‘Women’ by Mihail Sebastian – Foolish Love Affairs


‘Women’ by Mihail Sebastian   (1933) – 186 pages                 Translated from the Romanian by Philip O Ceallaigh

‘Women’ relates the frivolous love affairs of Romanian medical student Stefan Valeriu. It is the frivolousness of these love affairs that makes them seem so modern. The affairs are not intense or fraught with feelings as we seem to associate with romance in the olden days. Instead they are light and playful.

‘There haven’t been very many women in my life. But there have been a few. As many as any man of average unattractiveness might have, when he acts kindly and knows when to insist. I’m not boasting, as I know any number of acquaintances of mine, taller and darker and better looking, who have had ten times the number of “conquests”.’

There are Renee, Odette, Maria, and Arabela among others.

I suppose an aspiring doctor would have no problem finding available gals at a vacation resort in the Alps even back in the olden days. A couple of these available gals happen to be married to tedious husbands.

What makes ‘Women’ stand out are the beautiful evocative sentences. I expect that the translator Philip O Ceallaigh had much to do in making ‘Women’ so readable for a modern audience.

‘In all this, the sound of Stefan Valeriu’s own breathing is one more detail, no more trivial or essential than a squirrel leaping or that grasshopper perched on the toe of his boot, believing it to be a stone. It’s good to be here, an animal, a creature, a nobody, sleeping and breathing on a two meter patch of grass under a common sun.’

My compliments to the writer and to the translator for these lines.

In the last chapter, Stefan meets Arabela who gets him to abandon his medical career to become part of a music act traveling throughout Europe.

‘I sat at the piano and looked at Arabela and told myself, as I did every evening, that she wasn’t beautiful and couldn’t sing, and then accompanied her earthy voice with the same astonishment and profound peace, and it made me so melancholy, like ten slim fingers combing through memory and forgetfulness.’

These are bright and sunny stories about intriguing and exasperating women, and I will be looking to read Mihail Sebastian’s other acclaimed novel ‘For Two Thousand Years’ soon.


Grade:    A


3 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve read “For Two Thousand Years” and he does write beautifully – although it sounds like the tone and the subject matter of this one is very different!



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