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  • Published: 1 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241189610
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $24.99

For Two Thousand Years

The searing Eastern European masterpiece translated into English for the first time

'Absolutely, definitively alone', a young Jewish student in Romania tries to make sense of a world that has decided he doesn't belong. Spending his days walking the streets and his nights drinking and gambling, meeting revolutionaries, zealots, lovers and libertines, he adjusts his eyes to the darkness that falls over Europe, and threatens to destroy him.

Mihail Sebastian's 1934 masterpiece, now available in English for the first time, was written as the rise of fascism forced him out of his career and turned his friends and colleagues against him. For Two Thousand Years is a prescient, heart-wrenching chronicle of resilience and despair, broken layers of memory and the terrible forces of history.

  • Published: 1 May 2016
  • ISBN: 9780241189610
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Mihail Sebastian

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.

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Praise for For Two Thousand Years

It wonderfully captures the sense of pre-war Romania in all its sophistication, its beauty and its horror... I love Sebastian's courage, his lightness and his wit

John Banville, Open Book, Radio 4

Mordant, meditative, knotty, provocative... More than a fascinating historical document, it is a coherent and persuasive novel... Penguin should be applauded for finally bringing this book to an anglophone audience. Philip Ó Ceallaigh's translation is highly convincing and sweeps us along with its protagonist's emotional shifts

Toby Lichtig, Financial Times

Eerily prophetic... a brilliant translation of a most unusual novel. For Two Thousand Years is a book of truths

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

One of the most unusual, seductive and beautiful books I've read in years. It has lightness of touch coupled with astonishing range... Like any classic of a type we've not seen before, it is a book which needs to be read and re-read and which, over years, will become a reliable friend for life

John Self, Jewish Quarterly

For Two Thousand Years is lucid, melancholy and playful - a fictional memoir recreating the night-life and love affairs, friendships and betrayals of a world that was falling apart

John Gray, author of The Soul of the Marionette

Philip Ó Ceallaigh's meticulous and vibrant translation restores to us the wry, bitterly intelligent, endlessly self-castigating yet dauntingly perceptive and prophetic voice of Mihail Sebastian. For Two Thousand Years is a masterful book charged with the tension and paranoia that preceded one of the bloodiest convulsions in the history of the 20th century, and the terrifying thing is, it could have been written yesterday, today, tomorrow

Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins

A powerful and prescient novel which throws light on darkness and disturbs as it entrances... If there is any justice [Sebastian's] posthumous profile will increase

Malcolm Forbes, Herald Scotland

Complex, unsettling... Sebastian seldom provoked indifference in his readers. That is why he belongs in the pantheon of classic authors... For Two Thousand Years is a work that also speaks to our own discontents right now

Gavin Jacobson, New Statesman

His prose is like something Chekhov might have written - the same modesty, candour, and subtleness of observation

Arthur Miller

Restraint is the defining mark of both For Two Thousand Years and the subsequent Journal, as it is of Sebastian's personality... In a truly atrocious time he refused to compromise on his duties as a civilized human being... Even on the darkest pages he finds room for a graceful turn of phrase, a flash of wit, a gesture of understanding and forgiveness

John Banville, New York Review of Books

At a dark moment of identity politics and resurgent nationalism, the books that have left the deepest impression have been those that offer a sense of what we might learn from times past. Nothing I have read is more affecting than Mihail Sebastian's magnificent, haunting 1934 novel, For Two Thousand Years (trans Philip Ó Ceallaigh), now available in English

Philippe Sands, Guardian Books of the Year

The best novel of the year was written in 1934. Mihail Sebastian's For Two Thousand Years, an account of interwar Bucharest by a nameless Jewish student, took a human lifespan to find an English translation

Janan Ganesh, Financial Times

An elegant and candid and horrifyingly understated account of watching violent unreason rise around you

Ben Lerner, Paris Review

Remarkably pertinent to our time and place. . . What's chilling about For Two Thousand Years, in this sensitive translation by Philip O Ceallaigh, is how its oppressive atmosphere foreshadows the rise of Romanian authoritarianism and the destruction of Romanian Jewry, even though it was published before the fascists came to power. . . I can't help thinking that Mihail Sebastian is sending us a message across the generations

New York Times Review of Books