Media Library

Language Archipelago III: Minorities, languages and representations in Romania

Alexandru Bulucz: What role does linguistic and cultural diversity play in your own writing? Can you say specifically how this diversity and “non-Romanian” influences enter into your writing? Does the practice of translation play a role? Does reading matter? Does the digital and globalized world play a role? What role do magazines like “Poesis International” and others play in this? 

Radu Vancu (c) Rares Helici

Radu Vancu: Writing is, among other things, also a quest for beauty. Ezra Pound famously maintained that there exists a continuity of beauty: ignited first in the Eleusine mysteries, it passed to the ancient Romans – and from Latin literatures to the troubadours and to Dante – from there to the Renaissance – and landed in Romantic literature – and now our task is to re-ignite this flame of beauty in our postmodern/ posthuman pages. And, as beauty is translinguistic, so should be our poetry. I could have not understood the techniques of poetry ignition without studying it at John Berryman, at Paul Celan, at Marina Tsvetayeva, at Alejandra Pizarnik, among others. It is thus strictly impossible to see the beauty, not to mention to find its continuity, without being able to follow its transnational and translinguistic instantiations. Poetry is, like the Pentecost, a transnational energy. 

Alexandru Bulucz: Is there solidarity among writers in Romania? A Telos of Justice? When I followed the demonstrations in Romania on Facebook (bullet point: “#Rezist! Poezia”), it seemed to me as if the poetic “we”-solidarity was given. 

Radu Vancu: When we protested in the streets, we were not solidary as writers – but rather as citizens. We knew something unacceptable was happening – and we reacted accordingly. We were writers solidary with other citizens – and we used our familiarity with words to give voice to our fellow protesters. Poets are antibodies, Ion Mureșan once wrote; they are generated in an increased number when some disease harms the social or political body. We used our voices as some immune system responding to a disease. So I’d say it was both a ‘telos of Justice’ – and one of Public Health. Poetry is a concrete service of Public Health. 

Alexandru Bulucz: What do you mean by political writing? Can it still have social impact? 

Radu Vancu: Of course it does. But not necessarily by an overt social topic. Anna Akhmatova’s poem, “Requiem”, a most intimate poem, was learned by heart by tens of thousands (or even more) of Russians living under Stalinist terror; they found force and courage and tools for survival by reciting a poem which was meant to be strictly private, strictly intimate. This clearly shows that poetry is political – in its very nature, even more than in the direct treatment of the political. 

Alexandru Bulucz: Which author living in Romania would you recommend to a German readership? Who should be translated? And why? 

Radu Vancu: There are dozens of wonderful writers active now in Romania, it is one of the most flourishing ages in the history of Romanian literature – both in poetry and in prose. So limiting myself to one writer would do considerable injustice to a few dozen others. But I’ll take my chances and I would recommend Veronica Niculescu – whose prose is a combination of Nabokov aestheticism (she has admirably translated Nabokov in Romanian – as well as Beckett) and Romanian ‘ostalgia’, revisiting the last decades of our communism (mainly in her recent novel, “All Bookseller’s Children”/ “Toți copiii librăresei”).  

with Radu Vancu