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49 article(s) translated from Romanian

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...

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...

In Our Backyard

Very early in the morning, Ion would help Mrs. Ignătescu put the carpets onto the frame in the yard and beat them with a switch or a stick. The dust rose and spread through the yard like mist—the rabbits took fright and scattered, while the chickens withdrew indignantly to their coops at the far end. Mrs. Ignătescu’s dogs barked. The racket woke all the tenants. Mrs. Năstase brought her carpets as well. A window opened, and a shrill voice inside maintained that...

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,...

The Amigo

1. it’s rumored that the amigo, the good buddy came to town. so people hurry to see for themselves and for a minute we begin to believe as well. but in the square there’s only a man more foolish and more down on his luck than we. he stands in the middle of the square his hand held out and says he’s our buddy, the amigo. everyone standing in line curses him because now, at christmas, we hoped a different buddy would appear, the true friend. this guy calls himself...

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...

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...

mopete has read thomas mann

and so mopete has stopped in a bewitched interval of his soul, for him as if on a magic mountain where it's snowing everywhere, while many just sit and gaze out the window, boring themselves, idly elaborating theories about time. you can travel the well-worn path from the rooms on the ground floor— the dining room, for instance—to the rooms with numbers on the door where, from the terrace, you can admire the noble stillness of snow in the valley. and so mopete...

mopete and uniqueness

mopete, listening as a friend of his quotes wassily kandinsky, has a strange vision, a figment of his solitude—an ancient hypostasis, blotches without a trace of reality thrown upon the canvas on which, however, young nefa shines. young nefa: she is now very much not here—mopete will never invoke her name again. there seems to be nothing good in store for mopete. it's a desert, sort of, through which he keeps trudging on and on. right above his head, the...

deep meditation

vasilescu's father's friend has left the seaside to go to a monastery in the north. there in the mountains he wants to empty his mind of thought until it comes to entertain a notion of that provisional shadow cast by conscience, with its bitter residue of worldly time, like fruit kernels that pile up in a heap and make him count them, so that, here among the hills, he no longer can keep straight whether this evening is for real, or whether that tree elongated in shadow...

holiday pleasures

vasilescu's father's friend is playing with a beach ball. tentatively, he throws it toward the sea, gathers it in the shadow cast by his body, not minding the waves at his feet now breaking against the shingle. bandages of comfort unroll around him, around the wound of his thoughts open to the sun. after dinner he withdraws and, sitting in the shade, meditates. he reflects to himself that where this soon will have led, now that he's reached the limit, must be the sun...

the introduction of vasilescu’s father’s friend

mopete went to the theatre today. he took a girl, and vasilescu's father's friend saw him—called hello to him, too—mopete threw a meaningful, if too obvious glance at the girl beside him, and with a fixed look walked right by. the play proved to be of great interest. the girl at mopete's side—she wasn't young nefa—listened totally absorbed. mopete said to himself—now he'll have turned round to look at you—and put on an...

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,...

Encounter

Don't you hear—the door of the next compartment just opened? It has to be a ticket taker. Who else gets the words out like that? Everything so clear and distinct: —Gutten Tag, geben Sie mir bitte! Feverish, tense, you try to calm your rapid breathing. Your glance fixes sideways at the dark, shining window. Only, you can't see the landscapes coursing into the night. You're in an express, an intercity. —Den Fahrschein Bitte! You pat your pockets as if...

Domestic Sadness

In the seed of lilies I buried you serenely we loved each other in old belfries years unravel like old lace I look for you everywhere, God but you know it's too little I buried you in November when school girls went to lunch they didn't know you were in the wagon else they would have cried the pain was overthrown into the parents like defeated floodgates would tumble of paper, your old flesh how else would it be?—yellow and sad and I loved you in the...

Come with Me to the Countryside

House under construction with dried branches, like spiders, in your scaffolding Rise to skies with serenity Until the clouds will have served as curtains And the stars: relief for lamps on balconies in the evening. Between two chestnut trees burdened like discharged patients Grew the Jewish cemetery - out of boulders; On the outskirts of town, on a hill, Crawl graves like worms. The yellow dogcart waits for us at the train station In me reeds get torn with a paper rustle...

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....
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