Translator’s Note: a synopsis

Stelian Tănase | March 27, 2009
Translated by: Jean Harris


Stelian Tănase
Maestro: a Melodrama
Bucharest: Polirom, 2008
Stelian Tănase takes aim at Romanian society with a literary arsenal that relies on the grotesque, that owes a debt to opera buffa, and that uses a lens known to Bosch and Ensor. In this literary melodrama, Tina Marcu is a well-known Bucharest television presenter. She “plays” opposite Avram Duca, a successful Romanian writer and difficult character who has been living in exile for 30 years. It’s long past ’89, and Duca has refused to return to Romania, his native country. The action unrolls after Tina calls for the dismissal of the Minister of the Interior one evening, live, on the air. Her program is cancelled. To avoid scandal, the broadcasting company offers Tina documentary reportage on Duca in Paris. She completes the necessary footage and returns to Bucharest. There, researching her subject in the national archive, Tina discovers that Duca is her natural father. She goes back to Paris to have it out with him. After a night of raw discussion, the daughter refuses to forgive her natural father on the ground that her mother committed suicide after Duca fled to Paris, which makes it impossible for Tina to remain with Duca as father and daughter. Tina leaves for Bucharest. Throwing himself into the Seine, Avram Duca commits suicide. He is buried with national honors in the Romanian capital. Another character, Emiluţa, provides the novel’s moral center. Often cynical, Maestro is a knowing mix of tragedy and vaudeville.

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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