The year is 1959, one of the darkest periods of Romania’s communist regime. Political prisoner Bruno Matei, a puppeteer of Italian ancestry, has been released from jail a broken man, suffering from amnesia. An uneasy relationship forms between ‘Matei Brunul’ and Bojin, the secret policeman who keeps him under constant surveillance. Gradually, the secret police will try to remould Matei’s mind by rewriting his past, turning the puppeteer into a puppet of the new totalitarian order. In parallel, a harrowing second narrative reveals Matei’s prison experiences: the story of an innocent man physically and mentally crushed by the totalitarian system, which explodes the manipulative fictions of the secret police one by one. Matei Brunul was the first Romanian novel to explore the carceral world of the former regime, but it is also a subtle meditation on Heinrich von Kleist’s On the Marionette Theatre and the ways in which a totalitarian state and ultimately fiction itself create and manipulate puppets.