Doina Ruști

Four men plus Aurelius (Patru bărbați plus Aurelius)

Four men plus Aurelius (Patru bărbați plus Aurelius) - Doina Ruști
Polirom Publishing, 2011 (Romanian)

Fast-paced, sinewy, with a thriller-like plot, countless surprises and out-of-the-ordinary events, the novel is a page-turner.

Four Men Plus Aurelius is set in a film studio, where a mysterious man turns up one day, claiming that there is a character in the novel Madame Bovary that no one except him can remember. As a result, everybody stops what they are doing and goes off to reread Flaubert’s novel. This proves to be more problematic than it would have seemed, however. The premise on which Doina Rusti’s novel is based also provides an occasion for remembrance, on the part of the central character, Licia, who falls in love with the newcomer. The men in her life – tempters, seducers, and inconstant heartbreakers – re-emerge in her memory one by one, transfigured and burdened with old guilt. This adventure, which blends together murder, sentimentality, and a tomcat that is simultaneously loved and hated, gradually replaces the narrative of the conventional novel. For, this is literature that is also about literature…

George Cal knew what I was there for, it was obvious from the way his eyes started to swish. He rushed to the bar. My eyes didn't follow him. Suddenly, the sleighs across the way became of utmost importance for me. Cal bought cigarettes. I saw his pack of Marlboro when he passed by me. He spit out some kind of goodbye and headed to the door. He turned to close it and then, through the window pane glowing in the clear afternoon light, he pointed Aurelius out to me.

A tabby furball poked his head out of the black jacket, whom I saw as Aurelius' ghost, his reincarnation or maybe Aurelius himself. They were both in the doorway looking at me, and Cal actually raised his hand to show him to me as if saying: look, this is my kitten.

In the winter light, through the window pane of the door, Cal lifted a finger and the startled kitten clenched his jaw just as some man appeared, wanting to go inside the coffee shop.