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The Black Envelope
     

The Black Envelope

by Norman Manea, Patrick Camiller (Translator)
 

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A splendid, violent spring suddenly grips Bucharest in the 1980s after a brutal winter. Tolea, an eccentric middle-aged intellectual who has been dismissed from his job as a high school teacher on "moral grounds," is investigating his father's death forty years after the fact, and is drawn into a web of suspicion and black humor.

"Reading 'The Black Envelope,'

Overview

A splendid, violent spring suddenly grips Bucharest in the 1980s after a brutal winter. Tolea, an eccentric middle-aged intellectual who has been dismissed from his job as a high school teacher on "moral grounds," is investigating his father's death forty years after the fact, and is drawn into a web of suspicion and black humor.

"Reading 'The Black Envelope,' one might think of the poisonous 'black milk' of Celan's 'Death Fugue' or the claustrophobic air of mounting terror in Mr. Appelfeld's 'Badenheim 1939.' . . . Mr. Manea offers striking images and insights into the recent experience of Eastern Europe."—New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Romanian novelist Manea's fifth book (after Compulsory Happiness) is a dark, enigmatic tale in which a man's investigation of his father's death, 40 years before, is set against the repressions and deceptions of the Ceausescu regime in the 1980s. Having been fired from his teaching post at a provincial high school for vaguely defined trespasses against young boys, Anatol Dominic Vancea Voinov, called Tolea, works as a receptionist at a tourist hotel in Bucharest, where he makes a career out of mocking his less educated colleagues. When the ever-difficult Tolea learns he may lose even this job, he pointedly embraces folly and takes a vacation. The majority of the tale concerns Tolea's searches: for the head of a nefarious association of deaf and mute people, whose physical disabilities mirror the moral ailments of Communist Romania; for a photographer, whose work documents the unofficial, but real, life of the country; for coffee; and even for a scratch over an eyebrow. Writing carefully, Manea generates fresh, artful sentences easily, but he is also gnomic, as if reluctant to make things too easily understood. However, frequently beautiful language (even in translation) and the distinctive melancholy humor of Manea's voice amply reward a diligent reader's concentration. (June)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300182941
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
04/24/2012
Series:
Margellos World Republic of Letters Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
1,367,102
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.87(d)

What People are Saying About This

Edward Hirsch
The Black Envelope is a vortex of imponderables: an elusive mystery story, a penetrating x-ray of Romania in the 1980s, a Kafka-esque parable of a world turned upside in our nightmarish century. It's an enigmatic and deeply compelling novel.

Meet the Author

Norman Manea is Francis Flournoy Professor of European Culture and writer-in-residence at Bard College. Deported from his native Romania to a Ukrainian concentration camp during World War Two, he was again forced to leave Romania in 1986, no longer safe under an intolerant Communist dictatorship. Since arriving in the West he has received many important awards, including, in 2016, Romania’s highest distinction, the the Presidential Order "The Romanian Star" in the highest level, of Great Officer. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in New York City. Patrick Camiller has translated many works, including Dumitru Tsepeneag’s Vain Art of the Fugue, The Necessary Marriage, and Hotel Europa.

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