The Dimension of Solenoid (I)

The new paperback edition of Solenoid

Rarely has a writer written with such dedication, perseverance and passion as Mircea Cărtărescu, who has been diverted from his literary path by nothing. From his debut with the volume of poetry, Faruri, vitrine, fotografii in 1980, regardless of the age, stage and the time he traveled, this writer, for whom literature is his only religion, has relentlessly written books of poetry, prose and essays, always giving everything he has, pushing the limits of literature a little further to bring the readers an unending, unpredictable adventure, full of surprises and unique rewards.

Looking back, many of Mircea Cărtărescu’s books seemed, in their time, to be “the ultimate work,” the crowning achievement. Levantul, the epic of our entire literature, a masterpiece of imaginative and poetic language, appeared to be the finale of a series of poetry books which had already made Cărtărescu the most important poet of cheap nfl jerseys the decade in the ‘80s. With its novellas which, in their time, didn’t resemble anything ever written in Romania, Nostalgia marked a major transformation/transition in his literature. That book, one of the few indeed cult books in our literature (ten editions in three decades), cleared the way for Cărtărescu’s prose which was just scratching the surface with the publication of the story, Păianjeni de pămînt in the collective volume, Desant ’83. While many believed his writing couldn’t get better, Travesti came out, his most underappreciated book; underappreciated because from that little novel was born, in fact, the great trilogy, Orbitor / Blinding. For those who, like myself, read the books of Orbitor as they were written and published—meaning a significant amount of time between them (1996, 2002, 2007)—, they were filled again, each time, not only with admiration and fascination for that Romanian UFO, but also the fear that the project seems, humanly speaking, that it couldn’t be brought to an end. After all, how many completed trilogies do we have in our literature? But no matter how ambitious, complex, monumental and impossible the trilogy project initially seemed, at the end of a decade in which he’d also written and published other books (including journals), Mircea Cărtărescu managed to give the final outline to the image of the butterfly after 1,500 pages which proved, for some readers as well as literary critics, a literary effort beyond their reach.

I’ve heard many say Orbitor is an unreadable book (the protagonist himself says it, as a rhetorical flourish). In time, I’ve come to see this statement of incompatibility to be its most beautiful homage. In time, the entirety of this monumental and “unreadable” trilogy was translated into seven languages, making it a premiere and absolute record for our literature (and not only ours). If we also add up the ten major international prizes for writers that he’s won in the last decade (this, by the way, while this country didn’t give him as much as a distinction—a detail signaling how corrupt the Romanian institutions for literary prizes are!), I think we can say that not only have no other Romanian writers, writing books in Romanian, ever had a comparable international career, but also that Mircea Cărtărescu is, far and away, the representative image of Romanian literature.

So, with all the burden of success (promotional efforts, creative pressure, raised expectations and the envy of fellow colleagues), Mircea Cărtărescu managed well the moments of every great book, he was never once trapped in the gravity of any of them, although any one of them would have been sufficient for the body of an author’s work. After every one of his great books of prose, it always seemed there was nothing left to write, nothing left to expect/ask of the writer. But after Nostalgia, Cărtărescu wrote Orbitor, and after Orbitor he wrote this Solenoid. So you would be right to ask: from where? how? and why?

I made these initial remarks because they have a strong connection with the narrative premise of Solenoid which, like that of Orbitor, is revealed under the form of a complete manuscript. This time, however, the one that says “I” is a failed writer, and his book, his unpublished and unpublishable manuscript, is the consequence of a failure: the poem, “Căderea,” read in the reading club where the Great Critic should have cheap jerseys nfl given his literary career some promising endorsement, where the poem is unsuccessful and the aspiring youth continues his life in the most difficult anonymity, but which is illuminated by a brilliant mind in an extraordinary world. There is a poem called “Căderea”: successfully read at the Monday Reading Club led by Nicolae Manolescu and subsequently included in the volume Faruri, vitrine, fotografii which launched Mircea Cărtărescu’s extraordinary literary career. This continued ambiguity between author, his alter ego and his reader radiates on every page of Solenoid, designed and created as the alternative fictional universe to the fictional works of Mircea Cărtărescu himself. A joke with, and especially on, literary convention.

Solenoid retrieves characters, scenes and recognizable moments from the other great works by Cărtărescu, fictionalized in the mirror. Appearing as a planet, the body of Cărtărescu’ s work is comprised of always deepening, successive, fictional layers, each having a different biographical-imagined component. Put simply, the protagonist of Solenoid writes anonymously in his journal which, in another fictional dimension, was already written in several fictional forms, including the journal. Fatally. Solenoid falls into the hands of readers who read the poem, Căderea, and the story, REM, and the novel, Travesti, and the journals and the trilogy, Orbitor, and wakes himself as a meta-character and witness of the two fictional, Cărtărescian dimensions, one “real” and one “alternative”: the reader of the journal by the failed writer is also the reader of the body of work by the successful writer who resembles Cărtărescu.

Translated by Andrew K. Davidson

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