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Articles tagged "Romanian Literature"

An Interview with Mircea Cărtărescu

Image: Mircea Cărtărescu. Photo by Jessie Chaffee. Romanian poet, fiction writer, and journalist Mircea Cărtărescu was awarded the 2016 Premio Gregor von Rezzori for his trilogy Blinding. Born in Bucharest in 1956, he is one of Romania’s premier writers. His works of prose include Nostalgia, Travesti, and The Levant, among others. His awards include the 2012 Berlin Prize for Literature, the 2013 Spycher-Leuk in Switzerland, and the 2015 Austrian State...

The Release of Mr. K

1 One fine day, Kosef J found himself released from prison. It all started with the rattling of the chains that secured the two locks on the elevator. Then the doors at the very end of the corridor were flung open. Lastly, there was some swearing followed by the creaking of the breakfast trolley. But only when the two elderly prison guards walked past Kosef J’s cell without even breaking stride did he realize that something unusual was about to happen.  In the first few...

Onomasticon

A hidden gem of Romanian literature, unknown abroad and a specialized taste at home, Mircea Horia Simionescu’s Onomasticon offers English-language readers a festival of delight. An invented dictionary of first names, its entries vacillate between brief descriptions (a gnomic utterance, an image, or sometimes only a street address) and long, more-or-less realistic narratives inspired (however distantly) by the name. While the invented reference book may remind readers of Jorge Luis...

The Agent

Hope returned that afternoon when the stranger showed her the photograph of an old house in Bessarabia. The real-estate agency’s closing had been a disaster. Marina had been trying to turn ruin into a passing dilemma for weeks, so when the new client popped out of nowhere, she took it as a sign. He was a distinguished gentleman of uncertain age. Unlike so many others, he was determined to buy. He had an old-timey air, and it seemed right to meet over tea in the airy garden of a...

The Ditch

The shovels’ dull thud mixed with the steady patter of rain. The trench deepened. Squishing through mud, the three workers vanished into its depths. By now there was nothing to see from the street but sodden earflaps and peaks of caps. Black dirt shot through the air. Smaller clods rolled on the asphalt. The rift was almost half a meter long. In the ditch, the workers unearthed a length of pipe, like the belly of an antediluvian fish. “Nice hole, huh? Go check we got what we...

Translator Relay: Sean Cotter

Our "Translator Relay" series features a new interview each month. This month's translator will choose the next interviewee, adding a different, sixth question. For June's installment, Ellen Elias-Bursac passed the baton to Sean Cotter, whose translations from Romanian include Mircea Cărtărescu's Blinding, Nichita Stănescu's Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems (recipient of the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry), Liliana...

Mircea Cărtărescu’s “Blinding”

Contemporary literature from Eastern Europe often evokes borders and boundaries—between nations, ethnic groups, cultures, and political regimes. Perhaps it's to be expected: the region itself occupies a nebulous space between East and West—Orient and Occident—linking two worlds and their traditions. In the sprawling trilogy Orbitor, by Romanian novelist Mircea Cărtărescu, the text becomes a bridge between such worlds. The first volume of the trilogy,...

from “The Confession”

In the spring of 2005 an exorcism took place in a small, unfinished monastery in Vaslui County in northwestern Romania. Casting out demons is more common in Romania than in the West, but there was nothing typical about this rite. A single priest officiated, whereas Church policy requires three. The person undergoing the ritual is generally a willing, quiet participant, accompanied by family. On this occasion, the hallucinating and unwilling victim lay restrained on an improvised stretcher...

The Bicycle Factory

In 1966, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu issued Decree 770, criminalizing abortion. After that, women found their own ways to end unwanted pregnancies, no matter the risk. With money and contacts, one could arrange curettage—then the procedure would be performed without anesthesia in a garage or on a kitchen table. On rare occasions, a gynecologist would assist. Most women learned to terminate a pregnancy on their own. A catheter was introduced into the uterus. Through it,...

Mihail Sebastian’s “The Accident”

A first encounter with the Romanian writer Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945), and his novel The Accident, might benefit from some personal context—a little of mine, and a good bit of the author’s. I was born in Romania in 1979, emigrated when I was a child, and returned to the country in 2004 to work in film.  One of the fondest memories I have of the two years I lived in Bucharest is of the evening a friend treated me to a gramophone recording of Sebastian’s play The Star...

from “The Same Way Every Day”

A plump face, an old suit with a too-long skirt, her hair permed.  Nana looked like that when she’d met us, at the beginning of the first year at the university.  Older than she would seem ten years later, when, thanks to me, she’d meet her future husband.  Was he the first?  The second?  I'll never know. When she still put her hair in rag curlers she brought from home, those evenings in the cramped room stinking of crowded bodies, of Nivea cream...

Bilingual Poem avec Clichés

“Danse avec moi under the stormy sky”                                 Daniel Lanois Danse avec moi baby under the stormy sky move your hips like a pro we have left our motos chez les pompiers rue de l’Apocalypse and now we have to go chez le dentiste to take my heart out danse avec moi stay with me chez les pompiers to put out my fire ne me quitte...

Lockjaw

I walk toward the mill To meet my quiet father He walks on grass-covered paths His foot in a child's shoe The mill got swept away by the river Two wars have since gone by Father was taken away later on Soon no one knows that either.

Father’s Return from War. Topics

Father went to war. Then he died in the war. When our neighbors found out the news, they looked at us, Mother and me, with pity. Later on they found out that Father did not die but he had eloped with a woman from over there where the war had taken him. This is why he never came back. Then the neighbors started looking at us, Mother and me, as if we were traitors. Contemptuously and repugnantly. Although I wasn’t at fault, we also started feeling as if we were traitors. Let us be...

Counterfeits

how many words do we need to make ourselves clear? in cubicles and cells papered with thick letters we throw each other all-purpose slogans air balls that slam us in the chest, knock us down flying erratically— awkward counterfeits in the absence of genuine wings used only in commercials for organic chickens raised by fake farmers somewhere between Earth and Mars for how long can the orphic whispers distract death from its course over bright cliffs where trembling...

Suppositions

what would the savior have looked like grown old? would he still have lent his severe, nostalgic face to the builders of churches to the arrogant destroyers in quest of myths or guilty would he have healed his own joints letting the water remain water while the blind fumbled along their way? would he have given his last son to doubt or in the evening laying his head on Magdalene’s knees would he have seen the earth as round spinning on her index finger? Translation...

On Packing

Everything I have I carry with me. Or: everything that's mine I carry on me. I carried everything I had. It wasn't actually mine. It was either intended for a different purpose or somebody else's. The pigskin suitcase was a gramophone box. The jacket was from my father. The town coat with the velvet neckband from my grandfather. The breeches from my Uncle Edwin. The leather puttees from our neighbor, Herr Carp. The green gloves from my Auntie Fini. Only the claret silk...

after pompeii

I borrow a stocking pull it down over my eyes today I see as I can't be seen I feel like the dog at pompeii shrouded in lava it is written that the time will come when we see each other face to face Translations of "surd ca o bute," "după pompei," "claustrofobie." Copyright 2006 Mariana Dan. Translations copyright 2008 by Mariana Dan and Adam J. Sorkin. All rights reserved.

claustrophobia

in the cellar, my father dead for so many years among madmen and deaf mutes their pants pockets stuffed with money and passports outside, lonely horses shod with crescent moons and crosses I feel seasick I am a tiny insect a stowaway on a wooden schooner exquisitely made by the master directly in a brandy bottle Translations of "surd ca o bute," "după pompei," "claustrofobie." Copyright 2006 Mariana Dan. Translations copyright 2008 by Mariana Dan and Adam...

Deaf as a Log

for ioan flora store windows in which I can see you as a blur– the animals make way for me to kiss the glass. you're deaf as a log I ask myself why you ever came here to cry over the human race. my armful of roses smears red into the sky. I worry my dress will snag on a thorn. shouldn't it have taken place in an oyster? in a snail? or in freight cars where cattle wait without water? you'd rather be eating chicken livers with onion and...

Pastoral

An expansion of plants with water fingers Drink this and look The laced skirts of raw milk The subterranean giants drowned in the azure And lakes open mouths have remained frozen Four oxen under a tree, defying reality Kneel down and adorn their horns With flowers of deadly nightshade Through clouds passes the perfection of weeping And young lambs suck teats of rain The planet of sleep settles over fields The spring's current carries last reflexes Like the last words of a...

Inscription on a Tomb

And I felt your pure and sad soul As you'd feel the moon float in silence     Behind drawn curtains. And I felt your poor and bashful soul, Like a beggar, hand stretched at the gate,     Not daring to knock and to enter, And I felt your tender and humble soul Like a tear that doesn't venture across the threshold of the lids, And I felt your soul, cringed and damped by pain Like a handkerchief in a hand tears are dripping into, While today,...

I

Life is full of unexplainable things. But, moreover, it is full of me. To be better heard, I repeat, ladies: it is full of me. From this you will deduce that I too am one of those unexplainable things, irremediably unexplainable. You are wrong, ladies, you are wrong like some weeds that think it rains when a cow urinates over them. You are some weeds too. When God shouts, or vice versa, you think I'm yelling, and you applaud. Ladies: the time has come for you to re-educate yourselves....

Last Night

From the trees planted by dusk in our rooms that were set on fire we'll slowly untie the glass pigeons, that eternal foliage; they'll grow rustling on our shoulders and arms, and there will be no wind, but rather a pool of shadows, in which you cannot take root, a frozen lake, in which the drowned are competing for the crown of scales, and life is the boat at the shore, abandoned by its oars. A voice will come to us from the flames to stain its silver with blood, to...

A Kiss

On the intergalactic station Malmorius, Jaspar the Terrible feverishly prepares for the decisive attack. Who knows where in the Central Desert of Athyria, Commander Z. checks the converters one by one, the battery of star-cannon, reversing the thrusters, planning the defense of the Planet. These are the moments of unbearable tension, an uncertain hour when the Universe strains at its hinges: first Nestor Pentacephalus is fatally shot (only three microns to impact but,...

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