Synopsis of The Velvet Man

Translated and adapted by Jean Harris from Eugen Negrici's Literatura romana sub comunism – Proza / Romanian Literature under Communism. (Bucharest: Editura Fundatiei Pro, 2003)

Ştefan Agopian | March 01, 2009
Translated by: Jean Harris


Tache de catifea / The Velvet Man is an anti-picaresque tale in which a trio of three Romanian “anti-musketeers”—Tache, a clever Dwarf, and the Dwarf’s brother, a country squire, set out to join an historical uprising against the Ottoman empire only to find that the uprising is over when they get there, the revolutionaries and their leader having been caught and executed long since. Although it can’t be said that the plot doesn’t have a conventional epic point of departure, and it although it is somehow reasonable to speak of “heroes” and of a family history placed in a concrete time and space (the first half of the 19th Century in Oltenia), almost anything is possible in this magic realist novel. The present transforms itself into the future, the future changes into the past, objects let themselves float in space when they feel like it, human beings change form as a result of emotional combustion, curious angels and likeable demons stable among cattle and human beings, the dead allow themselves to speak when they think it right not to interrupt a conversation begun in life—life, where nothing is more prized than sweet preserves and leisurely chat. The décor metamorphoses continuously in unforeseeable ways. Freedom and arch-freedom take precedence over the laws of causality and govern most “events,” if we can apply that word to actions whose unfolding is known from the start.


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