Monday, June 20, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reviews Mihail Sebastian's The Accident

In what was quite a weekend for Biblioasis reviews -- see below for the Star and Globe reviews of Blaise's Meagre Tarmac -- the Wall Street Journal reviewed the latest title in the Biblioasis International Translation Series. In a review titled "Tender and Tense," Sam Sacks writes of Mihail Sebastian's The Accident (in a translation by Stephen Henighan):

The Romanian-Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian (1907-45) came to the attention of the English-speaking world in 2000 with the publication of his incandescently angry and exacting World War II diaries. Yet during the war—as he survived in Bucharest, shunned by his Nazi-supporting former friends—he wrote "The Accident" (Biblioasis, 257 pages, $17.95), a captivating novel about a love affair.

"The Accident," translated by Stephen Henighan, would be a marvel of beauty and control under any circumstance; that it was written by a Jew in Romania in 1940 seems miraculous. ...The mountains provide an escape for Paul from his paralyzing lovesickness—just as the writing of the novel, we suspect, transported Sebastian from what he called in his diaries the "anti-Semitic dementia" of his daily surroundings. As in Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," the snowbound fastnesses seem to warp the standard measurements of time. When Paul takes to the slopes—the skiing scenes are the best I've read since Mann's—time's passage thrillingly compresses and expands in his consciousness ...

To read the entire review, please go here.

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