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Max Blecher (1909–1938)

Author of Adventures In Immediate Irreality

16 Works 331 Members 9 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Includes the name: Max Blecher

Works by Max Blecher


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Blecher, Max
Legal name
Blecher, Max
Date of death
Botosani, Romania
Place of death
Roman, Romania
Cause of death
spinal tuberculosis (Pott's disease)



The Enlightened Cave: A Sanatorium Diary
Review of the Loomingu Raamatukogu estonian language edition (2020) translated from the Romanian language original "Vizuina luminată" (Enlightened Cave) (1971/2009)
From the golden age of the interwar years of Romanian literature, the Estonian reader will now receive Max Blecher's posthumously published “The Enlightened Cave. A Sanatorium Diary”. Blecher's medical studies in Paris were interrupted by spinal tuberculosis, and he spent almost a third of his short life in various sanatoriums. Although he was in an immobile body, he had a moving and searching spirit. Aside from Blecher's interest in philosophy and music, he wrote both poetry and prose.
In the work, the author describes what he has seen, heard and experienced in dreams and in the real world, so that the gloomy reality of the sanatorium alternates with the surreal spectacles of dreams and existential reflections. - translation of the Estonian language synopsis.

Blecher's debut novel, Adventures in Immediate Irreality (Juntâmplari în irealitatea imediată, 1936), depicts the escape from everyday life by an extraordinarily sensitive, but sick, young man. According to the author himself, the themes of the first novel are the panopticon, the cinema and autumn.
The next novel, Scarred Hearts (Inimi cicatrizate, 1937), tells the story of the beginning of Blecher's illness, although, unlike the others, it is written in the third person. The work paints pictures of sanatorium life, the operating rooms, but also love between the patients.
The final. posthumously published, novel, The Enlightened Cave (Vizuina luminată, 1971), published by Blecher's friend Saşa Pană, also continues the theme of disease. The author has called the "Enlightened Cave" a sanatorium diary, yet it is not a diary in the ordinary sense of the word. The events are not presented in chronological order. Reflections, dreams and fantasies are embedded in the fabric of the novel. Humorous aspects are drawn between the disease itself and the rather sinister descriptions of treatments.
In fact, Blecher's three novels can be seen as three different parts of one larger work. The central themes of the works are suffering and its overcoming, in the gloomy reality of sanatoriums. Illness creates a sense of unreality and it also changes the sense of reality. Blecher is also plagued by the problem of the present, of time, and of disappearance, and the erotic pains of a young man are strong. The line between reality and untruth is thin. Blecher's prose is characterized by long, tense, complex sentences that do not allow for easy interpretation.
- a translation of an excerpt from the Estonian language Afterword by translator Riina Jesmin.

Trivia and Links
The Loomingu Raamatukogu (The Creation Library) is a modestly priced Estonian literary journal which initially published weekly (from 1957 to 1994) and which now publishes 40 issues a year as of 1995. It is a great source for discovery as its relatively cheap prices (currently 3 to 5€ per issue) allow for access to a multitude of international writers in Estonian translation and of shorter works by Estonian authors themselves. These include poetry, theatre, essays, short stories, novellas and novels (the lengthier works are usually parcelled out over several issues).

For a complete listing of all works issued to date by Loomingu Raamatukogu see Estonian Wikipedia at: https://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loomingu_Raamatukogus_ilmunud_teoste_loend_aastak%...
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alanteder | Oct 11, 2020 |
Imagine if someone told you their dreams, and it was not excruciating.
1 vote
uncleflannery | 5 other reviews | May 16, 2020 |
In his preface to this slim volume, Andrei Codrescu mentions that Michael Henry Heim, who is renowned for his translations from a number of Easter European languages, learned Romanian specifically to translate Blecher. And knowing that the translator himself was ill when translating this work, brought home to me the almost organic bond between the writer and the translator. This bond certainly informs the quality of the prose: masterfully crafted and deeply felt.

Max Blecher is one of those shooting stars in the literary sky: to avoid the usual comparisons, let's say, he was like Stig Dagerman, or the Swiss writer Fritz Zorn, who were gifted with unusual lucidity and died prematurely, or like Joe Bousquet, the French writer paralyzed as a result of being wounded in war and who, like Blecher, wrote confined in bed. Reviewers notoriously compare Blecher to Proust or Kafka, although I find these comparisons to be overused to the point of being meaningless: like Kafka because he may represent an absurd aspect of reality or present reality with a sensibility that manages to get under the skin of things; like Proust because he raises the questions of memory (or that he raises it through the use of modern optical devices)... Although if I had to compare his writing style to anything, Maurice Blanchot would spring to mind before Proust or Kafka. But why compare at all? Aren't all these comparisons a way of denying his uniqueness? I suppose, from a distance, all stars look alike, but the difference is in how they allow us to navigate through life.

The character portrayed in Adventures in Immediate Irreality seems to lack the protective outer layer, he experiences the world in a raw, visceral manner; the contours of his existence are fluid, they can be penetrated by the objects and spaces around him, making his identity and perception of the world vacillate. He calls this sensory overload his crises. The slightest detail will trigger a flood of meaning. "Once during a crisis the sun sent a small cascade of rays onto the wall like a golden artificial lake dappled with glittering waves. I also saw the corner of a bookcase of large, leather-bound volumes behind glass. And in the end these true-to-life details, perceived from the distance of my swoon, stupefied and stunned me like a last gulp of chloroform. It was the most humdrum and familiar in the objects that disturbed me most." Despite the superficial similarity, these experiences are more like Bataille's blue of noon than Proust's experience of awakening in an unfamiliar room: the narrator essentially experiences the world as catastrophe camouflaged by surface appearances among which most people live out their lives. He presages the shattering of this world of appearance that World War II was going to be (and which he did not live to see), but more essentially he senses the catastrophe that is contained within the fabric of the world, and the tentative nature of reality as we know it. Once the instability of the real, supported by everyday objects and social structures, reveals itself, what remains is vertigo.
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2 vote
aileverte | 5 other reviews | Jan 20, 2016 |
I'm surprised that none of the other reviews mention the several instances of child sexual abuse described by the narrrator in chapters two and three. Whatever the book's literary merits may (or may not) be, and whether the narrator's experiences and actions are explained and contextualised later on, I don't think I want to read further.

I can, perhaps, interpret for myself the "immediate irreality" the narrator describes as being a kind of trauma dissociation, but the story does not seems to be going in that direction, and I really don't feel like finding out at this point. I wish there had been some indication of the nature of this part of the story in the book description, as I could have just avoided it then.… (more)
Michael.Rimmer | 5 other reviews | Apr 28, 2021 |


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