For two thousand years

Mihail Sebastian, 1907-1945

Book - 2017

"Mihail Sebastian's 1934 masterpiece, now available in English for the first time, was written as the rise of fascism forced him out of his literary career and turned his friends and colleagues against him. Confronted with the violence of a recurrent anti-Semitism, Sebastian questions its causes in this perceptive testimony, illuminating the ideological debates of the interwar period with wit, simplicity and vivacity"--

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FICTION/Sebastia Mihail
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Subjects
Genres
Psychological fiction
Published
New York : Other Press [2017]
Language
English
Romanian
Item Description
"Originally published in Romanian as De doua mii de ani in 1934. Original English-language edition first published by Penguin Books Ltd, London" [2016] -- title page verso.
Physical Description
x, 229 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9781590518762
1590518764
Main Author
Mihail Sebastian, 1907-1945 (author)
Other Authors
Philip Ó Ceallaigh (translator)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Sebastian was a prominent Jewish Romanian lawyer and writer in the first half of the last century forced by anti-Semitic legislation to end his public career. This novel, published in 1934 and ably translated for the first time into English, traces the path of its protagonist from his university days to a career as an architect, during which he moves between Bucharest and Paris. Anti-Semitism pervades his surroundings, particularly in Romania, where he frequently hears the cry "Death to the Yids." It's so pervasive, in fact, that he seems inured to it and is shocked to learn by novel's end that several longtime Romanian colleagues have been anti-Semites all along. One of the most compelling passages is an argument between the protagonist and a supposed friend about the nature of anti-Semitism and how a Jew confronts it. VERDICT Laced throughout with debate regarding the place of the Jewish people and their culture in the world, among other issues, this work sits uneasily between philosophical speculation and narrative fiction. But it is an important historical document—prophetically, the protagonist cries out, "Has anybody had a greater need of a fatherland?"—and is recommended for readers of historical and Jewish fiction.—Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

The existential predicament of a Jewish Romanian man born into a deeply anti-Semitic society is brought to harrowing life in Sebastian's intelligent, tragic novel, which was first published in Sebastian's native Romania in 1934. The narrator, 20-year-old university student in Bucharest in the interwar years, is harassed and physically assaulted by anti-Semitic classmates. His entire life has been marked by such attacks, and although he passes his exams, this constant onslaught inculcates self-doubt. Under the influence of sympathetic professor Blidaru, he decides to study architecture, hoping to find in this field a "feeling of fulfillment, of calm," while friends turn to Marxism or Zionism for solutions to their impossible situation. But even as the narrator finds professional success, the effects of relentless anti-Semitism prove corrosive: "Being persecuted is not just a physical trial.... The reality of it slowly deforms you and attacks, above all, your sense of proportion." Sebastian documents the melancholy of a man attached to his homeland even it continually rejects him in this bold and brilliant novel. (Sept.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A Romanian Jewish student, feeling caught between the forces of antisemitism and Zionism, feels disconnected from his peers and begins to spend more time conversing with revolutionaries as he makes his way across an increasingly hostile Europe.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Mihail Sebastian's 1934 masterpiece, now available in English for the first time, was written as the rise of fascism forced him out of his literary career and turned his friends and colleagues against him. Confronted with the violence of a recurrent anti-Semitism, Sebastian questions its causes in this perceptive testimony, illuminating the ideological debates of the interwar period with wit, simplicity and vivacity"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Available in English for the first time, Mihail Sebastian’s classic 1934 novel delves into the mind of a Jewish student in Romania during the fraught years preceding World War II.  This literary masterpiece revives the ideological debates of the interwar period through the journal of a Romanian Jewish student caught between anti-Semitism and Zionism. Although he endures persistent threats just to attend lectures, he feels disconnected from his Jewish peers and questions whether their activism will be worth the cost. Spending his days walking the streets and his nights drinking and conversing with revolutionaries, zealots, and libertines, he remains isolated, even from the women he loves. From Bucharest to Paris, he strives to make peace with himself in an increasingly hostile world.For Two Thousand Years echoes Mihail Sebastian’s struggles as the rise of fascism ended his career and turned his friends and colleagues against him. Born of the violence of relentless anti-Semitism, his searching, self-derisive work captures a defining moment in history and lights the way for generations to come—a prescient, heart-wrenching chronicle of resilience and despair, resistance and acceptance.