Mihail Sebastian translated from the Romanian by Philip Ó Ceallaigh


A Novel


Publication Date: Mar 05, 2019

192 pp


List Price US $8.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-955-4

Trade Paperback

List Price US $15.99
Trim Size (H x W): 5.25 x 8
ISBN: 978-1-59051-954-7

A rediscovered classic from the author of For Two Thousand Years, this remarkable novel presents nuanced snapshots of love in the early twentieth century.

Stefan Valeriu, a young Romanian man who has just completed his medical studies in Paris, spends his vacation in the Alps, where he quickly becomes entangled with three different women. We follow Stefan after his return to Paris as he reflects on the women in his life, at times playing the lover, and at others observing shrewdly from the periphery.

Women’s four interlinked stories offer moving, strikingly modern portraits of romantic relationships in all their complexity, from unrequited loves and passionate affairs to tepid marriages of convenience. In the
same eloquent style that would characterize his later, more political writings, Mihail Sebastian explores longing, otherness, empathy, and regret.

Excerpt from Women

He’s taken a boat from the guesthouse’s jetty, rowed to where the lake opens out and the view of the steep valley in the mountains looks symmetrical, and dropped anchor and flopped down on the bottom of the boat, with the oars dangling in the wavelets. Lazy and without a care, floating in the vast emptiness. He closes his eyes. He is engulfed by sunlight.

Earlier, in the common room, he again saw the young couple that recently arrived at the guesthouse and have taken the room situated on its own, across from the main building. A honeymoon, probably. She’s impressive. She had entered shyly, her eyes and the hint of negligence in her attire suggesting to Stefan that she’d spent a torrid night. The aroma she left behind her seemed to fill the entire building. An aroma redolent of a sensual nest with warm pillows, and a sleepy female body you find yourself making love to in the gentle morning light.

—It’s intolerable! It’s contagious! There should be a law against it! says Stefan aloud to himself. In reply, a wavelet slaps the boat, a distant swimmer shouts something, and in the town the clock of the church of Saint François de Sales strikes ten.

“A compelling portrait of desire in its many convoluted manifestations.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Perceptive and affectionate…these concise stories…showcase Sebastian’s brilliant eye for emotional detail.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for For Two Thousand Years:

“Remarkably pertinent to our time and place…elegiac and lyrical.” —New York Times Book Review

“Scintillating…a fiery coming-of-age story introduced to the combustible material of extremist politics.” —Wall Street Journal, The Best New Fiction

“Nothing I have read is more affecting than Mihail Sebastian’s magnificent, haunting 1934 novel, For Two Thousand Years.” —Philippe Sands, The Guardian, Best Books of 2016

For Two Thousand Years wonderfully captures the sense of prewar Romania in all its sophistication, its beauty, and its horror…I love Sebastian’s courage, his lightness, and his wit.” —John Banville, author of The Sea

“Eerily prophetic…a brilliant translation of a most unusual novel.” —Irish Times

“Mordant, meditative, knotty, provocative…More than a fascinating historical document, it is a coherent and persuasive novel…Philip Ó Ceallaigh’s translation is highly convincing and sweeps us along with its protagonist’s emotional shifts.” —Financial Times
“One of the most unusual, seductive, and beautiful books I’ve read in years. It has lightness of touch coupled with astonishing range…Like any classic of a type we’ve not seen before, it is a book which needs to be read and reread and which, over years, will become a reliable friend for life.” —Jewish Quarterly
“Philip Ó Ceallaigh has succeeded in preserving the unique mixture of alienation, ennui, and barely disguised anxiety that marks Sebastian’s prose…the long sections written in diary form…are not just memorable, they are overwhelming.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Complex, unsettling…Sebastian seldom provoked indifference in his readers. That is why he belongs in the pantheon of classic authors.” —New Statesman