Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nostalgia -Mircea Cărtărescu

I finished reading this book about three weeks ago. Unlike the other books, where I could  summon up my overall impression in a couple of days, this book seems to be taking a lot of time. On one hand, I see this an ordinary childhood reminiscence with some clever passages. In the same moment, I am somewhat fascinated by this writer. His way of telling stories, the way of weaving all of them together, the ordinary, trivial, childish and young adult affairs has some character in it. Some thing that is very impressive in his writing. I went back and read the first chapter again, and it the effect was phenomenal, stupendous writing.

However, the 5 disconnected stories that is called a novel, has something missing from the collective impact of a novel. Probably this is not a complete novel in its traditional way, making me feel less 'complete' after reading this. There is no clear fabric of a story through out. There is no intriguing plots or something to look forward to as a finale. The writer himself confirms ( in the afterword) that 'This is a fractalic and holographic novel, in which each part reflects all others", but not very convincing.

Presented in three parts, Prologue in the form of the Roulette Player,  the main part Nostalgia, and the epilogue 'the architect', with the centre part Nostalgia in three stories takes up the larger part of the book. A brilliant introduction by Andrei Codrescu ( whose book I bought a week ago) and an afterword by Julian Semilian ( who translated the book) to give us the glimpses of the writing of Carterescu and the Romanian Literature in general.

The narrator, starts his reminiscence with his memories of the a game of Russian roulette, played in an underground operation, where the dare devil protagonist, put his own life at ransom, in a game of luck with death. Starting at one, adding one pellet after other in the subsequent events, he attempts to shoot himself, against a diminishing probability of survival. After every successful game show, fainting at the end of the gunshot, he up his odds with all six bullets inside the magazine, only to be saved by a 'heavenly intervention'.

Most of the stories are set in the dark and gloomy suburbs of Bucharest, the daily life and core of the young Romanians, where the childhood and young memories are revisited. Mentardy was a bit underwhelming and though a beautiful love story, twins wsa also not all that great,  One of the best pieces of writing is in REM,the third of the nostalgia part, where a middle aged woman, recounting her childhood days as a young 12 year old girl, to her young college student boyfriend.

His prose and style is fabulous. The way the words and sentences formed with careful deliberation, the way the sentences, paragraphs, chapters and book is structured, The clever way of creating an subtle connect between the three chapters ( in nostalgia part) , in reverse order of the age and time creating an overall impact in the reading.  Stunning details, vivid imagery, very moving and surrealistic portrayal of young loves, dreams and frustration, Cartarescu is brilliant in his writing.

This is the first book of Carterescu translated into English. the first part of his autobiography is now available in English, which is already receiving rave reviews. From a shear writing and styling point of view this is very very impressive, but a bit under whelming as a novel.
Nostalgia (1989/93)

Mircea Cărtărescu ( translated from Romanian by Julian Semilian 2005)

New Direction 

322 Pages
Wiki , Romania Insider, Complete Review

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