A fascinating narrative of life in communist Romania, and a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of literature and censorship. A Censor's Notebook
is a window into the intimate workings of censorship under communism, steeped in mystery and secrets and lies, confirming the power of literature to capture personal and political truths.
The novel begins with a seemingly non-fiction frame story--an exchange of letters between the author and Emilia Codrescu, the female chief of the Secret Documents Office in Romania's feared State Directorate of Media and Printing, the government branch responsible for censorship. Codrescu had been responsible for the burning and shredding of the censors' notebooks and the state secrets in them, but prior to fleeing the country in 1974 she had stolen one of these notebooks.
Now, forty years later, she makes the notebook available to Liliana, the character of the author, for the newly instituted Museum of Communism. The work of a censor--a job about which it is forbidden to talk--is revealed in this notebook, which discloses the structures of this mysterious institution and describes how these professional readers and ideological error hunters are burdened with hundreds of manuscripts, strict deadlines, and threatening penalties. The censors lose their identity, and are often frazzled by neuroses and other illnesses.