cover image Women


Mihail Sebastian, trans. from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh. Other Press, $15.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-59051-954-7

This skeletal novel in stories from Sebastian (For Two Thousand Years), originally published in 1933, comprises four pieces that follow the sensual and romantic adventures of Stefan Valeriu. Stefan, a young Romanian man recently out of medical school, is introduced in “Renée, Marthe, and Odette, ” in which Stefan vacations alone at a resort in the French Alps. There, he meets Renée Rey, the lustful wife of a Tunisian plantation owner; Marthe Bonneau, an elegant older woman on vacation with her son; and Odette Mignon, a quick-witted 18-year-old recent high school graduate who’s also on vacation alone. Stefan falls in love with each, and each leaves him and the resort behind for their normal lives. Sebastian’s observations of the complex physical and emotional details of romantic intrigue are perceptive and affectionate: “They don’t need to struggle to find each other in the dark, don’t lose each other, don’t speak: the harmony is that of two stalks, growing, entwined.” Even so, the work suffers from inconsistency, and the final three tales, all concerning love affairs in Paris, read like sketches in comparison to the opening story. Stefan, meanwhile, remains frustratingly elusive and mysterious beyond his desire for a series of women. Despite the unpolished feel, these concise stories, when at their best, showcase Sebastian’s a brilliant eye for emotional detail. (Mar.)