Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent
Author: Mircea Eliade
Translated by Christopher Moncrieff & Christopher Bartholomew
The short-sighted adolescent is a poor schoolboy who is in love with literature, and tries to emulate the lives and works of the writers he most admires. He is also fascinated by science and history, and stays up all night reading. At the age of 17 he decides to write a novel to prove to his teachers that he is not as mediocre as his fellow pupils, and is prepared to give up everything in order to do so. The novel is written in a series of notebooks - the 'diary' of the title - but instead of achieving fame as an author, the myopic protagonist fails his exams and has to repeat the school year.
From the perspective of a schoolboy’s diary of everyday life in Bucharest in the early 20th century, - his teachers, his classmates' academic and amorous rivalries, his first sexual experiences - we are introduced to the themes of religion, self-knowledge, erotic sensibility, artistic creation and otherness, subjects that would preoccupy Mircea Eliade, one of Romania’s most prominent intellectuals, until the end of his life. Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent was written when he was the same age as the book’s adolescent hero, and remained unpublished until it was found in an attic in Bucharest after the author’s death in 1986. As such it provides a unique insight into the early career of a great novelist and religious philosopher whose work has been neglected in the English language for too long.
Nick Lezard's choice, The Guardian
'. . .playful, ludicrous and very good teen journal, in English for the first time'
'Eliade may be describing the life of a student in a Romanian lycée of almost a century ago, but anyone who has ever been at school, full of ideals but also too shy to speak to the opposite sex, or incapable of revising for an exam until the very last minute, will relate to this. As will anyone who has ever committed their private thoughts to paper, as the true record of their soul and a rebuke to posterity.'
"The power of Diary is that, while not being a novel unique to Romania, it can be read as metonymous of it. . . For all its boyish, slapdash sentiments, this is a refined piece of work."
Alexander Clapp, TLS
". . . Istros Books publication of Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent, now the eighth of Eliade’s novels in English, marks a turn of the tide.. . Moncrieff’s translation, which adopts the idiom of the old English grammar school system, lends a vaguely unreal, Harry Potter–like air to the novel, enlivening the intellectual content."
Bryan Rennie, LA Review of Books
'Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent is a cleverly contrived work, entirely authentic yet obviously carefully -- literarily -- fashioned into exactly this story... it's a fine example of the genre -- and more than just a teenage-wallow.'
M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review
'It is a young man’s book; alive and defiant complete with schoolboy bravado, competitive friendship and a very human longing to succeed at something. Fresh and devoid of hindsight, it re-opens the classroom door and the days when each of us tried to read more than everyone else.'
Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
"The young intelectual is too lazy to study. Instead he decides to write a novel to impress his teachers: the diary is his attempted novel which we observe creating itseld in a skilful game of mirrors. A delight."
Patricia Duffaud, The Tablet
The strength of the book lies in precisely those passages where the narrator unwittingly reveals all of his adolescent naiveté and doubts which are both funny and touching.
Marina Sofia, Necessary Fiction
12th APRIL, 2016
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