Literature is Teratology (Mircea Cărtărescu)

‘It’s true, up to a certain point I have been honest with myself, in the only manner possible for an artist; that is I wanted to say everything about myself, absolutely everything. But so much more bitter was the illusion, since literature is not the adequate means to say anything real about yourself. From the first lines with which you layer the page, the hand that holds the pen slips into a foreign, mocking hand, as though entering a glove, while your image in the page’s mirror scatters all over the place like quicksilver, so that out of its disordered blobs coagulates the Spider or the Worm or the Degenerate or the Unicorn or the God, when all you wanted to do was simply speak about yourself. Literature is teratology.’

Teratology, Merriam-Webster defines as ‘the study of malformations or serious deviations from the normal type in developing organisms’ from ‘ancient Greek word teratología ‘account of marvelous things, marvelous tales.’

It’s a promising opening to Mircea Cărtărescu‘s Nostalgia, translated into English by Julian Semilian. I’ll be slowly reading Cărtărescu’s work for a few weeks, following this with Blinding and the Why We Love Women collection. I came to know of his writing from Andrei’s review of Solenoid, from one of my favourite blogs of recent years. Deep Vellum are working on an English translation.

7 thoughts on “Literature is Teratology (Mircea Cărtărescu)

  1. Look forward to hearing what you think of his work. I’m probably somewhat biased, having known him personally (albeit briefly) in my youth, when he was a professor of literature and also ran a writing group at the university. I really like some of his work and thought some of it was terribly pretentious.

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    • I’m surprised, given his literary “insider” status, of how little of his work is translated in English. I’m pleased that Deep Vellum have plans for Solenoid, but it would be good to see the Blinding trilogy parts II and III, and I hope his journals are also translated one day.


      • His journals are quite relatable (writer’s block, anxiety about how his work is received etc.) but also quite funny (sulking about not winning the Nobel Prize etc.). Have yet to read Solenoid, but I think that will possibly be my favourite one of his.


          • I attended a Center for the Art of Translation video talk by Sean Cotter when his Blinding came out, and I recall a murmur going through the whole room when he said he wasn’t sure he’d translate the other volumes. I gathered that the task had been quite taxing. Good to see that he’s still working, though, as Solenoid is the one I’m most interested in reading.

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          • I think I read an interview or transcript where he implied the same. I’m also looking forward to Solenoid. At the moment though I’m more than a little blown away by Nostalgia.


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