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1993 Romanian edition
|Cover artist||Sylvia Frezzolini Severance|
|Publisher||Cartea Româneasca Publishing House|
Published in English
|LC Class||PC840.13.A86 N6713 2005|
Nostalgia is a novel by the Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu. The narrative consists of five distinct parts which assiduously link together to produce a narrative that is on the one hand disjointed and on the other produces, as a whole, a kind of hidden centre while negotiation the Romanian relationship to time and place, state and nationalism, communism and community, the rural and the capital with a neurotic, hallucinatory fervor that itself seems an exhalation of all of these anxieties.
First appearing in Romania under the name Visul ("The Dream") in 1989 with Cartea Româneasca Publishing House, having been mangled by censors, it appeared in its full form as Nostalgia in 1993 under Humanitas. It was thereafter translated into French, German, Hungarian, Spanish and other languages, and was nominated for literary prizes across Europe. In 2005, the novel was translated to English by Julian Semilian and published by New Directions. While sharply distinct from the realist narrative mode typifying North American literature, it was received with rave reviews by critics across the United States.
The first section, which is itself the prologue describes the world of a pre-war Bucharest, as narrated by an aging, potentially dying, author while focusing on the improbable and explicitly impossible story of a homeless young man who serves as the stubborn center of progressively more absurd games of Russian Roulette which become progressively more peopled by the wealthy upper-crust of the capital.
The second section brings alive a universe of children through a magical realist writing style that focuses upon a prepubescent messiah who has begun to lose his magical powers while working wonders for his young followers. Which has a famous scene that makes the reader feel voyeur into the world of Proust when the main character falls into "unbearable nostalgia" by virtue of a bright pink lighter.
The third section is a bizarre exploration of gender boundaries and youthful angst narrated by a crestfallen young man who cross-dresses and goes down the road of suicide at the same time while overwhelmed by the memories of a highschool girlfriend.
The final part of the main portion of this book is centered around Nana, a middle aged woman engaged in an affair with a college student, as well as her memories of being 12 years old, when she was visited by a mother and son pair of gigantic skeletons.
The last portion of this novel focuses on a man who becomes obsessed with his car horn, the repercussions of which spiral far beyond his control. The last part of the central portion of the book
In the introduction, Andrei Codrescu, writer, critic, and National Public Radio host, described the English translation as an introduction to "a writer who has always had a place reserved for him in a constellation that includes the Brothers Grimm, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Franz Kafka. Jorge Luis Borges, Bruno Schultz, Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Milan Kundera, and Milorad Pavić, to mention just a few."
Laura Savu wrote about Cărtărescu in World Literature in Review: "His intellectual fervor, dazzling linguistic play, and visceral prose...often touch a cultural nerve."
- Christian, Moraru (May–June 2006), "Web of Existence", American Book Review: 33–34
- Lytal, Benjamin (December 14, 2005), "The George Lucas of Soviet-Bloc Romantacism", The New York Sun
- Byrd, Christopher (January 1, 2006), "Cruelty and chance rule Bucharest's streets", San Francisco Chronicle
- McGonigle, Thomas (December 25, 2005), "Escaping into the past", Los Angeles Times
- Scott, MIck (September 3, 2006), "A dream-like remembrance of fictitious childhood truths", WInston-Salem Journal