Will Self at The Nation:
This attempt to imbue his texts with greater realism by rejecting the reality of his own literary vocation has been part of Cărtărescu’s methodology since the dark days of Ceauşescu’s pseudo-communist regime. In earlier works, this denial had taken the form of the verbatim publishing of his own journals and the attendant claim that he doesn’t live his life but rather “constructed” it. But Cărtărescu also gives his novel a gritty sense of realism through its setting as well as its bitter views of its protagonist. The Bucharest of Solenoid has the curious air of a building constructed according to Hitler and Albert Speer’s Theorie vom Ruinwert: namely with the aim of having it look better as it ages than when new-made. For decay is everywhere in the Bucharest of the counter-Cărtărescu. His city is an urban environment seemingly purpose-built to express impermanence and decay, one in which moldering old mercantile houses and newly built yet already decaying apartment buildings are rendered phantasmagorical by the nameless narrator’s wanderings through their chipped and spalling chambers. Repeatedly and elegiacally, the counter-Cărtărescu hymns the city of his birth as “the saddest city,” and just as the precision of his writing imbues a dream with great realism, so too does the crumbling nature of his hometown offer us fragments of material beauty—perhaps the very ones necessary to shore us up against our current ruination.