Robert the Devil, the ridden angel from the author’s previous novel, returns to his stamping grounds of thirty years before. Times have changed and people eke out a wretched living, haunted by the spectre of unemployment and bank repayments, while the gypsies’ huts have been replaced by concrete housing blocks with no water or heating. Up on the hills luxury villas with swimming pools and patios bask in the sunshine. Buses crammed with commuting labourers jostle with SVUs and gleaming limousines. Forced to abandon Bucharest with his young wife and their son, the man of almost sixty begins a new life. In a hostile, corrupt world, a world riddled with vice, Robert, Andreea, Laurian Susanu and Brindusa – a toxic quadrilateral – are drawn into a diabolic game of life and death. The Genocide Chronicles continues to record for posterity the stories of the new, turbulent times in which only the strong survive.
The Genocide Chronicles was awarded the Prize for Best Romanian Novel of 2012 at the fourth annual Colloquia of the Contemporary Romanian Novel.
The fire was the culmination of a crime of passion, broadcast live from the scene and repeated on every television station in the days that followed, as the investigation got underway. It was discussed and examined from various angles by the director of the Arges Paper for Mind and Soul.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the most sickening and incredible murder to have been committed in our county in recent years took place in Frăsineni, a town under a curse, according to fortune tellers from the area, those witches who dabble in magic white and black. It is a town haunted by a suicide epidemic, as the late mayor Vasilică Robu called it, without being far off the mark. We are inclined to believe that the suicide epidemic, the town’s being disconnected from the hot water supply, and sickening murders of the kind that happened last week can all be placed in the same category and point to man’s attitude towards himself and his fellow man, to minds and souls that have gone astray in a fallen world, where there is no longer any room for love and kindness, as the facts of the case demonstrate to us in all their atrociousness:
Ion Ciprian, 58, a driver by trade and a member of a notorious clan that has been locked in a battle for control of the town these many years, was recently released from Frăsineni Penitentiary after serving a two year sentence for drug dealing. He murdered his mistress, Mariana Cimpoiesu, 21, from the village of Furnicosi, for whom he had been renting a bedsit in Frasineni. Neighbours say that the couple and their friends had been holding parties that degenerated into violent arguments and that this had been going on for six months, ever since the woman moved into the block. During the final argument, the drug dealer had murdered his mistress, stabbing her no less than twenty three times, in an unbelievable outburst of hatred. Even after he had killed her he was still not satisfied: two days later he returned to the scene of the crime to kill her one more time: he covered the body with clothes and sheets and set fire to them, after which he left, locking the door behind him. It was not only hatred, but also an attempt to erase all trace of the murder, by staging a fire to make it look like an accident in case the neighbours found the body and testified against him. But it was still thanks to a neighbour that the murder and the perpetrator were discovered. Alarmed at the heat coming up through his floor, the neighbour in the flat above called the fire brigade before the fire could spread. If the fire had reached the gas pipes, it would have caused an explosion that would have wrecked the building and destroyed all evidence of the murder.
The fire merely scorched the corpse, without consuming the evidence of the murder, which has made the forensic investigation much easier. Ion Ciprian in any case has admitted his crime, which he committed in a drunken rage after frequent quarrels caused by jealousy. He has not hesitated to justify his crime by arguing that the woman was cheating on him and therefore deserved her fate.
The collateral victims include the owner of a bedsit in the building, an old woman with no income, who had gone to live in the country so that she could scrape together three million a month by renting the flat. The flat has been damaged and the furniture destroyed. The bedsit can no longer be lived in or rented unless someone is kind enough to give the old woman money for the repairs. We shall do our duty by presenting her plight in our “People Who Help People” section.
The case is highly indicative of the situation and image of Romania at the beginning of the third millennium, concluded Laurian Susanu. An eloquent metaphor for the place and the times we are living in, here in a country that has recently joined the European Union: a young woman stabbed twenty three times by her lover and then set on fire, and as a result of this cataclysmic love affair an old woman has been left to die of hunger, having been deprived of her only source of income.
Andreea read the article breathlessly and then kissed the photograph of Laurian at the top of the page – my darling, chubby, clever Android. You’ve got a sharp mind, but you don’t know everything… The next day she discussed the crime across the road with Robert, dwelling above all on the age difference between the two licentious lovers, which was about the same as the difference between her husband and his tart with that flowery name of hers, and it was thus blindingly obvious what curses rained down when men of that age got up to such nastiness, when instead of going to church they chose the path of lechery with women young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters. Daughters and granddaughters of a sin that cried out to heaven, the sin of lechery, which is why God gave the temptresses and tempters alike their just desserts, smiting them with fire and bloodshed, with prison and eternal damnation, which is what is in store for Robert and his mistress, woe unto them.
Andreea’s tone of voice was level and resigned, calmer than at other times, during the hard phases of their confrontations. She had put the Devil in his place, blessing him with fire, blood, prison and eternal damnation, delicacies he had been indulging himself in since his youth, but anyway, neither she nor he ought to be at loggerheads about it. It was only in Robert’s imagination that the crowd gathered outside the block down the road was staring open mouthed at Andreea as she delivered her diatribe, or that their quarrel might have a similar outcome. But the Devil who was working on him and Andreea worked to a different strategy, one that most certainly took into account Brindusa.
Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth