Clutching a bouquet of flowers, hurrying to catch his bus, and arguing with the driver once he's on, a man rushes to a train station platform to meet a woman. This sequence of events occurs and recurs in remarkably different variations in "Vain Art of the Fugue."
In one version, the bus driver ignores the traffic signals and is killed in the ensuing crash. In another, the protagonist is thrown off the bus, and as he chases after it, a crowd of strangers joins him in the pursuit.
As the book unfolds, the protagonist, his lovers, and the people he meets become increasingly vivid and complex figures in the crowded Bucharest cityscape. Themes, conflicts, and characters interweave and overlap, creating a book that is at once chaotic and perfectly composed.
About the Author
Dumitru Tsepeneag is one of the most innovative Romanian writers of the second half of the twentieth century. In 1975, while he was in France, his citizenship was revoked by Ceaușescu, and he was forced into exile. In the 1980s, he started to write in French. He returned to his native language after the Ceaușescu regime ended, but continues to write in his adopted language as well.
Andrea Reiter is a Research Fellow at the School of Modern Languages, Univeristy of Southampton, UK.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
'Vain Art of the Fugue' is an exhausting, post-Kafka tale of something and nothing, in seemingly infinite variation. It begins with a man racing to catch the bus that should hopefully get him to the train station in time to meet somebody. We don't know who this person is - sometimes he's a young boy, sometimes an older man; sometimes he's meeting a girl, or a retired soldier; sometimes he's seeing somebody off, a girlfriend who has left him.Every other element in the story also shifts and twists with each retelling. First-person narration slips into third; now we're in the present, then suddenly in the past, and sometimes in the future. Very quickly one realises that one has to give up any hope of following the threads; allow the threads to pull you into Tsepeneag's tapestry and you'll be a lot happier.