cover image For Two Thousand Years

For Two Thousand Years

Mihail Sebastian, trans. from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh. Other Press, $16.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-59051-876-2

The existential predicament of a Jewish Romanian man born into a deeply anti-Semitic society is brought to harrowing life in Sebastian’s intelligent, tragic novel, which was first published in Sebastian’s native Romania in 1934. The narrator, 20-year-old university student in Bucharest in the interwar years, is harassed and physically assaulted by anti-Semitic classmates. His entire life has been marked by such attacks, and although he passes his exams, this constant onslaught inculcates self-doubt. Under the influence of sympathetic professor Blidaru, he decides to study architecture, hoping to find in this field a “feeling of fulfillment, of calm,” while friends turn to Marxism or Zionism for solutions to their impossible situation. But even as the narrator finds professional success, the effects of relentless anti-Semitism prove corrosive: “Being persecuted is not just a physical trial.... The reality of it slowly deforms you and attacks, above all, your sense of proportion.” Sebastian documents the melancholy of a man attached to his homeland even it continually rejects him in this bold and brilliant novel. (Sept.)