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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Exiled Shadow

Norman Manea

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To purchase Exiled Shadow

Title: Exiled Shadow
Author: Norman Manea
Genre: Novel
Written: 2021 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 356 pages
Original in: Romanian
Availability: Exiled Shadow - US
Exiled Shadow - UK
Exiled Shadow - Canada
Der Schatten im Exil - Deutschland
La sombra exiliada - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: Yale University Press
  • A Novel in Collage
  • Romanian title: Umbra exilată
  • Translated by Carla Baricz

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Our Assessment:

A- : a neat approach to writing about exile, well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 24/5/2023 Carlota Brandis
El País . 14/11/2022 Alberto Manguel

  From the Reviews:
  • "Der Schatten im Exil liefert eine facettenreiche Darstellung literarischer Eindrücke während und nach der Flucht, in der das Fragmentarische sinnbildlich für die Ambivalenz und Zerrissenheit im Exil steht." - Carlota Brandis, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "El interesante enigma, la ambigüedad incitante están en el corazón de este nuevo libro de Manea. (...) La sombra exiliada es un conjunto, no de fotografías, sino de fragmentos, piezas sueltas pero relacionadas entre sí que representan ese inefable momento presente. (...) La maravillosa historia de Peter Schlemihl permite a Manea hilar una vaga trama a través de los fragmentos que componen este libro." - Alberto Manguel, El País

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The guiding text for Exiled Shadow's narrator is Adelbert von Chamisso's 1814 novella, Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte -- specifically, the yellow Reclam-booklet edition --, the story in which the title character sells his shadow only to find himself an outcast; as noted in the (End)Notes, Schlemihl: "will accompany the reader like a shadow" through the book as well. Like his character, Chamisso was also: "An exile, like us", as the nameless narrator tells a friend of his, and the Manea stand-in whose account this is -- "The exile with the code name 'Nomadic Misanthrope'" -- clearly identifies with both.
       Exiled Shadow is described as A Novel in Collage, and while a strong narratorial voice and thread anchor the story, there are many sections with passages and longer pieces from a variety of other writers -- including excerpts from the narrator's (presumably Manea's own) student's essays on exile and Peter Schlemihl. Other outside work includes almost ten pages of excerpts from Thomas Mann's 'Chamisso'-essay, poems by Celan and Montale, excerpts from Alan L. Berger on Elie Wiesel and Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows, and several pages by Alberto Manguel in a chapter titled: 'From Alberto's Personal Papers' (which Manguel mentions in his own review of the novel -- noting: "Juzgo que el hecho de que uno de los fragmentos lleve el nombre de este reseñador no invalida la calidad del resto de la obra"; Manguel also provides a blurb for the English-language edition of the work).
       The story is basically Manea's own, the Romanian author pushed into exile in the mid-1980s, winding up first in Germany, where he spends time with fellow exile Günther Buicliu, "rebaptized Becker, after his German mother who had brought him to Berlin", who was a true believer, a rare critic of the Communist regime from the left, rather than the right, "a rebel against comic book communism". Eventually, the narrator comes to the United States, where he gets a position at 'Buster Keaton College' -- a barely disguised Bard, "the college that has played host to my estrangement", where Manea long taught. (While never named, all pretense is eventually given up when Manea writes, at some length, about the real-life Irma Brandeis, who taught and is buried there.)
       The most significant figure in the narrator's life is his half-sister, Tamar "called Tamara", trained as a doctor (who works in the United States as a head nurse) going through a divorce. Like the 'Nomadic Misanthrope', they have a code name for her: Agatha -- and, yes, Musil is: "his favorite author", and the choice of 'Agatha' suggests just how close the sibling-relationship is .....
       Exiled Shadow is a reflection on exile, and what it means to be an exile. There is much discussion of that, and the collage-material, with its other voices, supports the narrator's account well. The shadow-concept, and the Peter Schlemihl-story in particular are also well-used throughout the narrative (and they are near-omnipresent -- a shadow always over the text, as it were) -- including in the amusing scene when the narrator leaves his homeland and mistakenly hands over the yellow Reclam booklet instead of his passport to the customs official, who is immediately suspicious:

     "What did you say ? A guidebook ? Something that small, that tiny, tiny enough to be hidden in a pocket ? What kind of a guide can it be ? Is it code ? Maybe it's in code. Is that it ? Is that it !"
       (Needless to say, the book is confiscated -- "No printed matter can be removed from the country without prior approval. The approval of the appropriate authorities !" --; one of the first things the narrator does when he gets to Germany is get his hands on another copy.)
       Of a piece with Manea's other work -- much here is also familiar, down to his interest in clowns --, as his œuvre is very much a whole, Exiled Shadow also stands well on its own in its tight focus on exile, and in the way it uses (and comments on) the Adelbert von Chamisso story.
       An accomplished work, with the variety -- and other voices, in the extracts interspersed throughout -- loosening up the work to make for an approachable read even as there is so much depth to it, in its many layers. It's well done and engaging -- an impressive and significant chapter in Manea's considerable body of work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 August 2023

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Exiled Shadow: Reviews: Norman Manea: Other books by Norman Manea under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian author Norman Manea was born in 1936. He teaches at Bard.

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© 2023 the complete review

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