The Hooligan's Return is Norman Manea's long-awaited memoir, a portrait of an artist that ranges freely from his early childhood in prewar Romania to his return there in 1997.
In October l941, the entire Jewish population of Manea's native Bukovina was deported to concentration camps. Manea was among them, a child at the time, and his family spent four years there before they were able to return home. Embracing a Communist ethos as a teenager, he becomes disillusioned with the system in place in his country as he matures, having witnessed the growing injustices of dictatorship, and the false imprisonment of his father. But as a writer, Manea wrestles with the fear of losing his native language, hisrealhomeland if he leaves his country, though it is clear to him that to stay under such a regime would be well-nigh impossible. Finally, in 1988, he settles in the United States, returning to Romania a decade later.
A harrowing memoir, The Hooligan's Return freely traverses time and place, life and literature, dream and reality, past and present. Beautifully written and brilliantly conceived, this is the story of a writer more interested in ethics and aesthetics than in politics, a literary man consumed by questions of solitude and solidarity.
Mr. Manea is short on doors and steps; his interest lies in evoking the feel and implication of his life more than in recounting its details. Yet the artistry of the implication, the intensity of what can seem a dream state, draws us imperceptibly through a half-lighted window for lack of the door. A chronology does manage to emerge. So do a series of haunting and ironic scenes. Richard Eder