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Doina Rusti

Self-portrait

Once, there was a place in Bucharest where wretches were hanged. When boredom struck the city, the prince took a couple of villains and put them in the noose to cheer the people up. And it worked. The square would fill with people, who then left behind part of the trepidations of their blood upon the soil of death. Today, where the gallows stood, there is a

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Biography

Doina Rusti is one of the most appreciated female voices in contemporary Romanian literature. Translated into nine languages, the guest of numerous international book fairs and events, she has gained renown for the thematic diversity of her solidly constructed novels, most of which have been published by Polirom. They include Zogru (2006, 2013), republished in the Top 10+ series, The...

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2017, 256 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

The novel tells the story of a magic recipe book and a family of adepts of the great Sator, Set in the Bucharest of the Phanariot princes and the Enlightenment, the story slips imperceptibly between real events of the year 1798 and the mysteries of a cult of magicians whose culinary inheritance brings to light the flavours of archaic life and the refinement of a magical cuisine. The recipe book of the title contains fabulous dishs from a forgotten medievaldom. Fried cockchafer beetles, crumilla cum animis, rose pies, elixirs of love and the liqueur formicosus are only a few of the enchanted concoctions that drive the threads of the narrative towards its grand and satisfying finale.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2015, 296 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

The author discovers a manuscript from 1796, which contains the story of a man from Thessaloniki (Leun, aged seventeen), who comes to Bucharest to get rich. He is counting on the generosity of Mavrogheni, the Prince of Wallachia. But arriving in Bucharest, he falls in love with slave girl Maiorca (aged fourteen), who is owned by the boyar Doicescu (aged twenty-five), owner of the Coltea district and one of the pillars of the Bucharest aristocracy. According to the law, if a free man marries a slave, he becomes a slave in his turn, being added to the goods of his wife’s rightful owner, along with his family. The story of Leun has an unusual denouement, which captures the spirit of the Phanariot Age and the Romanian mentality of the time. Based on a historical document, the novel embellishes the tale, transforming it into something fantastical, interwoven with the story of Bucharest under Phanariot rule.

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Excerpt from

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Novel, "Ego. Prose" series, Polirom, 2011, 224 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

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Four Men Plus Aurelius is set in a film studio, where a mysterious man turns up one day, claiming that there is a character in the novel Madame Bovary that no one except him can remember. As a result, everybody stops what they are doing and goes off to reread Flaubert’s novel. This proves to be more problematic than it would have seemed, however. The premise on which Doina Rusti’s novel is based also provides an occasion for remembrance, on the part of the central character, Licia, who falls in love with the newcomer. The men in her life – tempters, seducers, and inconstant heartbreakers – re-emerge in her memory one by one, transfigured and burdened with old guilt. This adventure, which blends together murder, sentimentality, and a tomcat that is simultaneously loved and hated, gradually replaces the narrative of the conventional novel. For, this is literature that is also about literature…

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Excerpt from

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Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2008, 432 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Hacca (Italy)

Book presentation

The Ghost in the Mill is a novel which comprises three seemingly unconnected tales. In the first part, “The Secret Life of Adela Nicolescu,” the eponymous, present-day heroine notices in the window of a bookshop what appears to be a novel recounting her life, whose author is a certain Florian Pavel. Having convinced herself that this really is the case, she then attempts to discover what connexion might exist between the author of the novel and herself. Her investigations lead her to an internet blog (ghost.ro), where she rediscovers the text of the novel. However, this text is continuously morphing, with Adela’s thoughts, visions and revisions being added as if from nowhere, issuing themselves as she reads Pavel’s novel. The life of this woman is marked by her secret relationship with a ghost, whom she names Max. Discovered within an abandoned mill, the ghost enters historical reality episodically at first, and then, to the extent that social life degenerates under totalitarianism, becomes all-pervasive, so that in Adela’s eyes all people begin to take on the physiognomy of Max. The second story, “The Mill,” is an objective, third-person account of life in the village of Adela’s childhood a few days after the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986. The Securitate, the militia, the schoolteacher, the secret-police informants, and the peasants all believe there is a soul in the mill, a place around which an entire mythology has sprung up over time. Most of them have their own ghost and secret life, convinced that this is something which happens only to them. Nevertheless, there is a secret master of space (Sandu Ion – the local head of secret police), who determines everything that happens : he alters destinies, knows the history of each individual, and has access to the forbidden file in which almost all the tales about the ghost in the mill are recorded. He gives the order for the mill to be demolished, thereby hoping that the ghostly entity will be destroyed. When the bulldozers enter the flesh of the mill, the soul of the building takes refuge in the souls of the people with whom it had long been connected. The third story is called “Two Days.” Two episodes in the life of village schoolteacher Ion Nicolescu are narrated : one is a luminous day in the year 1910. The other is set in the year 1953, on a day whose events unfold under the impetus of history and of Florian Pavel’s forebear. It is in the account of these two days that the origin of the ghost in the mill is revealed. Each of the three narratives complements the action of the other, explaining attitudes, conflicts and occurrences that have hitherto seemed inexplicable. In the communist world of The Ghost in the Mill there are no positive or negative, good or bad characters. Each contributes in his or her own way to the perpetuation of the wider prison camp that is totalitarian Romania, desiring only one thing : to survive. This is why the novel has no main character, but rather describes a world subtly connected to the soul of a ruined history.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2006, 272 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Balkani (Bulgaria), Bonanno Editore (Italy)

Book presentation

Zogru is a being that spurts from the centre of the earth, one day during the Easter Week of 1460. Initially, he manifests himself as a long, fine thread, and it is in this form that he penetrates into the blood of a man named Pampu, leaving two small pricks on his throat. Zogru learns how to live within and adapt to his new reality, while the possessed man acquires unusual powers. In the mediaeval Romanian milieu of the reign of Vlad Dracul, the apparition of Zogru does not pass unobserved, and the man in whom he dwells is suspected of having fallen under the influence of a vampire. After he abandons Pampu’s body, Zogru’s existence is transformed into one mad chase. His life is fraught with perils. For, he gradually discovers that there are humans who can hold him captive in their blood, that he cannot endure for more than forty days inside a human body, that there are humans who do not receive him or who can force him to act against his will. Caught between the world of humans and the world of subtle beings (gloles, ghosts, gnomes, morgons), he experiences numerous adventures before ending up in the year 2005, which is when the main action of the novel takes place. Enamoured, but at the same time tortured by the thought that he has no identity, he recollects his life as he waits for Andrei Ionescu, the man beloved by Giulia, a student to whom Zogru feels irresistibly attracted. The novel is fascinating both for its fantastic aspects and for its romantic dimension – since Zogru, although he is an entity from another world, experiences wholly human joys and dramas, against the backdrop of a love that could not be more earthly.

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