Rakes of the Old Court by Mateiu I. Caragiale Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

We are delighted to present today an excerpt from the work widely regarded as the greatest Romanian novel of the twentieth century, Mateiu Caragiale’s Rakes of the Old Court (Craii de Curtea-Veche), in a masterful translation by Sean Cotter. The novel follows four characters through the bars and brothels of Bucharest. Guided by an amoral opportunist, the shadowy narrator and his two affluent friends drink and gamble their way through a city built on the ruins of crumbled castles and bygone empires. The novel’s shimmering, spectacular prose describes gripping vignettes of love, ambition, and decay.

Originally published in 1929, Rakes of the Old Court is considered a jewel of Romanian modernism. Devoted “Mateists” have long read, memorized, and reenacted the novel, and after the Romanian Revolution, it became part of the high school curriculum. Now canonical, Mateiu’s work has been celebrated for its opulent literary style and enigmatic tone. The novel was just released in August by Northwestern University Press, and we hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt as much as we did.

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Click here to read the excerpt from Rakes of the Old Court by Mateiu I. Caragiale translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

—Claudia Serea and Loren Kleinman

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