cover image Blinding: The Left Wing

Blinding: The Left Wing

Mircea Cartarescu, trans. from the Romanian by Sean Cotter. Archipelago (Consortium, dist.), $22 (464p) ISBN 978-1-935-74485-6

A good sense of time and place is the highlight of this overstuffed novel set in 20th century Romania—volume one of a trilogy that continues with Blinding: The Body and Blinding: The Right Wing. Mircea, a sensitive teenager, spends a great deal of time looking out the window of his bedroom in Bucharest. His father is often away and he feels little attachment to his mother, Maria. The novel’s second part depicts Maria as a 15-year-old in 1955 as she leads an impoverished but colorful life. She works as an apprentice tailor, sharing a bed with her 17-year-old sister, Vasilica. The two young women attend inexpensive neighborhood movie theaters as a respite from the long hours they spend sewing. In part three, Mircea is sent to a hospital, where his treatment includes sessions with a blind masseur, and he is brought face-to-face with his fellow patients’ suffering. Some of Cartarescu’s descriptions are evocative, as when he writes of military officers who are “the quintessence of both Hercule Poirot and the mythological Hercules.” But the author is rarely satisfied with one word when he can use a hundred, and his story struggles mightily not to drown in a sea of excess verbiage. (Oct.)