The Town with Acacia Trees
Translated by Gabi Reigh
- A novel by the distinguished Romanian author translated into English for the first time and published in the UK
- The translation from Romanian by Gabi Reigh was awarded a 2019 English PEN Translates Award
- This edition includes an afterword on Mihail Sebastian by Dr Radu Ioanid, Historian and editor of Sebastian’s Journal 1935-1944 (Dee Publisher)
Watch Tessa Dunlop speak about Mihail Sebastian here.
On a cold bright day, fifteen year old Adriana Dunea wakes up to find that her world has transformed overnight. Her parents irritate her, school is a bore and her body is changing in ways she does not understand. As the seasons turn, she grows into a beautiful young woman, forges new friendships and falls in and out of love. Yet her days spent dreaming of romance and listening to the latest gramophone records in her provincial town swiftly come to an end when the sudden opportunity arises to move to Bucharest.
Seduced by the charms of the ‘Little Paris of the East’, a chance encounter with the hot-headed composer Cello Viorin tests her attachment to her longstanding sweetheart, Gelu. In this witty, lyrical coming-of-age novel, Mihail Sebastian sensitively charts his heroine’s journey of self-awakening as she discovers the limits of her freedom and strives to shape her identity as a woman.
“Sebastian gives a remarkably sensitive, candid portrayal of the coming of age of a girl seen through the eyes of a suitor. The author’s sensitivity to the emotions of his heroine Adriana is captured vividly in this translation in such passages as “every kiss was a wound, in which their lips, their breath, their teeth, the tips of their tongues drowned, warm and wet, and parted slowly, with a final hesitation, leaving on each mouth a blurred, faded smile.” – Dennis Deletant, Ion Ratiu Visiting Professor of Romanian Studies, Georgetown University, Washington DC
“Reigh handily preserves Sebastian’s supple, languid syntax, shaping each sentence to accentuate his exquisite lyricism, as when the couple remains unable to yield entirely to their desire “to be held in such a way that it obliterated everything apart from the ecstasy of the flesh.
An endearingly wistful story of young love.” – Kirkus Reviews
“In The Town with Acacia Trees, Mihail Sebastian writes with the sensibility of a master jeweller. He crafts with precision and delicacy his characters’ intricate souls. Sebastian’s profound humanism, his utopian universalism, is as refreshing and urgent in today’s climate of rising nationalisms as it was in the interwar period. Gabi Reigh’s riveting translation matches Sebastian’s writing like a glove.” –Alex Boican, PhD in Romanian Literature
“He wonderfully captures the atmosphere of prewar Romania in all its complexity, all the beauty and the horror… I love Sebastian for his lightness, for his wit…”
– John Banville, Booker prize-winning author, BBC4
“Nothing I have read is more affecting than Mihail Sebastian’s magnificent, haunting 1934 novel, For Two Thousand Years.” – Philippe Sands, Guardian Books of the Year
About the author
Mihail Sebastian was the pen-name of the Romanian writer Iosif Hechter. Born in the Danube port of Braila, he died in a road accident in 1945. During the period between the wars he was well-known for his lyrical and ironic plays and for urbane psychological novels tinged with melancholy, as well as for his extraordinary literary essays. His novel For Two Thousand Years is a Penguin Modern Classic.
About the translator
Gabi Reigh’s translations and fiction have been published in Modern Poetry in Translation, World Literature Today and The Fortnightly Review. She has won the Stephen Spender prize for poetry in translation and was shortlisted for the Tom-Gallon Society of Authors short story award. She is currently engaged in a translation project called Interbellum Series focusing on works from the Romanian interwar period, including the poetry of Lucian Blaga.
Read our exclusive interview with Gabi Regh.