The Fifth Impossibility: Essays on Exile and Language

Overview

Deported to a concentration camp from 1941 until the end of the war, Norman Manea again left his native Romania in 1986 to escape the Ceausescu regime. He now lives in New York. In this selection of essays, he explores the language and psyche of the exiled writer.

Among pieces on the cultural-political landscape of Eastern Europe and on the North America of today, there are astute critiques of fellow Romanian and American writers. Manea answers essential questions on censorship ...

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The Fifth Impossibility

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Overview

Deported to a concentration camp from 1941 until the end of the war, Norman Manea again left his native Romania in 1986 to escape the Ceausescu regime. He now lives in New York. In this selection of essays, he explores the language and psyche of the exiled writer.

Among pieces on the cultural-political landscape of Eastern Europe and on the North America of today, there are astute critiques of fellow Romanian and American writers. Manea answers essential questions on censorship and on linguistic roots. He unravels the relationship of the mother tongue to the difficulties of translation. Above all, he describes what homelessness means for the writer.

These essays—many translated here for the first time—are passionate, lucid, and enriching, conveying a profound perspective on our troubled society.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This new collection from MacArthur Fellow Manea (The Black Envelope) brings together translations of essays written between 1989 and 2011. The titular "impossibility" is exile, and Manea considers the deported author under different auspices: risk-taker, moral conscience, even clown. At the same time, he asserts that "the most important theme for the East European writer the distance between the core of the victim and the core of the oppressor;" consequently many of the meditations focus on political problems of totalitarianism and democracy. Manea's main critical target is Europe, particularly his native Romania, but he also briefly censures American entertainment culture, especially in its exploitative treatment of the Holocaust. His political ideal is moderately liberal: "a more secure and open world...a lawful and fair society...and an enhanced democracy in many other places as well as ," and his style is engaging, well-crafted, and at times striking—he describes his mailbox as an "urn with the ashes of the days." Two standout essays include "On Clowns: The Dictator and Artist," which examines clowning, artistry, and totalitarianism; and "Happy Guilt," a reconsideration of famed religious scholar Mircea Eliade. Though several themes recur throughout, there is little overlap in content in these timely and insightful essays on writing, politics, and exile. (May)
New Republic - David Mikics

 “Manea demonstrates that he is an indispensable analyst of what it means to be a Romanian, and a Romanian Jew, and a writer, under fascism and communism. . . . The Fifth Impossibility [is] an ample offering of his work, his memories, his wise and acute challenges.”—David Mikics, New Republic
TriQuarterly - Reginald Gibbons

“Compelling subtlety and insight.”—Reginald Gibbons, TriQuarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300179958
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2012
  • Series: Margellos World Republic of Letters Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Norman Manea is Francis Flournoy Professor of European Culture and writer-in-residence at Bard College. A novelist and essayist, he first published in Communist Romania in the 1960s, producing a string of socially critical works that led to his departure in 1986. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and he has received many important cultural and literary prizes, including the MacArthur Fellowship (U.S.), the Nonino International Literary Prize (Italy), the Prix Médicis Etranger (France), and the Nelly Sachs prize (Germany). He is a member of the Berlin Academy of Art and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the French government has named him Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

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