I’m an Old Communist Biddy! by Dan Lungu

Die Rote BabuschkaDie Rote Babuschka by Dan Lungu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first visit of the Romanian literary world and it was extremely enjoyable. I read this book for Ally’s Romanian Writers Challenge. There are not many Romanian books out in German or English and some of them sounded truly depressing and way too extraordinary for my taste. So I debated a long time about what to read. In the end I settled with Dan Lungu as he seems rather down to earth AND funny. I was not disappointed.

I read this book in German, but it seems it will be out in English next year. The German title is “Die rote Babuschka” (The red biddy), so very close to the English and, it seems, also to the original title.

The story is told solely from the point of view of Emilia who, being told by her daughter NOT to vote for the communists in the upcoming elections, reminisces about the old and better times (as she sees it) when Ceausescu was still in power. The timeline was rather jumbled, something I don’t like very much, as Emilia went back and forth, jumping around in her memories from childhood back to the present and everything in between. Once I got the hang of it, it was ok to read her story that way, but I very much prefer chronological order. But, of course, memories don’t work like that.

Emilia’s point of view was perfectly understandable, even if it was misguided. The truth is, in the way one of her co-workers put it in the end, at the time they were laughing in self-defence. If you don’t laugh, all that’s left to do is crying. Did Emilia not realize that or did she just embellish her memories so she could live with them better?

Throughout the book were little stories that people told at the time about Ceausescu and his wife that were just another way of dealing with the situation of living in a dictatorship. Then there were episodes about the real life which were downright surreal. When Ceausescu is scheduled to visit, the whole workforce is slaving away in order to make everything look shiny and perfect (i.e. completely fake). The trees are painted green, mediocre corn plants are ripped out and replaced with corn from a model farm, black cows are removed because they give off the wrong vibes. It’s all very bizarre. Potemkin villages all over! It’s hard to grasp that people had to live that way if you don’t know it from own experience.

The book’s ending is an unresolved situation with Emilia being more confused than before. Just as well, isn’t that the state of all of us?

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I will definitely try to get a hold of more books in German by Dan Lungu. 

Romanian Writers Challenge


On a murder spree

OK, my binge reading of tacky romance is over for now and I am going into a new direction (for a while).

Apart from finishing my first book for the Romanian Writers Challenge, which I am going to put high on my priority list now, I am starting to read my way through the list of British Library Crime Classics. You can find a list here at Goodreads (not sure though whether it is complete).

I discovered “The Cornish Coast Murder” yesterday on Amazon and found it sounded great (plus, I love the cover, unfortunately the cover is irrelevant on an old Kindle). Two amateur sleuths (vicar and doctor – does it get any better than this), murder at a lonely house on top of the cliffs while a storm is brewing, a Cornish village with a Bobby who is probably riding around on a bike – isn’t it super? For some reason I find detective novels with vicars always very charming; one that I love and that comes to mind immediately is “The Nine Tailors” even though there, of course, the vicar is not the sleuth.

Anyway, British Library Crime Classics: There are a bunch of them available on Kindle Unlimited, so I will start with these.

Have you read any books from that list of classics? Which would you recommend? Do you have any favourites? 


The Romanian Writers Challenge

Romanian Writers ChallengeAlly from Snow Feathers recently started with the first Romanian Writers Challenge. I don’t think I have ever written anything by a Romanian author. As it turns out it’s not so easy to find them translated into German. It seems Romanian writers are only slowly making their appearance in other countries.

Anyway, Ally suggested a few books to start with, among them “The other love stories” by Lucian Dan Teodorovici, a young and upcoming writer according to the German Amazon. God knows whether that is true, for all I know he could be a well established writer, known to everybody in Romania, just we haven’t heard about him (yet). The book doesn’t seem to be available in German unfortunately – too bad, as the title spoke to me. The ONLY book that is available in a translation is called “Dann ist mir die Hand ausgerutscht” (“Then my hand slipped” – meaning: I slapped somebody) with short prose.

However, there are quite a few books out in German by Mircea Cartarescu. There is one in particular “Die schönen Fremden” (“The beautiful strangers”) with three novellas that sound interesting. Amazon gives the original title as “Frumoasele straine”. Ally, have you read that one? I might start with it.