Friday 13 June 2014

Attack in the Library

Finished June 11
Attack in the Library by George Arion, translated by Ramona Mitrică, Mike Phillips, and Mihai Rîşnoveanu

This novel was first published in 1983 and was "hailed as a benchmark in Romanian crime fiction". This is the first of his novels to be translated into English.
My copy of this book included an introduction that gives some background and context for the novel. Romania was, of course, under a totalitarian leader at the time that controlled what was published. This means that he had to write to evade censorship or punishment from the regime, yet he still wanted to express some of his frustration with the environment he lived in.
Arion was a journalist who wrote this novel as a result of a bet he made with a colleague. It took him several years to write. Arion`s character is Andrei Mladin, also a journalist, who has a mocking outlook, both at himself and others. Irony underlies much of his commentary, which the lighter more obvious humour of the words is a cover for. The writing evokes the political setting of the novel giving the reader a real feel for the life of the character.
The translation tries to convey the tone of the original, and the footnotes, while at times repetitive or simplistic, do provide some useful information. This objective on the part of the translators means that this novel does sound like a translated novel, but it works.
Mladin meets a famous young female musician in the course of his work, and begins a relationship with her only to find that someone seems determined to frame him for a crime he didn`t commit. As we see the various characters, each embodying a different social and experiential Romanian, we also get a sense of the country and its character.
This is definitely an original.


  1. Whew -- I was hoping this post title was referring to a book title when I saw it!! Sounds like an unusual find.I don't think I've read anything Romanian.

  2. Too funny Melwyk. It was a gift that was likely chosen for me for the title, but the library in question is actually a personal library within an apartment. I have no idea what Romania was like when this was written, but I was there on a holiday a few years ago, and it is definitely going through massive change.