Norman Manea, Romania's most famous contemporary author, twice has survived the grip of totalitarian regimes. No stranger to exile, he mines its complexities and disorientations in this extraordinarily compelling novel, "The Lair." Exile in the motherland and away from it is the shared plight of his protagonists. Nowhere at home, they move through their lives in a continuous, ever-elusive quest for national and individual identity. Manea's characters seek a place and a voice in America, only to discover that the shackles of their native totalitarian and nationalist ideologies are impossible to break. Manea's themes and narrative approach are intricate: his style fluctuates in correspondence with the instability of his characters' lives, his story is encased within an elaborate network of allusions and paradoxes. Yet in the midst of the novel's overriding disorientation, the author establishes intersections and uncovers the universal.