In this unusual novel about an unusual and touching friendship, author Georgina Harding tells the story of life in a rural community in Romania beginning in the 1930s and extending through World War II and the Communist Occupation. As the novel opens, a sick and starving man has just arrived by train in Iasi, a place with which he is completely unfamiliar. He is looking for a woman, but he does not know where or how to find her. Eventually, he sees a nurse dressed in white walking past him and, thinking she is an angel, he follows her to a hospital, where he collapses. The man is Augustin, known as Tinu, and he is looking for Safta, a childhood friend whom he has not seen since they were separated by the war and Communist Occupation. Tinu is both deaf and mute, uninterested or unable to learn sign language. His only form of communication is through haunting drawings which he makes with soot and spit on found materials – paper, boxes, wrappings, pieces of cloth – and these drawings reflect an unusually selective view of the world. On my Favorites list for the year.
Category Archive for 'Romania'
Focusing on Ceausescu’s last hundred days as ruler of Romania, author Patrick McGuinness recreates all the forces leading to the overthrow of the government, telling his story through the eyes of an unnamed twenty-one-year-old speaker from the UK. The speaker had applied for a foreign posting upon the death of his father and was given a job teaching English in Bucharest, one for which he had neither applied nor appeared for an interview. In Bucharest his mentor, Leo O’Heix, shows him “the Paris of the East,” which now more clearly resembles “a deserted funfair.” Leo has adapted to Romanian life completely, ignoring most of the other Brits there and carving out his own identity – as the biggest black-marketeer in Bucharest. Gradually, Bucharest comes to life through the speaker’s eyes. The city is being bulldozed at a rapid rate, and the old architectural monuments and historical buildings are being replaced with cheap, modern buildings. Shop signs appear on new buildings but have no shop behind them, people are hungry, and even the headstones in the cemeteries have disappeared. The speaker finds himself growing up as he makes choices or has them made for him, and he discovers that no one is who s/he seems to be. Subtle, often humorous, and profoundly ironic, this is a unique approach to a study of a city in the midst of evolution and then revolution and its aftermath, and none of the characters here will remain unchanged.
Author Elizabeth Kostova’s unusual debut novel combines her ten years of scholarly research on Vlad Tepes, the Impaler of Wallachia, sometimes known as Drakulya, with the stories that have become part of local folklore in Bulgaria and Rumania, and the legends created and perpetuated by Bram Stoker (in his novel Dracula). A sadistic prince from the mid-fifteenth century who killed up to 15,000 of his own people, often impaling them on stakes and leaving them to die horrible deaths, Vlad terrified his enemies from the Ottoman Empire, though it was Stoker who created the belief that he was a vampire. Historians and scholars will be fascinated by the detailed information revealed in this novel as the three main characters uncover key information about Vlad/Drakulya. Though the story is often exciting—and has a conclusion which packs a wallop–the novel involves serious, scholarly research, and the “novel’s” characters themselves are undeveloped.
Written in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a classic of British fiction, fascinating for its subject matter and still the subject of films a hundred years later. Count Dracula, the epitome of evil, is exotic enough to keep even the most jaded reader of his exploits interested in their outcome, and grounded enough in the reality of evil to make even doubters wonder whether evil can be transmitted from one person to another against one’s will.
The novel begins with the arrival of Jonathan Harker, a lawyer representing a London real estate agency, at the Transylvanian castle of Count Dracula to clinch the deal by which the count will move to a British estate. Details about Harker’s arrival by coach, his greeting at the castle, which has no doors except the front door, his reception by the count (who has hair on the palms of his hands), and his instructions regarding where he may go or not go within the castle set the tone and establish the mysterious background of the count and a sense of dread regarding the outcome for Harker.