The Black Envelope

Norman Manea, Author, Patrick Camillier, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (329p) ISBN 978-0-374-11397-1
Romanian novelist Manea's fifth book (after Compulsory Happiness) is a dark, enigmatic tale in which a man's investigation of his father's death, 40 years before, is set against the repressions and deceptions of the Ceausescu regime in the 1980s. Having been fired from his teaching post at a provincial high school for vaguely defined trespasses against young boys, Anatol Dominic Vancea Voinov, called Tolea, works as a receptionist at a tourist hotel in Bucharest, where he makes a career out of mocking his less educated colleagues. When the ever-difficult Tolea learns he may lose even this job, he pointedly embraces folly and takes a vacation. The majority of the tale concerns Tolea's searches: for the head of a nefarious association of deaf and mute people, whose physical disabilities mirror the moral ailments of Communist Romania; for a photographer, whose work documents the unofficial, but real, life of the country; for coffee; and even for a scratch over an eyebrow. Writing carefully, Manea generates fresh, artful sentences easily, but he is also gnomic, as if reluctant to make things too easily understood. However, frequently beautiful language (even in translation) and the distinctive melancholy humor of Manea's voice amply reward a diligent reader's concentration. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Paperback - 321 pages - 978-0-300-18294-1
Ebook - 326 pages - 978-0-300-18862-2
Paperback - 329 pages - 978-0-8101-1377-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-9198-3
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