Friday, September 14, 2012

Snail in Babel

In his review of Norman Manea’s collection of essays The Fifth Impossibility and his novel, The Lair (“Snail in Babel,” TLS, 8/31/12), Costica Bradatan  points out a fascist undercurrent in Romanian intellectual life. Discussing the philosopher and author of The Temptation to Exist, E. M. Cioran, and world renowned historian of religion Mircea Eliade, who taught at the University of Chicago, Bradatan writes, “Cioran’s close friend, Mircea Eliade, believed that the only way Romanians could put an end to their drama of insignificance was through a violent revolution that would permit them to be born again as a different more dignified people.” According to Bradatan  “A good part of the Romanian intelligentsia” regarded one of the essays in Manea’s collection, dealing with Eliade’s unapologetic fascism, entitled “Happy Guilt,”  “as part of an international plot to tarnish Romanian greatness.” The upshot of this campaign would become the substance of the plot for Manea’s novel, which is virtually a roman a clef, of the whole episode. Within the pantheon of post war East European intellectuals from former Soviet bloc countries, the Czech writers Vaclav Havel (who recently died) and Milan Kundera are far better known than Manea, who now teaches teaches at Bard. Yet the cultural paranoia that  centers around both the works under review and which becomes the theme of the novel, is in many ways more profound and more threatening than many of the issues dealt with by his Czech counterparts. When intellectuals, themselves struggling with  labile identity, discourage self-examination, then free thinking’s last fail-safes are finally lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.