The setting of this intriguing little novel is part communist, part fantastic. On one level it tells the story of an old man who's fanatically questioned by the secret police. They think he holds the key to some terrible mystery that could have its effect upon the whole society, until the hightest point of the hierarchy. And, maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. What is clear is that the old man is fond of telling stories. Each one of his memories links back to another series of memories and thus, in his recorded conversations with his questioners, he tells one long, associative tale. It doesn't seem to make sense, this tale, and it seems it doesn't have to. It's just a collection of stories that seem like fairy tales. Only somehow these fairy tales have their consequences for the people that listen to them. The line between fantasy and reality gets more and more blurred. The old man just keeps to his stories, but his audience sees one big political intrigue in it.
This novel is not about final meaning, because it doesn't seem to have any. It does, however, lure you in, slowly but steadily. You go from the narrator to a narrating old man, to narrating people within his stories. It seems like zooming in, but instead it's only a continuous zooming out until you feel uncertain where it is you've begun exactly. It's the zooming that's the thing though, not the beginning or the ending, just the endless process of zooming. Intriguing, really.
7 August 2008
Oorspronkelijke titel Pe strada Mântuleasa, 1968
Vertaald uit het Roemeens door Liesbeth Ziedses de Plantes