Centre for Romanian Studies

Centre for Romanian Studies header image 1

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (407), Anonymous, ENGLAND: “Epitaf pe o lespede de mormânt”

December 30th, 2016 · Diaspora, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (407), Anonymous, ENGLAND: “Epitaf pe o lespede de mormânt”

 IF

EPITAF PE O LESPEDE DE MORMÂNT

Am plâns şi-am râs, ca nou născut:
Timpu-a ‘nceput.
Ca tânăr am iubit în vers –
Timpul a mers.
Când om în fire-am devenit –
Timpu-a fugit.
Când bătrâneţea s-arătat –
Timpu-a zburat.
Mergând prin viaţa ce-am avut –
Timpu-a trecut.
Eu Ţie, sufletu-mi închin –
AMIN!

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin Roman, Londra 1997

© copyright Constantin Roman, London, 2016

 

* * * * *

Constantin ROMAN

Constantin ROMAN

  SHORT BIO: Born in Romania where he was trained as a scientist and linguist. Educated at the University of Cambridge, as a Scholar at Peterhouse. For a number of years Constantin ROMAN lived in France, Norway, Holland and Indonesia  and traveled extensively, as guest speaker to Academia and Industry. He published articles in scientific journals (“Nature”, “New Scientist”, etc.), newspapers and magazines (“The Times”, “Cambridge Review”, “Encounter”, “Revista Monumentelor Istorice”, “Manuscriptum”, “Magazin Istoric”) on a variety of subjects relating to History of Art, Architecture, Conservation, Poetry and Earth Sciences (Seismology and Petroleum Geology). On the latter subject he successfully produced limited editions of technical monographs, which were bought by clients world-wide. Constantin lives in London, where he contrives to indulge in serendipity and esoterism.

→ No CommentsTags:······················

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (405 – 406), Florenta ALBU (1934 – 2003), ROMANIA: “Gauche-droite”, “Le chant de Bucarest”

December 29th, 2016 · Books, Famous People, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Reviews, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (405 – 406), Florenta ALBU (1934 – 2003), ROMANIA: “Gauche-droite”, “Le chant de Bucarest”

 

Gauche-droite

Florenta ALBU (1934 – 2003)

 

Nager dans la boue

Nous nageons dans cette tristesse historique qui est nôtre

Et cette peur

Nous crie dessus

De toutes parts

Et de devant nous

Dans un rythme interminable – ce fou, continu

Gauche-droite-gauche

 

Pendant que nous – parmi les anciens et parmi les nouveaux

Nous, lâches traîtreusement épuisés

Creux jusqu’aux oreilles, posant

Des questions assourdissantes

Sur nous-mêmes, deux par deux

Allant de l’avant d’une marche hésitante

Gauche-droite-gauche !

 

Qu’est ce qui peut bien se trouver devant nous

Qu’est- ce qui peut bien se trouver derrière nous

Combien la route est-elle plus longue jusque-là

 

Cette marche dans la boue

Une peur historique encore et encore en criant

Gauche – droite – gauche

 

(A partir de la traduction anglaise de Constantin Roman, poème tiré de l’anthologie ‘Effet de serre’, 1987)

* * * * *

 

Le chant de Bucarest

Florenta ALBU (1934 – 2003)

 

Ville de places vides, détruites

Trois Rois mages bohémiens marchent au milieu de rien

Portant tout son poids de l’étoile lumineuse

Aux fenêtres des porches des maisons

Au vide.

 

Ville de places vides

Enveloppée dans un linceul de treuillages et de boue

le chant de l’aurore

aux portes de l’Orient

un chant de l’aurore

 

Oh nos rêves tombaient en ruine !

Ville vide de treuillages et de boue

A travers la boue, à travers la poussière

D’un monde

Désolé

Trois petits bohémiens chantent

Les chants des rois mages.

 

Allez-y Arlequins

Chants d’Arlequins

Alors que les portes sont grandes ouvertes

Sur l’âme du vide…

 

(A partir de la traduction anglaise de Constantin Romane, juillet 2003, poème extrait de l’anthologie Aurolac, 1996).

* * * * *

Oana Orlea Cantacuzino

Oana Orlea Cantacuzino

Oana Orléa, à propos de Florenta Albu :

Florenta Albu, qui nous a quittés récemment, mérite bien d’être mentionnée dans cette anthologie. C’est une femme remarquable, entre autres choses, par le milieu social dont elle est issue : elle vient en effet d’une famille de paysans, petits propriétaires terriens, (‘Tarani mijlocasi’), qui furent taxés de ‘koulaks’ par les communistes. Cela affecta de manière très négative le cours de la vie de Florenta, à un point tel qu’il est impossible de l’imaginer pour un esprit de l’Europe de l’Ouest. L’accès à une formation universitaire lui a été refusé, et à la place, elle a été obligée d’intégrer l’ Universitatea Populara[1]. En serrant les dents, elle commença sa carrière littéraire comme jeune reporter sur les sites de constructions socialistes.

Son arrivée dans le domaine de cette ‘Blouse roumaine’, loin de l’idée de l’auteur de passer pour un provocateur, ce qui après tout n’est pas la question principale, va rendre l’ouvrage plus représentatif. Car son cas est effectivement avant tout emblématique de l’immense capacité de destruction du régime communiste, aussi bien pour les individus que pour la nation en son entier.

Quant à moi, je suis aujourd’hui témoin de l’amnésie préprogrammée qui s’étend sur des décennies de communisme. Il est encore plus grave de constater que l’Est comme l’Ouest, sont tous les deux occupés, chacun à leur manière, à effacer le passé avec diligence.

(Oana Orléa, correspondance personnelle avec Constantin ROMAN, mai 2003).

 

"Blouse Romaine - The Unsung Voices of Romanian Women"

“Blouse Romaine – The Unsung Voices of Romanian Women” *)

 

 

Biographie

Née dans un petit village de la basse plaine du Danube, où ses parents sont les propriétaires de quelques arpents de terre et de têtes de bétail, Florenta Albu est victime de discrimination de la part du régime communiste, pour appartenance à la classe sociale des ‘koulaks’. Les biens de sa famille, terre et troupeaux, sont intégrés à un kolkhoze, et Florenta se voit interdire l’accès à une éducation supérieure. A la place, elle accepte un poste de reporter pour la presse communiste où elle écrit de ternes histoires sur les ‘réalisations’ du socialisme. Son travail l’emmène, bloc note à la main, à visiter des sites de construction d’immeubles et à rapporter « l’enthousiasme » des travailleurs à construire une nouvelle société. Parallèlement, Florenta intègre le seul parcours scolaire ouvert aux enfants des ‘koulaks’ qui souhaitent atteindre un meilleur niveau d’éducation. Il s’agit de l ‘Université populaire. Elle en sort avec un diplôme de philologie roumaine et française. Son obstination à battre le système à son propre jeu et à réussir à être publiée est assez incroyable, si l’on prend en compte le nombre prodigieux de volumes de poésie qu’elle a écrit, sans tomber dans le culte grotesque de la personnalité imposé par le couple Ceausescu. Quoi qu’il en soit, elle est reconnue tardivement comme une écrivain accomplie dans sa carrière poétique et tristement après 1990, les ressources financières de Viata Româneasca où elle travaille comme rédactrice sont si réduites que la tension devient insoutenable pour elle et hâte sa mort. Le sort de cette poète relève de l’ironie : victime de discrimination pour des raisons politiques sous le communisme, à peine le système s’effondre qu’elle tombe à son tour, victime des cruelles conditions économiques de la période de « transition ». Le destin tragique de Florenta Albu est le même que celui de nombreux de ses compatriotes poètes et artistes. En ayant offert un aperçu sur l’interaction complexe entre la vie d’artiste et un régime totalitaire, on pourrait bien se demander qu’elle serait la valeur intrinsèque du produit fini, une fois qu’il a été soumis au filtre de la censure et des humiliations ? Il est probable que l’essence même de l’héritage poétique de Florenta est le mieux résumé par son amie Oana Orlea (correspondance privée, juillet 2003), lorsqu’elle écrit :

« Un résumé de la poésie de Florenta Albu pourrait être vu comme un requiem à une ére révolue… Son lyrisme méditatif, tragique, entrecoupé de flashes satiriques dénonce, en effet, autant le viol du corps que de l’esprit. Il n’y a rien de formel dans sa poésie, tandis que son langage poétique témoigne du désordre du monde. »

« Oui, Florenta Albu est une grande poète. Elle trouvera sa place méritée en littérature, comme une référence importante, et qui, au fil du temps, ne pourra que prendre de l’importance. »

 

 "Blouse Roumaine - the Unsung Voices of Romanian Women"

“Blouse Roumaine – the Unsung Voices of Romanian Women”

NOTE: For more information about Florenta Albu or Oana Orlea Cantacuzino, see:

http://www.blouseroumaine.com

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

Sources principales :  

Albu, Florenta, Fàrà popas, Bucarest, 1961, Austru, Bucarest, 1971,

Petrecere cu iarbà, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1973,

Ave noembrie – Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1975,

Roata lumii, Ed. Eminescu, Bucarest, 1977,

Umbrà arsà, Ed. Eminescu, Bucarest, 1980,

Epitaf, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1981,

Utopia, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest 1983,

A fi fire– Ed. Eminescu, Bucarest, 1984,

Banchet autumnal, Ed. Albatros, Bucarest, 1984,

Terase, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1985,

Efectul de serà – Florilegiu, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1987,

Kilometru unu în cer, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1988,

Banchet autmomnal II, Ed. Dacia, Cluj, 1991,

Scara ce nu duce nicàieri, Colectia Cartea Româneascà de Prozà,

Zidul martor – Pagini de jurnal 1970-1990, Ed. Cartea Româneascà, Bucarest, 1994, Aurolac, 1996

 

Autres sources:

Orlea, Oana, correspondance personnelle, mai 2003

Vasile, Geo, Poezia Românà între Milenii, Discobolul Collection, edited by Borbély, Stefan, Editura Dacia, Cluj-Napoca, 2002

Zaciu, Mircea et al, Dictionarul Scriitorilor Români, Vol 1 (A-C), p. 31-32, Editura Fundatiei Culturale Române, Bucarest, 1995

 

Sur Internet :

Transcript, Florenta Albu: http://www.transcript-review.org/section.cfm?id=121&lan=en

[1] Equivalent en Roumanie de l’enseignement à distance, note de l’auteur.

→ No CommentsTags:··················

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (404), Nuno BRITO (b. 1981), PORTO, PORTUGAL: “Hungarian delirium”, “Delir Maghiar“

December 27th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Reviews, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (404), Nuno BRITO (b. 1981), PORTO, PORTUGAL: “Hungarian delirium”, “Delir Maghiar“

Nuno BRITO - Poems

Nuno BRITO – Poems

 

Hungarian delirium

Nuno BRITO (b. 1981)

I.

Like Morphine, I take away the pain from man

Whoever stares into my eyes will no longer be free

I’m the most beautiful woman in all mythologies

Paradise on earth – the most dangerous of all,

I’m creative madness

Patricia, the Sister of God

My sons are all things, all possibilities

my daughters

I induce the most complex suicides,

Give and take life and don’t think it good or bad because I’m

a flower and flowers are without judgement  they’re indifferent and sad

I advise the German romantics to take up

arms and fight for useless causes.  I stuff powder

into their guns,

Provoke in them the Greatest pleasures

I’m made of flesh and blood and not of light –

I’m Our Lady of the North Pole

watching the sun dripping on the ice:

 

II.

I’m the dream of a camel with special needs,

the delirium of the Siamese twin girls

the nightmare of four newborn giraffes

Paralysis is the opposite of God – you said

Beneath my skirts, I stroke your head –

I’m the ashes of a dictator in the beak of a flying raven

all quince paste sellers along the Iraqi border

Beneath my skirts – I love you like a lunatic

 

III.

I’m the possibility – in my mouth oxen till the land,

Leaving their hooves’ Carolingian marks

The plough writes a Petrarchan rhyme on my tongue

In Carolingian script of the most perfect calligraphy

I write that I adore you in fluorescent new metre

The tulle-dressed papist fairies Smear their faces with jelly and jam

Dreams: the sweetest, such as

Africa has broken in half

in my mouth the whole of Africa

Link, link, link, link

 

IV.

The fear of being alone, with the goddess of fertility gnawing at my

uterus

The most profound desires – of a crane driver

Mouth full of snow The hair burning to the sound of music –

red hair – the headphones!

The clouds in the dream are less beautiful

Snowflakes in Brussels, the angels warm up

Every day I drive on a silver motorway that runs till the

centre of your soul

There’s pleasure in each atom,

in each atom – the universe

The bakers knead dough across the whole of Hungary

in Upper Hungary and in Lower Hungary

Tomorrow the Hungarian children, the greediest –

the Hungarian bakers, the saddest

–  Look me in the eye

my eyes are sad, you said:

The saddest of all

 

© Translated by Ana Hudson, 2011

* * * * *

BRITO - Creme de la Creme

BRITO – Creme de la Creme

 

Delir Maghiar

Nuno BRITO (n. 1981, Porto, Portugal)

 

I.

Aidoma morfinei, alin durerea omului

Oricine m-ar privi în ochi îşi va pierde libertatea

Sunt cea mai atrăgătoare femeie din toate mitologiiile

Un Paradis pe Pământ – cel mai periculos om din lume,

Sunt o nebunie creatoare

Patricia, Sora lui Dumnezeu

Fiii mei sunt a-tot-ştiutori fără margini

Fiicelor mele

Le-am hărăzit sinucideri complexe,

Dând sau luând viaţa nu cred ca este bine sau rău pentru că sunt

o floare iar florile nu judecă ele fiind indiferente şi triste

eu i-aşi sfătui pe romanticii Germani să-şi ia

armele să se lupte pentru cauze pierdute. Eu le încarc

puştile,

Provocându-le plăcerile cele mai Mari

Sunt zămislit din carne şi sânge şi nu din lumină –

Eu sunt Sfânta Fecioară dela Polul Nord

făcând soarele să se topească pe ghiaţă:

 

II.

Sunt visul cămilei împovărate

delirul surorilor Siameze

coşmarul a patru girafe nou născute

Paralizia este antiteza lui Dumnezeu – mi-ai spus

Sub fusta mea iţi mângâi capul –

Eu sunt cenuşa dictatorului încleştată în ciocul corbului în zbor

toţi vânzătorii de magiun de gutui de la hotarul Irakului

Subt fusta mea – te iubesc nebuneşte

 

III.

Eu sunt o opţiune – în gura mea boii ară câmpul,

Lăsând întipărite în glie urma copitelor lor Carolingiene

Plugul brăzdează pe limba mea un vers din Petrarca

Cu litere în stil Carolingian în cea mai perfectă caligrafie

Eu scriu într-un metru fluorescent că te ador

Pe voalul tău clasic zânele îşi şterg faţa cu visuri

De magiun şi marmelada cea mai dulce aşa cum

Africa s-a spart în două

În gura mea o Africă întreagă

În lanţuri, în lanţuri

 

IV.

Teama de a fi lăsată singură cu zeiţa fertilităţii scormonindu-mi vagina

Cea mai intimă dorinţă a macaraagiului

Cu gura plină de zăpadă Părul arzând în sunetul muzicii –

păr roşcat – cască la urechi!

Norii viselor nu mai sunt atât de frumoşi

Fulgi de zăpadă la Bruxelles, îngerii se încălzesc

Zilnic conduc pe o autostradă de argint care pătrunde

În inima sufletului tău

Există o plăcere în fiecare atom,

În fiecare atom – universul

Brutarii frământă aluatul pe întreaga Ungarie

In zori copiii unguri dintre cei mai hămesiţi –

Brutarii unguri, cei mai trişti

Priveşte-mă direct in ochi

ochii mei sunt trişti, ai rostit:

Cei mai trişti din lumea întreagă

 

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin Roman, Londra 2016

© copyright Constantin Roman, London, 2016

* * * * *

 

Nuno BRITO

Nuno BRITO

  SHORT BIO: Nasceu no Porto, Portugal, em 1981.  Licenciado em História pela Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, onde fez a pós-graduação em História Medieval e do Renascimento e o curso de formação contínua em Teoria da Literatura. Frequentou o Instituto de Estudos Medievais em Roma.

Prêmio no Concurso Literário da Faculdade de Letras UP (Poesia).

Publicou a obra de poesia “Delírio Húngaro” em 2009.

 

BIO NOTE: A poet from this brand new generation, Nuno Brito addresses us through disconcerting and frequently corrosive poetics. His poetic universe is a fragmented one, ranging from a cosmic-visionary outlook and inspiration in comics to exorcisms of the immediate existential reality. His writing embodies a very personal exacerbation of process, a temptation for automatism and a tendency to disconnected expression where both post-modern echoes of surrealism and re-workings of the disjointment of the self collide (often bringing Mário de Sá-Carneiro [1890-1916] to mind).’

Vasco Graça Moura

Nuno Brito was born in Porto. He has a BA Hons in History and an MA in Medieval and Renaissance History. He also attended the Institute for Medieval Studies in Rome where he pursued studies on Abelard. He published a book of short stories and his poems are published in various literary magazines. He now lives in California.

Poetry books since 2000: Delírio Húngaro (2009), Crème de la Crème (2011), Duplo Poço (2012), As abelhas produzem sol (2015)

 

→ No CommentsTags:···············

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “N”

November 12th, 2016 · Books, Communist Prisons, Diaspora, Education, Famous People, History, International Media, PEOPLE, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations, Translations

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “N”

letter-n

Paul Celan

Paul Celan

  Naiveté:

“Now, I am a person who likes simple words. It is true, I had realized before this journey that there was much evil and injustice in the world that I had now left, but I had believed I could shake the foundations if I called things by their proper name. I knew such an enterprise meant returning to absolute naiveté. This naiveté I considered as a primal vision purified of the slag of centuries of whorey lies about the world.”

(Paul Celan (1920-1970), Poet, Exile)

( “Edgard Jene and The Dream About The Dream”)

                                              (“Collected Prose”, Cancarnet, 1986)

 

Mambel Nandris: "Romanian Folk Tales"

Mabel Nandris: “Romanian Folk Tales”

 

  Nandris, Mabel (née Farrell): Altruism:“All that I did for Romania I did for free, 

  without any personal gain.” (‘pe degeaba’ – t.n.)

(Mabel Farrell Nandris: Personal Communication to the Author, Cambridge 1980)

 

 

 

Twenty Years in Siberia

Twenty Years in Siberia

Nandris – Cudla, Anita: A woman’s gulag:

“So much misery and suffering I had never had before as I have had now. Can anyone imagine how – in a winter with 40 degrees below zero – could a woman have made a journey of 80 kilometres on a reindeer sledge through pathless snow-drifts, through forests, through wilderness? In the night I could see nothing but the whiteness of the snow. I hung on with great fear and attention to the “narta” for it was small and if they had tripped suddenly, I could easily have been thrown out to be abandoned in a snow-drift where I would  have never been found.”

(Anita Nandris-Cudla (1904- 1986), “Twenty years in Siberia”)

 

Emil Cioran

Emil Cioran

  Nation:

  “When a nation has no principle left in its blood,

    the only resource is the will to  disintegrate.”

                                                          (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, exile)                                                           (“Précis de décomposition”)

 

 

Ion Gavrila Ogoranu

Ion Gavrila Ogoranu

 Nation:

“A Nation is not vanquished when foreign forces reduce it to pulp. A Nation is vanquished only                  when it gives up reaffirming its dignity, when it considers itself vanquished within its inner self.”

(Viorel Gheorghita, Farmer, Anti-Communist Resistance leader)

(Note on Ion Gavrila Ogoranu’s Memoirs: “Fir trees break up, they never bend”)

 

(1923 – 2006)

 

Emil Cioran

Emil Cioran

Nationality:

“I have no nationality – the best possible status for an intellectual.”

                                  (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer, exile)

 

 


 Ana Novac,

Ana Novac

Nationality:

“I was born in 1929 in Transylvania (România). One good morning, when I was 11 years old I woke up to be a Hungarian citizen, without having moved to another place, another street, or even without having changed my shirt. At the age of 14 I was deported to Auschwitz, as a Jew. On my release in 1945 I had become again a Romanian citizen. That is why I have the greatest difficulty in establishing my nationality, other than from my identity papers which specified that I was Jewish.”

(Ana Novac (1929-2010) “The Beautiful Days of My Youth:

 My Six Months in Auschwitz and Plaszow”)

 

rhinoceros Negoità, Lucia Carmen: Rhinoceros:

“In the Orwellian world of communist dictatorship the mechanisms of censorship had reached a devilish threshold of perfection, especially during the last decade. Aggressive, obvious or hidden, these devices were a sure way towards the alienation of the individual. As in Eugène Ionesco’s famous play, we were all in danger of becoming rhinoceros.

The whole system, well planned in its structure, condemned a whole people to a slow but sure death of the soul. The kulturniks of the age, those who, higher or lower in ranks, carried out the instructions received from the Party, from Ceausescu himself, had an inexhaustible imagination in heightening suspicion, fear and terror. The comic and the absurd mingled with the tragic. The individual himself was doomed to being a mere number, in a monotonous mortifying series.”

(Lucia Negoità, b. 1945, Breaza, quoted by Vianu, Lidia, in:

“Censorship in Romania”, pp. 159-161)

 

Brancusi & Arethia

Brancusi & Arethia

Negroponte, Sanda, née Tàtàrescu (1919-2009) – about her mother Aretia Tàtàrescu:

“ Who suffered terribly in all this was my mother: her husband and daughter were arrested and her son was in a mental hospital in Paris. I must add that mother, who lived always in the shadow of my father, was never involved in politics, not even for a single day. Furthermore, as an anecdotal aside, she never ever voted in elections: she deemed it unethical to vote for one’s own husband. So this is how it fell upon her to look after her family.

She was a woman of an extraordinary perception for what is beautiful. After the First War she settled in Oltenia, in the native village of my father’s, at Poiana-Gorj and there she was able to mix the beautiful with social duties. She realized that County Gorj was a very poor region, with many orphans and so she founded a charity with the aim of reviving the tradition of the carpet weaving of Oltenian style.

Mother was faced with a stark choice: either that of leading a mundane life, as the wife of a Prime Minister, or a life dedicated to things she felt it her duty to carry out. She was a lady of means and, as such, she felt it was her social duty to assist the poor girls of County Gorj, for whom she founded a textile mill producing Oltenian-style rugs, with modern patterns. For it she received various prizes abroad. In 1937 one of her rugs received a medal in Paris. This was her vocation. She was an extraordinary woman as a mother and wife and I should add, an extraordinary woman for her country as well: Brâncusi’s coming to Romania was entirely due to my mother” (t.n. to create the monumental triptych ensemble of the ‘Column of Infinity’, the ‘Gate of the Kiss’ and the ‘Table of Silence’ ).

(Sanda Tàtàrescu-Negroponte (1919-2009),

Daughter of Romanian P.M. Gheorghe Tàtàrescu,

Interviewed by Marian Oprea, “Lumea Magazin”, nr. 7, 2002)

 

Negroponte at Buckingham Palace

Sanda Tatarescu as a Debutante at Buckingham Palace

Sanda Tàtàrescu-Negroponte,  (1919-2009) –

From Buckingham Palace to the Communist Prisons:

“Until 1950 I lived times of great happiness, to the point of irresponsibility. In the meantime I was married and had children and I was leading a happy life, I should say somewhat superficial, if one is to describe it more accurately; but how beautiful it was! That was until the moment when the terrible (political) persecutions started… of course members of the Tàtàrescu family were amongst its victims: in all eleven people three women – two aunts and myself, who committed no crime and all the brothers and brother-in-laws of my father’s.

It is true, that when I arrived at the prison sorting centre, at Ghencea, I was made to scrub the floors, something I had never done in my life, which prompted my self-analysis: ‘what was the point to have been presented to the King of England, when I could not even scrub the floors?’ But, at the same time, I said to myself: ‘I am deeply grateful to my father, who gave me the chance of being what I was, once upon a time, even though, now, I had to pay so dearly for it.’ But God helped to see me through all these prisons, with their terrible hardships and deprivations – so that at the end of my life, as I am now 82 years-old, I can state that I always looked people in the eye, that I protected my family and children and that I kept with dignity the name which I inherited from my parents.

(Sanda Tàtàrescu-Negroponte,

Daughter of Romanian PM Gheorghe Tàtàrescu,

interviewed by Marian Oprea, Lumea Magazin, nr. 7, 2002)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

→ No CommentsTags:································

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “M”

November 12th, 2016 · Books, Communist Prisons, Diaspora, Famous People, History, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations, Translations

 

th-2

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “M”

 

Marthe Bibesco

Marthe Bibesco

  Marriage:
“She was surprised to have nothing to do: marriage was a misfortune, but not an occupation.”
(Marthe Bibesco, (1886-1973), Writer, Socialite)

 

Rev. Calciu-Dumitreasa

Rev. Calciu-Dumitreasa

  Martyrs:
“…We are now witnessing an evident return to God, and this is happening in countries where faith is persecuted. Today the communist countries are giving the world new martyrs for Christ…”

(Fr. Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa (1925-2006), Dissident Orthodox Priest)

 

Gregor von Rezzori

Gregor von Rezzori

  Memory:
“Memory is not absolutely reliable – it makes an arbitrary selection of what it wants to preserve and it discards what it dislikes, it hoists the emotions to the fore, it transfigures and it destroys.”
(Gregor von Rezzori, (1914-1998), Writer, Exile)

 

Paul Goma

Paul Goma

  Mentality Change:

“If the Romanians would like to become a people, rather than remain a pupulace with an eternal rural mentality, if the Romanians would like to have their qualities and good deeds acknowledged, then they might need starting to acknowledge their own own                                                                                                                                                                    defects and misdeeds”.

Paul Goma, (b. 1935), Writer, Dissident, Political prisoner,

Exile in France)

 

Georges ENESCO

Georges ENESCO

  Menuhin, Yehudi:
“Wasn’t it a joy to give advise to Yehudi Menuhin? If I were to say that I had formed him I would be wrong, because he was already marvellous when I took him in hand.”
(Georges Enesco, (1881-1955) composer, conductor, violinist, exile)

 

Veronica Micle

Veronica Micle

  Micle, Veronica:
Longing:
“How often may I not have hoped
At each and ev’ry movement
So longing that you might appear
You, sweetest human being?

And then how oft’ have I not cried
For hours, in the night,
To snuffl’ alone the candlelight
Without my love in sight?

(Veronica Micle, poem dedicated to Mihai Eminescu)
(Copyright Translation by Constantin Roman, 2002)

Paul CELAN

Paul CELAN

  Mirror:
“She turned her back on the mirror, hating the mirror’s vanity.
(Paul Celan (1920-1970), Poet, “Backlight”, “Collected Prose”, 1986)

 

 

 

Nelly Miricioiu

Nelly Miricioiu

  Miricioiu, Nelly:
“…Nelly Miricioiu sang with a tremendous palette of colours, a delicate touch with the coloratura, and plenty of old-fashioned intensity…”
(Robert Thicknesse, The Times, London, 28 October 2003)

 

 

Vatican

Vatican

  Mistress:
“Let me through, I am the Pope’s mistress.”
(Countess Starjensky, née Princess Bibesco, ca 1900,

exhorting the Swiss Guards to let her enter the Vatican)

 

                                                                                                                     

Theodor Pallady

Theodor Pallady

Modern:
“I am not a modern painter, I am timeless”
Theodore Pallady (1871-1956), Painter, Exile)

 

Gen. Pacepa

Gen. Ion Pacepa

Monitoring:
“Monitoring the thoughts of the entire Romanian population

has been Ceausescu’s major domestic policy goal,

for which he has spared no expense or manpower.”
(Gen. Ion Pacepa, Securitate chief, defected to the US,
“Red Horizons”, Heinemann, London 1988)

 

Emil Cioran

Emil Cioran

Music:
“Music is the refuge of souls ulcerated by happiness.”
(Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer, exile)
(“Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

Mystery:
“Mystery – a word which we use to trick the others, to make them believe that we are more profound than they are.”
(Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer, exile)
(“Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

                                          

The Village Girl who kicked a Hornets Nest

The Village Girl who kicked a Hornets Nest

Müller, Herta’s Wish:
“I wished that [my interrogator] would carry a sack with all his dead. I wished his hacked-off hair would smell like a newly mown graveyard whenever he sat at the barber’s. I wished his crimes would reek when he sat down at the table with his grandson after work. That the boy would be disgusted by the fingers that were feeding him cake”.
(Herta Müller, (b. 1953, Banat, Romania) “The Land Of Green Plums”)

→ No CommentsTags:·········

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “L”

November 10th, 2016 · Diaspora, Famous People, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, quotations, Translations

th-1

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations – Letter “L”

 

Elena Lupescu

Elena Lupescu

  Laszlo, Philip de, on Madame Lupescu:

“I was greatly surprised – she has fine features, lovely red hair, is very versatile in her strong intelligence, and with great experience of the world. She spoke French, English and German to me. I was sorry that her face, particularly her mouth, was so heavily painted, for I think she would look better without, but this place is the home of exaggerated artificiality. I must admit that I am looking forward to painting her. She will be a splendid sitter. Whatever her life and past, she is simpler than these complicated comedians at the Court”.

(Owen Rutter, Portrait of a painter, pp. 376-377)

 

Dinu Lipatti

Dinu Lipatti

  Lessons:

“Giving lessons means receiving them.”

                                                                                             (Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950), Pianist, Composer, Exile)

 

 

Georges Enesco

Georges Enesco

  Life:

“It’s finished… this story started over there, in the Moldavian plains and it ends here, in the heart of Paris. To reach the great city, where I finished my contest, from the depths of my native village I took a dusty road marked by trees that are passing by to infinity. It was certainly a long road and yet I think of it so short!”

                        (Georges Enesco (1881-1955) composer, conductor, violinist, exile)

 

 

  Limerick on Madame Lupescu:

“Have you heard of Madam Lupescu,

Who came to Romania’s rescue?

It’s a wonderful thing

To be under a King:

Is Democracy better I ask you?”

(Anonimous)

 

Clara Haskil (1895-1960)

Clara Haskil (1895-1960)

  Lipatti, Dinu, seen by Clara Haskil:

“Oh, I could spend hours talking about Dinu. He was always so aware, so alive, in spite of all the terrible pain he had to suffer. And his music-making! I really can’t find the words to describe what I felt whenever I hear him play. I often thought he felt almost guilty he had been blessed with so much genius.”

“Clara Haskil, – a self-portrait”,

(from the plaquette of the CD – TAH 430-432 Clara Haskil en récital)

 

Maria Cebotari

Maria Cebotari

  Lisa della Casa about Maria Cebotari:

“Once heard, never forgotten!”

 

 

 

 

Eugene Ionesco

Eugene Ionesco

  Literature:

“So long as one lives, all is pretext for literature.”

                                                                                       (Eugene Ionesco (1912-1994), dramatist, “Exit the King”)

 

 

 

Emil Cioran (b. Transylvania, 1911 - d. Paris, 1995), celebrated in france as one of the greatest 20th c writers - He was a friend of Mircea Eliade, Eugène Ionesco, Paul Celan, Samuel Beckett, and Henri Michaux.

Emil Cioran
(b. Transylvania, 1911 – d. Paris, 1995)

 

 

  Literature:

“Prolific in essence, literature lives through the plethora of vowels, through the cancer of the word.”

                                            (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer, “Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

 

 

Ionesco: Exit the king

Ionesco: Exit the king

  Living:

“Living is abnormal.”

                                                                                  (Eugene Ionesco (1912-1994), dramatist, “The Rhinoceros”)

 

 

 

Gregor von Rezzori

Gregor von Rezzori

  Living:

“In time, it was not me who was living, it was the time which was living in me.”

(Gregor von Rezzori (1914-1998), writer, exile)

 

 

 

Emile CIORAN

Emile CIORAN

  Love:

“The art of love? That is to know how to match the temperament of a vampire with the discretion of an anemone.”

                                                                                                    (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer)

(“Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

 

 

Paul CELAN

Paul CELAN

  Love:

“Love despaired of them: so long was their embrace.”

                                                                                                                         (Paul Celan (1920-1970), Poet, Exile)

                                                                                                        (“Backlight”, “Collected Prose”, Carcanet, 1986)

 

 

Brancusi

Brancusi

  Love:

“Love calls for love. It is not as important to be loved as to love with all one’s power and one’s being .”

(Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), Sculptor, Exile)

 

 

 

Emil Cioran

Emil Cioran

  Lover:

“After the metaphors, the Chemist. This is how great sentiments are frittered away. To start as a poet and finish as a gynaecologist. From all conditions, that of the lover is the least enviable.”

                                                                                                       (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer)

(“Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

 

 

Elena Ceausescu

Elena Ceausescu

  Love making:

“A fuzzy noise together with heavy breathing and short yelps came suddenly out of the speaker… ‘They should be arrested! At eleven in the morning, working people should be out working, not making love.”

(Elena Ceausescu (1916-1989), on listening to a secret service tape,

recorded in a private home in Bucharest,

quoted by Gen. Ion Pacepa’s ‘Red Horizons’, 1988)

 

Syllogismes de l'amertume

Syllogismes de l’amertume

  Lucidity:

“Purpose of lucidity: to reach a reasonable despair, an Olympian ferocity.”

                                                                                                                       (Emil Cioran (1911-1995), philosopher, writer:

“Syllogismes de l’amertume”)

 

 

→ No CommentsTags:··································

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations: Letter “K”

November 9th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Famous People, History, International Media, PEOPLE, quotations, Translations

th

 

 Dictionary of Romanian Quotations: Letter “K”

 

Alice Keppel

Alice Keppel

 

  Keppel, Mrs.

“To these gatherings (n.t. Mrs. Keppel’s parties during WWII at the London Ritz), Princess Callimachi brought that element of the Orient Express which Violet Trefusis missed so much.”

(Philippe Jullian and John Philips,

“Violet Trefusis Life and Letters”, pp. 106)

 

Nichifor Crainic

Nichifor Crainic

  King:

“Have Mercy, o God, on our King,

Lend your ear and hear

The prayer of our whole Land…

Give Him many days,

Anoint His brow with Thy Grace,

Have Mercy, o God, on our King!”

(Nichifor Crainic, (1889-1972). Poet)

 

Constantin Brancusi

Constantin Brancusi

  Kosmutzà, Corneliu on Brâncusi:

“The work (Prometheus) was done in clay, whilst Brâncusi was telling various (folk) tales, when not playing flutes of his own manufacture or the guitar. He would be highly amused when I would take an Indian song to be a Romanian lament song.… the Atelier in Montparnasse where the artist was working was damp and spartan at the limit o bare necessity. Brâncusi’s lived between mounds of clay covered in damp cloth and of rafters needed for his sculpture.”

(http://www.Brancusi.ro/1911Prometeu1.htm)

 

  Kosmutzà, Otilia (Mrs. György Bölöni) seen by Gilberte Brassai:

“I enjoy spending time with the Bölönis. Mrs.. Bölöni (Ady used to call her Itoka and the name has stuck *) is short rotund and talkative in a woman-like way. She is sometimes highfalutin and effusive and sometimes she curses vehemently. But she knows a lot about Anatole France, whose secretary she used to be and also about Ady. It is just now that I heard that Ady once wanted to jump off the Eiffel Tower”.

*) (a.n. ‘Ady’ is the Hungarian poet Ady Endre (1877-1919), whose castle in Transylvania was bought by Octavian Goga, (q.v. Veturia Goga);

(Gilberte Brassaï, op.cit. 70)

Kossuth Lajos (1802-1894)

Kossuth Lajos
(1802-1894)

  Kosuth Lajos (Hungarian 1848 Revolutionary):

“He seemed to be not only a well informed and distinguished man, but also ‘un homme de bien’.”

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth of Romania, Pss. of Wied

Elizabeth of Romania, Pss. of Wied  Kremnitz, Mitte on Romanian folk grreting Queen Elizabeth of Romania:

“The people who came to greet her (Queen Elisabeta of Wied, t.n.) did not look like the conventional folk of Northern European capitals. They looked so beautiful in their multi-coloured and original costumes, so full of dignity and grace, that it almost looked as if it was set on artistic criteria by some theatre stage director in order to play the scene of a princely cortège.”

(Mite Kremnitz on the reception reception given in 1869  by the inhabitants of Bucharest to their Queen – Elizabeth of Wied on her entry in the city.

(Quoted by Vasile Avram in: ‘Cetatea Literarà’, 2002)

*  *  *  *

→ No CommentsTags:·······················

Dictionary of Romanian Quotations: Letter “J”

November 6th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Education, Famous People, History, International Media, PEOPLE, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations, Translations

can-stock-photo_csp5530633  Dictionary of Romanian Quotations: Letter “J”

 

James II by Peter Lely

James II by Peter Lely

  James II, King

“To revolt is one thing, to approve is something else. When James II had fallen, there were certain Anglican bishops who followed into exile the pro-Catholic, or perhaps the Catholic King, only because he was the legitimate Sovereign and no matter what happened to him, he was irreplaceable”.

(Nicolae Steinhardt, (1912-1989), Philosopher, Orthodox Monk, “Jurnalul Fericirii”)

 

Jewish Writers Union of Romania:

Mihail Sebastian

Mihail Sebastian

“This morning I made the stupid mistake of going to Dorian’s, where I had been invited to a ‘writers conference’. I helplessly witnessed the constitution of “the Union of Jewish Writers” with Benador, Calugaru and Dorian at its head. Unknown figures, non-entities, old ambitions and troubles, all drawing fresh life from impudence and ostentation.

I won’t forgive my cowardice at not having shouted out all they deserved to hear. But that’s the last time I let myself be caught in such snares.”

(Mihail Sebastian (Iosif Hechter), (1907-1945), Playwright, Journalist, “Journal, 1935-1944”, Heinemann, London, 2001)

 

Jonathan Swift’s Satires:

jonathan-swift  “Publishing Swift’s satires in 1985 (in Communist Romania, t.n.), I myself fought a lot with the censor in order to include “A Modest proposal” concerning eating Irish children, which had become ‘subversive’ here on account of meat shortage in Romania. Faced with the alternative of not publishing the book at all, or doing it without the famous text, I gave it up. The supreme level of censorship was a department of the (Communist) Party Central Committee.”

(Denisa Comànescu (b. 1954, Buzau, Romania, ibid., 219-221)

 

Paul CELAN

Paul CELAN

  Judgement:

“The day of judgement had come. In order to find the greatest crime the cross was nailed to Christ.”

(Paul Celan (1920-1970), Poet, Exile: “Backlight”, “Collected Prose”, Carcanet, 1986)

 

Petru Dumitriu

Petru Dumitriu

  Judgemental:

“(My western interlocutors), so impeccable, irreproachable, immaculate (…) who would have never fallen into temptation, neither under threats victims to their weaknesses, nor experienced half a century of tyranny (…) they would not be fit to judge me.”

(Petru Dumitriu (1924-2002), writer, exile: «La Moisson»)

 

Madeleine Cancicov

Madeleine Cancicov

  Judges:

“ Judges are prodigal because their life is not at stake”.

(Madeleine Cancicov (1904-1985), lawyer, writer, political prisoner, exile: “Le cachot des marionettes”)

 

 

 

→ No CommentsTags:············

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flu (Part I of 2)

November 1st, 2016 · Diary, Education, History, OPINION, PEOPLE, quotations, Short Stories & Cameos

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flu (Part I of 2)

 

Black Death

Black Death

Hysteria had gripped the city: it made on wonder what might have been like living in London, centuries ago, at the time of the Black Death?

As always, the blame was left on the doorstep of hapless immigrants, foreign sailors, or refugees fleeing the horrors of persecution on the Continent: Flemish Huguenots, Jewish Estonians coming from Russia, Spaniards who brought the decease with them, decimating good Christians, like us, living in fear of God… Yes, the ‘Spanish Flu’ most certainly came from the Peninsula! What the Spaniards of Armada memory did not succeed, they certainly managed rather well with this pandemic. We were very lucky indeed to avoid it, during the Peninsular War, but what, with the rock of Gibraltar, still being British, the border acted more like a sieve, than a proper filter. We may have won the battle, but surely not the ongoing war: in 1918 one million of our people died of Spanish flu, caused by this mysterious virus, called H1N1. After such massive population cull, do you think, Britain might have become a better place? I doubt it: the flu unleashed the beginning of the end, the very decline of our great British Empire, as both WWI and the Spanish flu had a propensity of killing strapy young men. It caused our genetic pool to be frustrated of the best input: look at the result of these insipid pen pushers in our Civil Service, not to mention greedy parliamentarians, or incompetent financiers!

And then, some sixty years on, in 1977, we were visited, yet again, by another mortal affliction: the ‘Legionnaire’s disease’. This time we were told it came in two different strains – one of which was called ‘Pontiac fever’… Oh, how nice! Now I was expected to die of Pontiac rather than of Legionnaire – it is infinitely more chic! Remember, a few centuries back, bereaved relations, whose dearly departed died of some dreadful illness, which inflicted shame on the family? To avoid social opprobrium, honest folk would

Great London Fire 1066

Great London Fire 1066

bribe the coroner to mark on the death certificate a more respectable cause of death, such as heart failure. Surely, in the end we all died of heart failure, nothing wrong with it, so long as it was less specific. But rumors spread like flames during the Great London Fire, of 1666. Neighbors were no fools and knew too well that it was something fishy when the dead man’s corpse looked ashen, with purple spots on.

Oh, damn those dark memories, those evil spirits torturing my brain. Much better to be, as my friends insisted, ‘positive’:

– Be positive, old boy!

Daughter even went as far as recommending a shrink, suggesting that I was ‘depressed’:

Freud

Freud

                                           – Me, depressed? Never!

Besides, psychologists and sundry therapists, even those with an address in Harley Street, were very strange creatures and odd balls. Often, they took such profession as a result of their own intractable psychological problems, in the first place. Look at Freud, for example, say no more!

I once had a friend whose daughter was completely screwed up, to put it mildly and she became a marriage counselor, inflicting permanent damage to good Christian couples, which were trying to patch up their sexual incompatibilities… How would this daughter manage such little project? Well, quite simply: she was educated in a catholic convent and was very persuasive. No other qualifications were needed to become a therapist, except good looks, combined with a gift of the gab, smooth language and the right accent, nothing more that that: no higher education, or specialist training, nothing at all! As the profession was not scrutinized by the Medical Council my friend’s daughter’s brainwave hit the jackpot. She may have been screwed up mentally, but she was certainly presentable, knew how to look sane and knowledgeable. Well, in the process, she succeeded emasculating all her male patients AND sterilize mentally their wives, all in one! Luckily, she plied her art in a Catholic country, like Ireland, bereft of the usual forms of contraception. Her Dublin practice helped bring the population explosion under control. The effect did not go amiss with a grateful government: universities and learned societies heaped on her honorary degrees, Television channels all over the world queued to ask her appear on talk shows, or even on ‘Britain has Talent’, ‘Have I got News for You’ and more … Her books became best sellers and were made compulsory reading in schools. She got in the ‘Guinness Book of Records’. She became a millionairess and was proposed for a Nobel Prize. But, luckily, by some divine intervention, this final accolade eluded her.

The Catholic Church had a mysterious way in this murky affair: my friend became a convert and a devout Roman Catholic, once she realized that her life was afflicted by an incurable disease. She even confided to me:

– You know, my dear boy, Catholicism is a very good religion to die in, it is the best.

She left her millions to the Vatican, to consecrate her in a gigantic statue in the guise of the Virgin Mary, no less, opposite the gigantic Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro, only, this time, perched on an African mountain peak. In her lifetime she was no saint, to put it mildly, but she was beautiful and many a hopeful bachelor passed between her bed sheets, hoping for a share of the spoils. When they did not succeed to woe her, she offered them an honourable exit, which they could hardly refuse: she made suicide respectable. When she became a reformed rake, only weeks before she died, she was persuaded that she was a reincarnation of Mother Theresa, as she retired to a Convent of Dominican nuns. Her less charitable friends and relations, being frustrated of the spoils of any material windfall, spread the rumor that

                                – she now tried to seduce God….

So much for that, but, surely, my case was rather different, in trying to resort to the services of a shrink. Besides, I was not destined, by some divine providence, to become the focus of attention of my friend’s late daughter: my modest ability of putting away, quite erratically and parsimoniously, a few hormones, did not change the world’s statistics and were most unlikely to affect adversely the population growth of Britain, or any other country.

Back to my own good self, for me, suddenly all changed the day I went to see my GP for some innocuous bother. As I was reputed to be, in our village, ‘the man who lived at the big house’, the doctor had not seen me for ages (as a recluse I am loath of seeing anybody): one thing lead to another, as I heard the quack recommend:

                        – My dear Sir, make love more often!

I was gobsmacked. He noticed my raised eyebrows and he immediately qualified his advice:

­                        – It helps lose some weight, you know? Lose two stones and you’ll  feel more positive. You will feel even on top of     the  world, I assure you!

I was rather skeptical of such advice, and not a little diffident! I had visions of the late Archbishop of Paris, who, in the 1970s, died in flagrante delito, as he was called upon to administer the last rites, at the home of a professional Madam and he died on the job, as it were, to put it mildly…

   At my age, I thought this was a dangerous gamble to take… That evening I took a stiff drink, before retiring to bed, to ponder over the iniquity of losing so many stones, in one go. It made me feel uncomfortable and suspicious of the quack’s motives. Besides, I liked my food and I was not entirely certain that I would find all those willing partners, capable of assisting me with some contortionist Kama Sutra. Rightly, or wrongly, I thought that such act had to be spontaneous, less mechanistic and, perhaps, inspired by true love, rather than prophylactics, or even Charity!

A strange hang over, came haunting me, from my romantic school days, when I was still a virgin and considered the virtue of eternal love being superior to physical love: it had its mystique, almost like the love for the Virgin Mary!

That night I did not sleep well and even the late-night cup did not help allay my discomfort. Eventually, I appeared, somehow, to have fallen asleep, I do not know for how long, as the sunshine lit my bedroom and the church bells across the village green reminded me that it was Sunday.

                   – Ah, what a lovely day! Surely, I could enjoy listening to Baroque music played after mass by the Vicar’s wife:

She was a real gem, trained at the Royal School of Organists, a talented musician, now marooned in the wilds of the shires, withering her life away, with a well-meaning, but dull husband.

                   – Poor shrinking violet, I thought: she was in dire need of tantric prophylaxis!

(End of Part 1 of 2)

 

→ No CommentsTags:···············

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flue (Part 2 of 2)

October 31st, 2016 · Books, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Short Stories & Cameos

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flue (Part 2 of 2)

parish-church_1  I spruced myself up, to look more like a country squire that I was and had to live to the expectations of the man who lived at the Manor House. Moreover, I was painfully aware of what was expected of a man who, by ancient tradition, had his own pew, decorated with flying angels bearing the family coat of arms, bang opposite the Vicar’s pulpit. Let us not forget that even my ancestors had their graves here. Scores of stained glass windows, with their mitered figures, filtered the light in the interior of this Norman church: its Gothic Perpendicular aisles were added much later, also by a forebear of mine, in the 15th century. Yet, by some strange quirk of events, the irony was that I was no Anglican, as my ancestors left England when a great-great grandfather went to Saint Petersburg, at the bequest of Catherine the Great. The empress wanted him to design her English gardens and so we obliged and went native in Russia, where scores of sons and grandsons climbed the greasy social ladder to command imperial favors.

Eventually, we married in the local aristocracy and became ourselves bearded Russian Orthodox: but, no sooner that we espoused our new religion, that the Bolshevik revolution engulfed Russia, family fled the country, across Siberia and the Far East, to become rudderless: they fell between two stools, two civilizations. A schizophrenic crisis of identity took hold of us:

– What were we, really: Russian? or, English? or, maybe Huguenots?

Pushkin

Pushkin

To this day I have not come with a clear-cut answer to this dilemma! We were tall people, with blue eyes, the shade of a faded sky, which could have been both Russian and English. Yet, because of a dark secret in the family, I had dark curly hair, not unlike Lord Byron, or even Pushkin, who, rumor had it, was the great grandson of a black slave, brought to Russia, as a curiosity and survived the harsh winters! Luckily, he was hardier than Napoleon! My hairstyle was definitely very striking, and a head-turner in Society.

One day, when I was old enough for safekeeping family secrets, Mother confessed to me that:

           – Her real name was not Olga Ayvasovskaya, but rather Olga Romanovna!

           – How come?

          – Because she was the result of the secret love affair between Grand Duchess Olga, the Tsar’s youngest daughter by an Ossetian Imperial Guard, posted to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg!

Georgian Princess

Georgian Princess

Ossetians came from the Caucasus and were reputed to be loyal soldiers, like the Swiss Guards at the Vatican and, doubtless, their fiery demeanor caused Olga, the youngest Imperial Princess, to loose her head and in the process become pregnant. Revolution was brewing and times were uncertain, when, in the dead of night, Grandmother was called upon by Empress Alexandra, herself and ordered to take the baby girl away for adoption. Grandmother was too old to have children herself, but she took pity at the bundle of flesh and adopted her as her own, so that the child’s identity should not be discovered. She inquired about the Ossetian officer’s identity, with the Georgian Princess Oberliani, a Lady-in-waiting to the Czarina: only after she was bound to utter secrecy she was told that the putative inseminator was none other than Prince Koussov, son of a rich Caucasian aristocrat… This Prince of Caucasian lineage had all the qualities of quick blood, good looks, flamboyance, excellent shot, and not a little extravagance! crocodileGranny remembered very clearly the dashing Ossetian Commander of the Palace Guards. He used to keep a crocodile as a pet, which he took, on a silver chain, for a walk in the streets of St Petersburg. It caused great alarm among the beautiful ladies.… Those were the days, in the wake of the Bolshevik uprising. Soon after, Lenin’s revolution put paid to this wayward, if colorful society, which disintegrated, either by being slaughtered, or forced into exile.

O, how much I loved grandmother’s tales of old Russia, whether they were true, or fancy! They marked so many milestones in my imagination, which never left me for the rest of my life.

Russian mouzhik

Russian mouzhik

As one would expect, scores of historical characters came to posses my life: Princes and Dukes galore, bearded Patriarchs and Metropolitans, intrepid Cossacks, Tolstoyesque Russian nobility, eccentric revolutionaries and conspirators (Herzen, Kamenev, Zenoviev), ignorant – but loveable mouzhiks, followed by the new children of the Revolution: the destitute Counts dressed in rags, spies, foreign correspondents, diplomats and last but not least, the new contortionists – the communist bureaucracy, not forgetting the NKVD & GRU satraps, interrogators and informers: in fact, all the colours of a riveting Russian panorama, present in my mother’s and my grandmother’s tales, came to life, before my eyes….

Love thy neighbour!

Love thy neighbour!

Suddenly, I stopped reminiscing, as I noticed the Padre coughing, so that I should focus my attention on him: was I nodding, perhaps? No, I was not, just evoking our times in old Russia, in this very English church, in the shires. I managed to put up with the Padre’s sermon, a rubicund fellow, who, at some point, I thought, made an oblique reference to me:

– Love thy neighbour!

he urged the congregation, fixing me, with his bespectacled eyes. How right he was! For a split second my face lit up and I noticed the Padre thinking foolishly that his sermon had some effect on me, as his own face was transfigured, in turn.

Soon, the Bach Fugue saved further embarrassment. The congregation started to shuffle and cough, signalling that service ended. They wanted to make an undignified rush for the exit, but tradition expected that they should wait for the Squire to stand up and leave first. Too bad! I wanted to wait for the last bars of the organ, before I was going to budge: this was my little revenge! At the church door I could not avoid shaking hands with the Vicar and exchange some bland words, as I heard him say:

– Squire, how good to see you! We do not have this privilege very often!

 

Our Viking ancestor

Our Viking ancestor

My dear Vicar, you should not be so surprised: you know that I  am Russian Orthodox, my wife is Roman Catholic and our children are Anglicans: we are a very ecumenical family indeed, but you  are right in expecting us here, more often. This is the church  founded by our ancestors, who were here on Doomsday… well,  even before that, if I were to think of the Vikings… Story goes that our Viking ancestor, Cedric, of the House of Odin, raped all women in this village, and nailed their husbands’ skins to the church door.  One single villager escaped: he was in the woods, herding the swine… he must have been your ancestor!

The Vicar was not going to rise to the occasion: he ignored my provocation, saying instead:

– Squire, you must come to the Vicarage, for tea. We shall have scones, specially baked for you, in the oven!’

vicarage

vicarage

Dreams of the Vicar’s wife’s oven lit my face, as I warmed up to the offer, thinking at the advice given by the village quack, only the day before: “Make love more often, my dear Sir!”

How can I resist, Vicar? It would be churlish of me to say no!  Besides, I live a rather frugal life. So, for me, the offer of scones  with Jersey cream and Vicarage jam is as memorable an experience as listening to a Bach Cantata

 

I suddenly realised that I must have been dreaming: I was in the middle of the road, on this pedestrian crossing, when an impatient driver started tooting, prompting me to jump off my skin and move on:

– These days, people were so impatient with absent-minded, elderly folk:

            – People are so rude… they have no manners… no education, nothing at all!

I thought:

Maybe I am getting too old! Perhaps my children are right complaining that they heard this story before…

  zebra_crossing

                                                            * * * * *

(End of Part 2 of 2)

→ No CommentsTags:···············