Third Place Books and the Seattle Public Library welcome Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu—often rumored to win the Nobel Prize for Literature—for a reading of his new novel Solenoid, translated by Sean Cotter. This event is made possible by Cărtărescu's American publisher Deep Vellum, the Romanian Cultural Institute, and the American Romanian Cultural Society based in Seattle.
University of Washington scholar Ileana Marin, co-founder and President of the American Romanian Cultural Society, will join in conversation.
Venue: Seattle Public Library (Central Branch), Microsoft Auditorium, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104
This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book, or request a hold at your local library.
Please note: Solenoid is currently out of stock. A reprint from the publisher is expected soon and copies of Solenoid will be made available at the event.
for this in-person event
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2022 by the New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, The Financial Times, Words Without Borders
A highly-acclaimed master work of fiction from Cărtărescu, author of Blinding: an existence (and eventually a cosmos) created by forking paths.
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
Mircea Cărtărescu is a writer, professor, and journalist who has published more than twenty-five books. His work has received the Formentor Prize (2018), the Thomas Mann Prize (2018), the Austrian State Prize for Literature (2015), and the Vilenica Prize (2011), among many others. His work has been translated into twenty-three languages. His novel Blinding was published by Archipelago in Sean Cotter's English translation. His novel Solenoid, translated by Cotter and published by Deep Vellum, was named one of the best books of 2022 by the New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, The Financial Times, and Words Without Borders.
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.
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