The short-sighted adolescent is a poor schoolboy who is in love with literature, and tries to emulate the lives and works of the writers he most admires. He is also fascinated by science and history, and stays up all night reading. At the age of 17 he decides to write a novel to prove to his teachers that he is not as mediocre as his fellow pupils, and is prepared to give up everything in order to do so. The novel is written in a series of notebooks – the ‘diary’ of the title – but instead of achieving fame as an author, the myopic protagonist fails his exams and has to repeat the school year. From the perspective of a schoolboy’s diary of everyday life in Bucharest in the early 20th century, – his teachers, his classmates’ academic and amorous rivalries, his first sexual experiences – we are introduced to the themes of religion, self-knowledge, erotic sensibility, artistic creation and otherness, subjects that would preoccupy Mircea Eliade, one of Romania’s most prominent intellectuals, until the end of his life. Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent was written when he was the same age as the book’s adolescent hero, and remained unpublished until it was found in an attic in Bucharest after the author’s death in 1986. As such it provides a unique insight into the early career of a great novelist and religious philosopher whose work has been neglected in the English language for too long.
Gaudeamus (Let us Rejoice) is the second autobiographical novel written by the author about his university years, and follows on from his Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent, described by the Guardian’s Nick Lezard as ‘Romania’s Adrian Mole’. In this exuberant and touching portrait of youth, Eliade recounts the fictional version of his university years in late 1920’s Bucharest. Marked by a burgeoning desire to ‘suck out all the marrow of life’, the protagonist throws himself into his studies; engaging his professors and peers in philosophical discourse, becoming one of the founding members of the Student’s Union, and opening-up the attic refuge of his isolated teenage years as a hotspot for political debate and romantic exploration. Readers will recognize in these pages the joy of a life about to blossom, of the search for knowledge and the desire for true love. Already an accomplished writer as a young man, this follow-up to his Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent reveals a keen observer of human behaviour, a seeker of truth and spiritual fulfilment whose path would eventually lead him to become the ultimate historian of 20th-century religions.