A splendid, violent spring suddenly grips Bucharest in the 1980s after a brutal winter. Tolea, an eccentric middle-aged intellectual who has been dismissed from his job as a high school teacher on "moral grounds," is investigating his father's death 40 years after the fact, and is drawn into a web of suspicion and black humor. First published in Romanian in 1986—the year that Jewish novelist and cultural critic Norman Manea was expelled from his homeland by the Ceausescu regime—this "Kafka-esque parable of a world turned upside-down in our nightmarish century" (Edward Hirsch) became available in English in 1995. Now living and writing in New York, Manea is the recipient of such honors as the MacArthur Fellowship, Italy's Nonino International Literary Prize, and France's Prix Médicis Étranger.
"Nobody else besides Norman Manea has succeeded in describing the climate of a dictatorship in such a realistic and oppressive way."—Günter Grass