The Wall in Our Head: Eastern Europe, Romania and the Identity Crisis, Twenty Years After

 

Although Romanians view the last twenty years with a degree of burned out idealism that verges on jaundice (doubtless to the surprise of many Americans), this is the year to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the mockery of human rights for which it stood. In June, the Guardian posted Stories from Easter Europe, a collection that included “Zgaiba” by Romanian novelist, Stelian Tănase. This spring, Absinthe: New European Writing will publish an anthology of Romanian fiction that does its share of looking back in anger. And now, coming up soon, we can look forward to an anthology of writing from former Soviet Bloc countries compiled by Words Without Borders and published by Open Letter Books. Timed to commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain, “dwells extensively; humorously, poignantly, quirkily, on different views of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Wall includes writing from the generation that witnessed the fall of communism as well as writers from the generation that inherited a memory of the Cold War and who write in its shadow.” There is no way to live here without “a wall in my head,” and in this context (of migraines and tenacious optimism), The Wall includes writing by two Romanians, Mircea Cărtărescu (Translated by Julian Semlian) and Dan Sociu (Translated by Oana Sanziana Marian).
 
The publishers hope “that The Wall In My Head will prompt discussion about the events of ’89 and their relevance to today’s world.” To encourage exchange of ideas, Three Percent has asked a variety of writers, translators, scholars, and witnesses to the events of those last years of the Cold War, to contribute to a blog that will grow online over the next few months. “Their dispatches will range from discussions of the contents of the book to observations about current events and important anniversaries, as well as posts on the art, photography and film of the last years of the Cold War. The blog begins with a post by Oana Sanziana Marian about Dan Sociu’sUrbancholia.” Those wishing to contribute to the blog are invited to write to chad.post@rochester.edu
 
Readers of literature in translation should be pleased to see that The Wall in My Head has a table of contents that includes:
 
Introduction by Keith Gessen
 
From The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera (Translated by Linda Asher)
 
From Paris Lost by Wladimir Kaminer (Translated by Liesl Schillinger)
 
From Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin (Translated by Andrew Bromfield)
 
“Petition” by Mihály Kornis (Translated by Ivan Sanders)
 
From Moving House by Paweł Huelle (Translated by Michael Kandel)
 
“Nabokov in Brasov” by Mircea Cărtărescu (Translated by Julian Semlian)
 
From Waltz for K by Dmitri Savitski (Translated by Kingsley Shorter)
 
“On Eugen Jebeleanu” by Matthew Zapruder
 
Poems from Secret Weapon by Eugen Jebeleanu (Translated by Matthew Zapruder)
 
From Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński (Translated by Klara Glowczewska)
 
From The Tower by Uwe Tellkamp (Translated by Annie Janusch)
 
“My Grandmother the Censor” by Masha Gessen
 
From The Wall Jumper by Peter Schneider (Translated by Leigh Hafrey)
 
“Farewell to the Queue” by Vladimir Sorokin (Translated by Jamey Gambrell)
 
“Tower of Song: How the Plastic People of the Universe Helped to Shape the Velvet Revolution” by Paul Wilson
 
“The Revenge” by Annett Gröschner (Translated by Ingrid Lansford)
 
“The Souvenirs of Communism” by Dubravka Ugrešić (Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać)
 
“The Road to Bornholm” by Durs Grünbein (Translated by Ingrid Lansford)
 
“Regardless of the Cost: Reflections on Péter Esterházy’s Revised Edition“ by Judith Sollosy
 
“Author’s Preface to Revised Edition“ by Péter Esterházy (Translated by Judith Sollosy)
 
From Mandarins by Stanislav Komárek (Translated by Melvyn Clarke)
 
“Brother and Sister” by Christhard Läpple (Translated by Steven Rendall)
 
“Faraway, So Gross” by Dorota Masłowska (Translated by Benjamin Paloff)
 
From Urbancholia by Dan Sociu (Translated by Oana Sanziana Marian)
 
“That Fear” by Andrjez Stasiuk (Translated by Michael Kandel)
 
“Speech at the Opening Session of the 13th German Bundestag” by Stefan Heym (Translated by John K. Cox)
 
“The Life and Times of a Soviet Capitalist” by Irakli Iosebashvili
 
“The War Within” by Maxim Trudolubov (Translated by Alexei Bayer)
 
“Any Beach But This” by David Zábranský (Translated by Robert Russell)
 
“The Noble School” by Muharem Bazdulj (Translated by John K. Cox)
 

About this issue

This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon. read more...

Translator's Choice

Author: Stelian Tănase
Translated by: Jean Harris

From Maestro: A Melodrama. Episode 7

Emiluţa has an unfortunate thought. She’ll throw herself off the top of the building. Why? What the fuck? Let’s say for the cause of PeaceonEarth, for the slumdogs, Europe, for the lonely. Which is to say she doesn’t have a ghost of a reason. Viva Walachia! The way things stand, if ...

Translator’s Note
Translator’s Note: a synopsis
Author: Ştefan Agopian
Translated by: Ileana Orlich

How I Learned to Read (from Tache de Catifea / The Velvet Man)

The bearded man was the owner of an apothecary shop where he worked with two apprentices. Nobody paid me any mind, so I spent all day in what was supposed to be the shop. I say this because it was a large, dark room full of odors—a mix of smells from everywhere. The room hadn’t been cleaned ...

Translator’s Note
Re: Learning to Read, from Tache de catifea / The Velvet Man
Author: Gabriela Adameşteanu
Translated by: Patrick Camiller

Wasted Morning - Napoleon in Bucharest

“What you’ve got here is heaven on earth,” Vica says as she drops onto the kitchen chair. “But where’s your mother?” “At work,” Gelu lazily replies, leaning sideways against the door. “She’s doing mornings this week, didn’t you know?” He is tall and thin, with unset ...

Author: Petre Ispirescu
Translated by: Jean Harris

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death

It happened once as never before-y, ‘cause if it couldn’t be true, it wouldn’t make a story about the time when the poplar tree made berries and the willow tree broke out in cherries, when bears began to brawl with their tails, and wolf and lamb, unfurling their sails, threw arms around each ...

Translator’s Note
On Petre Ispirescu
Exquisite Corpse

Planned events in Cultural Agenda see All Planned Events

17 December
Tardes de Cinema Romeno
As tardes de cinema romeno do ICR Lisboa continuam no dia 17 de Dezembro de 2009, às 19h00, na ...
14 December
Omaggio a Gheorghe Dinica Proiezione del film "Filantropica" (regia Nae Caranfil, 2002)
“Filantropica” è uno dei film che più rendono giustizia al ...
12 December
Årets Nobelpristagare i litteratur Herta Müller gästar Dramaten
Foto: Cato Lein 12.12.2009, Dramaten, Nybroplan, Stockholm I samband med Nobelveckan kommer ...
10 December
Romanian Festival @ Peninsula Arts - University of Plymouth
13 & 14 November 2009. Films until 18 December. Twenty of Romania's most influential and ...
10 December
Lesung und Gespräch mit Ioana Nicolaie
Donnerstag, 10. Dezember, um 19.30 Uhr Ort: Szimpla Café Gärtnerstrs.15, ...
 
 

Our Partners

Razvan Lazar_Dunkelkammer SENSO TV Eurotopics Institutul Cultural Roman Economic Forum Krynica Radio Romania Muzical Liternet Radio France International Romania Suplimentul de cultura Radio Lynx