cover image The Censor’s Notebook

The Censor’s Notebook

Liliana Corobca, trans. from the Romanian by Monica Cure. Seven Stories, $23.95 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-1-64421-150-2

Corobca frames her hilarious and poignant English-language debut as a series of letters regarding a notebook kept over the course of five months in 1974 by a Romanian bureaucrat. A fictional Liliana Corobca specializes in censorship at the Museum of Communism, where she acquires Filoftiea Moldovean’s notebook from Emilia Codrescu, another official who saved it from destruction, thus providing insights into what a censor thought of their work. What follows in Filoftiea’s pages is a chronicle of acerbic, witty opinions of the literature she suppresses, not merely commenting on its subversive qualities but the politics of literature: its aesthetics, production, and relationship to readers. “Some book editors,” Filoftiea writes, “are also envious authors and they block their fellow writers, but blame [censors].” In another entry, Filoftiea carps, “not one person’s capable of creating an essential book anymore. A book that’s necessary.” In the hands of a lesser writer, a book composed mostly of complaints by a thoroughly indoctrinated bureaucrat against government-sanctioned samizdat might get old quickly—not so here. Filoftiea’s railings are as funny as they are complex, a character study of personal and political repression brimming with sharp observations that say as much about the intellectual mechanics of an authoritarian state as they do the ways readers and texts work upon one another. Even a censor would have to agree this makes for essential reading. (Oct.)