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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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While at the beginning of this research, I drew attention to one of the glaring flaws in the reception of Norman Manea in post-revolutionary Romanian culture,172 as I wrote this book, I uncovered the risk of a second interpretative impasse. Many of the professional analyses that I entered into dialogue with were inhibiting on account of their insistence that the Romanian writer’s work should be squeezed into monolithic genre categories or that its proximate genus should be unequivocally identified. But since these analyses were, in their vast majority, compressed commentaries (reviews, essays), the specific difference of Manea’s work remained obscure, nay, it was sometimes metonymically identified with a particular proximate genus. However punctual or fragmented the critics’ or the reviewers’ interventions were, under the auspices of erudite generalizations they appeared to say all that could be said about Norman Manea’s writings. Noting the glibness of these approximations, Robert Boyers has also declared himself dissatisfied with this inflation of categorical verdicts:

But what comprehensive statement will we dare to make about Norman Manea? […] The established line on this writer is at once useful and misleading. Ought we to think of him as a writer defined by the exercise of “conscience”? Is he, in the end, one of the many gifted contributors to what is called “the literature of totalitarianism”? Or is he, as has been said, one of “the great poets of catastrophe” and thus fit to stand alongside predecessors like Kafka or Bruno Schulz, or...

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