May 31, 2016 by Jessica Palmer
Interview with Ana Blandiana
Department of English, Geogetown University
Ana Blandiana (pseudonym for Otilia-Valeria Coman is one of Romania’s finest contemporary poets. She has published 16 volumes of poems, 6 books of essays and 4 works of prose. Her writings have been translated into 16 languages. Although Blandiana began writing in 1959, she is perhaps best known for her courageous poems from the late 1980’s against the repressive Ceausecu regime.
Naomi Frandzen interviewed Ms. Blandiana in Romania in spring, 2003.
NF: A writer and a poet during communist times, and also your ideas about the effects of censorship on Romanian poems and on Romanian esthetics and how they changed.
AB: So, we’re talking about the time up until ’89?
NF: Up until ‘89. And if we have time, and if you could, I would like to hear about what happened after. I heard that during communism many people wrote poetry because it was their only way to express themselves and their feelings or ideas in a hidden way, and after the revolution they started to write articles. They kind of changed the nature of the literature…
AB: Yes, this was true for all of the countries in the east, but not in the sense that there weren’t poets, but in the sense that even though there were poets and even though…
So, only in the sense that in conditions of freedom and the transformation of the country, everyone felt the need to more directly contribute to the transformation, and poetry was a more indirect way, so not in the sense that…
NF: That they abandoned poetry…
AB: No. And those who were poets even stayed around… I started writing again and in 2000 I published a new book. I also continued to publish in magazines before that, but in 2000 I published a new book of poetry that’s named “Soarele de Apoi” (The Sun of Afterwards), and now I’ve started writing again and I think that…
NF: You’ll continue writing…
AB: Oh, no. For me there are two separate things; there’s writing and then there’s putting a book together. I write poems when it happens, when God tells me to. But putting a book together is like, like as if the poems were bricks lain down in a specific way, and I need to feel a certain inner peace in order to put together…
NF: A book?
AB: Yeah. And during my vacation over the summer I’ll work on that for sure so that in the fall I’ll publish a new book of poetry.
NF: Oh good, I can hardly wait.
AB: So, I started writing again. So, let’s go back to our initial question. I would first like to give a little history about myself.
NF: Please do.
AB: Well, first things first. I am the daughter of a priest, an Orthodox priest. Because he was a priest and because he held sermons that a lot of people came to, he was locked up on a number of occasions. My whole childhood was spent in this atmosphere. At any given moment my father was either in prison or we were waiting for him to be locked up, but our family wasn’t the only one that this happened to. It was pretty common for priests to have their bags packed and have warm clothes prepared in case he was arrested. You’ve heard stories haven’t you, about how things got? So, this is kind of how things started. But my dad died in an accident only a couple of days after he got out of prison. I was 16 when they opened the prisons, so I was still pretty young. As a writer I was banned three times, I couldn’t publish three different times. The first time, wasn’t because of me, but because of my father. I was a student in school and with a group of other students (we were all about 15 years old), we would read poems to each other. We decided to have a contest on who could come up the most sonorous pseudonym, and Blandiana is the name of the town where my mom was from. So, I put Ana together with Blandiana to rhyme and used it with some poems, and I ended up winning the contest. We all sent poems to a magazine in Cluj, (We were in Oradea. Oradea is a city near the northern border with Hungary) I sent a couple of poems using this pseudonym. I mean, it was just a little joke but then my poems were published, two of my poems were published under the name of Ana Blandiana. As proof that I was young and I didn’t really know what a pseudonym actually was, I got scared and I wrote to the magazine saying, ”Please excuse me, you know, I was just kidding, it’s not my name.” An editor from the “Tribuna,” (Tribunal) from Cluj came (Tribuna was the name of the magazine) he came to get to know me… they probably found out that I had talent and also that my father was locked up and he said, “You know what? Your name is staying how it is. From now on your name is Ana Blandiana.” Unfortunately however it wasn’t even two weeks before Oradea authorities found out who they were talking about and they sent, (So, remember I was just a child, I was like 15 or 16.), they sent the same memo to all of the publications in the country, which would have been somewhere in the thousands of literary magazines, newspapers, to every publication. After ‘89 it was published in a collection of documents, I just read it recently, in a collection of documents from Iasi, from Iasi’s archives, it made it all the way to Iasi, in which it stated, “We call your attention to the fact that the daughter of the enemy of the people Gheorghe Poman, who is now in prison, is hiding under the name of Ana Blandiana and should no longer be published.” So, this was the first interdiction that… After ‘89 I remember that I once said in an interview (and this later became famous) I said that the paradox of my destiny was that I was known as a banned writer before I was even known as a writer. No one knew who I was, I had only published two poems and yet the whole literary community knew that there was a little girl who was banned . . . About four years later (I was 20 or so and in the meantime they wouldn’t let me into college because my dad was locked up, and I had also gotten married to my husband), well my husband took some poems to Bucharest (we were living in Cluj), to the manager of “Contemporanul” (The Contemporary) magazine who was known to be more open minded, you know, and so he took the poems and told him my whole story. During communism, I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression but it would be good for you to learn it… It didn’t exist only in Romania but also in other countries as well. For example, I’ve talked to some Russians and they have a similar saying, “Tightening the screw.” Sometimes the screw would be tightened, sometimes it would be loosened, or in other words, there would be some times that were stricter, then others that weren’t so strict. Once there was a conference held in Geneva where the screw was loosened. So, things got a little tight again and I made my second debut, keeping this name. After that, things were pretty normal, things generally started going better. 1964 came and all the prisons were opened. After that [came] 1968 when Romania didn’t invade Czechoslovakia, and all that, and I published book after book and became a known name to the young generation, to those who were like me. During those years, like in between ‘66, ‘67 and ’72, there were a couple of years where there was a little more freedom that spread throughout all of the arts, including literature, and among the whole generation. All the great artists who today are about 60 years old, made their appearance at this time.
NF: And you.
AB: Exactly, among whom I became known as well. And, everything went both well and not so well, I mean, things were as good as they could get during communism. We had to fight with censorship for every verse with everyone being censored. We will discuss censorship separately. In ’85 the second scandal happened when something was published, kind of by mistake. I gave some poems to a student magazine “Amfiteatru,” (Amphitheater), telling them that I didn’t think they could be published. They insisted that I give them some poems and I told them that the only poems I had were ones that I didn’t think could be published. They said no, we’re a student magazine, blah blah blah, and I submitted them not thinking that they would be published, and I didn’t check up either. The poems were somehow published, and after ’89 I tried to find out more, but anyways they were published without the necessary signatures. It was December, the magazine was run by students, and all the students were going on vacation to go to student camps up in the mountains, and the editors of the magazine were leaving to go to the mountains as well to write about the camps. So, they had to gather all the materials quickly and they grabbed some poems without reading them and without signing them. (When this whole scandal happened, they weren’t any signatures besides my signature. There were supposed to be three or four signatures of department heads but there were none.) Well, the scandal was enormous because they denounced the magazine because of the kinds of poems they found in it.
NF: And your poems really were . . .
AB: Well, there were four poems, two of which were very well known and they were these that caused all the problems. One was… It’s named “Cruciada Copiilor” (The Children’s Crusade), and it’s about… there was a period when every woman in Romania had to have at least four children, you didn’t know about this?
NF: I heard about it.
AB: The whole tragedy of the children in Romania after ’89 came from this, because mothers were forced to have them, they tried to abort them, doctors would be put in prison if they helped them and so they would do abortions like in medieval times and had very serious hemorrhages and they would take them to the hospital. Doctors were only allowed to intervene in the presence of ??????, so if, very often the woman would die before the ???? came. It was a hellish situation. And so I wrote this poem, “Cruciada Copiilor,” imagining a crusade of children that came from women’s bodies without even their consent, this much was clear. Another poem was named “Totul” (Everything) and it wasn’t a ???? poem, it was merely a list of words. Let’s say there were five words on a line and about twenty lines, and every one of these words meant something to Romanians. They meant something only if you knew the story behind it, otherwise it was simply surrealist. For example ‘everything’… Ceausescu had a verbal tick that he said in every discourse; 50 or so times he would say ‘may we do everything.’ So, the poem was named “Total.” I want to tell you, maybe it would be interesting to look, I don’t know exactly how it goes but anyways, it was at the beginning of ’85. In ” The Independent,” a page was published that I found out about after ‘89. The newspaper was like this. Here it was in Romanian, here in English, here was a picture of Ceausescu and some other things, and on the rest of the page they took every word and explained what it meant to Romanians. After ‘89 I found out that Andrei Brezianu wrote it. He had already left Romania and was working for “Voice of America,” and he was the one who gave the explanations. I can give you an example. The word ‘cats’, it seems to be completely harmless. For an English person the only thing it says is ‘cats,’ but for a Romanian there was a story that had recently happened. The demolition of Bucharest had started, and one of the problems that came up was that there was a historical monument in one of the areas that Ceausescu wanted to demolish, a hospital from the 16th century, The Brâncovanesc Hospital. And Ceausescu, (everyone told this story to each other like it was a horror), went to visit to try and decide whether to demolish it or not. Because it was such an old building, there were lots of mice, and because there were mice, the hospital had lots of cats. So, the hospital was full of cats to keep the mice away. Ceausescu would go on these visits with a Doberman (a big black dog) and everyone knows that no matter how small a cat is, it can scare even the biggest of dogs. So, this is what happened… A cat charged Ceausescu’s dog, the dog got scared and took off with the policeman that was holding on to him. Everyone just started laughing without even meaning to. Anyways, Ceausescu got very angry and took it as a personal offense that his big bad dog had gotten scared, and decided then and there to demolish the monument . . . and it was demolished. So, this was just one example. This story was told in “The Independent.” What’s weird and even funny is that there were explanations that I didn’t even know about. For example, take the word ‘Adidas.’ [When I heard this word] I thought of the fact that every child in Romania wanted some Adidas but they couldn’t have any. But this wasn’t right. I didn’t know because at that time my husband and I had become almost complete vegetarians because I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting in line. There were huge lines for meat. Well, those who ate meat and who stood in line knew that Adidas was a slang term used for two pig feet that were sold together. But Andrei Brezianu knew this and he gave this explanation which I didn’t find out about until after ’89 from The Independent.
The most famous of these poems was named “I Believe” and I think I know it (it’s very short) , I know it by heart. There was . . . um . . . I don’t know the whole thing. Well, the first verse went ‘I believe that we are a vegetable people’ and after that there were a couple more verses and the end was ‘I believe’ (it would repeat) ‘I believe we are a vegetable people, who ever saw a tree in revolt?’ So, it was like a call to revolt and like an accusation that we weren’t in a position to revolt just as trees aren’t in a position to. So, the scandal was enormous, they were fired from the magazine (even though it wasn’t really their fault, except for the fact that they were negligent) In ’85 Ceausescu was still gaining favor from the West. There were protests, for example a group of 37 Italian writers wrote a letter for me and [Ceausescu] gave in, and a month or so later I came back. I was told that I was forgiven but things were never how they were before. From that moment on, I knew that all binoculars and spotlights were on me. At that time I started writing literature for children. Of course I continued to write more serious literature, but I wrote for children as well. This time the scandal that followed (which was the last one)… It would have never stopped if the revolution hadn’t have come. It really wasn’t because of me. In the case of the poems from Amfiteatru, I was completely aware of what I was saying. In this case, I just thought that nobody would notice. I had some fun making a parody of Ceausescu by describing my cat (I had a cat that I had already written about in some of my poems.) and now I was imagining a situation where, because I had written about him and because everyone knew who he was, he lost his grip on reality, it went to his head, and I described him doing things Ceausescu used to do. I was absolutely positive that it was a hermetic joke. To my great surprise, (and this goes to show just how exasperated everyone was), not only did everyone immediately find out, but my book immediately disappeared. It was destroyed within half a day. And from that moment on everyone called Ceausescu ‘Arpagic’ which was my cat’s name. So, from that moment on, (which was in ’88), I wasn’t allowed to publish anymore, but it was not only an interdiction for the future but also for the past. My books were taken out of the libraries, I basically didn’t exist anymore.
NF: Ana Blandiana…
AB: Yes. So, my books were taken out of the libraries. A car also showed up outside of our house that always had someone in it. They wouldn’t get in the way, we could go in and out, but no one was brave enough to come to our house. But we didn’t even really know what they were doing. I guess I still don’t really know. I assume they were listening, that would be the most likely thing since the car was only a few meters away, listening to what we were talking about at home, listening to what we were doing. If I said [something as simple as] “Would you like some more coffee,” I felt indecent, like I was only in my bare skin. You can imagine, every single noise, absolutely everything, you knew that they were listening. After that the mail stopped coming. After that our telephone was disconnected, and continued on like this from August of ‘88 until December of ‘89, I don’t know why they would have stopped. In any case, I’ve thought a lot and I think that it was mainly done to scare others… I mean sure, of course it scared me, but it seemed like too big an effort. They could have scared me much easier. But these things became a terror for the whole neighborhood, for all the writers who they found out about. Well, after ‘89 I found out some other things like that I had a cousin in Cluj who was a doctor. Doctors were much better off and he knew that we were very poor, and so he gave a package of food to one of his patients who was coming to Bucharest to deliver to us. He arrived at six thirty in the morning on the train, and we used to (and still do) live pretty close to the train station, and he wanted to come to our house. Well, at the end of the street somebody stopped him and asked for his ID. He got scared and gave it to them. “Who are you looking for on this street?” And he had the idea to not use my name, but to use my husband’s instead, and so he said “I’m going to . . .” We were well known, and he said that no one is allowed to go to Ana Blandiana’s. This guy played dumb and said, “I don’t even know who Ana Blandiana is.” “The person you know is her husband. You aren’t allowed to go there.” I didn’t even know this. So, there were people who tried. We just felt that no one was coming to visit us…
NF: That no one tried to come.
AB: Yes. So, this is my fragmented story. About the censorship, I can tell you that it was an extraordinarily complex relationship between… Well, first of all, I was easier supported as an institution. There was an institution named “Directia Presei,” (The Press Department), and everyone knew that books would go there and either receive approval to be published or not. After 1980, Ceausescu had the perverse idea to announce in a writer’s congress that there was so much freedom in Romania that censorship had been done away with. From that moment on, the censorship not only became more powerful, but also more mysterious, due to the fact that you didn’t know how many levels there were. I only knew those working with editing – so the first people who had to see the manuscript. After that though the rest just became foggy… Fortunately however things functioned on this known portion. Book editors, even editors in chief… (For example the editor in chief at “Cartea Romaneasca,” (The Romanian Book), was Marin Preda, a great author.) They were generally writers and there was a kind complicity between authors and editors. So, a book would go on to the other levels of the censorship with a report that would sometimes say exactly opposite of what was in the book. I can give you an example from one of my books. The name of my book was “Proiecte de Trecut,” (Projects of the Past), have you heard of it?
NF: Oh, yes, I’ve heard of it.
AB: Let’s make a note here. Come back by before you leave and you will find a copy here for you. Ok, let’s continue talking… It was a volume of fictional stories. Fiction meant that they were somewhat realistic but would sometimes become more detached from reality, if you know what I mean. So, I wrote this book and gave it to the editor of The Romanian Book who happened to be a friend of mine. From the censorship’s point of view the book could not be published, this much was certain. I personally didn’t think it would. For example, there is a story about the deportations to Baragan… Well, about one of them. Or another I’ll tell you about, it was a pretty entertaining story. So, the editor who wrote the report said, “an extraordinary book about the socialistic realities in which we are presented…’ It was the exact opposite!! Marin Preda, who was the director over editing, signed the report.
NF: Without reading it?
AB: I don’t know . . . I assume that he didn’t. I don’t think he had the time, but anyways, it doesn’t really matter. I am convinced that it was signed and if he would have read it . . . To be honest, I’m not completely sure that the editor read it either… She was a very flighty girl. But she pretty much knew what was in the book because I told her about as I was writing it. And she was the one who encouraged me and told me that we need to try, I mean, to not give up. If they rejected it they rejected it, but at least we tried. And, in addition to these two signatures, there were probably others from the publishing house. Chances are no one read the book. In any case, the book received a visa and went to the press. At that time, I made a huge mistake. A magazine [named] “Viata Romaneasca,” (Romanian Life), (a very important magazine), asked for something they could publish, either poetry or prose. I told them that I didn’t have any poems, but I did have a whole book of fictional stories. “Give us a fictional story” they told me. And so I submitted a story named “Zburatoare de Consum,” (Flying Commodities), which was a story about a professor of Marxism who was fed up with standing in line for meat, eggs, and so on, and she decided to try to get by on her own by finding a hen. Do you know what a hen is?
AB: It’s a chicken that sits on eggs to hatch them. And in order to produce things on her balcony, she ordered some cages that she wanted to keep the birds in so she could have eggs and she wouldn’t have to stand in line anymore. She scoured through the villages outside of Bucharest to find eggs, because you couldn’t really find [them at that time.] She was finally able to find a hen, but she still couldn’t find eggs. So, one morning, someone called her and said “I heard that you are looking for eggs.” (The person sounded pretty strange.) And she said, “Yes, but I haven’t found any.” And he said, “I have eggs for sale,” and she bought those eggs. She put them underneath the hen, but instead of birds, angels hatched from the eggs. So, this was the amazing character of the story. And after that, the whole story of what she does with the angels, what she should do with them, and everything ends with her going to a department meeting, (the angels were small and fit in her purse) she goes to a meeting for the Marxism department, and while the department director is giving a report, she starts taking the angels out of her purse and putting them on the table, and the angels start to fly around the room. So, this was from realism until the formation?? A week later, the very scared director of “Viata Romaneasca” called me . . .
END OF TAPE
. . . . had permission. I said yes. But he said, “The printing press refuses to print it.” “What do you mean the press refuses to print it?” “Yeah, because they say that it is vicious to represent our society [like this]… You can imagine, there was no more censorship, they said that it was the working class who wouldn’t allow it. They had gone to some extraordinary subtleties. As a result, the editor in chief got scared, and to make sure he wouldn’t have to answer for it he said, “But this story is from a book that had been approved.” And, at that moment the book stopped. Generally I’m a pretty lucky person. My husband found the formula for good luck in bad luck. All sorts of bad things happen to me, but something else always happens that helps me to get out of it. And, when the scandal was at its worst, I received the Herder Prize. The Herder Prize is an international award which is given by all the German Universities, they had on organized jury, and it was given by the president of Austria at the University of Vienna… It’s a very distinguished award, and it’s given only once a year. And, I received the announcement that had I received this award. It’s a whole different story how hard it was to get a visa to go to the awards ceremony, but the rumor was that while I was in Vienna I received a call saying that the book was a go. They probably thought that because I had become well known, I would say something about having the book, and to make sure I wouldn’t they went ahead and published the book. So, that’s how my book finally got published. And that was just an example to see how complicated things were. In any case, this complicity meant a lot to editors. That is, tons of books were published this way. This book is one that I started immediately after I came back from Vienna. With my next thought… umm… I always said that it was by pure chance that I received the Herder Prize. I didn’t think I would. I kind of thought it was an accident, even now after so many years. This was in ’82. I still to this day remain the youngest recipient of the Herder Prize. And when I was there, every person that I met would say, “How did this happen?!” I think they forgot to look to find out hoe my age. This is the only explanation because usually people would receive this award at the end of their careers. I think they simply read my books without ever even thinking about my age. At that time there wasn’t really access to peoples’ biographies… So, I thought to myself, if this bit of good luck wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have been able to write. But at the same time, it seems that the worst thing that happens to us as writers is that we fight with censorship… we have good luck and bad, we succeed and we fail, but there is an internal censorship that functions within us which, even before writing, knows what can be written and what can’t. So then I decided to write a book that I wouldn’t publish. So, it was a posthumous book. This book was published in Germany under the title, “Die Applaus Machine.” In ‘82 I started writing a book that I thought of as being posthumous, because I never was optimistic enough to think that I would live longer than Ceausescu. So, I was absolutely convinced that the book would be published after I died. And so, meanwhile, the story with my cat happened and for two years I didn’t have… And it was in Germany that this book was published with ?????, but it contained a truth. [It was] a book that saved my life. Because of the fact that I was writing at that time, and I was writing about the very things that were happening, I was able to get past this trial pretty easily.
NF: Yeah, and it was still . . .
AB: Exactly. And so, the book is all done except for the last chapter. I named this chapter ‘The Last Chapter.’ The book had been written up to this point by December 22. I stopped, and then all this madness happened. But, after a year and a half… um… During this time I didn’t even have the courage to read. I had written four… Because everything had changed so much that I was afraid that what I had written before was outdated. In ’91 I started to feel like I would go crazy if I didn’t go back to being the writer that I was before, at least for a while, and so I took the manuscript… There was a shoe box full of loose papers (that’s what I wrote on), and I went to my mother’s and began reading. I was absolutely scared to death. So, I read and fortunately for me as a writer (but unfortunately for my country) umm… nothing was outdated. Everything was still current. And so I added the last chapter, the last 50 pages were written afterwards. In the mean time the book was published in a number a countries, in Bulgaria, Holland, and it was first translated in Germany. This was the middle ground with the censorship. I mean, at that moment I felt that censorship could become something I owned, something that was part of my internal mechanism, and so thus I needed to fight.
NF: And so you fought. In order to write, you used self censorship and so you didn’t have to . . . I would like to ask you two more questions and if you don’t have time to answer them we can get in touch through email. But, firstly, I’m interested in how you evaded censorship and about the methods you used, just generally.
AB: I would like your email address but also your regular postal address. I told a story to a magazine about this very subject and I will just make a copy of it and send it to you through the mail. It’s the story of how my second book got published. There were lots of weird little things that happened in order to get it published, but I’m positive that I was a special case because of the fact that I was more [affected by censorship] than other people… But, all writers more or less went through the same time.
NF: My last question is, in your opinion, what were the aesthetic effects on Romanian poetry that were caused by the censorship. How did the poetry evolve or change?
AB: I can give you an answer to this question right now. So, the question you want to ask would be how was it that the poetry in the east, maybe even to a greater degree in Russia, Poland, and Romania than in other countries… How was it that poetry was something so important, how did it become so important.
NF: Exactly, yes.
AB: And the answer is that through poetry . . . poetry was like the lungs through which everyone breathed. And this was because poetry, by definition, contains metaphors. A metaphor is a comparison that is missing a term. This term was invented by the readers. Poetry was accomplished… umm… it couldn’t really be censored because half of what is understood is added by the reader. This created an almost magical collaboration between the author and reader. And this gave the reader the feeling that they were free. It’s clear that this was the mechanism that was in operation beforehand, which made poets celebrities, like rock or pop singers. I can say that before I was banned the last time, it stuck in my mind, not only because I wasn’t allowed to attend any more public meetings, but also because it was something extraordinary. I was invited to Piatra Neamt, a city in Moldavia, to attend a writers meeting. And I went. It was supposed to take place at the city library. I got there at five to eight. I had taken the train and had arrived a couple of minutes earlier. There were quite a few people standing outside of the library. (At that time I hadn’t been on TV before so no one really recognized me.) I walked towards the entrance very determined. Everyone started laughing and told me that I shouldn’t even try because they wouldn’t let me in. Then I then laughed and told them that if I didn’t get in they all came for no reason. So they said, “Ok, go ahead and try, but we don’t think you will be able to get in.” And sure enough, I wasn’t able to get in. The room was completely full and no one wanted to give up their seat, so you do know what solution they came up with? Instead of having me cross the room to the table where I was supposed to be sitting, they put me on top of a table right at the entrance and they all turned around, but most everyone was already standing anyways. So, anyways, I was put on a table and at my last meeting with the Romanian public I spoke standing on a chair that was on top of a table at the entrance. You could imagine what kind of popularity this meant to a poet who wasn’t even a modern poet… I mean I wasn’t someone who was very easily understood. So, clearly this situation came to an end. [Censorship] disappeared after ’89, and for us writers it was an idea that was almost unimaginable. We simply couldn’t understand it. We spent a lifetime fighting with the censorship for every line and every comma, only dreaming of a freedom that we couldn’t even hope to touch, and when it came all of a sudden, no one could really understand what had happened. The truth is that slowly but surely we began to realize that what was happening was actually something logical and rational. In the past, poetry took the place of many things, of religion, of history, of lots of different things that had been banned. They all managed to slip through the cracks through the use of metaphors. In normal conditions, all of these things retook their places, but for poetry remained only an elitist public. In a certain sense, something I discovered that was very hard to deal with was that freedom of speech had started diminishing in importance. And in this way, if it can be said as such, the censorship favored the paradox, which was set up just to limit contact between the poet and the readers, because everything has the value of the price that you paid for it. And a poet that could pay with freedom or with a poem was much more important than a poet that didn’t have anything happen to him no matter what he said.
NF: Yeah, how interesting. Do you have time to read a poem? I don’t know if you have time or if you need . . . So, whichever one you want. I thought it would be interesting for you to read one that was published during communism. I don’t know if there were some that . . .
AB: So, written during communism or published during communism?
AB: Because, for example, I wanted to say that the book “Architectura Valurilor,” (The Architecture of the Waves), that was published in March of 1990 was written back even before 1987.
NF: Really? Well then also from Architectura Valurilor.
AB: Yeah, they were written before they managed to get published, some of them in magazines, but some never were published.
NF: Ok. If you have a favorite poem, and of course not all of your poems talk about politics, but of you know a poem that is about this, something that has some hidden meaning, it would be interesting.
AB: This because it came out in the volume “Star of Prey” in ‘85 and it is named “Cetina,” (Fir Tree), and it is about whether to leave or not to leave. Lots of people tried to immigrate or they would stay first chance they got. This never even crossed my mind because I would have felt like I had died. Now I live outside of the country more than I live here, so the problem wasn’t about being gone, the problem was not being able to come back again. I mean, [I couldn’t handle] the idea of leaving for good and cutting all ties with those for whom I was writing, for those who speak Romanian. And in this way, it was very hard for writers who were in exile to resist this. So, this is what it is about. It’s named “Cetina.” Cetina is a fir tree.
Spectre de brazi mai vântura stindarde
De ceata, proorocind sfârsituri noi,
Dar cine are forta în casandre
De cetini, chiar, sa creada, dintre noi?
Pe-acelasi loc, dar maturând cu parul
Mult calatoare zari de capatâi,
Topindu-si în rasina adevarul,
Cel necrezut în scâncet, mai întâi,
Nu pot sa plece, nici macar naluci.
În jurul lor si cerul si apa emigreaza
Vântul întreaba-ntruna “Nu te duci?”
Cetina plânge-n hohot “Sunt acasa.”
If you reread it you will understand it better. This, I mean, everything departs from the fir tree, the clouds, the water. Or another from the same volume…
Numai un dans.
De-a lungul de-a latul
Pe înalt sau pe cant
E doar adâncimea
And one from this volume that wasn’t published until after 1990 is about an absence of solidarity which made revolt impossible. It’s named “Liant,” (Glue).
Ce ne lipseste? Ce liant
A fost sustras de la-nceputuri
Nisipului ce face valuri
Redesenate de-orice vânt,
Sau ce mortar fara de care
Zidul se-nalta spre neant,
Ca ss se naruie grabit
De presimtirea unui gând?
Ce ne lipseste? Doar petale
Ce nu se strâng într-o corola,
Si numai fire lungi de lâna
Ce nu pot tese un covor,
Si pietre vâjâind prin aer
Nestrânse într-o baricada,
Doar disperari desperecheate
Si conservate în umor.
(Ca niste foetusi otraviti
De chiar metabolismul mamei
Si pusi în spirt – dovezi si mostre –
A vietii scurse fara rost)
Ce ne lipseste? Clei de oase
Frânte pe roata, un cuvânt
Intraductibil în sfârtitul
Unde noi însine am fost.
This is an allusion that you would have no way of understanding. Glue made of bones, the strongest glue is made from bones. But bones ground up by the wheel are Horea, Closca, and Crisan’s bones, they led the biggest uprising in Transylvania in the 18th century, and they were crushed. They were condemned to death and crushed by the wheel. So, the allusion is… we don’t have the courage to revolt like they did.