One of a Kind Summary
by Julian Barnes

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One of a Kind Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“One of a Kind” is a story told by a first-person narrator, a young English writer, who meets an exiled Romanian dissident, Marian Tiriac, at a literary party. Through the course of their conversation, a subsequent and coincidental trip to Romania, and another chance meeting with Tiriac, the narrator learns the story of Nicolai Petrescu.

At the initial meeting between the narrator and Tiriac, the narrator shares an observation of his regarding Romanian artists: Romania has produced one great artist in each of several disciplines, but only one. He lists several artists and their respective disciplines. Tiriac adds a couple of names and disciplines to the list offered by the narrator, apparently corroborating the theory. However, between the two of them, they cannot name a great Romanian novelist. Tiriac concludes by stating that Romania has no novelists.

Roughly one year later, the narrator travels to a writer’s conference in Bucharest, Romania. While touring the city, he and a companion from the conference happen on a prominently located bookstore. An entire display window is given over to a single book. Its author is a man named Nicolai Petrescu, and the narrator concludes that he must be a major Romanian writer to have so much attention from a bookstore that appears to be one of the major ones in the country.

Sometime after returning to England, the narrator meets Marian Tiriac again and asks him about Nicolai Petrescu, the novelist whose book was so prominently displayed. Tiriac tells him the story of Petrescu. It turns out that Tiriac and Petrescu had been close during their young adulthood as writers working within a literary scene dominated and censored by the Communist Party. Tiriac chafed under the restrictions and would eventually go into exile. Petrescu, also frustrated with the oppression, hatched a scheme to write an epic novel that, through deft irony , would ridicule and expose the Communist Party, all the while holding it up for admiration. Also, if the ruse was a success, Petrescu vowed, he would never write another word, so as not to...

(The entire section is 519 words.)