Radu Mares (1941 - 2016) studied Philology at the University of Cluj, settling permanently in that city in 1971. Between 1971 and 1997 he was a teacher, journalist, and editor of Tribuna magazine, and from 1997 to 2001 he was the director of the Dacia Publishing House. His published work includes Anna sau pasarea paradisului (Anna, or, The Bird of Paradise, novel, 1972); Cel iubit (The Loved One, short prose, 1975); Caii salbatici (The Wild Horses, novel, 1981); Pe cont propriu (Own Sake, 1985); Anul trecut in Calabria (Last Year in Calabria, 2002); Manual de sinucidere (Textbook on Suicide, essays, 2003); Ecluza (The Sluice Gate, novel, 2006); and Cind ne vom intoarce (When We Return, novel, 2010). He has been awarded the Union of Romanian Writers Prize for Debut (1972), the Cluj Branch...
Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2012, 312 pages
Red Shift is an epistolary novel consisting of a long letter in which the narrator addresses his son, who is in Germany with his mother, the narrator’s ex-wife. Within this elaborate and, as the letter-writer himself admits, “literary” missive, the narrator’s identity is gradually revealed to us (he is Romi, formerly a French teacher and now a journalist in a town in Transylvania, a lonely, drifting alcoholic), as well as the reasons why the “writer” has ended up in his present state, although we do not find out the most important reason until the final pages of the book. The novel is structured like a nest of boxes. The frame story, Romi’s long confessional letter to his son, contains the story of the narrator’s encounter with an Englishwoman named Diana, who has come to Romania with an aid convoy for a centre for handicapped children. She is a young woman, but it is as if she is trying to conceal her youth (she certainly doesn’t take any advantage of it). She is taciturn, but nevertheless, one night, after copious amounts of cheap Romanian vodka (the same vodka as the narrator drinks night after night), she reveals her own story. Romi answers her story with one of his own, about how he met Grete Tamas, a beautiful violinist haunted by nightmares, who later became his wife and then, as a result of that marriage, the mother of the letter’s addressee. The ending, when we finally discover the reason for the narrator’s present solitude, is surprising. Grete’s brother Hans, who had fled to Germany in the communist period, invites the narrator and his family to spend two weeks with him after the revolution. The siblings harbour a terrible secret, which is accidentally revealed to the narrator. Shocked, he takes the irrevocable decision to break off all contact with the brother and sister, but thereby loses contact with his son, who, we intuit, has now reached an age when he is mature enough to read and understand his father’s long letter.