In The Underside of Politics, Sorin Radu Cucu argues that we can understand the work of a range of American and Eastern European authors, including Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, Philip Roth, Milan Kundera, D. R. Popescu, and Danilo Kiš, as exercises in contemporaneity. This may seem like a fairly simple suggestion. But in Cucu's book it is not. Far from it. Cucu gives us an account of contemporaneity that is not a matter of being. Instead, the term designates for Cucu a process, a temporal relation that emerges from actions that are aimed at getting a better understanding of our present. Being able to understand the present, in turn, is a matter of being able to read it better. The era of the Cold War was a foggy one, Cucu suggests, and it remains so to this day. People struggle to...

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