Nostalgia

Nostalgia

A Novel

Book - 2005
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Mircea Cartarescu, born in 1956, is one of Romania's leading novelists and poets. This translation of his 1989 novel Nostalgia, writes Andrei Codrescu, "introduces to English a writer who has always had a place reserved for him in a constellation that includes the Brothers Grimm, Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Bruno Schulz, Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Milan Kundera, and Milorad Pavic, to mention just a few." Like most of his literary contemporaries of the avant-garde Eighties Generation, his major work has been translated into several European languages, with the notable exception, until now, of English.Readers opening the pages of Nostalgia should brace themselves for a verbal tidal wave of the imagination that will wash away previous ideas of what a novel is or ought to be. Although each of its five chapters is separate and stands alone, a thematic, even mesmeric harmony finds itself in children's games, the music of the spheres, humankind's primordial myth-making, the origins of the universe, and in the dilapidated tenement blocks of an apocalyptic Bucharest during the years of communist dictatorship.
Publisher: New York : New Directions, c2005
ISBN: 9780811215886
0811215881
Branch Call Number: 859.3 C32n
Characteristics: xiii, 322 p. ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Semilian, Julian

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i
IulianHectorNarada
Aug 19, 2015

p. 97: I could hardly wait for school to begin again, something that had never happened to me before. Because I felt very alone, like a fallen angel, or at least one in grave danger of falling. But I knew that in order to remain an angel, I had to ignore what I was fighting inside me, which was perhaps malignant and had progressively gained more power over me.

p. 111-2: The next day, we walked home in a snowstorm. Winter break was near, and I was thinking with horror about the New Year celebration. Would I spend it with her? It seemed unlikely. We angled forward as we walked through the snowfall that shot ice needles at our cheeks and penetrated behind our necks. The tangled streets, pallidly illumined here and there in dull orange, were swept by the snowstorm until the black of the pavement came into sight, while in other, more protected places, the snow undulated the blue shadows. She took off her glove and stuck her hand in my pocket, lined with fur. I held tight her inert little fingers, which only responded from time to time with slightly perceptible quivers. Many times, we paused to kiss, nearly falling over from the force of the wind. We pushed our fur hats against each other, tried to embrace while fighting our heavy coats, stared in each other’s eyes in that frozen gloom that latched icy stars to our eyelashes. . . . In the hallway, when I took her in my arms, she asked me if I wanted to come up to her room. We walked in together. . . . She brought me green walnut jam and fig wine in an oddly shaped crystal glass. . . . We talked about all sorts of trifles until the wine was gone, and then we sat quietly, staring at each other and swallowing the void.

p. 300-2: From time to time, a neighbor or an old friend would come by to sweeten his solitude, taking the seat next to him and marveling each time at the uncanny aspect of a car furnished with an organ instead of a dashboard and steering wheel. Without interrupting for one moment his saraband of sounds, the architect patiently explained that the fundamental function of the automobile is not, as it is commonly thought, to shorten distances, transporting a person from one place to another. . . . The nobility of the automobile lay in the sound of its horn, that is, in communicating and expressing itself. The sounding of the horn, as conceived by Emil Popescu, was the voice of the automobile, until now oppressed and throttled by man, reduced to a single animalistic and guttural sound, but from now on liberated, dignified, and sovereign. We complained about the invasion of the technical, about the lack of dialogue with the machine, but we never thought about giving the machine a chance to express itself. . . . Having taken the explanation to that point, the architect’s eyes sparkled in such a maniacal manner that the neighbor rushed his goodbyes and clambered up to his apartment, where he felt disturbed for the rest of the day, unable to decide whether to laugh or feel pity.

The “underground” period lasted until the next spring. Once the natural fence and the acacias behind the apartment building turned green, Emil Popescu turned up his speakers, so that you could hear what he played over the radius of a few meters but without disturbing the neighbors. Many of the neighbors made it their custom to walk by the architect’s automobile each afternoon, fascinated by the penetrating harmonies that began to take wing, each day more flawless than the last. During the first days of spring, the architect obstinately resumed the same monotonous but pleasing sequence of complete notes, each growing as though from the previous one and transmitting an odd state of ataraxia. “Sounds kind of like Pink Floyd,” the kids in the neighborhood would find themselves murmuring, but quickly sensing it was a Pink Floyd “in agony.” Indifferent to the commentaries, our hero resumed, day after day and with evident enchantment, sequences of whole notes that glistened mutely and profoundly.

e
einstein_5
Aug 19, 2015

p. 261-3: “Egor is with a friend,” the Elongated Woman told us, pointing upstairs. I was surprised, because I had thought of Egor as an individual of absolute solitude; I couldn’t imagine what a friend of his would look like. When we opened the door, the screams intensified abruptly. The screamer was, of course, the guest, a young man of Egor’s age, but who was no taller than his waist. He was very dark and wore his hair parted to one side, very unusual for that time. I couldn’t understand his name, but he seemed to be a student. He paused for an instant when Egor introduced us and then began to shout louder. I didn’t understand a thing of what they were talking about but now I realize it must have been politics. East, West, Russians, Americans, Congo . . . the atomic bomb . . . the Cold War . . . Khrushchev . . . Gheorghiu-Dej, our president at the time . . . Algeria . . . Vietnam . . . The student returned again and again to the same fixed idea: “We’re headed toward catastrophe, sir! The arms race, sir! Growing hatred, sir! Suspicion, paranoia! The apocalypse is nearly here, my friend! They all want the bomb, they all proliferate their own propaganda, they all spread lies, sir! Public opinion! FBI! KGB! It’s going to be a hecatomb! It’s going to be a nightmare, don’t you understand?” And so on for a half an hour, while Egor listened gravely. When the student was finally silent from pure exhaustion, Egor stood and extracted from the chest of drawers a large photo album, bound in scarlet silk printed with roses. He opened it and began to leaf through it. The thick pages full of yellowed pictures alternated with thin, nearly transparent leaves, filigreed with ingenious arabesques. The pictures showed smiling women with odd hairdos and arms around each other’s shoulders, dressed ostentatiously in national costumes, children in sailor suits, groups dressed in clothes from the previous century, men with endless mustaches and top hats, ladies with long dresses, large bows ending in bustles, and hats tied under the chin with ribbons, military men with swords hanging from their waists or leaning on their bayoneted rifles, boarding-school girls forcing their cheeks to dimple, their curls hanging in tresses next to their ears, tubercular young men playing the cello. “You’re speaking of the atomic bomb? Of mass destruction? This is what I say. Look at this album with old photographs from the last century. It contains my answer to all the problems in the world, all the problems of history. Look at all these people, these girls, the children in these pictures. They’re all dead today, all of them, to a person. There is not one survivor among the millions of humans born a hundred and fifty years ago. What nuclear weapon can compare to this, exterminating time, time that takes no prisoners? What are conflicts, what is the struggle for power compared to the meticulous, calm, even gentle victory of time against everyone? Bombs, wars, earthquakes, disease, floods are all superfluous, all they do is recklessly rush the work of time, they are glances tossed into the near future, like indiscreetly raising the curtain’s corner.” To this the student began again to vociferate in a foulmouthed manner, without taking into consideration that children were present in the room. He accused Egor of being already dead, that all that was left for him to do, if you were to believe his philosophy, was to wrap his head in a shroud and abandon the terrain. In the end he left, slamming the door without saying goodbye. Egor laughed gently and then turned to us. “Let the world see to its own problems, and let us see to the world’s," he said...

p. 136: I did not see any trace of sadism on the faces of those who were getting ready to conduct torture, who were performing with an inhuman coldness. . . . I never believed that dentists, surgeons, and others of that ilk torture you for your own good: All pain is bad, whether physical or moral, bad and humiliating.

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e
einstein_5
Feb 02, 2015

page 97: During the first two years of high school, my fellow students would invite me to parties or birthdays, or to the discotheque in the school’s auditorium, but since I never went they stopped inviting me. They viewed me with the horror mixed with the reluctant admiration reserved for the chrysalis that might someday become a butterfly but also God knows what sort of horrific vermin. Even those who took my side—because despite it all, I was being talked about—couldn’t imagine themselves having a personal relationship with me.

i
IulianHectorNarada
Dec 26, 2014

- p. 106: Who was I to be her boyfriend? An ugly and bizarre boy, on the threshold of schizophrenia, who knew nothing outside of a smattering of literature, who had no experience of life. I dressed randomly, I had never traveled, I had no friends. All I could give her was my blind fear of losing her. For me, Gina was much more than a girlfriend, she was a being impossible to endure, a drug far too strong but which I couldn’t live without. I knew sooner or later that everything would fall apart, that Gina would leave me.

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