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Churchill College, Cambridge, Romanian Poetry with George Steiner

April 14th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Diary, Diaspora, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Translations

Cambridge Churchill College – Romanian Poetry Evening with George Steiner, Timothy Cribb (seated) and Constantin Roman (reciting Marin Sorescu)
extract from “Continental Drift” (a Cambridge Memoir) – Chapter “Lotus Eater – Romanian poetry evening”:

What better place to lament the state of Ceausescu’s Romania than at Churchill’s College ? With the help of Timothy Cribb, a Fellow of Churchill,  I had translated into English, a series of contemporary Romanian poems, by Marin Sorescu, which I had published in “Encounter”.
Four people recited the poems: Timothy Cribb, from Churchill, myself, Ben Knights from Peterhouse and Ben’s girlfriend a student of English. The poems were recited on a background of panpipe laments or “doina de jale”, Carpathian shepherds songs, which were eminently suitable for the poet’s outcry, such as in my translation of the following verse:

To cross the border
Between the sunflower
And the moonflower
Between the alphabet
Of hand-written events
And printed events.

To be friend of all atoms
Which form the light
To sing with the atoms which sing
To cry
With the atoms which die
To enter into all the days of one’s life
Without restriction
No matter whether they fall on one side or other
Of the word

This passport
Is written in my bones
In my skull, femur, phalanxes and spine
All arranged in a way
To make clear
My right to be man.

(“Cambridge Review”, 92, 2203, pp. 233, 28 May 1971)

The show took place in the auditorium of Churchill College, which was full with a young audience, hundreds of young people and academics attracted by the popularity of George Steiner, who made an introductory speech. George Steiner was later to have a Chair of Comparative Literature, created for him at Oxford, whilst Marin Sorescu, in the post-Ceausescu times, became Minister for the Arts in Romania and rather more conformist than in his younger days, when his poems were allowed to strike a0 mild note of dissent…………

NOTE: for those readers who either do not know or do not want to know and especially for those people who escaped Romania, this is to say how nearly impossible it was to cross the Iron Curtain during Ceausescu’s hellish dictatorship: many people risked their  lives  and paid the heavy price of exile – others who had no faith in any change for the better after Ceausescu’s fall, have joined the exodus and  millions of uprooted who sought work and settled in foreign countries – Millions of them!!  Romania’s 23 million-population would decrease even faster should it not be for the influx of Chinese workers and the high-birthrate of the Roma ethnic minority. Such is the inheritance of five decades of Communism followed by two decades of neo-Communism!

extract from:
<a href=”http://www.constantinroman.com/continentaldrift”>www.constantinroman.com/continentaldrift</a>
(there is a free Romanian translation downloadable in pdf  (ask for link – large memory needed ) , because even 17 years after the fall of communism, in 1989, although these memoirs were published in England and in the USA,  its translation cannot be published in Bucharest: it was turned down by  Liicianu of  “Humanitas”, by Patapievici’s “Romanian Institute” (Formerly the Fundatia Culturala Romana) and by Romanian  editors with claims of being “aristocrats of the intellect” (boierii mintii) – read “leaders of opinion”.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Ray

    Another powerful poem, Constantine. To the main of the photo, I can even fell your emotion while you read in that Evening.
    Thanks for sharing it, my friend.