Liviu's Reviews > Delirul, volumul II

Delirul, volumul II by Stefan Dumitrescu
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Mar 21, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: read_2012, mainstream, romanian_language
Read from March 21 to 23, 2012

This is a very interesting book for a few reasons; for anyone who does not know the details about the original book - Delirul - written in 1975 by arguably the most acclaimed writer of the middle era of the communist regime (1960-1980) in Romania, Marin Preda, was a book that sold its huge (for the day) first printing in a few days, was attacked both by Moscow and by the US through its Radio Free Europe broadcast and while the author was ostensibly thrown under the bus by the regime's literary establishment, the book served the regime and the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu (who is portrayed in the book as a secondary character btw) so well that it was reprinted with just cosmetic changes to appease the Moscow critics; the main reason for the controversy was that Delirul contained the first "toe in the waters" attempt at the rehabilitation of Romania wartime leader Marshal Ion Antonescu and I have read quite convincing speculations that if this rehabilitation would have been tacitly accepted in Moscow and Washington, Ceausescu would have added the Marshal to the Romanian people's pantheon of heroes (Burebista, Decebal, Mircea, Stefan, Mihai and of course Nicolae) whose culmination at the time as mentioned was himself; anyway the attempt foundered and Marin Preda never dared to continue Delirul in the five years of life until his sad death from alcohol abuse (while conspiracy theories about that abound, the author was such a heavy drinker that it is quite likely he died of natural causes).

Incidentally showing that his "disgrace" expressed in nasty reviews of Delirul in the official press, was a facade to appease Moscow (and even Washington as Ceausescu was a great friend of the US presidents in the 70's and even in the early 80's with Romania the only Eastern bloc country that participated at the LA Olympics in 84 for example), Marin Preda went and published to great acclaim (and of course a few editions with stuff changed as needed) his monumental 3 volume Cel Mai Iubit Dintre Paminteni - The Best Loved Person on Earth - which treated the murderous nature of the early communist era and the terrible communist prisons and labor camps of the 50's in the clearest fashion to date (this topic unlike the Antonescu rehabilitation was treated earlier and was something purely internal of course, but never so directly)

Now Delirul has its political component but in large part it is a love story and the saga of a young man who leaves his natal village and discovers a talent for journalism while he gets lucky to be taken under the wing of the most famous journalist of the day; overall the book is an astounding portrait of Romania in the turbulent years following Carol's downfall and the Legion-Antonescu cohabitation in the fall of 1940, through the bloody Legionary rebellion of January 1941 to the declaration of the Sacred War against the USSR on June 22 1941 (in June 1940 under the secret conventions of the Molotov-Ribbentrop August 1939 pact, the USSR offered an ultimatum to Romania and annexed two Romanian provinces when Carol declined to fight, annexation followed by terror and uncountable murders and deportations in the two provinces, so the June 22 invasion of the USSR was extremely popular to start with and was justified from the Romanian point of view) and the first few months of the war and it ends while not quite on a cliffhanger but close to one.

So fast forward Delirul II written in 1992 by a fairly obscure author under the conditions mentioned in the blurb above, but not published until more than 10 years later by a fairly obscure publisher and to be honest i expected junk and I was astounded at the quality of the book; yes it goes a bit overboard in praising Antonescu who is portrayed almost in Golden Era Ceausescu's terms and yes the hero is a little too irresistible to women (the few kids with this girl, few kids with the other, another with another, all living in harmony is a little over the top frankly too) but still the book is mesmerizing, is written extremely well as style - more modern than Preda but not dissonant with the original Delirul - and the portrait of the war years (1941-1944 with an epilogue in 1946) is excellent. Despite or maybe because the larger-than-life dimension that Stefan Paul gets and the veering in sff-nal stuff with prophetic dreams, the book works very well and it became an instant favorite of mine while completing the original book very well.

Mostly the saga of Stefan, his affairs with the women alluded above and his journalistic career, while trying desperately to change history and prevent the prophetic dreams foreseen overthrow and brutal death of the Marshal and the fall of Romania in the darkness of the gulag; a superb cast of secondary characters and the wise-cracking Merenghel with his oft-repeated explanation for why things tend to go badly in Romania however promising the beginnings seem, "că românu este curvă”, just stealing the page anytime he appears.
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