In cool, precise prose, and with an unerring sense of the absurd, the four novellas of Compulsory Happiness create a picture of everyday life in a grotesque police state, expressing terror and hope, fear and solidarity, the humorous triviality of the ordinary, and the painful search for an ideal.
"Norman Manea's four novellas, written during the later Ceausescu years, offer a comparable contrast to other Eastern European dissident writing. Instead of the energetic irony, the ebullient absurdism, the sharp-eyed wit, we find a dreamy disconnection, a voice that shock has lowered, an air of sweetness driven mad."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
"Mr. Manea's voice is radically new, and we are blessedly awakened and alerted by the demand his fiction makes on our understanding."—Lore Segal, New York Times Book Review