As an anthropologist of religion, I had somewhat mixed feelings about Mircea Eliade and his legacy both in religious studies and literature. This ambivalence was deepened after reading how he dropped his friend Mihail Sebastian in the 1930s because of his antisemitic leanings. I am therefore not including Eliade in this personal anthology (and sadly, not Sebastian either, because he didn’t write short stories). However, I do like the way that contemporary poet and short story writer Paul Doru Mugur has taken one of Eliade’s more bizarre and mystical stories, ‘The Secret of Dr Honigberger’, and given it a very contemporary sci-fi twist. This entire short story collection explores issues of identity and our fears of AI; it is disquieting but also remarkably funny.
“‘Anyway, what is reality other than a dream?’ he started telling himself. Since this idea was so precious to Mircea – the ultimate truth for an artist to aspire to – that helped me immensely. Because he considered a priori that all that was happening to him in his dreams was merely an attempt for his innermost desires to find symbolic fulfilment, he did not suspect for a long time the reason behind the extraordinary coherence of his experiences in the realm of Morpheus. But at some point, he realised that his dreams were not his own… he became worried that evil forces were possessing him, so he decided to give me up for good… The end of the story, consequently, becomes a kind of exorcism, rather against my wishes. Well, that’s as good a way to end the story as any, especially one of which not even the narrator can make any sense.”
Published in Psychonautica, New Meridian Arts, 2022