Ioana Nicolaie


One of my eyes is blue, the other brown. I’m the fourth of the twelve children my mother had. When I was ten I wished I’d been an astronaut. At thirty-four I know that the upper part of the sky is not for people. Sometimes I tell to myself that history is that particular kind of dust out of which nobody can build anything. In order to remind myself of the

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Ioana Nicolaie (b. 1974) graduated from the Literature Faculty of Bucharest University in 1997, where she also took a Master of Arts Degree in 1998. Her debut collection of poems, Retouched Photograph (Cartea Românească, 2000), was published following a competition. Her published work includes: The North (2005, nominated for the ASPRO Prize), Faith (2003, nominated for the...

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Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2008, 256 pages, format 130 x 200 mm

Copyright: Polirom Publishing House

Translation rights sold to: Alberto Castelvecchi Editore (Italy)

Book presentation

Sabina is a nineteen-year-old woman who, after an unhappy childhood, arrives in Bucharest as a university student. She does not know anyone, she has no one to help her, and her only income is a modest student grant. The various settings and milieus through which she passes during the course of her four years as a student provide a subjective X-ray of life in post-1989 Romania. The still recent communist past looms from memories – both those of Sabina and those of the other characters – as well as from the ruins of a world which has not yet begun to be rebuilt. In the tales of the old blind woman in whose home she stays during her first months in Bucharest, Sabina relives history, fate, and resignation. Roxana, her friend during the course the narrative, helps Sabina to discover herself, to understand herself. While at first she is an innocent participant at unconventional parties, is assaulted in a trolley bus, is the victim of pickpockets and later an attempted rape, later Sabina gradually becomes stronger and surer of herself. Working as a “live mannequin” in a shop window, she meets Eman, and with him she experiences love, but also suffering. During one summer holiday, she works illicitly in an Arab fast-food joint. One autumn she works with Eman at a religious radio station. Later, Sabina and Eman develop their own “business” in a student hall of residence. The only way they can scrape some money together is by buying goods from a warehouse at the edge of town and reselling them to their fellow students. In this way, they become the repository of many of the student hostel’s hidden stories.
A Bird on a Wire is essentially a novel about innocence, youth, love and survival. But it is also about how all these things are mired in poverty. Sabina finds herself in numerous picaresque situations, which provide the author with an opportunity to reveal multiple facets of the world in which her heroine lives.


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