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Romanian Literature Has Its Quarter

I know that Romanian lit has received a lot of love over the past few years (according to our translation database 13 books have been published in English translation since Jan 2008), and that the Romanian Cultural Institute is very proactive and persuasive, but it’s still a bit of a surprise that two (two!) major literary journals just came out with special Romanian-centric issues.

The new issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction from the folks over at Dalkey Archive is all on “Writing from Postcommunist Romania.” This was edited by Ehren Schimmel and looks pretty interesting. (I would write more, but don’t have a copy, and there’s nothing available online. If I get a copy, I’ll post some sort of update.)

One of my favorite drinks journals is Absinthe, and this “Spotlight on Romania” issue looks particularly good. The guest editor for this issue is Jean Harris—novelist, editor, critic, and translator who used to run The Observer Translation Project and is now working on a new site called the Romanian Literary Exchange.

In addition to pieces from a number of interesting Romanian writers—Mircea Cartarescu, Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Stelian Tanase, Dumitru Tsepeneag, etc.—there’s also an informative opening piece by Carmen Musat on “Contemporary Romanian Literature: A Tale of Continuity and Innovation.” Wish this was available online to link to, but instead, here’s a brief excerpt:

In the early ’90s Romanians hungered for new expressive forms—viscerally. A long-denied craving for the real coincided with a reaction against fiction—all those novels we used to praise for their resistance-packed political references. We ached to salvage the forgotten/forbidden past. Publishing houses brought out titles and promoted authors taboo under the Communist regime. They immersed themselves in autobiographical texts: secret diaries never published before and comprehensive memoirs. True stories, destinies dramatically changed: the most impressive came from well-known politicians and writers of the inter-war period, people who refused to collaborate, who defected or became prisoners of the regime. Many of the titles had documentary value. The new books helped to reconstruct (shine light on or through) the formerly impenetrable atmosphere of terror, the virtual daily prison of communist Romania. And, of greatest significance for contemporary literature, these reconstructive texts functioned as a literary school sui generis for the writers who would publish in the middle ’90s. All in all, literature worked to recover direct discourse and rebuild authenticity.

Definitely worth checking out. And hopefully the Romanian Cultural Institute is sending copies of both of these to dozens of editors at a range of publishing houses. It would be great if these anthologies led to the translation and publication of a few more Romanian novels . . .



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