Mircea Cărtărescu: The Breakthrough American Tour
Updated: Oct 23
Come meet the author of hypnotizing SOLENOID, finalist of Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, named one of the best books of 2022 by The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, The Financial Times, and Words Without Borders
While not his first English translation, Mircea Cărtărescu’s Solenoid, published by Deep Vellum, is his first book that has truly captured the imagination of the American critics and public alike. Met with raving reviews, with the initial printing already sold out, the masterful, hypnotizing novel, brilliantly translated by Sean Cotter, has become a revelation of the current literary season. Mircea Cărtărescu, who is one of Romanian culture’s most internationally recognized and acclaimed names, will crisscross America for a series of much-anticipated public appearances, starting in San Francisco at the legendary Beatnik den, City Lights Bookstore, followed by events in Seattle, Dallas, Houston, and New York.
A tour organized by RCI New York in partnership with Deep Vellum, with the support of City Lights Bookstore, Seattle Public Library, Wild Detectives, UT Dallas, Inprint Publishing, McNally Jackson Books, and American Romanian Cultural Society Seattle.
San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with Mauro Javier Cardenas, April 3, 6:00 pm / RSVP
Seattle, Seattle Public Library - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with ARCS President Ileana Marin, April 5, 7:00 pm / RSVP
Dallas, Wild Detectives - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with translator Sean Cotter, April 8, 1:00 pm / RSVP
Dallas, UT Dallas, Jonsson Performance Hall - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with translator Sean Cotter, April 10, 5:30 pm / RSVP
Houston, Inprint - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with writer Andrea Bajani, April 12, 7:30 pm / NO RSVP REQUIRED
New York, McNally Jackson Books Seaport - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with writer Alex Shephard, April 14, 7:00 pm / RSVP
UPDATE - April 22, 2023: SOLENOID is the new winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction! Congratulations to Mircea Cărtărescu & Sean Cotter & to everyone who had a hand in bringing this book to life, especially to Deep Vellum Publishing and the wonderful team coordinated by Will Evans who truly believed that victory was possible!
MIRCEA CĂRTĂRESCU, poet, novelist, literary critic, and publicist, member of the Romanian Writers`s Union and PEN Romania, and Professor Emeritus of Bucharest University, is one of the most awarded and translated contemporary Romanian writers, who has so far published over 35 volumes, translated into 25 languages. Along the years his books have been awarded both in Romania and abroad, Cărtărescu himself being nominated by Romania for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is the recipient of the Formentor Prize (2018), the Thomas Mann Prize (2018), the Austrian State Prize for Literature (2015), and the Vilenica Prize (2011), among many others. Among his most important books are Nostalgia, Levantul, the novel trilogy Orbitor / Blinding, Solenoid, and his most recent novel, Theodoros. Blinding: Book One was published, in Sean Cotter's English translation, by Archipelago Books in 2013.
A highly-acclaimed master work of fiction from Cărtărescu, author of Blinding: an existence (and eventually a cosmos) created by forking paths. Finalist of Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. Named one of the best books of 2022 by the New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, The Financial Times, and Words Without Borders.
Based on Cărtărescu's own role as a high school teacher, Solenoid begins with the mundane details of a diarist's life and quickly spirals into a philosophical account of life, history, philosophy, and mathematics. One character asks another: when you rush into the burning building, will you save the newborn or the artwork? On a broad scale, the novel’s investigations of other universes, dimensions, and timelines reconcile the realms of life and art. The novel is grounded in the reality of late 1970s/early 1980s Communist Romania, including long lines for groceries, the absurdities of the education system, and the misery of family life. The text includes sequences in a tuberculosis sanatorium, an encounter with an anti-death protest movement, a society of dream investigators, and an extended visit to the miniscule world of dust mites living on a microscope slide. Combining fiction with autobiography and history - the scientists Nicolae Tesla and George Boole, for example, appear alongside the Voynich manuscript - Solenoid ruminates on the exchanges possible between the alternate dimensions of life and art, as various, monstrous dimensions erupt within the Communist present.
„Solenoid… is a novel made from other novels, a meticulously borrowed piece of hyperliterature. Kleist’s cosmic ambiguity, the bureaucratic terror of Kafka, the enchantments of García Márquez and Bruno Schulz’s labyrinths are all recognizable in Cărtărescu’s anecdotes, dreams and journal entries. That fictive texture is part and parcel of the novel’s sense of unreality, which not only blends the pedestrian and the bizarre, but also commingles many features of the literary avant-garde. Although the narrator himself is largely critical of literature… he also affirms the possibility inherent in the “bitter and incomprehensible books” he idolizes. In this way, he plays both critic and apologist throughout, a delicious dialectic whose final, ravishing synthesis exists in the towering work of Solenoid itself.” (Dustin Illingworth, New York Times)
„Instead of delivering a sharp, succinct punch, Solenoid goes the way of the oceanic—rejecting brevity because the author, a Romanian Daedalus, is laying the foundation for a narrative labyrinth… The writing itself is hypnotic and gorgeously captures the oneiric quality of Cărtărescu’s Bucharest… Cotter’s translation is attentive to the efficiency of Cărtărescu’s ornate but surprisingly approachable prose, gliding from sentence to sentence and calling little attention to itself. The sheer immensity of Cotter’s undertaking combined with the unfailing evenness of the translation’s quality is nothing short of remarkable.” (Ben Hooyman, Los Angeles Review of Books)
„The great fun of this teeming hodge-podge is the way that Mr. Cărtărescu tweaks the material of daily life, transmuting the banal into the fantastical.” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal)
„[T]his is one of those rare books you should have in your library because its shelf life will endure as long as literature lasts.” (Alta Ifland, Brooklyn Rail)
„Solenoid is the real thing—an honest-to-god novel of ideas, concerned with old fashioned, big picture philosophizing. This swirling existentialism, and Cărtărescu’s baroquely maximalist approach, makes Solenoid feel as if it were a book from the nineteenth or twentieth century that has somehow been leaking into the modern world. It is a masterpiece in a league of its own.” (James Webster, Full Stop)
„A masterwork of Kafkaesque strangeness, brilliantly conceived and written.” (Kirkus Reviews)
„Cartarescu weaves a monumental antinovel of metaphysical longing and fabulist constructions…This scabrous epic thrums with monstrous life.” (Publishers Weekly)
SEAN COTTER is a translator and professor of literature and translation at the University of Texas at Dallas. A previous National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellow, he is the translator of 11 books, including Mateiu Caragiale’s Rakes of the Old Court (Craii de Curtea-Veche), T.O. Bobe’s Curl and Nichita Stănescu’s Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems, which was awarded the Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. His translation of Magda Cârneci's FEM, which won the PEN Translation Award, was published by Deep Vellum in 2021.
DEEP VELLUM is an American publishing house founded in 2013, which has become the most important private U.S. institution that publishes literary translations of books from all over the world in English.
MAURO JAVIER CÁRDENAS is the author of Aphasia (FSG, 2020) and The Revolutionaries Try Again (Coffee House Press, 2016). In 2016 he received a Joseph Henry Jackson Award and in 2017 the Hay Festival included him in Bogota 39, a selection of the best young Latin American novelists. His interviews and essays on/with László Krasznahorkai, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Javier Marias, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Juan Villoro, and Tatiana Huezo have appeared in Music & Literature, San Francisco Chronicle, BOMB, ZYZZYVA, and The Quarterly Conversation.
ILEANA MARIN teaches interdisciplinary courses at the University of Washington, Seattle, and at the Center of Excellence in Image Studies of the University of Bucharest, where she chairs the “Space, Image, Text, Territory” Doctoral School. She has published books on tragic myths, Pre-Raphaelite artists, and on Victorian aesthetics of erasure in fiction and illustration. Several of her conference papers on the de-humanizing power of art, the artistic legacy of communism, and the materiality of texts have been selected for publication in prestigious journals and collective volumes. Increasingly interested in multimediality, she has focused on artists’ books, E-Literature, and digital arts. Since 2020, she has taken on translating Romanian female writers. She is co-founder, and currently the President of the Seattle non-profit American Romanian Cultural Society.
ANDREA BAJANI is one of the most acclaimed and award-winning novelists of contemporary Italian and European literature. He is the author of 9 books, including Se consideri le colpe (If you Kept a Record of Sins), Ogni promessa (Every Promise), and Il libro delle case (The Book of Homes). He is the editor of Le storie che raccontiamo (The Stories We Tell), a collection of essays about writing, including texts by Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, Colm Tóibín, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, and Michael Ondaatje. His honors include the Bagutta Prize and the Super Mondello Prize, among others. Bajani teaches at Rice University in the Department of English and the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures.
ALEX SHEPHARD is a staff writer at The New Republic. He has been writing about politics, culture, and media for the magazine since 2015. His work has also appeared in GQ, The Atlantic, and The Nation. Before The New Republic, he worked in book publishing and was a founding editor of the literary magazine Full Stop.
Photo credit: Cătălina Flămânzeanu
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Interview, GPS Cultural (Ro):
San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with Mauro Javier Cardenas, April 3, 2023
Seattle, Seattle Public Library - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with ARCS President Ileana Marin, April 5, 2023
Dallas, Wild Detectives - Mircea Cărtărescu in conversation with translator Sean Cotter, April 8, 1:00 pm, 2023