Cărtărescu vs. Cărtărescu: el imaginario literario de Melancolia, cambio y pervivencia

Cărtărescu vs. Cărtărescu: The literary imaginary of The Melancholy. Change and perseverance





Mircea Cărtărescu, Melancolia , differences , similarities , space , time


The aim of this paper is to analyze the differences and similarities between the latest volume of stories published by the Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu (Melancolia, 2019, Bucharest, Humanitas) and his previous literary production. Although Melancolia has been associated with Nostalgia and indeed exhibits many parallels with the first volume of short novels published by Cartarescu, the truth is that the 2019 volume refers to the literary universe created from other texts as well. By comparing and contrasting Melancolia with some of his main works, from novels such as the three volumes of the Orbitor trilogy (Aripa stângă, Corpul, Aripa dreaptă), Travesti or Solenoid to his poetry, through the stories of Nostalgia, the essay aims to demonstrate how this volume dialogues, more or less explicitly, with all the previous ones while distancing itself from them in some narrative and stylistic aspects. After examining elements such as characters, motifs, symbols, metaphors, subjects, intertextuality, and metafiction, the work focuses on space and time as the two main categories in which the most significant changes take place as they move away from their usual context, communist Bucharest (more precisely, from the late 1950s to the end of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime in the late 1980s). This temporal and spatial framework is one of the fundamental axes of all Cărtărescu’s literary texts, which gives them unity, stability, and continuity. However, as the article tries to demonstrate, the change is not total, but Mircea Cărtărescu, through his usual intertextual play, refers indirectly to this space well known by his readers and, consequently, perhaps also to that historical period. To argue this issue, this article outlines the direct allusion to a specific space mentioned in some of the author’s earlier texts. This is the factory where one of the most important episodes of the first story (Punțile) takes place. The spatial descriptions of the first and third stories are also analyzed to check the parallels between them and some settings of Nostalgia, Orbitor or Solenoid. The work also investigates the possible objectives of these changes and similarities. On the one hand, it is possible to identify some of Cărtărescu’s characteristic elements in Melancholy due to its thematic and stylistic permanence (child and adolescent characters, the games as creation and as a gateway to a magical universe, the mother, rites of passage, onirism, the use of polysemic symbols such as the butterfly, duality, symmetry and twins, fractal images, anti-mimetic references, etc.), as well as the allusions (explicit or implicit) to his previous works. On the other hand, by neglecting (at least unequivocally) the preferred space-time frame of his previous works, Melancolia can be universalized, and the fictitious components can prevail over any possible reference to extra-literary reality. In this way, the Romanian writer achieves a work that is both very similar to and very different from his broader literary corpus, from everything he had written until the moment of the publication of Melancolia.

Author Biography

Alba Diz Villanueva, Complutense University of Madrid

Alba Diz Villanueva is an Assistant Professor PhD in the Department ERFITeI from the Complutense University of Madrid. She earned a PhD in Literary Studies from Complutense University of Madrid with the doctoral dissertation The Urban Space in the Work of Mircea Cărtărescu: History and Metaphor. Her research interests lie mainly in the fields of Hispano-American and Romanian literature and the relation between literature and urban space. She has published various papers, books and book chapters in thematic volumes. She has also attended many national and international conferences, congresses and seminars. She is a member of the Complutense research group named Traveling around the city: Literary and artistic representations of urban space and Poetics of Modernity, and editor of the Revista de Filología Románica (Journal of Romance Philology).


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How to Cite

Diz Villanueva, A. (2024). Cărtărescu vs. Cărtărescu: el imaginario literario de Melancolia, cambio y pervivencia: Cărtărescu vs. Cărtărescu: The literary imaginary of The Melancholy. Change and perseverance. Swedish Journal of Romanian Studies, 7(2), 57–82. https://doi.org/10.35824/sjrs.v7i2.25843