We can all agree 2020 has been anything but ordinary, and, let’s be honest, the beginning of 2021 doesn’t look very bright, either. However, with the pandemic keeping us locked in for who knows how long, and books known to be longtime comforters, it is our pleasure and joy to bring to you new Romanian books available in translation. All of them have been published in the second half of 2020 or are expected to be released in the first half of 2021.
La Femme qui a mangé les lèvres de mon père (The Woman Who Ate My Father’s Lips) by Tudor Ganea was published in France in October 2020, in Florica Courriol’s translation. This is Ganea’s debut novel and it was released in Romania in 2016 with the title Cazemata (Casemate). The novel, which focuses on an investigation in a fishing village where all the men have been rendered powerless by a siren, can be also read as a fantastic and poetic fable based on the incongruence between nature and human intervention.
The beginning of 2021 saw the French publication of Bogdan-Alexandru Stănescu‘s debut novel L’enfance de Kaspar Hauser (The Childhood of Kaspar Hauser) in Nicolas Cavaillès’s translation. Published to great acclaim in Romania in 2017, L’enfance de Kaspar Hauser is a bildungsroman containing 12 stories focused on a Bucharest childhood and youth.
Lavinia Braniște‘s latest novel, Sonia meldet sich (Sonia Raises Her Hand) was published in Romanian in 2019 and is expected to be published in German this May, in Manuela Klenke’s translation. The novel follows a young girl who wants to write a script for a film inspired by Zoia Ceaușescu, the famous dictator’s daughter.
Tatiana Țîbuleac, one of the most successful Romanian women writers at the moment, has three new translations coming up this spring. Der Sommer, als Mutter grüne Augen hatte (The Summer in Which Mother Had Green Eyes), translated into German by Ernest Wichner, was first published in Romanian in 2017 and tells the story of a dying woman and her son, who are spending their last summer together in a French village. The book, which was successfully translated in several languages already—most recently in Norwegian (Sommeren mamma hadde grønne øyne) by Sindre Andersen—and won the author a bunch of prizes, is to be published in Germany at the beginning of March. In Spain—where Tatiana has found tremendous success with her first novel—her second one, The Glass Garden, is to be published both in Spanish (El jardín de vidrio, translation by Marian Ochoa de Eribe) and in Catalan (El jardí de vidre, translation by Antònia Escandell Tur).
Les Oxenberg & les Bernstein by Cătălin Mihuleac, translated into French by Marily Le Nir, was released in France in August 2020. First published in Romania with the title America de peste pogrom (America throughout the Pogrom) in 2014, the novel tells two apparently separate stories—one set in the inter-war Romania, and the other set in the 2000s—that gently come together to illuminate each other.
Published in Italy in December 2020, in Mauro Barindi’s translation, La vita comincia venerdì (Life Begins on Friday) is, to this day, Ioana Pârvulescu‘s most appreciated and translated novel, which tells a charming story set at the end of the 19th century, that revolves around a certain character that appears to have arrived on the snowy streets of Bucharest straight from the future.
La ville aux acacias (The Town with Acacia Trees) by the esteemed Romanian writer Mihail Sebastian was first published in Romania in 1935 and released in France in October 2020, in Florica Courriol’s translation. The novel follows the coming-of-age of a young girl from a bourgeois family, who leaves behind the boring provincial town and moves to the exciting capital. Also by Sebastian, I to tusen år … (For Two Thousand Years), has been recently published in Norway, in Steinar Lone’s translation, as well as in Catalan—Des de fa dos mil anys, in Xavier Montoliu Pauli’s translation. The 1934 masterpiece was written amid the anti-Semitism which would, by the end of the decade, force Sebastian out of his career and turn his friends and colleagues against him. 2020 also saw the English translation of Women by Gabi Reigh, and the ebook version of L’incidente (The Accident), translated into Italian by Oscar Randi.
La vie et les opinions de Zacharias Lichter (The Life and Opinions of Zacharias Lichter) by Matei Călinescu was published in Romania in 1969, managing to trick the strict censors of the Ceaușeascu’s regime, because they couldn’t figure out the book. Hideous, begging and living on the streets, Zacharias Lichter is an improbable holy man, whose madness challenges social conventions and wisdom. The book was released in France in the early 2020, in Nicolas Cavaillès’s translation.
Also in 2020, Radu Pavel Gheo‘s celebrated book Dulces sueños, queridos niños (Good Night, Kids!)—which focuses on childhood in Romania under the communist regime, where the children’s imagination is clouded by the obsession with an idealised Western world—was published in Spain in Marian Ochoa de Eribe’s translation.
Florin Iaru‘s Die grünen Brüste (The Green Breasts) was published in Germany in early 2020. This volume of short stories, mixing classical storytelling with postmodernist and surreal elements, was translated into German by Manuela Klenke.
January will see the publication of Ludovic Bruckstein‘s collection of short stories, With an Unopened Umbrella in the Pouring Rain, translated in English by Alistair Ian Blyth and illustrated by the writer’s son, Alfred Bruckstein. Virtually unknown in Romania, because once he left Romania for Israel in 1971, he was erased from the national literature, Bruckstein is now being rediscovered. The stories in this collection focus on the lives and struggles of a variety of characters living in the Maramureș region, in the years leading up to a war that will suddenly and irretrievably destroy the pattern of their existence.
In North America, the beginning of 2021 brings two different yet equally strong volumes. On one hand, there’s a new collection of plays by Saviana Stănescu, For a Barbarian Woman and other plays, focusing on strong, rebellious and resilient women who struggle to fulfil their potential despite inauspicious historical, geographical, and socio-economic circumstances. And on the other hand, there’s the translation of Magda Cârneci‘s FEM by Sean Cotter, a modern classic of global feminist literature, styled as a long letter addressed to the man she is ready to leave by a woman who meanders through a cosmic retelling of her life from childhood to adulthood with visionary language and visceral detail.
Also in 2021, Trado, by Svetlana Cârstean and Athena Farrokhzad is going to be released in Norway, translated by Sindre Andersen and Ida Hove Solberg. The book is structured as a triptych, containing two poetry collections and an essay, and focuses on heritage, writing, betrayal, and love.
Last but not least, Romania’s most celebrated author, Mircea Cărtărescu, has several books in translation coming up this year, after two recent translations (in Turkish by Hüseyin Tüzün and in Catalan by Antònia Escandell Tur) from his distinguished trilogy Orbitor. Melancolia, Cărtărescu’s most recent prose work (2019), is a foray into the typical dreamlike universe of the author, and has been recently translated into French by Laure Hinckel. One of his older works, Travesti, will be released as a graphic novel in Spain, featuring Edmond Baudoin’s drawing, while Nostalgia, his first novel, translated by Julian Semilian, is going to be included in the Penguin’s Modern Classics collection in May 2021. The Norwegian translation of Solenoid by Steinar Lone is also expected this year.
More Romanian books in translation will be coming up, and we promise to keep an eye on them and let you know.
Featured image: Alfonso Morales / Unsplash