I travelled to Romania with a rather small suitcase, so I could not bring back all of the books of contemporary Romanian literature which I had ordered and had delivered to my parents’ address. Besides, I also had to bring back some wine, honey, tea and spices, didn’t I? The remaining books will have to wait until my next visit in summer (when I will have my sons’ additional suitcases to play with). Here are the ones that I prioritised this time round:
As you might know, Mihail Sebastian is one of my favourite Romanian writers, and this volume contains all of his plays, including The Holiday Game, which I’ve translated, Star with No Name, which Gabi Reigh has translated for Aurora Press, and two lesser-known works written during WW2, both of them still extremely topical: Breaking News (about fake news and political corruption) and the unfinished The Island (about war and refugees). There is a play by a contemporary of Sebastian’s, Gib Mihaiescu, which reminds me a lot of the Garcia Llorca. I have also brought back books by contemporary playwrights, as I hope to translate more theatre – and maybe even see it performed at some point: Octavian Soviany, Mircea Ionescu, Edith Negulici and Catalina Buzoianu’s adaptation of a hugely popular Romanian novel called Wasted Morning (Dimineaţă pierdută).
Tony Mott is a Romanian crime author, her books feature the indomitable forensic scientist Gigi Alexa and are set in the beautiful city of Brasov ‘where nothing much ever happens’ – except murder, of course. We hope to publish her work for Corylus soon.
I am also hoping to drum up some interest among publishers for Lavinia Braniste, one of the most interesting women writers working in Romania today. Her description of millenials trying to find their feet in a rapidly changing social and economic environment seem to me (sorry!) far more interesting than the rather banal ramblings of some English-speaking writers of the same age group.
Also with a view to possible future translation, an old favourite of mine: Urmuz, an avantgarde writer who was born in the same town that my parents now live in, Curtea de Arges, with a tiny output (he died young) but a huge influence on later writers. Some of his work has been translated, but I don’t think very well – besides, it should be a fun challenge to have a stab at it.
Simona Popescu and Bogdan Suceava might not remember me, but I know them personally, albeit tangentially. Simona is primarily a poet (although this book is a novel) and used to take part in one of the literary circles I also attended at university (‘cenaclu literar’ we used to call them), and I have reviewed some of Bogdan’s work before.
Last but by no means least, I have added Stela Brinzeanu’s new novel to this list, because it arrived while I was away, because she is originally from Moldova although she writes in English, and because this piece of historical fiction is based on a legend that lies at the heart of the construction of the fine monastery in Curtea de Arges.
Missing from the picture: two volumes of poetry by really young and adventurous women poets Ofelia Prodan and Deniz Otay; and the first novel by a highly-regarded playwright Alina Nelega.
Needless to say, these weren’t the only books I acquired over the past month and a half.
Impulse buys from the second-hand shelves just outside the Gower Street Waterstones: Christpher Isherwood, Max Beerbohm’s hilarious and surreal Zuleika Dobson and a crime novel by Cyril Hare. I ordered the memoir of living in Berlin by Kirsty Bell from Fitzcarraldo after reading a review at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. As for Percival Everett, I was so taken by the enthusiasm displayed for his book I Am Not Sidney Poitier on Late to It podcast, that I had to buy two of his books. He seems a very interesting and versatile writer, to say the least.
I fell a victim of my own research, when I reviewed Frank Moorhouse’s novel about the League of Nations and included some other books about international organisations. I think I might have read Fieldwork, but I had to get both Mischa Berlinsky books about anthropologists and NGOs, while Mating by Norman Rush was a suggestion by my friend Jennifer Bew Orr. With friends like these depleting your pockets, who needs enemies, right? 😉
Continuing the ‘moving to Berlin’ theme (can you guess what I might be planning in the nearish future?), I had to get Amy Liptrot’s latest book, as I cannot imagine a greater contrast than Orkney Islands to Berlin Mitte. Meanwhile, Clare Chambers’ The Editor’s Wife was a direct consequence of listening to Clare talk about her writing challenges and failures on Francesca Steele’s podcast Write Off. Finally, The Seven Deadly Sins is a collection of essays on the traditional sins by contemporary Catalan authors, all translated by Mara Faye Lethem and published by Fum d’Estampa Press.
Do any of the above tempt you? Which would you like me to read and review first? Which would you like to get for yourself?