A Romanian writer chronicles the writing of a novel about a truck driver.
This slim, deeply surreal novel by the exiled Romanian writer Tsepeneag (Hotel Europa, 2010, etc.) is quite deft in its execution but also carries enough literary and political baggage to weigh down all but the most academic of readers. Nominally, the book lets readers into the busy mind of a writer in the midst of composing a novel about a Bulgarian truck driver named Tsvetan making his way across Europe and the driver’s complex relationship with a French exotic dancer named Beatrice. In reality, this unnamed narrator is composing a story about himself, although the novel’s reality shifts on unsteady ground. The narrator’s wife, Marianne, is in New York for an unspecified medical treatment. She is the rock the narrator breaks himself on trying to please; he writes to her constantly to get her feedback on his new writing style, which he describes as “like a building site beneath the open sky.” Meanwhile, the narrator meets a young Slovak novelist at a cocktail party, which ignites a thorny affair. Strangely, most of these characters are drawn from Tsepeneag’s earliest work (Exercises, 1966), which was translated by Alain Paruit—who is also a character here and whose untimely death shakes the narrator to his core. Ultimately, the novel almost serves as a eulogy for the author’s own writing. The narrator complains bitterly to Marianne: “I don’t believe in what I’m writing and, since I can’t write unless I think I’ve found something new, it’s torture.” He even complains about his own novel’s ending, which reveals its events had been a dream. “What I mean is that it would become nothing more than a device, which nobody would believe any more,” he tells us.
An imaginative work of oneiric fiction by a master practitioner that may prove a bit too fantastic for many audiences.