cover image Solenoid


Mircea Cartarescu, trans. from the Romanian by Sean Cotter. Deep Vellum, $24.95 trade paper (672p) ISBN 978-1-64605-202-8

Cartarescu (Blinding) weaves a monumental antinovel of metaphysical longing and fabulist constructions. The unnamed narrator has abandoned his youthful aspirations to become a writer, though he zealously maintains a diaristic “report of [his] anomalies.” He languishes in obscurity as an elementary school teacher in Bucharest, which he calls “a museum of melancholy and the ruin of all things.” Bookish and febrile, he lives in a boat-shaped house built atop one of the city’s five “solenoids,” torus-shaped metallic structures that tap into the energy of the fourth dimension, as well as providing earthly benefits such as the ability to levitate during sex. The novel shuttles among drily grotesque evocations of the narrator’s life, his phantasmagoric dreams, and his obsessive search—along with a group of anti-death advocates called The Picketists—for a portal through which to escape the terrestrial plane. His search is aided, or frustrated, by baffling signs and visions proliferating across Bucharest, which the narrator struggles to decode and which produce fascinating digressions into the mystical origins of the Rubik’s cube and an “incomprehensible, monstrous” medieval manuscript. Behind the narrator’s torrential output is a deep Kafkaesque desire to solve an impossible puzzle. For the reader, it’s more than a rewarding quest. This scabrous epic thrums with monstrous life. (Oct.)