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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519

“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...

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“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 detract from the essential point of his singular gesture. Tiriac left Romania before Petrescu completed his epic, and the two never have contact again. Years later, Tiriac learns in a letter from his mother that Petrescu’s novel has been published to great success. The title of the novel is The Wedding Cake, an allusion to large public buildings of a particularly vulgar and sentimental style, derisively called “wedding-cake architecture,” forced on the large cities of Eastern Europe by the Soviets. Tiriac assumes this is the book that the narrator had seen so prominently displayed in the bookstore in Bucharest.

At the conclusion of the story of Nicolai Petrescu, the narrator tells Tiriac that the novel in the display window was not called The Wedding Cake; it was called something different. Neither of them acknowledges the apparent betrayal of Petrescu’s vow to never write another word after The Wedding Cake. Rather, Tiriac tells the narrator that he now has another piece of evidence to support his theory of great Romanian artists; one great ironist—Petrescu.

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