What is the best place for an encounter between a novel about a PhD candidate who studies “manele” and another novel about a Bucharest that the author himself admits to not being very familiar with? The meeting on Saturday, 4 October, proved that the best answer to this question was “at «Writers in the centre», at Casa FILIT, there where Patrick McGuinness, Adrian Schiop and Adina Rosetti had a dialogue with the moderator Bogdan Creţu and with the audience.
The meeting started with three reading samples, meant to help the audience slide into the fictional world of each of the guests, while somewhere in the first row a gentleman was frantically sketching a portrait in pencil. Admitting that it was strange to hear his novel being read out in Romanian, Patrick McGuinness – to a certain extent familiar with our language, as he has lived for a while in Romania – disclosed what had pushed him to write in his novel The Last Hundred Days about Romania on its way out of the communist regime: “I did what all writers do when they don’t understand something: I wrote about it”. “I realised that one cannot write by understanding, but rather by inventing, and that I could assume an aesthetic position rather than an ethical one,” continued McGuinness, talking about this subjective investigation for which he has prepared himself emotionally for almost 25 years. “When I wrote the novel I was adamant about not going to Bucharest, because that would have prevented me from inventing stuff,” he confessed, revealing his need for detachment.
Adina Rosetti spoke about her latest novel, Deadline. The fact that she met Ion Bîrlădeanu and that she wrote about him in “Dilema Veche” triggered the need of exploiting his story in a more fitting manner, because she believed him to be “a man too big for one magazine”. Adrian Schiop also began to write his novel Soldaţii. Poveste din Ferentari (The soldiers, A Ferentari story) starting from familiar facts and characters, but unlike the other two, he insisted on declaring his reliance on a reality he cannot evade and which pushes him to write. “I’m not very good at inventing stuff. Generally speaking, I retell reality,” said Adrian Schiop. “I wanted to put to another use the time I had spent in the ghetto,” the author admitted, alluding to the time he spent in a district of ill-repute in Bucharest, under the pretext of gathering documentation for an unusual PhD thesis.
The tight circle of literature creators and consumers
The dialogue then veered towards the way the guests manage to make writing a priority in their everyday lives. Adina Rosetti said it was difficult to become a writer without going through a sequence of stages that made transition to fiction easier. The author sees in the journalism profession that she has practiced for several years an useful exercise for her career as a writer, but admits that each time she is done dealing with a fictional text, she finds it hard to go back to the written press. She confessed to feeling the pressure of the external environment and she said she never made it a secret that she writes short prose “due to lack of time”.
“The press wrings you out and fills you with clichés, but it also forces you to express yourself more concisely,” stated Adrian Schiop, who has given up his journalism career. The writer says he feels relieved he no longer has to meet the daily challenge of churning out massive quantities of programmed words. As far as reading is concerned, Adrian Schiop admitted he has not read fiction for a few years now: “Literature no longer captivates me”.
Patrick McGuinness also noticed this phenomenon. “People prefer to write rather than read, especially in poetry. Thus we have here the development of a system that cannibalizes itself,” stated the British writer, referring to the tight circle of literature creators and consumers. He added that “Thinking about certain things triggers creativity”. “So I am a writer who reads other writers,” Patrick McGuinness concluded.
by Anca Roman