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Petru Cimpoesu

Self-portrait

I’ve started writing fictions out of a psychoanalytical superstition, hoping that in this way the demon of my neurosis would devour itself. By writing, by plunging into my own dreams and breathing within them like some amphibious creature, I have gradually discovered that the reality of fiction is stronger, or at least richer in meaning than the fragmentary

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Biography

Petru Cimpoesu (b. 1952) was born in 1952. He is one of the leading novelists of recent years. He made his debut in 1983, with a collection of short stories titled Memories from the Provinces. His other works include : Natural (1985), Unintentional Hero (1994, awarded the Jassy Writers Association Prize), A Kingdom for a Fly (1995), The Tale of the Great Brigand (2000, awarded the...

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2015, 232 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

Almost fifteen years since the publication of the novel Simion the Liftite, Petru Cimpoesu introduces us to The Other Simion, in a story full of humour and surprises. However, the humour is no longer tolerant, but has become sarcastic and, in places, unsparing. In the meantime the “transition” has come to an end, but Cimpoesu’s characters are prisoners of a past from which they cannot break away ; they seem trapped in the logic of failure. We find ourselves in the midst of Balkan capitalism, devoid of illusions and any moral sense. Temptation appears in the form of a supposed member of parliament, who suggests to Simion and his friends a simple and effective way of making money. Once the “pact” has been agreed to, a merry go round of absurd events is set in motion. For, The Other Simion is in fact the obverse of Simion the Liftite, and instead of Moldavian angels, this time we are dealing with incarnations of evil in its grossest form.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Short stories, "Fiction LTD" collection, Polirom, 2008, 336 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

The volume is arranged into two sections. The first includes stories written before 1990, which were originally part of a self-contained collection impossible to publish at the time. The second contains stories written after the year 2000. Thus, the author achieves the feat of bringing face to face two opposing periods in the recent history of Romania. What connects the two sections of the book and effectively constitutes the key to this comparative exercise is the author’s appetency for the trivial occurrences of the immediate day-to-day, regardless of when the stories were written. Two realities are created, which, although they differ in essence, at the level of the ordinary person, of the ordinary personage contained in the narrative, are ultimately not so unalike. Cimpoeşu’s Romania is not populated by characters that differ in the two periods covered by the narrative, but is governed merely by different situations, in which the same kind of people are to be found. Apart from that, the comedy of the situations, the existential absurdity, and the fine irony sketch a portrait of a society situated at the limit between tragedy and comedy.
Nevertheless, in this collection Petru Cimpoeşu does not stake everything on the social aspect of things, although this does loom from each story. The humble circumstances of his characters are, it is true, universal, but beyond this the reader will also discover accents specific to Romanian society. In their mediocrity, the characters come to life both through the author’s protective irony and through their own humour, which saves them from derision. Almost every story contained in this collection deals with unhappy situations and characters (unhappy because of fate – such as a functionary, a watchman, a mediocre teacher, a minor provincial writer – or unhappy because of the results of their own actions – such as a Party activist or a secret policeman), but the minor tragedies are always balanced by comic language and by the narrator’s judgment, which explodes the dramas and reconverts them into a smile, however sad.
The finale of each story in the volume is unexpected, more often than not giving a different meaning to the whole. But the stories are also surprising for the way in which they describe human types. The result is a unitary volume, despite having two sections that might at first sight appear antagonistic, which gives the reader topics for meditation, but also plenty of reasons for enjoyment.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Fiction LTD" series, Polirom, 2007, 312 pages, format 130 x 200 mm

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Dybbuk (Czech Republic), Alberto Castelvecchi Editore (Italy), Icaria editorial (Spain), Colibri Publishers (Bulgaria), Znanje (Croatia)

Book presentation

In this novel brimming with humour and frequent references to the supernatural, the tenants of an anonymous provincial block in the town of Bacău embody one tiny part of the gigantic grotesque created by Romania’s period of transition. Here we discover Mr Elefterie, a gullible pensioner who, having lost the money he deposited in a mutual assistance fund, one night dreams the winning numbers for the so-called “6 out of 49” lottery and, of course, loses a hefty sum once more. Then we fret about the fate of Mr Eftimie the teacher, whom a pupil falsely accuses of having seduced her – so convincingly that even the even the teacher himself begins to wonder whether he has done so and then forgotten about in the meantime ; in the end, we discover that the schoolgirl was dreaming of winning a beauty contest in which Mr Eftimie was to sit as a member of the jury. Then we find amusement in the pedantic style of Mr Jon-the-stair-superintendent, a typical tenement block administrator, who communicates with the tenants by means of pasting up notices, and who has a terrible secret: he used to work for the former Securitate as an electrician. Then we have Mr Nicostrat, a great lover of yoga and women, to whom he gives lessons on the Kama Sutra. There is a whole host of other equally strange characters, including Themistocles, a boy suspected by his teacher, with whom he is in love, of being a precocious genius.

 

However, the life of these typical Romanians is turned upside down one fine day. One by one, they observe that the block lift is out of order, having got stuck on the eighth floor. This would not necessarily be an insoluble problem, were it not for the fact that the lift is occupied by a self-imposed exile, their neighbour Simeon – the block’s “authorised” cobbler. The latter, surprisingly, has not only chosen to spend a period isolated inside the lift, but in addition, according to legends that swiftly spread through the block, he has begun to work miracles, including the “spectacular” healing of Mr Anghel, another neighbour, who had been suffering from a skin disease. However, it is not just the miracles, of which the neighbours have only heard rumours, but also the stories that Simeon tells from inside the lift, his prophecies and parables, which ensure him of an aura of celebrity, creating for him renown as Simeon the Liftite, after the model of St Simeon the Stylite. And in Simeon’s parables, prophecies and stories, we discover piquant commentaries about the uncommon sharpness of wit displayed by Romanians, who know how to fix anything using nothing but a bit of wire ; we learn about the imminent return to power of Ion Iliescu, at a time when all had written him off, and about how Jesus might descend among the Romanian people so dear to Him in order to stand, after a memorable election campaign, as president.
After almost two weeks of prophesising and storytelling, Simeon the Liftite abandons the lift unexpectedly, leaving forever the block where he had dwelled. However, he does not depart alone, for he takes with him his disciple Themistocles, the schoolboy suspected of being a genius. And thenceforth there is room only for legend.

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