Inside the Giant Eyeball of an Undefined Higher Being

Martin Riker

At the end of Mircea Cărtărescu’s collection Nostalgia (1993, translated into English in 2005) is a fantastical tale called ‘The Architect’, about a man who buys a car and becomes obsessed with its horn, then with car horns in general, then with the music of car horns and music in general, but never actually learns how to drive. It comes after a series of stories written in progressively more complicated styles – from the Kafka-like ‘Roulette Player’ to the shifting subjects and conflated genders and genres of ‘The Twins’ and ‘REM’ – that demonstrate the breadth of Cărtărescu’s aesthetics. Born in 1956, he’s a member of the Romanian ‘Blue Jeans Generation’, so called for their interest in Western culture, and seems at home in both American and European traditions, and in all historical periods. He cut his teeth on Pynchon and is versed in Gass and Barth. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Romanian postmodernist and oneiric literature, and has taught literary history at the University of Bucharest. His own fiction weaves realism with dream, memory, myth and parable; he has been compared to Borges, Cortázar and Garcia Márquez. He is also renowned as a poet (his 1990 epic poem ‘Levantul’ tracks the history of the Romanian language just as the ‘Oxen of the Sun’ chapter in Ulysses does with English), has been an influential political columnist in Romania and has had his work translated into many languages.

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