Mircea Cărtărescu’s extraordinary novel Nostalgia was first published in Romania in 1989, in the dying days of the Ceauşescu regime, with the title Visul (‘The Dream’). It appeared again, in its present, revised version, as Nostalgia four years later. The original title must have seemed right at the time, implying as it does that the book is essentially fantastic and in no way concerned with everyday life under communist rule. The censors would have had trouble detecting any signs of disrespect or indications of rebellion. Even so, they were suspicious of the young author’s intentions, before more pressing matters of state diverted them.
I became acquainted with Romania in the same momentous year in which Visul came out and the unexpected revolution took place. The Securitate, or secret police, were a prominent presence, in their knee-length leather coats, wherever you looked. Those stone-faced thugs, in happier circumstances, could have been extras in a