Lockdown reading: Romanian books to try while staying at home
The Book of Mirrors - Eugen Ovidiu Chirovici
Chirovici had a career in Romanian media before moving outside of the country and making his English-language debut with The Book of Mirrors. This crime novel focuses on the unsolved murder case of famous professor Joseph Wieder. A secret manuscript and multiple perspectives take the reader on a whodunit journey. The book is available here.
I'm An Old Commie! - Dan Lungu
One of the most successful Romanian authors to have emerged after the 1989 Revolution, he explores in this novel nostalgia and its roots. Emilia, a pensioner, recalls growing up in an impoverished village and of her life as a factory worker during Communism as her daughter, now living in Canada, asks her not to vote for the former communists in upcoming elections. The novel also served for the script of a very successful Romanian movie of the same name. The book is available here.
Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent - Mircea Eliade
Part of the fictional work the historian of religions left behind, Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent follows a precocious teenager with literary ambitions. Written in the 1920s, the book was published in Romania after 1989 and in English, in the UK, in 2016. Its follow-up, Gaudeamus, was also released in English, in 2018. It can be ordered here.
Matei Brunul - Lucian Dan Teodorovici
Also looking at the Communist past, the novel focuses on political prisoner Bruno Matei, newly released from jail a broken man and suffering from amnesia, and the relationship that develops with the secret policeman who has him under constant surveillance. Teodorovici, who is also a short fiction writer and screenwriter, also serves as the director of the Iasi International Festival of Literature and Translation, the biggest such event in the country. The novel can be found here.
Nostalgia – Mircea Cărtărescu
This 1989 novel by one of Romania's leading contemporary writers, also one of the most translated and awarded, takes readers into a universe where dreams and reality blur, childhood moments, and the Bucharest of the years of the communist dictatorship. More about the book here. The novel is available here.
The Encounter - Gabriela Adameşteanu
This story of an academic who returns to his native Romania but is not recognized by anyone in his family tackles the theme of exile and nostalgia while referencing Homer's Odyssey. The novel was published in Romanian in 2003, adding to the body of work of one of the best-known and bestselling contemporary Romanian writers. It is available here.
Journal – Mihail Sebastian
The diary of one of the most promising local writers of the inter-war period was first published in Romanian in 1996. The book chronicles the rise of anti-Semitism during that period and the author's friendships and relationships with some of the most important Romanian intellectuals of the time while offering a snapshot of the Bucharest before the Second World War. It is available here.