The death of Saul Bellow–and two recent deaths in the family–spur me to turn a bit more inward and start a series of memoir posts about our year in Romania during 1983-84, during which we read Bellow’s (1982) The Dean’s December and also reread Orwell’s 1984. Those two novels, along with Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, seemed remarkably perceptive about the alien world into which we had naively ventured.
The Saul Bellow Society‘s website describes an intellectual challenge facing Bellow’s protagonist in Romania.
For Dean Albert Corde, it is a matter of penetrating what he calls the “fantasmo imperium”—a state where facts cannot be perceived and provoke only feelings of suffocation. Starting with hibernation in [his wife] Minna’s room, Corde meditates on the symbolic and actual iron curtains behind which millions have been sealed off. He concludes that scientific minds have only succeeded in producing “blockaded zones” and “zones of incomprehension” about the larger issues of human existence. Irresponsible media people, scientists, university administrators, and totalitarian politicians he believes have perpetuated a gigantic fraud.