Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu
Original title – Viaţa începe vineri
Translator- Alistair Ian Blyth
Source – Review copy
For my second book for Woman in Translation month I move west from Russia to Romania and to a EU prize-winning book Life begins on friday by Ioana Parvulescu. She grew up in Brasov , she came to Bucharest as an 18 year old and in her Eu prize-winning interview unlike most people from the town where she came from she fell in love with the city, fist with its good parts and then with its bad parts. She has written ten book this is her first to be translated into English. May I note this has an after word by Mircea Cartarescu whose book Blinding was hailed as a great book , why this equally challenging book for the reader has fallen on deaf ears ? This is maybe a reason we need woman in translation month.
The people of Bucharest were having a good day. It had snowed, there were still twelve days till the end of the year and twelve hours till the end of the day. The whiteness, which stretched from one end of the city to the other, from Cotroceni palace to the obor district, and from the serban voda cemetry to the flower beds on the Chaussee and then onward, into the horizon, was melting in the afternoon sun. The icicles looked as if they were coated in oil and here and there were beginning to drip onto the heads of the passer-by.
Bucharest in snow then in melts away under the sun in the day.
The book follows thirteen days in 1897 the end of that year . It starts when a man is found injured not really knowing who he is . The Man Dan Kretzu or as he is known in this time Dan Cretu has come back to this time from the present or the future (this is not really clear ) But we see him recovering in a house where the father is looking after him and The Daughter Julia is caught up in the world of the novel Vanity fair. This is a glimpse into a city that at this time was a shining light in Europe and also to an age where the human soul was maybe less weary. But this is seen through modern eyes. Add to this there is also a murder in the background as it happened just by where he was found this 113 day glimpse in the past changes him and also all those he touches.
Today I experienced a great joy. A surprise. It was about time, otherwise I would have said that I was beginning to resemble Amelia from vanity fair, and heaven knows nowadays kind, weepy creatures are more unfashionable than Grandmother’s long nails and her bunches of curls hanging next to her ears.
Julia doesn’t want to be like the Naive Amelia n the book
Ioanna in the interview after winning the EU prize says the main character in all her books in the city of Bucharest and so it is here in this book. The city is full of life here as she choose this time as she felt it was an Epoch moment in both the city itself which shined bright at this time , but also in the sense of human nature she felt the soul of humans was different then we had a future to look forward to the world now has moved on so much. You can see this is Julia the way she is so drawn into a book and into that world of fiction vanity fair was cutting edge when it came out in how it viewed relationships. and Becky sharp was maybe one of the first woman of her own mind many young woman would read about. This is just one line of the book there is a few other threads but this is one of those books you have to read to fully get. I must note know the shame of brexit I have read so many great Eu lit Prize winning books over the last few years with money from the EU to bring us these books in English , which come UK leaving europe will happen no more a sad loss to all us fans of World lit.
Have you a favourite EU Literature prize winning book ?