbal form is ubiquitous in the novel. Blecher’s novel, that has often been described as a ‘requiem’ (for his childhood) and as ‘nostalgic’, points towards the past and is ‘centrifugal’ in relation to the narrator’s personality: the strongest desire in the novel is to escape the confines both of the deterministic world and of one’s own person.
On the one hand, I would like to explore and describe Eliade’s “places” in Bucharest and surrounding area: the streets Melodiei and Mântuleasa (where he grew up and went to school, respectively), the University of Bucharest’s Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, the Dacia Boulevard (where he lived later), and, possibly, the location of Miercurea-Ciuc where he was interned in a camp after his arrest in 1938. On the other hand, I would like to show that Mircea Eliade had a fundamentally different intuitive understanding of “space” and of “language” than other emigre writers. The language that truly interested him was the religious language of symbols pointing to the sacred. This led him, in my view, to a completely different understanding of space than that of a realist writer. For Eliade, especially in his fiction, the seemingly profane spaces of a Bucharest attic or a Romanian forest could easily acquire the mythological features of sacred places that open doors to other worlds.