A new translation of a long-lost philosophical novel by the late Jewish Romanian writer Blecher (1909-1938).
The shadow of death falls heavy over this linguistically complex and passionate self-portrait of a young man in early-20th-century Romania who composes an epitaph for his childhood at the same time that he's experiencing it. This new English translation by the late Heim is more focused and contemporary than the versions found freely on the Web and probably gives readers a closer understanding of Blecher’s intent. This volume is also bookended by two excellent essays, written by Andrei Codrescu and Herta Müller, which provide context and some background on the author, who was diagnosed at a young age with spinal tuberculosis, lived most of his life in sanatoriums and died at age 28. On the surface, the novel is nothing more than a running internal dialogue by a boy observing the world around him—imagine a prewar, Eastern European Holden Caulfield filtered through the surreal and frightening lens of Franz Kafka but with considerably more teenage lust. His melancholy is so deep that he identifies moments of “crises,” which a doctor diagnoses as malaria. “In small insignificant objects…I find the melancholy of my childhood and the nostalgia of the futility of a world that engulfed me like a sea with petrified waves,” writes our nameless, hopeless narrator. At the same time, Blecher’s doppelganger is so firmly in the moment that he fetishizes both objects and people, giving women in particular an inherent eroticism that he clearly finds as frightening as he does compelling. It’s a ferocious act of self-awareness that the ailing Blecher was able to dig so deeply into his own psyche to portray the person he believed himself to be.
A stylistically brittle, psychologically intense story of a young man who knows that his time is almost up.