A Spider’s History of Love
by Mircea Cărtărescu
Translated from Romanian by
Adam J. Sorkin and Radu Surdulescu, Daniel Mangu, Cristina Hanganu-Bresch, Ioana Ieronim, Mirela Surdulescu, Ileana Ciocârlie, Bogdan Ștefănescu
Before becoming the most important Romanian novelist of his generation, Mircea Cărtărescu wrote poetry influenced by the “hallucinatory imagery” of Allen Ginsberg and distinguished by its Beat sensibility and humor. Cărtărescu was in his twenties in the 80s, and his word-slinging poems, with references to Bob Dylan and The Beatles, remain subversive gestures under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu: “The West opened my eyes.” A young man “overwhelmed by loneliness,” charged with erotic, urban energy, and besotted with Natalie Wood, he observed the anonymous women on bicycles and at tram stops with “my hundred thousand eyes, crematoria windows of sparks, [which] set the fir trees ablaze and leave the mountain bald.” Brimming with adolescent yearning, self-consciously “complicated,” and unwilling to silence themselves, Cărtărescu’s poems convey the nervous vibrancy of the younger generation living immediately before and after the fall of communism.
He is a member of the Romanian “Blue Jeans Generation,” so called for their interest in Western culture, and seems at home in both American and European traditions, and in all historical periods. He cut his teeth on Pynchon and is versed in Gass and Barth. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Romanian postmodernist and oneiric literature, and has taught literary history at the University of Bucharest. His own fiction weaves realism with dream, memory, myth and parable. He is also renowned as a poet.
Martin Riker, London Review of Books
Mircea Cărtărescu is Romania’s most celebrated writer from the highly accomplished group of self-consciously postmodernist writers who began to publish in the 1980s—the “blue-jeans generation,” one strongly influenced by American examples. His first book of poetry, Headlights, Shop Windows, Photographs, appeared in 1980. Other titles include Love Poems (1982); Everything (1984); Nothing (2010); The Levant (1990); Love (1994); a collection of love poems, Double CD (1998); Fifty Sonnets (2003); and the collected two-volume Pluriverse (2003). Adam J. Sorkin’s co-translations of Cărtărescu’s poetry in collaborative versions have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Poetry New York, Exquisite Corpse, New Delta Review, Talisman, Poetry Wales, Parthenon West, Modern Poetry in Translation, Ping-Pong, Cutthroat, Saranac Review, Lana Turner, Connotation Press, Glint and Poem [in the UK], as well as the anthologies Leading Contemporary Poets, Speaking the Silence, Bebop Baby, Born in Utopia and Bucharest Tales. A group of fourteen of the poems came out as Bebop Baby in the Poetry New York chapbook series in 1999. He has also been Romania’s Nobel Prize nominee.
Adam J. Sorkin has published more than sixty books of Romanian poetry in translation and his work has won the 2005 Poetry Society (UK) Prize for European Poetry Translation as well as the International Quarterly Crossing Boundaries, Kenneth Rexroth, Ioan Flora Poetry Translation, and Poesis Translation Prizes, among others. He has been awarded Fulbright, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts Council of England, New York State Arts Council, Academy of American Poets, Soros Foundation, Romanian Cultural Institute, and US National Endowment for the Arts support for his literary activity.
Cărtărescu will speak to you, an astonishing voice from another world.
Nathaniel Popkin, Cleaver Magazine