Right up until the middle of the 1930s, Mihail Sebastian, a young Bucharest writer, lived a life that would have been recognizable to any other young writer in the Manhattan or London of the same era. His days were passed in thinking, writing, day-dreaming, socializing. He worried that his books were not selling enough and wondered whether to make his plays more accessible to a wider public. He thought about whether he had chosen the right sort of publisher and avidly read the comments of his reviewers. He conducted complicated love affairs. He learned to ski. He went to dinner parties given by other writers and counted among his friends actresses, university professors, and the odd rich businessman with literary pretensions.

Like his friends, Sebastian argued about aesthetics and politics. Like his friends, he went to literary cocktail parties. Like his friends, he wrote criticism for small magazines. But Sebastian was...

 

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