Synopses & Reviews
Clutching a bouquet of flowers, hurrying to catch his bus, and arguing with the driver once he's on, a man rushes to a train station platform to meet a woman. This sequence of events occurs and recurs in remarkably different variations in Vain Art of the Fugue.
In one version, the bus driver ignores the traffic signals and is killed in the ensuing crash. In another, the protagonist is thrown off the bus, and as he chases after it, a crowd of strangers joins him in the pursuit.
As the book unfolds, the protagonist, his lovers, and the people he meets become increasingly vivid and complex figures in the crowded Bucharest cityscape. Themes, conflicts, and characters interweave and overlap, creating a book that is at once chaotic and perfectly composed.
"Noted Romanian writer Tsepeneag spins out a blizzard of variations on a simple anecdote, marvelously echoing the fugue's repeated statement of subtly differing themes. In Tsepeneag's simple tale, a man is sitting on a bus, flowers in hand, concerned that he will miss the train he is hoping to meet or is he catching it? At the train station, he waits impatiently for Maria (or is it Magda?) while watching the strange parade of humanity: peasants cradling giant fish, train engineers telling long-winded anecdotes, an Italian tourist struggling to understand the conductor's rapid-fire Romanian. Sometimes the scene switches suddenly, and our protagonist is at the beach or in prison; other times, the action shifts from him to other, unnamed characters, who watch his furious and ultimately fruitless attempts to maintain order. A few of the 25 segments fall flat or fail to adequately distinguish themselves, and none resolves (in fact, most loop back). Yet there is a sublime lunacy to watching objects lose their meanings, people exchange roles and the protagonist suddenly surge ahead quixotically, as when he (repeatedly) runs alongside the bus wearing a T-shirt emblazoned, in gold letters, 'LOVE.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The reader discovers new satisfactions with such a book. Far from the insipid savors generated by a passive fascination, the text stirs up the joys of an endless activity."--Le Monde
About the Author
Dumitru Tsepeneag is one of the most innovative Romanian writers of the second half of the twentieth century. In 1975, while he was in France, his citizenship was revoked by Ceauşescu, and he was forced into exile. In the 1980s, he started to write in French. He returned to his native language after the Ceauşescu regime ended, but continues to write in his adopted language as well.A translator from Romanian, Spanish, German, French, and Italian, Patrick Camiller has translated many works, including Dumitru Tsepeneag's Vain Art of the Fugue, The Necessary Marriage, and Hotel Europa.