Norman Manea is the most translated Romanian contemporary writer. His work has appeared in 20 languages and more than sixty volumes.
A prolonged official campaign to discredit him in 1981, the withdrawal on the instruction of the communist authorities of his 1984 Literary Prize of the Writers’ Union of Romania, and the mutilation by the censor of his last novel The Black Envelope forced him to leave Romania in 1986.
Since then, Norman Manea has been awarded some major international prizes, among them the 1992 Guggenheim Grant and the 1992 MacArthur Prize (called the “American Nobel”), the 1993 Literary Lion Medal by the New York National Library, the 2002 Nonino International Literary Prize for Opera Omnia, the 2006 Prix Médicis étranger, and is considered one of the most important contemporary writers.
In the extreme situations of his fiction and essays – the Holocaust, daily life in a totalitarian communist state and exile – the author focuses on the inner life of the individual, solitude and problematic solidarity with others, the doubts, hopes and integrity in the struggle not only with outside circumstances but also with oneself, the intense and lucid commitment to life and to questioning its meaning. Truth, beauty, and the moral good form a natural and profound alliance in his writing.
Norman Manea’s work has been placed in the literary family of such writers as Bruno Schulz and Musil, and he has often been mentioned as a literary descendant of Kafka.
The books he has published in the USA (October, eight o’clock ; On Clowns : The Dictator and the Artist ; Compulsory Happiness ; The Black Envelope ; and The Hooligan’s Return) have been included in the New York Times selection of most important books of the year. In 2006, the President of Romania bestowed upon the writer the Medal of Cultural Merit, to the rank of Commander. The same year, he was elected a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, and picked as a member of the international jury for the Nonino Prize.
Norman Manea is writer in residence and Francis Flournoy professor of European Culture at Bard College, New York, where, over the years, writers such as Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Mary McCarthy, Chinua Achebe and John Ashbery have taught.
Besides the volumes in the Norman Manea author series, started in 2008, Polirom has also published The Hooligan’s Return (1st edition : 2003, 2nd edition : 2006), Envelopes and Portraits (2004), Obligatory Happiness (2nd edition, 2005), On Clowns : The Dictator and the Artist (2005), The Apprenticeship Years of Augustus the Fool (2nd edition, 2005), and The Black Envelope (4th edition, 2007).