Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Life begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu

Romanian fiction

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 ?

Winston’s books A nobel and a night film some new books

I had a few appealing books arrive this last couple of days from some well known writers and also a bargain find. I collected a number of parcels from post office and found –

death by water by kenzaburo Oe

A new book from a Nobel Laurate is always a welcome book to read and I have only reviewed on other book by Kenzaboro Oe on the blog A personnel matter a story inspired by his son. This seems inspired by his father and a case of writers block it follows Kogito Choko a nobel winning writer struggling to write about his late father with whom he had a trouble relationship that was never resolved before he drown. So a red chest from his sister full of his fathers possessions maybe hold the secrets from the past.

for two thousands years by Mihail Sebastian

The second arrival is a classic from Romania Mihail Sebastian was a prominent figure in literary circles in the Romania in the early 1930’s. This autobiographical novel follows him as Facist takeover and deep rooted Anti semitism starts to take hold. The quote on the cover is Arthur Miller who compares his writing to Chekov.

same old story by Ivan Goncharov

I read Goncharov masterpiece Oblomov years and years ago so when Alma said they had a translation of his first novel The same old story a tale of alexander a poet who moves from the country to the city. He sees his ideal of life in the city changed as he struggles with the ruthless world of the city.

night film by Marisha Pessel

Now last is one of those bargain books we all find. I am a cfan of pound shops we always visit the one in town mainly for some lotus biscuits, but there is always something to find that is a bargain and I can’t help shifting through books most time I know it is going be a lot of books I don’t want but once in a blue moon a gem turns up and this is one such book it came out two years ago and is a novel about a horror director that hasn’t been seen in public for ear then his daughter dies and this gives a chance to a Journalist McGarth that has want to expose the director Cordova for a number of years but has lost a lot in this journey. The book also has an app to unlock interactive feature although I need use my old iphone to use it.

What books have you had arrive recently ?

Miruna , a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Miruna ,a tale

Miruna a tale by Bogdan Suceavă

Romanian fiction

Orginal title Miruna, o poveste,

Translator – Alistair Ian Blyth

Source – review copy

Well I have review a number from the Czech based publisher both review and personnel copy they always choose gems so when this book by Bogdan Suceavă a Romanian writer ,that I had vaguely heard of I thought I give it a whirl especially when it was mention to have a fairy tale element to the story .Bogdan Suceavă is a mathematician he studied at both Bucharest and the Michigan state in the US ,he currently teaches at CSU in California ,he has written number of novels and books of poetry .This book won the Bucharest writers prize when it came out there .

But Grandfather was different from the others .The evening after our parents departed and for the first time we were left in our Grandmother’s care ,I heard him telling Miruna that this was the only place where you could see time passing ,where it was never entirely frozen .

The first meeting with their Grandfather they see how different he is .

Miruna , a tale is the story of a family the two grandchildren and their grandfather ,he tells the two children many stories one of the Miruna absorbs a lot of these stories but also that ability to see things  via her dreams .The grandfather weaves a world around them with the stories he tells them where real and surreal mix ,the stories try to tell the story of the last century in Romania  their great grandfather that went to Greece on a ship ,mainly in the place where they live which is the Carpathian mountains .He shows them how what happened changed the world and also how they can keep themselves tied to their past .So we see the Germans come but also werewolves and giants a sort of folk tales to tell the kids what happened but without letting them see the full horrors by making them seem like fairy tales .It also showed how their village and valley had seen so many changes but also tried it hardest to stay the same .

During the summer hoildays when we were told the story of the journey to Hellas ,Miruna had a fever and her first nightmare ,Our parents were not in Evil Vale at the time when something happened that frightened her .It was that summer we learned that the encrusted face of christ can be seen on a grain of wheat .

Miruna starts seeing things in her dreams .


I loved this short book it captured a world that is fast dying and that is the one where kids listen to the grandparents tell them the oral history but also mix in fairy and folk tales .Bogdan in his after word on this book mentions in the first line how much as a youngster he loved the works of Tolkien  ,I could see this as I know the main inspiration for the lord of the rings was the horrors that he had seen during the world war and use it for a cautionary tale .This book shows Romania which when you look at its history over the last hundred years has been at the centre of a lot of turbulent times  so he used similar tools by mix fact and fantasy .Also it showed how some places and people don’t always want the modern world as it is and love to cling to what has been great .If you loved the books of Sjon this is one I’m sure you will love .

Have you  favourite book with fairy tales ?


August 2021


%d bloggers like this: