sâmbătă, 14 decembrie 2019
Volumul Cusături de Doina Ioanid (Cartea Românească, 2014) este o carte începută la modul conjunctiv, cu o listă de lucruri împlinite, la limita dintre posibil și miracol: „Să te naști din nou la aproape 42 de ani, doar din ce-a mai rămas din tine: cartilagii și oase. Să vii pe lume știind că uneori nu-i decât un petic murdar de zăpadă. […] Și trupul tău să te strige pe nume în fiecare zi.” (p.7).
Unele poeme celebrează, aproape whitmanian (dar într-o cheie minimalistă), supraviețuirea, care devine un „Cîteodată e nevoie doar de puțin” (p. 38), iar bucuria aceasta are continuitate în exterior, prin ceilalți: „Sînt pas cu pas cu pașii altora” (p.48). Mult mai dese sunt însă versurile care marchează stări anxioase, lipsă de siguranță, căutarea unor obiecte sau oameni salvatori: „caut aerul, păsările, peștii” (p. 48), iar anumite imagini evocate au rolul de ultim refugiu, care poate fi până și „șorțul bunicii”, sau un obiect la întâmplare care îți rămâne pe retină înainte ca lumea să-și piardă coerența: „Un scaun în fața mea. Singurătatea mea mă lasă să-l numesc: scaun. Apoi repet până ce cuvântul își pierde sensul. Bucătăria se surpă, și odată cu ea, totul dispare. Sînt într-un loc gol și roșu, iar locul ăla sunt chiar eu” (p.14).
Corporalitatea, dorința de a reda senzațiile, așa cum sunt ele, efortul, de fapt, de a reda viața pe măsură ce ea se întâmplă (dar și în retrospectivă) este, risc să spun, în termeni foarte generali, metoda autoarei de a „înțelege” lumea prin scris și de a ajunge să o cunoască: „Stau într-o stație de autobuz și știu. După vîntul care trece peste vîrful tecarilor, după lanurile de floarea soarelui, după ochii cîinelui care mă petrece cînd plec. Știu așa cum știu libelulele, gărgărițele, furnicile și păianjenii. Așa cum știu graurii, mierlele, rîndunicile și sticleții care se așază pe pervaz sau pe firele de cablu din fața ferestrei. Știu că ai stat cu mine. (...)” p. 52
Pe lângă senzațiile corporale, autoarea acordă atenție deosebită lucrurilor „din afară” care ajung să trăiască și să se „coase” în interior, ca o haină care devine mijloc de protecție, atât fizic, cât și psihologic: „Un bărbat trece pe lângă mine și-mi pune în palmă un clips de prins părul. Un clips cu un ochi albastru. Un clips pentru un ultim strop de tandrețe care se plimbă prin sângele meu ca un leu alb.”
În unele texte, autoarea ne vorbește despre un cotidian exasperant, enervant („N-aș fi urcat în mașina lui, dar la Unirii, metroul se oprise. Cineva s-a sinucis la Tineretului, aruncându-se în fața metroului. Anna Karenina în secolul XXI. Imediat mă căiesc de gândul meu puțin rău și cinic” (p. 12)), însă descrierea intensă, repetitivă are efect de amortizare (ca în cazul armelor de foc).
În volum nu există poeme „închise”, fiecare dintre ele reluând temele și personajele din celelalte, cartea părând un poliedru cu o mulțime de fețe și, mai ales, de perspective și feluri de a ne apropia de o experiență corporală și de a o înțelege.
Este o carte frumoasă, a bucuriilor mici, care devin uneori foarte mari.
luni, 25 noiembrie 2019
Obiectul romanului Gherla-Piteşti este tortura şi teroarea la care a fost supus Paul Goma, pentru a renunţa la convingerile sale şi a pactiza cu regimul. Acestea au fost uriaşe. Dar, cu toate acestea, romancierul a rezistat şi în finalul cărţii va pleca din puşcărie cu aceleaşi idei cu care a intrat.
Reţin însă o scenă foarte dură. Gardienii, după ce-şi istoviseră un prizonier (altfel cum să le spui unor oameni care erau la cheremul unor brute?) în bătăi, secerându-l din picioare cu directe de stânga şi de dreapta, îndelung exersate pe alţi deţinuţi, au încercat să-l violeze în grup. E o scenă de-a dreptul terifiantă. Doi gardieni cu pantalonii pe vine alergând după un deţinut ca să-l prindă şi să-l violeze şi acesta nevrând să le satisfacă hatârul, fuge prin camera de tortură, cu gardienii după el, înfuriaţi şi întărâtaţi la culme că acesta le-a scăpat din mâini.
Tortura fizică, psihică, fiziologică şi sexuală este la ordinea zilei în Gherla. Tortura ca un mijloc de îngenunchere şi de umilinţă. În urma ei, deţinuţii trebuind să se teamă şi de propria umbră. Frica. Teama. Groaza. Panica. Supunerea. Iată ce trebuiau să simtă deţinuţii zi de zi, dacă nu chiar clipă de clipă. Şi asta în timp ce mardeiaşii nici nu ştiau prea bine de ce-şi caftesc prizonierii.
Umilinţe absurde. Una mai absurdă ca alta. Gardianul Vasea nu le permite să stea pe pat, nici culcat şi nici în fund. Impunându-i pe celulari (adică pe deţinuţi) să meargă continuu. Mereu şi mereu să umble. Toată ziua să fie în mişcare.
Drept urmare, când e acesta de gardă, toată lumea roieşte prin celulă. Până şi bolnavii, aşa epuizaţi cum sunt. Cu toate că e un ordin absurd, nimeni nu încearcă însă să protesteze. Dar în celula aia sunt fruntaşi ai partidelor istorice, intelectuali subţiri şi oameni cu o minte brici. Obosiţi să mai protesteze, obosiţi să se mai opună, ei sunt gata să înghită orice, doar-doar ca să fie lăsaţi în pace.
De aia, îi şi deranjează că Paul Goma nesocoteşte ordinul gardianului şi se aşează pe pat. Văzându-l aşezat pe pat, înlemnesc şi se bunghesc cu toţii spre uşă. Oare ce-o să întreprindă bruta de Vasea? Apoi încep să-l înjure, încercând să-l convingă să renunţe. "Renunţă, dacă nu vrei să suferim cu toţii din cauza ta," îl beştelesc aceştia. Nu gardianul căuta să-l convingă să renunţe, ci ceilalţi deţinuţi.
Disidenţa, curajul, voinţa, personalitatea îţi sunt puse la încercare oră de oră, în cele mai neînsemnate situaţii, susţine Goma în acest roman excepţional. Şi ne mai spune un lucru extraordinar: marile cedări sunt o consecinţă şi o operă a concesiilor mici şi neînsemnate pe care le facem zi de zi.
UN MARE ROMAN
Cât timp va mai fi considerat un volum de mărturii şi va fi prezentat peste tot ca atare, cartea Culoarea curcubeului 77 (cutremurul oamenilor) de Paul Goma va avea doar de suferit în ceea ce priveşte o receptare adecvată. Şi iată de ce. Această carte a lui Paul Goma e mai mult decât un volum de mărturii, fiind un roman în adevăratul înţeles al cuvântului cu tot ceea ce presupune calificativul respectiv. Ba mai mult decât atât, e unul dintre cele mai înnoitoare romane din literatura română contemporană, în care ca personaj principal se produce chiar autorul, iar toate celelalte personaje sunt persoane reale. Aşa ceva s-a făcut rar în literatură. O performanţă similară a mai realizat doar Ernesto Sabato, în romanul Abadon exterminatorul, unde, de asemenea, autorul devine personaj principal. O altă performanţă a romanului e că a lucrat cu realitatea imediată, care tocmai s-a întâmplat, fierul ei mai fiind încă încins.
Romanul lui Goma redă atmosfera din timpul creării acelei mişcări anticomuniste de pomină din primăvara lui 1977, în timpul căreia oamenii mari (scriitori, pictori, regizori, profesori) s-au purtat ca nişte oameni mici, meschini şi laşi, iar oamenii mici (muncitori, şomeri, pieţari) s-au purtat ca nişte oameni mari, dând dovadă de eroism şi solidaritate, ca în acea secvenţă tulburătoare când Paul Goma fu salvat de vecinele sale de bloc din mâinile unui boxer fioros, manipulat cu abilitate de securitate.
Ziceam că romanul lui Paul Goma e un roman. E un roman în care documentul e un punct de plecare autentic pentru a putea pătrunde în adâncurile sufletului uman. Pe Paul Goma nu-l interesează faptele exterioare, ci ceea ce se întâmpla cu psihicul omului. Acolo avea loc adevăratul spectacol, în străfundurile conştiinţei. Din acest punct de vedere, scriitorul ne prezintă două războaie, dacă nu chiar trei, pe care le purtau cei care se solidarizaseră cu Paul Goma: un război cu sistemul şi securitatea şi alte două războaie cu apropiaţii lor şi cu ei înşişi. Romanul nu înregistrează doar creşterea şi extinderea mişcării, dar şi ce furtuni a putut provoca aceasta în sufletele oamenilor, atât a oamenilor mici, cât şi a oamenilor mari. Paul Goma ne arată foarte bine ce se întâmplă cu cei care au semnat, după ce au semnat. După un timp, unii renunţă. Renunţă în urma unor procese de conştiinţă chinuitoare, fiind învinşi de propriile frici, dar şi de fricile familiei, fiind învinşi de ei înşişi. Doar pentru câteva secunde au fost eroi, după care au redevenit ceea ce au fost dintotdeauna: nişte laşi, revenind peste câteva zile
la Paul Goma,
noaptea, pe furiş, pentru a-l ruga să-i şteargă din listă. Romanul nu relatează
numai povestea unor eroi, dar şi a unor laşi, când oamenii au realizat ce au
făcut şi s-au îngrozit. S-au îngrozit de consecinţele gestului lor şi au dat
„Nebărbieriţi, cu pleoapele umflate, cu ochi injectaţi”, aceştia, peste câteva zile, îl caută pe Paul Goma pentru a-l ruga să-I taie din listă. Din galeria răzgânditorilor (dacă e să inventez şi eu un cuvânt în spiritul lui Paul Goma), din care mai face parte şi Ion Negoiţescu (până la urmă, şi el şi-a retras semnătura), se distinge de departe un oarecare Rusu, care, şi el, îl caută tulburat la telefon pe Paul Goma, care înţelege „din glasul lui că ceva nu era în regulă”. Vrea şi el să fie scos de pe listă, dar nu pur şi simplu să fie şters cu pixul, ci semnătura „s-o decupeze cu foarfeca”. Altfel, soţia şi cumnata nu-l vor crede. Trebuie să le demonstreze că s-a retras din lista lui Goma, iar cea mai bună probă ar fi chiar peticul de hârtie cu semnătura sa. Şi Paul Goma îi satisface dorinţa, şi-i decupează semnătura din listă.
În timpul celor câteva zile care s-au scurs după ce tovarăşul Rusu s-a solidarizat cu Paul Goma acesta a dus un adevărat război cu sine însuşi, un război total, din care, în cele din urmă, a ieşit învins. Frica de securitate, frica de consecinţe îl nimiciseră şi îl anulaseră ca individ, transformându-l într-un laş şi într-o lichea.
În cazul multor oameni, aceste frici au născut balauri, balauri de care nu au putut scăpa decât după ce s-au retras din listă. Iar unii au sfârşit prin a deveni ei înşişi nişte balauri.
Pentru a-şi păstra intactă poziţia socială, pentru a-şi păstra funcţiile şi privilegiile, unii dintre colegii, cunoscuţii sau prietenii lui Paul Goma rup orice legătură cu el, iar cei din Uniunea Scriitorilor îl exclud din rândurile breslei. Cu toate acestea, personajul-narator Paul Goma nu se prezintă ca un fel de Făt-Frumos. Nu îi este frică să-şi scoată la iveală îndoielile, temerile, fricile sau obsesiile sale. Îşi pune oglinda în faţa ochilor nu numai în clipele de eroism, dar şi în momente de slăbiciune şi nesiguranţă.
Goma are o încredere totală în literatură. El îndură cele mai inimaginabile torturi, în numele unui viitor roman în care vrea să descrie toate suferinţele pe care le-a trăit şi pe torţionarii care l-au umilit.
sâmbătă, 19 octombrie 2019
miercuri, 16 octombrie 2019
duminică, 6 octombrie 2019
28 June 2018
When I pushed open the door and stepped onto the cement floor of that overcrowded bar, nobody looked up from his mug of beer, but they all looked at me when I started to talk. Since the barman didn’t speak English, he shouted something to them, probably asking whether any of them spoke English, and as quick as a flash, they rushed over and surrounded me, they kept talking in Romanian and Russian, but since I couldn’t understand them, I just silently shrugged. A woman with large, almond eyes pushed her way through the crowd, she spoke a little English and translated to the barman that I wanted a beer. Nothing more than a beer. Just a beer, that was all. Which I wasn’t even going to drink. The barman was delighted. He smacked his lips as he opened the green bottle and poured it into a long glass, taking care not to let it foam, but when he invited me to sit at a table, he asked the woman next to me something that made her blush and lower her eyes to the floor.
“What did he ask?” I asked, wanting to know.
“Whether you want peanuts?”
“Yes, I do,” I said, nodding, and the man twigged.
“How about some salt fish too?”
“Yes, I’d like some salt fish too,” I said, cheering up, and asked her to sit with me for a little.
“But I’m in a hurry.”
“Only for a little. After all, you’re the only person in the whole bar who understands me,” I said and she agreed to stay a little, and we both watched as the barman walked past us holding a tray with my beer, a plate of salt fish and a dish of peanuts. He went over to a table by the window, from which he shooed away a man with a long neck so that we could sit there. The woman sat down on the chair opposite mine.
“My name’s Martin.”
The barman came back to our table and said something to the woman.
“He wants to know whether you’d like another beer.”
“Yes, I would. Two. Another two.”
“One for me and one for you.”
“But I don’t drink beer.”
“What do you drink?”
“A beer and a coffee, then.”
“A Turkish sand coffee.”
“All right, a beer and a Turkish sand coffee.”
“The barman asks if that’s all?”
“That’s all for now, yes.”
He went away and came back with the beer and coffee, not caring that a long queue had formed at the bar.
“What brings you to Moldova, sir?”
“Don’t call me sir!”
“I don’t know what else to call you. If you don’t like it, I’ll leave.”
“All right, call me whatever you like, but don’t leave.”
“I’m on holiday and some friends from Romania. Ciprian and his wife Daniela, whom I met in London, invited me to come to Bucharest.”
“And from Bucharest I took the train to Moldova.”
“Why didn’t you come together?”
“Because Ciprian’s father died.”
“Ah, I understand.”
“He died two days ago, on the morning we arrived.”
“That means you’ve been in Chișinău two days already?”
“This is the third day, not in Chișinău, but in Moldova. It’s my first day in Chișinău.”
“How long will you be staying?”
“Until after the funeral.”
“Are you scared of funerals?”
“Yes, I have a funeral phobia. Which is why I didn’t even go to my own mother’s funeral.”
“Terrible. What’s Ciprian’s father called?”
“From the name, it sounds like he was from over here.”
“Yes, he was from over here.”
“How come the funeral is in Bucharest?”
“Because after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they all moved to Bucharest.”
“But they’re from here. This is where they were born and where they lived most of their lives.”
“Ciprian was very attached to his father, and his father was very attached to this land, where he was born.”
“What about you? Do you like Chișinău, sir?”
“What can I say? This bar is all I’ve seen of Chișinău so far.”
“That’s up to you, sir.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Have you been to your hotel yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“There’s still time before this evening.”
“And you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“Yes, I’m going back to Bucharest. Actually, I forgot to tell you, but on the train, three days ago, I travelled in the same compartment as a Bessarabian—Ciprian told me that that’s what people in Romania call you—who lives in Bucharest. He was going back home to Moldova to have his surname changed officially: from Cutcovețchi with three c’s to Kutkovetski with three k’s. He’s a film director, apparently. Have you heard of him?”
“Yes, of course. It’s him I’m supposed to be interviewing at ten o’clock,” she said, looking at her watch, and as she did so, her face sagged in alarm. “Oh no, I have to be going. I don’t want to upset the director.”
“Actually, I ought to be going too,” I said, and as we went to the bar, I asked her to tell the barman to give me the bill, but he was already waiting to hand it to me. Maria looked down at her shoes in embarrassment. After counting the money, the barman wanted to give me my change, but I waved it away, and then he said something to me, but naturally, I couldn’t understand what.
“What did he say?” I asked Maria.
“But even so?” I insisted, seeing that the man was waiting for an answer.
“Whether you want a beer on the house,” translated Maria, looking away. “It’s on him.”
“No, I don’t. But I’ll come back here later.”
I left the barman stunned. He just couldn’t get his head around somebody turning down a free beer. Outside, the sun was blinding. It was ten in the morning and people were hurrying past, shivering in the cold. I walked with Maria as far as the House of the Press, where she was to meet the director and from which an acquaintance of hers was just emerging. Delighted at this excuse to be able to get rid of me, Maria left me in his company and quickly went inside to do her interview with Mr Kutkovetski. Ion’s English was a lot worse than Maria’s, since I could only understand half of what he was saying, but on the other hand, he was more obliging, offering to take me to a hotel, and on the way, I met all his friends, who looked at me in amazement. The street we were walking down was full of potholes. I tripped and fell, but as I didn’t break anything, we continued on our way. We hailed a cab, but the hotel wasn’t far away enough for the driver to want to take us there. Ion worked with Maria for the same website, for which he wanted to write something about me.
“About me? Write what about me?” I asked him in consternation, but he made no reply. I assumed he hadn’t understood the question and, in my mind, I searched for a different way of putting it. I’m not interesting enough to write about. “I’m just an ordinary gardener, like thousands of others in England,” I said, but instead of looking at me in puzzlement, Ion gazed at me in admiration, making me doubt whether he’d understood what I said. I don’t think he could have understood; otherwise why would he have smiled at me? “My only claim to fame is that I do David Lodge’s gardening, other than that, I’m as unremarkable as most other people, and the only thing that sets me apart from them is the fact that I garden for the author of The British Museum is Falling Down,” I went on, speaking more and more slowly and clearly so that Ion would be able to understand. “Otherwise, I’m a nobody. I don’t even read novels. Apart from David Lodge’s, obviously, and a few of his favourite novels, which I’ve read cover to cover, because, and maybe you don’t know this, writers are very generous when they find out you’ve read their books and that have you the same tastes as they do.”
Ion lapped up my words, as if what I was saying was enthralling. I couldn’t share his enthusiasm, since what I’d told him wasn’t anything special. As we turned a corner, two blokes jumped out in front of us and snatched my bag with my passport and all my money and bank cards, before running off.
“Hey, give me back my bag,” I shouted in a hoarse voice. The blokes stopped, turned around, and asked if I was English.
“Yes, I am,” I said, and straight away they gave me back my bag, which they hadn’t even opened, and then they ran away. Ion confirmed that they had given me my bag back only because I was English and from that moment, I started to feel that being in Chișinău was like being in A Clockwork Orange, one of David Lodge’s favourite novels, which I’d read to make me look better in his eyes. All of a sudden, a biting wind started to blow, probably so that I wouldn’t feel sorry about going to the hotel. We shook hands and parted. I was in a hurry to get to my room so that I could have a nap, and Ion was in a hurry to get to his website and write his text for the day.
When I woke up that afternoon, I found an envelope that had been slipped under my door and in it was a letter addressed to me, but written in an English so poor that the only words I could understand were my name. For that reason alone, I threw the letter in the wastepaper basket and left my room, intending to call a cab and ask to be taken to that bank from which they stole a billion, because I wanted to take a selfie in front of the building, but when I got downstairs, the receptionist intercepted me and told me that the head of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova wanted to meet me.
“The head of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova?”
“Yes, that’s right. Does that mean my English is good?”
“Very good. But how on earth did the head of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova hear about me?”
“On the internet,” she said, holding up the screen of her mobile phone for me to see her Facebook page, where there was a photograph of me along with my name. “One of his advisers is here waiting for you. He’ll drive you there. He’s sitting in that armchair. He dictated that letter to me.”
“Has he been waiting long?”
“About an hour.”
When he saw us approach, a fat, bald man stood up and came toward us, walking faster and faster. The beautiful receptionist made the introductions.
“Radu doesn’t speak English, and so I’ll tell you what he would have told you if he did speak English. Radu is going to drive you to the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova, where the chairman is expecting you.”
“Where’s the car?”
“In front of the hotel.”
The receptionist conducted us outside, closing the door behind us. The biting wind of that morning had now become a gale. The tree branches were creaking. A bough snapped and crashed down right next to us. We crossed the street at a run. I shielded my head with the bag that those strange muggers had stolen that morning. It was a good job they gave it back to me, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to protect my poor head. If they hadn’t returned it, I’d probably have ended up lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. I’m grateful to the muggers of Chișinău. Thanks to them alone, my bonce was left unscathed. Another tree branch fell behind me, but by then I was inside the car and no longer cared.
By the time we arrived at the headquarters of Moldova’s European writers, the tempest had died down. The driver, who was also the chairman’s adviser, as the garrulous receptionist had told me, hastened to open the door for me. With a smile and a sweeping gesture, he invited me inside the white building. He walked a couple of paces ahead and kept looking behind to make sure I hadn’t vanished, like the billion from the bank. All the walls were adorned with photographs, probably of the members of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova, as I deduced. Suddenly, as we climbed the stairs, the fat man started to limp. Still limping, he opened a door of solid pine and, with another sweeping gesture, urged me to enter. Inside, another corpulent bald man rose from his chair and stretched out his hand, shaking mine with vigorous enthusiasm, smiling broadly all the while. I returned his strong handshake, but as I realised moments later, nor was he the head of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova. He merely conducted me down a corridor that twisted left and right. Finally, we came to a green door, on which he tapped timidly, so it seemed to me, as if he were reluctant to disturb the room’s occupant. The man who had suddenly developed a limp appeared to my left. The door opened and, on the threshold, there stood a man of around forty, with a broad face, who embraced me forthwith, but nor was he the most important person around there. The head of the Union was a short man who, in the moment when I entered, was goggling at my photograph on Facebook and at a text he was penning, but as soon as he saw me, he stood up from his desk, holding his mobile phone, and showed me the photograph of me, smiling warmly. He then embraced me, kissed me on the cheeks three times and invited me to sit down on the chair opposite him. At the same time, he said something to the man who had driven me from the hotel and he limped back into the antechamber, returning a few minutes later with a tray of coffee, the cups clinking. He came over to me first and I was the first to take a cup of coffee from the tray. The head of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova took a bottle of brandy and some cups from a cabinet and lined them up on the table. He gestured for me to help myself. Each person in the room went to the table and poured himself a cup of brandy. As the cups were porcelain, you couldn’t see what they contained. I poured myself a cup of brandy and went back to my chair, taking alternate sips of brandy and coffee. Nobody spoke English and I didn’t speak Romanian. We just sat there looking at each other, smiling in silence. The door opened and Maria came in. The chairman became suddenly animated, leaping to his feet. They swarmed around me, talking all at once. The chairman made a sign for them to stop talking and addressed me. Maria translated.
“The chairman is very happy to have you here with us and is delighted to make your acquaintance.” I was gobsmacked. The Chairman of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova was delighted to meet me? Me, an English gardener? What the hell did it mean? I couldn’t understand it. I was missing something. Nevertheless, I told him I was delighted to meet him, too. Why wouldn’t I be? When would I have another opportunity to chat to the Chairman of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova? Why wouldn’t I be delighted that the chief novelist of Moldova’s novelists was treating me to brandy? Not just delighted, but flattered. Maria translated all this for him and he began to laugh.
“You’ve got a sense of humour,” he said. “Even though English writers don’t have much of a sense of humour.”
“English writers, perhaps. But not me,” I said, and he started to laugh again. Everybody was laughing and looking at me in admiration. Abruptly, the chairman invited me to go fishing with him.
“When?” I asked in amazement.
“Today, tomorrow,” he said. “It’s up to you. I know a smashing lake with not a single person around to bother you. Not even in England can you find such tranquillity. When would you like to go?”
“Let me think about it,” I said.
“Would you like to go to a sauna?”
“To a sauna?”
“Yes, a sauna. There’s a wonderful sauna near here, where you can also get a massage.”
“Let me think about it and I’ll tell you later.”
“All right,” said the chairman, reining it in a little. Then, after a few moments’ silence, he asked me to help Moldova’s novelists get a foothold on the British publishing scene.
“Me? But how?”
Maria was reluctant to translate what I said, and I couldn’t understand why. But in the end, she translated.
“Via your relations in the publishing world and the position you hold in British society.”
What relations? What position? I didn’t have any relations whatever in the publishing world. No influence whatever. In British society I was a nobody, I yelled at them and asked Maria to translate. She translated, but they continued to look me up and down.
“Mister writer,” said the chairman. “Mr Martin Lodge, we know who you are, we don’t know what brought you here, but we have our suspicions. We suspect that your next novel is going to be about Moldova. Probably that’s why you’re here now. But we would like to take advantage of the opportunity and to ask you to help us, the members of the Union of European Novelists of the Republic of Moldova, to get a foothold in the English publishing market. To recommend our books to translators and publishers.”
I sat looking up at him as if he was a hundred-storey building and suddenly I realised what had happened. It would seem that Ion, who wrote that text about me and posted it on his website, from where it had spread to Facebook, had got it all mixed up. I’d told him that I was David Lodge’s gardener, but he had understood something completely different. He understood that I was David Lodge and that I’d come to Chișinău to write a novel about Moldova. From Facebook, Moldova’s European novelists had discovered that an English writer was in Chișinău to write a novel about Moldova, and they were all desperate to meet him so that they could take advantage of the opportunity to get a foothold in England. I looked around me and saw that there was not one of them who wasn’t gazing at me in admiration. With Dumitru Crudu at their head, they came up to me one by one and handed me their novels to take back to England with me and give to English translators and publishers. Dumitru Crudu gave me his novel Where Do We Go From Here?, with his autograph on the first page, and the nonagenarian Podaru gave me a stack of his novels.
I took Maria to one side and told her that there had been a mix-up, that her colleague Ion had got it all wrong, that I wasn’t a novelist, but a gardener, the same as Ciprian, who had invited me to come to Romania, except that unlike me, he wasn’t a gardener to an English novelist, but apart from that, there wasn’t any difference, we were both gardeners, after which I repeated that I wasn’t a novelist, that I hadn’t written so much as a sentence in my entire life, just as Ciprian wasn’t a novelist either, who was now at his father’s funeral, and if his father hadn’t died two days earlier, I wouldn’t even be here today, but Maria just looked at me with bulging eyes and gulped, without saying a word.
“Go on, please, tell them all that,” I cajoled, but she looked at me forlornly, reluctant to turn to the novelists behind us and tell them the truth. But why? Was it because she worked for the same website that had published that erroneous text? Did she say nothing because she didn’t want to get her website and her colleague into trouble? Whatever the case, this couldn’t go on. It was a farce and I had to put a stop to it. I couldn’t give those people false hopes, I didn’t want to make fools of them. Maria took the cup of brandy from my hand and knocked it back, but after that she turned on her heel and made her getaway, without rescuing me from the mess I was in. She preferred to wash her hands of it, leaving me all by myself in their midst. To them, I was still the great English novelist visiting Chișinău to write a novel about Moldova. Damn it all, but it seemed that absolutely nobody realised it was all just a mistake, that I wasn’t a writer, that my name wasn’t Lodge, that I hadn’t written a single sentence in my life. The chairman came up to me, holding his latest novel, with a file of novelists, not few in number, bringing up his rear, all of them holding their novels. I had to do something, but I didn’t know what. I had to act, to put a stop to that nightmare. Suddenly I got an idea. I took a blank piece of paper from the desk, wrote two letters on it: WC, and handed it to the chairman. He smiled at me and said something to Dumitru Crudu, who, all smiles, showed me to the toilet. It was an excuse to get out of that office. What a stroke of luck that a WC is also a WC in Romanian, otherwise who knows how I would have got out of there? Smiling, Dumitru Crudu waited for me outside the toilet. I was thinking about what the hell to do when I saw a window. It was tall and wide and it opened. I climbed onto the ledge, jumped down into the courtyard, and ran out into the street. In the street, I hailed a cab. The driver spoke English. I told him to take me to the airport and to stop off at the Hotel Dacia on the way. To my good fortune, there was a flight to Bucharest in two hours. In the meantime, Moldova’s European novelists must have discovered my escape and were probably thinking that I’d done a runner so as not to help them get a foothold in the English publishing market. I don’t think they would have believed me if I’d been able to tell them the truth.
Once I got to Bucharest, I went straight to where my fellow gardener lived. I learned that my friend had taken ill and fainted just as the pallbearers were carrying his father out of the house. My friend had been taken to hospital, and the deceased back inside the house, because Mrs Barno had stubbornly refused to bury Mihai Mihailovich unless Ciprian was there. A few minutes after I arrived, my friend got back from the hospital and the deceased was carried out of the house once more. This time, I was able to join the funeral cortege and accompanied Mihai Mihailovich on his final journey.
fragment din romanul Ziua de nastere a lui Mihai Mihailovici,
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