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William Blacker: “Along the Enchanted Way – a Romanian Story”

September 2nd, 2010 · No Comments · Books, OPINION, PEOPLE, Reviews

"The Enchanted Way - a Romanian Story" by William BLACKER

Book review:
"Along the Enchanted Way – a Romanian Story" by William O’Neill BLACKER (2009)

It takes an Irishman to write the best book on Romania since the WWII – the one before the war was yet another Irish – Patrick Leigh-Fermor, although there were other notable accounts in French by Paul Morand and Princess Marthe Bibesco (Isvor), by Satcheverell Sitwell, Queen Marie of Romania (My Country) and a small number of erudite and sensitive Englishmen receptive to the culture of what was still perceived then as  "a faraway country".

William Blacker lived in Romania for over eight years in the early 1990s and went native, not just skin deep, but truly and convincingly: he learned the language, the customs, dressed as the other villagers of Maramures, learned their skills and traditions and listened to their stories steeped in ancient history: he was accepted as one of them surrounded with great affection and respect. He further went to one of the fortified Saxon villages, in Central Transylvania where he was “bewitched” by a beautiful gypsy girl with whom he lived for three years and by whom he had a natural son – Constantin. William did not look around him with the cold eye of a professional ethnologist collecting  his subjects as some kind of curiosity – he tried instead to understand them, to part-take in their daily chores and customs,  proceeded to restore old houses abandoned by the wave of emigration of old Saxon families. He repaired walls and roofs of ancient churches and did not shrink from standing his ground in the face of abuse of a corrupt local priest or policeman.
The Enchanted Way is more than an Anglo-Saxon’s journey through Fairyland (a land which is changing rapidly under the assault of post-communist modernisation) – it is essentially the enchanted journey of a reader  who is beckoned to became a privileged witness of an extraordinary story of the unexpected.

This is the blessing of a rare gift for which Romanians ought to be grateful and which may cause the rest of us to reconsider the unfairness of stereotypes which stuck to this country a way too long.

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