The Wall in Our Head: Eastern Europe, Romania and the Identity Crisis, Twenty Years After


Although Romanians view the last twenty years with a degree of burned out idealism that verges on jaundice (doubtless to the surprise of many Americans), this is the year to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the mockery of human rights for which it stood. In June, the Guardian posted Stories from Easter Europe, a collection that included “Zgaiba” by Romanian novelist, Stelian Tănase. This spring, Absinthe: New European Writing will publish an anthology of Romanian fiction that does its share of looking back in anger. And now, coming up soon, we can look forward to an anthology of writing from former Soviet Bloc countries compiled by Words Without Borders and published by Open Letter Books. Timed to commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain, “dwells extensively; humorously, poignantly, quirkily, on different views of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Wall includes writing from the generation that witnessed the fall of communism as well as writers from the generation that inherited a memory of the Cold War and who write in its shadow.” There is no way to live here without “a wall in my head,” and in this context (of migraines and tenacious optimism), The Wall includes writing by two Romanians, Mircea Cărtărescu (Translated by Julian Semlian) and Dan Sociu (Translated by Oana Sanziana Marian).
The publishers hope “that The Wall In My Head will prompt discussion about the events of ’89 and their relevance to today’s world.” To encourage exchange of ideas, Three Percent has asked a variety of writers, translators, scholars, and witnesses to the events of those last years of the Cold War, to contribute to a blog that will grow online over the next few months. “Their dispatches will range from discussions of the contents of the book to observations about current events and important anniversaries, as well as posts on the art, photography and film of the last years of the Cold War. The blog begins with a post by Oana Sanziana Marian about Dan Sociu’sUrbancholia.” Those wishing to contribute to the blog are invited to write to
Readers of literature in translation should be pleased to see that The Wall in My Head has a table of contents that includes:
Introduction by Keith Gessen
From The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera (Translated by Linda Asher)
From Paris Lost by Wladimir Kaminer (Translated by Liesl Schillinger)
From Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin (Translated by Andrew Bromfield)
“Petition” by Mihály Kornis (Translated by Ivan Sanders)
From Moving House by Paweł Huelle (Translated by Michael Kandel)
“Nabokov in Brasov” by Mircea Cărtărescu (Translated by Julian Semlian)
From Waltz for K by Dmitri Savitski (Translated by Kingsley Shorter)
“On Eugen Jebeleanu” by Matthew Zapruder
Poems from Secret Weapon by Eugen Jebeleanu (Translated by Matthew Zapruder)
From Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński (Translated by Klara Glowczewska)
From The Tower by Uwe Tellkamp (Translated by Annie Janusch)
“My Grandmother the Censor” by Masha Gessen
From The Wall Jumper by Peter Schneider (Translated by Leigh Hafrey)
“Farewell to the Queue” by Vladimir Sorokin (Translated by Jamey Gambrell)
“Tower of Song: How the Plastic People of the Universe Helped to Shape the Velvet Revolution” by Paul Wilson
“The Revenge” by Annett Gröschner (Translated by Ingrid Lansford)
“The Souvenirs of Communism” by Dubravka Ugrešić (Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursać)
“The Road to Bornholm” by Durs Grünbein (Translated by Ingrid Lansford)
“Regardless of the Cost: Reflections on Péter Esterházy’s Revised Edition“ by Judith Sollosy
“Author’s Preface to Revised Edition“ by Péter Esterházy (Translated by Judith Sollosy)
From Mandarins by Stanislav Komárek (Translated by Melvyn Clarke)
“Brother and Sister” by Christhard Läpple (Translated by Steven Rendall)
“Faraway, So Gross” by Dorota Masłowska (Translated by Benjamin Paloff)
From Urbancholia by Dan Sociu (Translated by Oana Sanziana Marian)
“That Fear” by Andrjez Stasiuk (Translated by Michael Kandel)
“Speech at the Opening Session of the 13th German Bundestag” by Stefan Heym (Translated by John K. Cox)
“The Life and Times of a Soviet Capitalist” by Irakli Iosebashvili
“The War Within” by Maxim Trudolubov (Translated by Alexei Bayer)
“Any Beach But This” by David Zábranský (Translated by Robert Russell)
“The Noble School” by Muharem Bazdulj (Translated by John K. Cox)

About this issue

This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon. read more...

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