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polirom

Dan Lungu

Self-portrait

Sometimes it just so happens that people mistake me for Dan Lungu, the writer. Not that I mind, but they ask me to speak in his name. I try to say clever things, I try not to disgrace him, especially when people say he’s a nice guy. Over time, I said a lot of things about him: that he allegedly likes marigold infusion, sociology and antiquities. Sometimes

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Biography

Dan Lungu was born in 1969. He is the director of the Museum of Romanian Literature in Jassy and one of the best loved and most translated contemporary Romanian writers. He is a member of the Union of Romanian Writers. Polirom has published the novels Hens’ Heaven (Faux Novel of Rumours and Mysteries) (2004, 2007, 2010, 2012), I’m a Communist Biddy! (2007, 2010, 2011,...

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2014, 360 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Colibri (Bulgaria), Amaltea (Poland)

Book presentation

Through the innocent eyes of Radita and her mother, the novel explores a phenomenon that has deeply affected post-communist Romania: temporary emigration. In order to get her family out of a financial mess, Letitia decides to work abroad for a few months. Via an acquaintance she arrives in Rome, where she works as a cleaner and looks after an elderly woman, Nona Bosse. By chance, she meets up with a girl she knew at high school, Laura, who is a veteran of insecure work placements, a strong, spontaneous and honest woman, who tells her the story of her life as an emigrant. At home, two little girls are left behind: Radita, in the care of her grandparents, and Malina, in the care of Letitia’s husband, Vali. In her first year at school and strongly attached to her mother, Radita suffers as only a child can as a result of the separation, with all her being and all her imagination. The envisaged few months keep getting longer and longer, plans for the future are constantly changed, and the secondary effects of Letitia’s departure prove to be unpredictable. This is a troubling novel, in which a variety of themes subtly combine: childhood, innocence, estrangement, clashes of worldview, conjugal relations, and the reshaping of identity. The construction of the narrative is full of suspense, the language is fresh, effervescent, and there are numerous moments of genuine humour.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Fiction Ltd." series, Polirom, 2011, 240 pages

Copyright: All rights available

Translation rights sold to:

Book presentation

Victor, the novel’s main character, suffers from the acute feeling that he is living in the posterity of his own youth. After childhood and adolescence, which, in hindsight, coincided with the happiest period of his life, he has the feeling that the present unfolds merely out of inertia. He has a bizarre, unsatisfying job, plus the obsession that his wife, the jolly Veronica, has been secretly replaced with another woman, who resembles her perfectly, but who possesses none of the charm or the dreams of the girl he married. In his escapist fantasies, his memory continually projects film sequences from his past, when alongside his college buddies life had meaning and savour. The scenes from his youth, recollected in colloquial, slangy language, unfold at a brisk place and overflow with often licentious humour. The present also plays its part in the narrative. One day, shortly before Christmas, Victor meets a man who speaks a strange language, accompanied by Nana, his interpreter. With them he embarks on an adventure that might change his life. But it all depends on him… After the bestseller How to Forget a Woman, which tackled unusual subject manner, Dan Lungu has written another surprising story, unconventional in its style and subject matter.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Fiction LTD" series, Polirom, 2009, 392 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Actes Sud (France), Residenz Verlag (Austria), Magveto (Hungary)

Book presentation

Half love, half about love. This, in short, might define Dan Lungu’s new novel.
Andi and Marga are a young couple who hook up in odd circumstances and live together for one and a half years. They both work for the same provincial newspaper. She writes for the gossip page; he is an investigative journalist. Although things between them seem in order, one fine day Marga vanishes, leaving behind a cryptic farewell note. In the absence of any rational explanation, Andi, confused and consumed by questions, musters an entire arsenal of stratagems for forgetting. His life is further complicated by an encounter with a group of evangelical Protestants and by the feeling that God is on his trail. Things go from bad to good, but the ending of the tale is not necessarily a happy one, rather it is merely different. Of course, caustic observation, (self-)irony and humour are part of the mix. Disturbing and amusing, simmering with existential disquietude and scarred by damaged psyches, How to Forget a Woman is a book about overcoming misanthropy and re-conquering innocence, about tolerance…
 

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Short stories, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2008 (2nd edition), 280 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Antonios Stamoulis (Greece)

Book presentation

Dan Lungu is not only a well-known novelist, but also a highly regarded short-story writer. His collection of short storiesRetail Prose is now in its second edition in Romania. Both editions have been enthusiastically received in the Romanian press and, more recently, on readers’ blogs.
The first edition was published a few years after the collapse of the communist dictatorship in Romania, and the author was greeted as one of the most talented prose writers of the younger generation, being viewed as representative of what the critics called “post-socialist” or “post-communist realism,” the aesthetic of a new literary wave. His tone is sometimes blunt and rough, sometimes candid and sensitive, which has enabled him to create his own inimitable style. The world he explores through his short stories is one of “rupture” or “transition” : a Romania emerging from totalitarianism, but not yet having reached democracy and capitalism. Past nostalgias and mentalities blend with present fears in the fine fabric of everyday behaviours and lives. Dan Lungu has an excellent sense of observation, a sensitivity for significant details, an anthropologist’s ear for reproducing colloquial language, and a psychologist’s acuity in capturing attitudes and the flux of thought. All these are conveyed in writing of great finesse.
This collection can also be read as a novel. It is a novel of life’s different ages. The first short stories explore the world of the child or the adolescent, while the last ones focus on the world of the old. In the middle can be found adults of varying occupations: from a bulldozerist to a journalist. The brisk pace, finely dosed humour, discreet maliciousness, and occasionally incredible occurrences all combine to provide pleasant, empathetic reading. Beyond the political context that shines through in some of his texts, Dan Lungu writes about people above all, about their illusions and sufferings, their weaknesses and joys. About appealing or ridiculous people, naïve or conniving people, wistful or pragmatic people. About each and every one of us.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2007, 243 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Filmat Naklada (Croatia), Actes Sud (France), Residenz (Austria), Pre-textos (Spain), Jelenkor (Hungary), Faber Print Ltd. (Bulgaria), Czarne (Poland), Gruppo Editoriale Zonza (Italy), Apollon Yayincilik (Turkey), Kastaniotis (Greece)

Book presentation

The profound premise of Dan Lungu’s novel resides in an examination of the following paradox: how is it possible that many, even very many, people who formerly lived under a totalitarian, inhuman regime, without having enjoyed privileges or favours, can now be capable of nostalgia ? The author, through the intermediary of an old woman, who relates her life in the first person, attempts to deconstruct the mechanisms of nostalgia and to unravel this psychological enigma.

The novel is set ten years after the fall of the Ceauşescu dictatorship and shortly before the general elections. Emilia Apostoae, a pensioner, the greater part of whose life has been lived under the ”people’s regime”, receives a telephone call from Alice, her daughter, an immigrant in Canada, who urges her mother ”not to vote for the former communists”. This telephone call, followed by other arguments, casts Emilia into a veritable crisis of identity, from which she tries to save herself by recollecting the past and seeking to justify her nostalgia in her own eyes and those of her daughter. We thus go back to her childhood and adolescence during the time of the dictatorship ; we enter the rhythms and problems of daily life during that epoch.

The story moves at a brisk pace, the dialogue is engaging, humour shows its fangs, and mindsets are revelead by degrees. Apparently simple occurrences progressively develop their power of suggestion and range. Little by little, we are presented with a ”normality” constructed by the regime and decanted in time, a normality that stirs regrets in Emilia but chills the reader. Dan Lungu does not accuse, but rather is empathetic : he describes the atrocity of an evil that has become banal, while at the same time being attentive to the dignity of his characters. His writing is rich in significant and redolent detail, but it does not even for a moment lose sight of the broader picture.

The novel continues the ‘experiment in mentality’ begun by Dan Lungu in Hens’ Heaven – the descent into a communism residual not at the political or social level but at the level of an ordinary person who has lived through that system and been profoundly marked by it. I’m a Communist Biddy ! forces you to smile, to laugh uproariously, to grow sad, but above all to interrupt your reading for a few moments and go outside in order to convince yourself that reality is otherwise, that people are otherwise. However, after such an exercise, the only thing left will be for you to conclude that the author has met the old woman who is a neighbour in your block, that he has met her daughter who has emigrated to Canada, that he has met your former workmate who used to tell political jokes while at the same time informing on you to the secret police behind your back. And then he wrote this book precisely in order to hold a mirror up to us all, in which we can see ourselves as we are and as, more often than not, we should not like to be.

I’m a Communist Biddy !” is more than the tale of an old woman : it is a museum on paper of daily life in a totalitarian society, a compendium of political humour, a lesson about the incommensurability of human experiences and, why not, the unpredictable story of an abstention from the vote.

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Excerpt from

Novel, "Ego-prose" series, Polirom, 2006, 187 pages

Copyright: represented by Residenz (Austria)

Translation rights sold to: Jacqueline Chambon, Actes Sud (France), Druötvo Apokalipsa (Slovenia), Residenz (Austria, world wide rights), Manni Editori (Italy), Czarne (Poland), Icaria (Spain), Paradox (Bulgaria)

Book presentation

All the occurrences in the novel take place in a street at the outskirts of a Romanian provincial town. The majority of the street’s inhabitants are working class. Once the “heroes” of the former political regime, they are now the “ballast” of the new order. Now, they are pensioners or unemployed – the pensioners of a bankrupt socio‑economic and political system, in fact. Cast by history to the margins of the world, their main pass‑times become drinking and chatting. As the characters become absorbed in conversation, reality imperceptibly dematerialises and we enter a construct of group mentality, tributary to the totalitarian epoch. The world no longer consists of objects, but of distorted recollections, nostalgia, phantasms, frustration, clichés, stereotypes, projects, and eccentric fantasies. The poles of this world, constructed as a place of collective refuge by the inhabitants of the street, are the ghost of Ceauşescu, who is master of the past, and the West, which represents a strange and uncertain world. One episode of an exuberant humour is that in which one of the characters meets Ceauşescu in person : the discussion and events that occur during this visit are as hilarious as they are spectacular. This is a novel written with verve and elegance, a novel that is both current and bursting with humour. The reader is left with no respite in which to become bored, for events come in waves, while the colourful dialogue only serves to heighten the atmosphere. This is a book that provokes much laughter, but beyond the laughter, there looms great disquietude.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Short stories, "Ego. Prose" series, Polirom, 2005, 240 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Drava Verlag (Austria), Antonios Stamoulis (Greece)

Book presentation

Good Guys is a suite of memorable, striking stories, which read seamlessly. The characters are boisterous, gobby schoolchildren speaking in provocative slang, a child who, tracing a hopscotch grid, relates strange things from home, a woman without arms whose hobby is painting, a flighty girlfriend, an innocent husband, the nouveaux riches... Brisk repartee and knockabout humour intersect with stylistic refinement, the ludic combines with psychological subtleties, and piquant argot with delicacy and naivety. Sometimes the stories are set outside Romania, transporting us to Lille or Vienna. Regardless of where they take place, they are full of fun and the unexpected, but also impregnated with a hidden seriousness. One German critic warns us that “it is not a book for the delicate or fainthearted, but it is certainly a powerful sign of literary vitality from a new, unified Europe.”

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