Romanian Voices

On a conference not very long ago, a colleague mentioned not without a little restraint that even if Europe is no longer divided than 25 years ago, the existence of a „Black Europe“within the European Union. Of course he sounded arrogant and presumptuous but in the very same moment we all gathered around him did know, which countries he meant and what the term meant by itself. Every day either in the newspaper or in the radio, we can read about Romanians leaving their country for a better life, not welcomed by our side of Europe with open arms but with mistrust and prejudices. We all know, even without consulting the newspaper or listening to the radio that the strawberries or apples or potatoes are harvested by men and women originated from the Black Sea and beyond. Let alone the work done in slaughterhouses, kitchens or hotels, where we better don’t even start to read further or listen to those who work in this places. But we tend to forget also the rich and enriching cultural sphere of countries such as Romania. An outstanding example is Panait Istrati, who wrote in French and Romanian, depicting the world before the outbreak of Wold War II in a region where so many people, languages and cultures could meet in one single street of a very small village. The stories he tells are full of life, where Jews and Greeks are neighbors, Turks and Serbians concurrents, Germans are engaged with Armenian women and if they sometimes do not share much with each other, they all have a fear of the coming things, which will inevitably destroy this world within Europe. It is the poet Ana Blandiana herself a child of the after -war period, widely read by every pupil in Ceaușescu’s Romania who began to develop in the 1980s a distinct language of critic, showing the powerful voice, that poetry can produce and express. After the revolutionary uprising in 1990 a circle of her and her intellectual friends became  very active in the first transitional government. Blandiana became vice president for a short while and even more impressive left the politics when it became clear that the old elites would carry on as the new ones. The entanglement between poetry and politics which is astonishingly often to be found in Eastern Europe is nearly missing in the Western political sphere. An exception as so many offers Ireland, where Michael Higgins was not only invited on the queen’s dinner table but could have entertained the round by his own poetry, including an ode to a donkey. And Ana Blandiana still today remains a ambivalent figure, concerning her deep involvement within the political sphere. She is an example too, for women not only being well-known as an influential poet but as a woman with rain-making qualities, too. Whereas Mircea Cărtărescu, is the name of a younger generation, tired of politics and poetry ( maybe too many donkeys were to be found within ) and so is his language direct and unveiling, he himself a poet who speaks out loud. Many names of the lively cultural scene not only of Romania waiting to be discovered, translated and to be read as well as we have to think about the people who live among us, if we see them and hear them beyond the news.

Blood Axe Books publishes the work of Ana Blandiana, it is still hard to find any Panait Istrati in a good English version, whereas Mircea Cărtărescu  is widely published.




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