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Norman Manea

Aesthetics as East Ethics

Claudiu Turcuș

The book offers the very first critical biography on Norman Manea, a widely respected writer and multiple Nobel Prize Nominee. It follows two main objectives: an aesthetic interpretation of his literature and a contextualization of his ethical discourse. Manea's aesthetics is seen also as an Eastern European ethics, significant for the writer’s status while living and working under the Communist censorship in a totalitarian state and in the global context of World literature.

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Chapter I. The Inopportune Archive


1. One Interview, Two Identitarian Guilts

Notwithstanding the Zhdanovist cultural policy reiterated by the Ceauşescu regime after 1971 (Cordoş, “Rezistenţa” 13–15), the formal abolition of censorship generated an ambiguous deployment of the control exerted by the nationalist-communist institutions. The writers initially took advantage of this situation and speculated the hypocritical rhetoric of Power. Between 1979 and 1981, the confusion that existed at the institutional level meant that instead of being ostensively abolished, censorship was actually absent. Later, however, given the establishment of the Council for Socialist Culture and Education, the situation became exasperating, as implicit censorship (officially unacknowledged as such, this time), operated somewhat randomly, outside strict rules. If we were to speculate, the motivation behind this process lay, on the one hand, in Nicolae Ceauşescu’s cynical-naïve belief that writers had developed a socialist consciousness and, hence, that they no longer had to be censored. On the other hand, this bizarre measure might be interpreted as an attempt to confuse the opponents of the system, instilling in them the “nostalgic” regret for a mechanism that once used to function rigorously. There is no wonder, therefore, that the publication of The Apprenticeship Years (1979) encountered no resistance from the regime, while The Black Envelope (1986) was mutilated by a censorship that apparently did not exist, but that was rather drastically enforced, in the absence of any criteria whatsoever. In fact, the explanation why Manea’s last Bucharest novel had such a tortuous editorial...

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