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Florina Ilis

Biography

Florina Ilis was born in 1968. She is part of the new generation of prose writers that came to the fore after the year 2000. She made her debut with a collection of haikus, Haiku and Calligrammes, a volume that was a novel combination of poetry and Japanese calligraphy (the author of the calligrammes being Rodica Frentiu). In 2001, her book The Descent from the Cross was published by Echinox in Cluj, followed the next year by the novel The Calling of Matthew. Critical acclaim arrived in 2005, after Cartea Romaneasca published her novel The Children’s Crusade. A resounding success with public and critics alike, The Children’s Crusade was awarded numerous prizes, including Book of the Year 2005, bestowed by Romania Literara magazine and the Anonimul Foundation, the Cuvintul...

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Excerpt from

Novel, Cartea Romaneasca, 2012, 688 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

The action of the novel Parallel Lives begins on 28 June 1883 and ends on 15 June 1889, two dates that are seared in the collective memory and which simultaneously strengthen and undermine the myth of Romania’s national poet, Mihai Eminescu. In a documentary novel that defies the laws of time, Florina Ilis reconstructs the more than one hundred and fifty years of Mihai Eminescu’s existence (during his lifetime and after, real and imaginary), from the nineteenth century to the present, his life as it was lived, recorded, idealised, denigrated, imagined. The life, illness and death of the poet continue to be the subject of current debate, unanswered questions, conspiracy theories. Was the poet a genius? Did he love? Was he mad? Was there a plot to assassinate him? Etc. etc. In a dramatic attempt to get to the truth, Florina Ilis examines countless authentic documents, medical records, apocryphal accounts, diaries, urban myths, period testimonies, letters, manuscripts, files compiled by the pre communist and communist secret police, and heated debates in cultural magazines, newspapers and blogs, as well as resorting to the subtle play of the imagination. A poetic genius such as Eminescu, whose “parallel lives”, both historically real and metaphysically imagined, are synonymous with modern Romania itself, required a vision to match, one capable of dreaming, outside history, in a process of national metempsychosis, the archival documents of a timeless “political police.” Seven years after the publication of the bestseller The Children’s Crusade, Florina Ilis takes not only the contemporary Romanian novel by surprise, but also the theory and history of literature.

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Excerpt from

Novel, "Prose" series, Cartea Românească, 2008, 488 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Nymrod (Israel), Syrtes (France), Ediciones del Oriente y del Mediterraneo (Spain), Jelenkor (Hungary), ISBN Edizioni (Italy)

Book presentation

The beginning of the novel gives no hint of the explosion of events that are to follow : a party of children, accompanied by their teachers, board a train going to the seaside. Once the train sets off, however, things start to go haywire. The children, who initially display a surprising spirit of organisation, hijack the train, which no longer arrives at its destination, as it is brought to a halt by the revolt en route. The kids’ “revolution” organises resistance against the special forces called in from Bucharest. The impression of a conspiracy is created : the authorities hypothesise that the train has been hijacked by terrorists, or else by criminals. Eventually, the truth emerges, and the authorities will take advantage of a lull in the children’s vigilance in order to regain control. Dramas unfold, and the crusade does not end without victims...

In the struggle between children and the adult world, both sides err in equal measure. The children, in the recklessness of youth, are ignorant of the true scale of the conflict they have unleashed. In any case, the author guides us from the outset in this respect : the first demands of the rebels are that schools should be abolished and unlimited amounts of chocolate should be made available. On the other side, the adults prove incapable of understanding the way in which the children think, and they stand out for their extreme hypocrisy, as well as their compromises, which the children cannot accept. However, the story does not just depend upon the main action, with its reversal of perspectives, but is, in fact, the parable of a world adrift, a parable expertly constructed and perfectly sustained for the duration of the narrative.

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