The Hooligan's Return A Memoir

Norman Manea; Translated from the Romanian by Angela Jianu

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

400 Pages


Request Exam Copy Request Desk Copy
The Hooligan's Return is Norman Manea's critically-acclaimed memoir, a portrait of an artist that ranges freely from his early childhood in prewar Romania to his return there in 1997.

In October l941, the entire Jewish population of Manea's native Bukovina was deported to concentration camps. Manea was among them, a child at the time, and his family spent four years there before they were able to return home. Embracing a Communist ethos as a teenager, he becomes disillusioned with the system in place in his country as he matures, having witnessed the growing injustices of dictatorship, and the false imprisonment of his father. But as a writer, Manea wrestles with the fear of losing his native language—his real homeland—if he leaves his country, though it is clear to him that to stay under such a regime would be well-nigh impossible. Finally, in 1988, he settles in the United States, returning to Romania a decade later.

A harrowing memoir, The Hooligan's Return freely traverses time and place, life and literature, dream and reality, past and present. Beautifully written and brilliantly conceived, this is the story of a writer more interested in ethics and aesthetics than in politics, a literary man consumed by questions of solitude and solidarity.


Praise for The Hooligan's Return

"A personal, lyrical, ironic, and poignant account of a life that brought Manea from his native Bukovina to New York . . . An unusual collage of recollections, journal entries, dreams, and confessions . . . A convincing tale of a life of anguish and alienation."—Jaroslaw Anders, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[This] memoir—evasive, conflicted, harrowed, tortuously elegiac—is an extraordinary book."—Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker

"[An] artful indirectness and elegant blurriness animate Manea's unconventional memoir . . . Manea's surrealistic style is forged by—and perfectly matched to—its subject."—Benjamin Balint, The Forward

"A genuinely great book, an entire teeming life seized and made permanent."—Robert Boyers, The New Republic

"Mature, difficult, and rich in irony and paradox . . . The Hooligan's Return peels back the facile like a pelt. It is a performance both excruciating and ferociously controlled. The result may well rank among the finest memoirs in a generation."—Mark Slouka, San Francisco Chronicle

"Luminous . . . [A] complicated and sorrowful story . . . The Hooligan's Return functions on several levels—as a first-hand description of the daily absurdist round that was meant to be ordinary life in a police state; as a portrait of the development of a man whose cultural interests refuse to accept the restrictions of patriotism; as an allusive historical study of a nation that surrendered too willingly to madness; and as a deeply felt lcelebration of the enduring qualities of individual fidelity and love. In Manea's case, it is his fidelity to the beautiful language he has not abandoned, and to his wife and the friends whose inventive humor he could not always emulate. The 'sad country, full of humor' that was, and still is, Romania has had no finer and more percipient chronicler of its sorrows and absurdities, the two so often intermixed, than the man his detractors have labelled the 'dwarf from Jerusalem.' If Norman Manea is a dwarf, he is one of an immensely humane and intelligent stature."—Paul Bailey, Times Literary Supplement

"We know when we’ve come on a work of literature that alters, for the rest of our lives, how we see, how we understand even that which we may have believed we understood before. Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Chaim Grade’s My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner. Ward Number Six. And now The Hooligan’s Return. I am profoundly grateful for this living, flesh-and-blood, yet unearthly memoir."—Cynthia Ozick

"Romania's greatest living novelist weaves together three journeys, three precise moments in his life, in this subtle, exacting, obsessive and extraordinary memoir that wrenches beauty from pain and transfixes life into art. The Hooligan's Return is a brilliant achievement."—Edward Hirsch

"A fascinating, beguiling record of the almost incredible events that can transpire in one life, especially if that life is lived in twentieth-century Eastern Europe. The Hooligan's Return operates on so many levels that finally it eludes all classification and reveals itself as art."—Francine Prose

"Arch, literary, and self-effacing, Manea revisits the scenes of his youth, encounters 'miraculous apparitions' from the past, and contents himself with the knowledge that his true home now lies elsewhere."— Kirkus Reviews

"The author applies the fluidity of prose fiction to his autobiography, juxtaposing the aphoristic and oblique with the fanciful and direct. On the barely visible backdrop, the ghostly, ghastly figures of 20th-century historical Romania hover like 'Securitate eavesdroppers.' This is a dense, absorbing, and internally complex work in which a stroll on Manhattan's Upper West Side is a prologue to a time-shifting (as the pages move forward, time slips back and forth) and place-shifting. Readers are often in Transnistria when they thought they were comfortably in Bukovina or Itcani. Manea's memoir, which so often speaks metaphorically, is surely intended to provoke a sense of that displacement."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Norman Manea is the author of, most recently, The Black Envelope and Compulsory Happiness. He teaches at Bard College and lives with his wife in New York City.
Read the full excerpt


  • Norman Manea; Translated from the Romanian by Angela Jianu

  • Norman Manea is the author of, most recently, The Black Envelope and Compulsory Happiness. He teaches at Bard College and lives with his wife in New York City.