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Revisiting Bucharest

04 October 2020
News German Romanian Slovene Romania Slovenia

This year, many of our residency programmes had to come to an unexpected halt. Nevertheless, we wanted to find a way to keep the “residency” spirit alive and build on the residencies that have already taken place. In the second half of 2019, the Slovenian poet Uroš Prah and the Bulgarian translator Hristo Boev had residencies in Bucharest. Both guests enjoyed their time in the Romanian metropolis and got inspired by what they saw and lived. Out of this enthusiasm the idea to Revisiting Bucharest was born.

On 21st October we will launch our website Revisiting Bucharest where Uroš Prah presents poems, impressions and photographs from (and inspired by) his stay in the city. At the same time we will also show a short interview with the poet, where he shares further insights about his experiences in Romania.

You can read Hristo Boev’s impressions already today:

 

The residency in Bucharest provided by MNLR and Traduki between 7 October and 7 November 2019 was a great experience. The Romanian capital in the hottest October ever recorded offered numerous quality cultural events, all of them at a stone’s throw from where I stayed. The weekly book premieres at the Humanitas bookstore on Elisabeta boulevard and the more intimate atmosphere of literature and theater discussions at the National Literature Museum on Crețulescu street supplied a steady dose of the much needed literary ambiance for me as a temporary resident of the capital. The proximity of the mythological park Cișmigiu and immediate vicinity of Victoria Avenue (Calea Victoriei) allowed me to literally walk in the footsteps of so many literary characters from the interwar novels I have translated from Romanian into Bulgarian, see and feel what they saw and felt, as the visuals have remained largely unchanged, except for the omnipresent electric scooters: moving at lightning speed on the roads and sidewalks (from the point of view of the pedestrian), squeezed in entrance doors, left nonchalantly where the battery died, or simply propped up demurely outside the Central University Library on Demi Dobrescu street ready for imminent action. At about a kilometer away from the ever busy avenue and the library is the amazing Old Town (Centrul Vechi) whose imposing historical buildings vie with those on Victoria Avenue and Elisabeta boulevard for the ultimate beauty prize for an architectural monument.

My choice of Mihail Drumeș’s novel An Invitation to Waltz (Invitație la vals), which borrows its title from Carl Maria von Weber’s eponymous piano piece, translated into English as “An Invitation to the Dance” could not have been more appropriate in view of the fact that most of the topoi frequented by the characters are located along Victoria Avenue or are in its close surroundings such as Cișmigiu, the Roman Athenaeum (Ateneu), the Athenee Palace hotel, the Kubler café, Café de la Paix, the streets Franklin, Amzei, and the slightly more distanced Sapienței, Triumfului, Bărăției, as well as Maxim cinema and the Modern night club (the latter seems to have ceased to exist as such). Although the topography in Drumeș’s Bucharest novel is not as precise as in Cella Serghi’s The Spider’s Web (Panza de păianjen) or Ioana Pârvulescu’s Life Begins on Friday (Viața începe vineri), it offers occasional fascinating glimpses of the city in the making (the 1930s) as is the mention of a house under construction at the corner of Franklin and Corabiei (present day Târgoviștei) streets. I was able to visit all the places featured in the novel that can still be found in today’s capital and this will certainly be an inspiration for me to write a more revealing preface to the translation in Bulgarian. Now that I have mentioned it, I must say that I felt so inspired that I was also able to finish the translation work on the novel with only the editing and correcting yet to be done.

Another fruitful aspect of my stay in Bucharest was the possibility to meet and spend time with contemporary Romanian writers such as Gelu Deaconu, Teodor Hossu-Longin and Andrian Pârvu whose literary works would certainly be of interest to the Bulgarian readers in translation. I was also able to meet old acquaintances such as Ioana Pârvulescu and discuss the translation of her next novel into Bulgarian (I have translated her first three novels which have enjoyed a very warm reception in Bulgaria). Discussing literature and translation matters over pizza and beer with writers is definitely the way to go for any translator benefiting from a longer period of time in a Romanian city, something I have done during previous residencies in Iași and Brăila through the FILIT program for translators of Romanian literature. There is also the invaluable experience of socializing and mingling in various crowds, talking to city inhabitants from all walks of life.

Having said so much about the novel, the city and its writers, I should also mention the accommodation I was given and I must say that I lacked almost nothing in the two-room apartment I was kindly offered by the organizers in an adjacent building to the Central University Library. Perhaps the only oversight was the lack of mosquito nests, but who could have expected that these insects would still be around all through October and beginning of November? The location really left nothing to be desired as I was able to enjoy several rock concerts which took place exactly at Piața Revoluției. There was no need to read about them in advance. I could clearly hear them when they started, and it was enough to put some clothes on and climb down the stairs to be part of the crowd. I should also mention the kind and helpful staff from the Central University Library – getting to the reading rooms was a matter of minutes and I was able to research in detail the author of my choice which, again, will be of great use when writing the preface to the translated novel as well as when it comes to promoting the translation as part of the Romanian literature promotion events I regularly attend and participate in.

Last but not least was the presentation of my literary translations from Romanian into Bulgarian which was kindly hosted by the Faculty of Foreign Languages at Bucharest University at Pitar Moș 7-13, another 5 minute walk from Demi Demetru 1 on a summer-hot 6th of November. Special thanks for the excellent organization of the residence in general and my presentation in particular go to Ioana Gruenwald from Traduki and Andreea Draghicescu from MNLR. I would also like to extend my thanks to the professors Mariana Mangiulea and Catalina Puiu from the Bulgarian Language and Literature Department for inviting the students who took active part in the discussion which followed, as well as to professor Constantin Geambașu for asking the most pertinent questions.

Overall, my stay in Bucharest was very fruitful as I was able to fully experience the sensation of living in the very heart of the city, be part of events of interest, establish new literary collaborations and reaffirm old ones. The Romanian capital is undoubtedly as fascinating in reality as it is in literature, and then no one should be surprised that this urban reality makes excellent city literature, as Bucharest is a place where everything and anything is possible and whatever happens to anyone in the city, a permanent or a temporary resident, it is continuously inscribed into the poetry of the everyday.