Lugging Books Home from Romania

I brought 14 books back from Romania (had to leave about 5 behind), which is not bad going for merely a week away and not too much time spent in bookshops. Here is a picture of what I managed to squeeze into my luggage. All of them are in Romanian, of course, and I don’t think any of them have been translated (yet).

So here’s a little more information about the book haul.

I brought back four books by Bogdan Teodorescu, a sociologist and journalist, who has been involved in political campaigning and opinion polls, but is above all a storyteller. He has published many novels of the noirish or political thriller variety, one of which, Spada, has been translated into French and has been well received there. I’m involved in a little conspiracy to bring more Romanian literature to the English-speaking world, and Bogdan Teodorescu is probably going to be one of our first authors, so I’m trying to make up my mind which book would be most suitable as a ‘starter for ten’. The books I have are: two political thrillers Spada and Nearly Good Boys, a domestic noir unlike any you’ll have read in recent years, Liberty, and his latest, We’ll All Perish in Pain, a story that is both thriller and social commentary, featuring an investor, a tourist and a refugee in a country not unlike present-day Romania.

I also got crime fiction by three more authors to investigate for possible future translation. Lucian Dragos Bogdan’s Spiderweb is a police procedural about people being killed off at a crime festival in the Romanian Carpathians. Daniel Timariu’s PI investigates crimes in a city that exists on two planes: the human world and the underworld, a bit like The City and the City by China Mieville. Rodica Ojog-Brasoveanu was a classic crime writer from before the fall of Communism.

Last but not least, I also got two books of crime stories: a collection of stories all set in Bucharest, Bucharest Noir, and a series of linked stories written by six different authors Domino 2.

In addition to all that crime fiction, I got some literary fiction: Mircea Cartarescu’s Solenoid, a massive tome of surrealist and semi-autobiographical writing. You can read an excellent detailed review of the book (in Spanish translation) on the much-missed The Untranslated blog. Since I am slightly obsessed with Mihail Sebastian, I bought a 630 page novel written by Gelu Diaconu about Sebastian’s life in the 1930s, which somehow has dual timeline with post-Communist 1990s Romania. The Innocents by Ioana Parvulescu is the history of a house in Brasov, the story of a young girl and a woman remembering the past, as well as the history of a country that has had way too much history to digest.

Last but not least, two non-fiction books. The same Ioana Parvulescu has published a book about everyday life in Bucharest between the two world wars, a period often viewed (probably mistakenly) as ‘golden’ in the history of Romania. The last one is even more interesting: the memoirs of Elena Ceausescu’s personal interpreter, Violeta Nastasescu, a rather lovely lady whom I met personally because she tested my English just before my university entrance exam.

21 thoughts on “Lugging Books Home from Romania”

  1. Very keen to try ‘Solenoid’ at some point (I did hear whispers that Deep Vellum might be bringing it out in a year or two’s time…).

    1. I have to stop thinking that no one but me can do justice to Romanian into English translations. Although, in the case of Cartarescu, probably someone else can. He is not my favourite writer, but he has his moments. I quite liked his diaries actually.

    1. Really recommend him – especially his diaries and For Two Thousand Years. I am also trying to find someone interested in commissioning me to translate his plays into English, as I think they are far better than some of his novels.

  2. Except for Solenoid, which I have in German translation but not read yet (several other books by Cărtărescu I read in Bulgarian translation), I am not familiar with any other of the mentioned books. Will look up which of them are available in a language I can read fluently (my Romanian is still too patchy to really enjoy reading books in this language).

    1. Well done for being able to read Romanian at all – not easy! I think Ioana Parvulescu has been translated into German and French – or at least Life Begins on Friday did, because it won the EU Prize for Literature in 2013.

    1. Yes, Romanian is my mother tongue, but I spent a good portion of my childhood (ages 3 to 14) in Vienna, where I grew up trilingual. I then returned to Romania for 10 years, before coming to do my postgraduate studies in the UK. I’ve always found it easier to write in English, but I find reading in Romanian and German as easy and fun as in English. Of course, the different languages lend themselves to different styles and provoke different reactions. For example, I find it more satisfactory to swear in German (and shocking in Romanian), and I tend to coo lovingly at my pet or my children more in Romanian.

      1. I bet German has some great swear words. And I wonder if you use Romanian as that mothering language because that’s the language you were mothered in. How great to have such full access to such different languages.

  3. Have you read Alan Furst? I’ve read three of his books and I wonder if you recommend anyone else who writes (English) in that genre but isn’t a westerner. Thanks

  4. Those sound great, Marina Sofia. ANd I’m so happy that you’re working to make some of these books more available. I’m sure there’s a lot of great writing out there that we miss because it simply isn’t brought to our attention. Good for you to try to change that.

  5. I wish planes and trains would take into consideration bookworms problems and allow a special bag/suitcase for books for each travel!! Last year, I left half the content of my suitcase behind after Bloody Scotland to bring back the books! x

  6. How interesting what you say about Romanian. I was told by some Romanian tourists whom I met in Whole Foods when I asked what language they were speaking (as I thought it was Italian), that they were speaking Romanian and that it is related to Italian.
    So that would be why it’s a gentler language than German or English.
    I think German is a very harsh-sounding language and seeing WWII movies with very authoritarian voices of soldiers reinforces that. I bet there are some good swear words in German.
    But as I am reminded by those who sing German lyrics that it can also be gentle.

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