Novel, “Fiction Ltd” series, Polirom, 2014, 368 pages
Having finally found out that his parents were not his real parents, but had adopted him at birth, a respected psychiatrist tries to unravel the mystery of his coming into the world, asking a friend, writer and journalist Valentin Dumnea, to investigate the matter. Dumnea both reaches and fails to reach the truth, but he does come across a strange character, a centenarian professor, who might be said to be the master of the story: the story of the child’s mother and his potential father, who might be either one of the two schoolmates with whom the young woman had amorous relations, both of them brilliant, but diametrically opposed, the one an angel, the other a demon. The story of the son seeking his father is merely the pretext for the wider story, about the dramatic historical period from 1940 to 2012, with the traumas of the Second World War, the arrival of the Red Army, and above all the horrors of the communist prisons. Like a new Scheherazade, for ten days, the centenarian professor, who is eyewitness, character and storyteller, adds fragment after fragment to the tale, until it is complete, the way one might add bead after bead to a string. Moving in reverse chronological order, Full Stop and Anew is a moving book about pain, about the destruction wrought by man’s hand, about stained honour and the worthlessness engendered by limitless opportunism.
Awarded the Grand Prize of the Cluj National Festival of Literature, 2014.
I think that I owe some explanations: who am I, ultimately, and how did I become a professor?
The neurons. They are the cells of the nervous system: made up of dendrites, nerve fibres that pick up stimuli and relay them to the interior, a somatic cell where information is accumulated and an axon, which retransmits the impulse to the outside. Stimuli, nerve impulses and highly fine apparatuses for receiving information, for processing it and redirecting it to the outside. Is that what we are, how we may be summed up? I don’t really understand. I was also obsessed with another term that the psychiatrist divulged to me: engrams, which, if I understood rightly, were the same as the traces that various stimuli, various nerve impulses, left in our cells. And the cells (what can it be called if not a miracle?) transformed them into memories, into emotions. When I write literature, I write about emotions and thus I ultimately describe engrams, I communicate them verbally and literarily, without any great skill. Dr Deleanu had the advantage of a different, specialised language: neurons, leucocytes, engrams, and the rest. Ultimately, in both of us existed the same need to understand and to express, he scientifically and methodically, I randomly, impulsively, according to my “inspiration.” But what does inspiration mean in literature? While waiting for inspiration, I am like a mole, I am a blindfolded man burrowing at random into arid ground, hoping one fine day to come across a gold nugget. In any event, weakness and incapacity of understanding and expression, which are obvious in me, nonetheless existed in both cases, that is, in the doctor too, not just in me. And so all of us, into whatever category we might fall, advance helpless, overwhelmed, humble, down a narrow path, probably the only one that can bring us salvation: we recognise an absolute authority that is of a subtle, invisible nature, we relate to God. Only He, once he has entered our minds and made His house there, can cure us. This was the conclusion we reached, after lengthy and repeated debates, the great psychiatrist and myself, and we were both satisfied: I had obtained a result; I had an answer. Anyway, we had the feeling that we had spied land after drifting for so long.
Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth
“Reading this novel, it is clear to me that Gabriel Chifu is a born novelist; a mere prose writer would not have succeeded in completing such an ambitious project.”
(Mircea PRICAJAN , Familia)
“Full Stop and Anew is a novel of psychological analysis, in which tribulations lend inner flesh to the characters. Written excellently, the novel is a model for the literary adaption of the horrors of the communist regime.”
(Sorin LAVRIC, Romania literara)
“In Full Stop and Anew we have an exceptional novel thanks to the authenticity of its subject matter and its narrative intelligence and subtlety. It is a novel that places a full stop, in a certain sense, after a style of prose, the political novel, which the postmodern prose of the eighties generation had relegated to the background, but without exploding its premises (due to the complicated political context of the 1980’s and censorship). By the change in viewpoint that he brings, by broadening the historical horizon and turning the poetics of the genre upside down, Gabriel Chifu closes a chapter and at the same time opens a new one in the history of the contemporary Romanian novel.”
(Razvan VONCU, Viata romaneasca)
“Full Stop and Anew is a powerful novel, with a profound pedagogical and at the same time soteriological meaning.”
(Luminita CORNEANU, Tarmuri)