Caius Dobrescu


Caius Dobrescu was born in 1966. Up until 1989, he was active only in alternative literary groups. He did not publish his first collections of poetry until after the fall of communism: Efebia (1994) and Spalindu-mi ciorapii (Washing My Socks, 1994). His other collections of poetry include: deadeva / ’ndeed (1998) and Oda liberei intreprinderi (Ode to Free Enterprise), for which the author and his German translator, Gerhardt Csejka, were awarded ex aequo the European Poetry Prize of the City of Munster. He is also the author of a number of collections of essays, Semizei si rentieri (Demigods and Rentiers, 2001) and Revolutia radiala (The Radial Revolution, 2008) put forward a positive aesthetic and socio-cultural evaluation of the concept/category of the “bourgeois”....

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Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2011, 696 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

 At the centre of this intellectual thriller, which fuses the real and the virtual in an alternative interpretation of Romanian history from the inter-war period to the present day, is a paradoxical book: although it promises the secret of eternal love, its pages are impregnated with a fast-acting poison. Brought from Java to Romania as part of a plot to assassinate King Carol II, the book passes down through the decades, becoming the focal point of various strange conflicting interests: from the Legionary Movement (the far-right mystic revolutionaries of 1930s Romania) to Cold War secret services, American academics with esoteric obsessions, and treasure hunters from post-communist Romania in search of Ceausescu’s secret bank accounts.

The plot unfolds on two temporal and geographical levels. In the present (the 1990s), Nicu Stoica, a poet from Bucharest, visits the fictional American city of Shebango at the invitation of his friend Dinu Dima. A longtime émigré to the United States, Dima is the curator of the book collection left to Shebango University by late celebrity professor Tidid Diomed Caraiani, who was of Romanian origin. Except that Dima strangely does not turn up, leaving Nicu, a character as if out of a Woody Allen film, to wander through a world he cannot understand, guided only by mysterious messages in the “Minoan” alphabet that the two friends invented together as students and which is intelligible only to them.

The second level is set in the Romania of the 1930s and focuses on three friends, the Macedonian-Romanian T. D. Cariani, the Jewish Puiu Leibovici, and the Armenian Kevork Lapsarian. It is Lapsarian who tells the story of three lives that are at first bound together in friendship before being dramatically sundered. As a refugee in Palestine, Puiu gets involved in paramilitary Zionist organisations and after remaining crippled becomes a famous mystic philosopher. Cariani, after a journey to Java (it is he who brings the famous poison book to Romania and long thereafter recovers it for his personal library) becomes a teacher at Shebango University. After studying philosophy in Germany, Kevork returns to Romania, where he is imprisoned in communist labour camps and later becomes a factory worker.
Unfinished stories and the passions impact upon the present and finding the poison book once more becomes a matter of life and death. The solution to shadowy mysteries connected to the history of Romanian fascism and communist totalitarianism comes to depend solely on the confused and bumbling Nicu Stoica. Armed only with his knowledge of the “Minoan” alphabet, he is drawn into a desperate struggle not only to find his missing friend, but also to save the lives of his wife and children left behind in Romania.


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