Adio, Europa! – rezumat

„Goodbye, Europe!” is the title of a two-volume novel written by Ion Dezideriu Sîrbu. It was published only after the author’s death, as its release during the Ceaușescu regime would have been impossible. A motto of the novel is inspired by the essays of George Orwell, the author of the famous dystopia „1984,” and defines the work as a satire, as „To fill the gaps in history, satire is the ideal means.”

The protagonist of the novel is an alter-ego of the author, Professor Desideriu Candid. He was once a philosophy professor and now works as an inspector of spelling on labels, shop windows, and slogans at the Bread and Wine Factory. Alongside his wife, Olimpia Țăranu, he lives in the fictional province of Alutania, in the city of Ișarlâc, in a country with a system similar to the Phanariot one. Alutania represents Oltenia, while Ișarlâc is the equivalent of Craiova.

Evoking the Phanariots of the Ottoman Empire, the author satirizes the system at the time of the novel’s conception: the country is ruled by the „High Gate” (Bucharest), subordinate to the Sublime Porte, an external authority similar to the Soviet Union. „Agia” is, in fact, the Securitate. Corruption reigns over this fictional land, and the network of those in power has a harmful influence on the many insignificant people.

One day, the professor laughs at a poster containing the program of the People’s University’s conferences. The content of the text seemed absurd to him, as it proposed replacing the name of Karl May with that of Karl Marx in the context of a course on science fiction literature. Candid’s laughter triggers the subsequent events, reminiscent of the perspective on laughter in „The Name of the Rose.” Thus, laughter becomes a symbol of rebellion, of defying the regime.

Candid is built in antithesis with the poet Omar Omarovici Kaimakov, who, fearing the dangers of violating the regime’s principles, becomes an adherent of it, unlike the protagonist, who opposes it with all his might. However, his revolt is rather internal, as even Candid lacks the courage for open opposition.

The ending of the novel is tragic, making it clear that the overthrow of the regime is impossible, as well as the dehumanizing effect it has on humanity. Thus, Olimpia is fatally struck by a black truck driven by members of the Agia, considered a danger to the stability of the system. The protagonist is successfully „brainwashed,” ending up in a mental hospital and feeling „like a cog in another apparatus of repression […] As a human, I am nothing but an incurable madman; only as a citizen have I been abolished and annihilated.”

Even sadder is the complete depersonalization of the protagonist, who even loses his memory: „I don’t know when my wife died, I don’t know why she had to die; no matter how hard I try, I cannot bring her back to my sick mind.” Throughout the twenty-three chapters of the novel, we witness the gradual annulment of Candid’s individuality, as well as the survival of a criminal system, at the „end of history,” where citizens become mere puppets.

In conclusion, „Goodbye, Europe!”, by Ion D. Sîrbu, is a dystopia that denounces the Ceaușescu regime in Romania. The novel encourages taking responsibility for both the functioning of the regime in power and its removal: „No one is innocent: we are all witnesses and accused at the same time.” Part of this responsibility, in the author’s view, lies with Europe itself, which has „abandoned” Romania, as the narrator declares: „I thought it was good to anchor ourselves to the body of Europe, from which and for which we were born as a people and as hope.”