Romanians in 1948… and now?

Donald Dunham, an American diplomat stationed in Bucharest, said this about Romanians in 1948:
IMG_0430“The Romanians are a social phenomenon. As a nation among nations, they are westerners evolved in the East. They are Latins surrounded by Slavs. They are Romans two thousand years away from Rome. They are contemporaries re-produced on Trajan’s Column.
“They are peasants with the utmost in sophistication. They farm instinctively, but are suspicious of machinery. They speak a language like Italian but the majority of their words are Slavonic. They are superstitious but religious at the same time. They are astutely intelligent, but refuse to be intellectual. They submit to invasion but preserve their identity. They support great wealth and extreme poverty. They produce striking beauty yet can live in filth.
“As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult to influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality.
“They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view.
“The Romanians are a people of colorful contrasts and extreme extremes, born in classic times, ravaged by barbarians, indentured to the Turks, dominated by the Byzantines, the Greeks, dictated to by the Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others, seduced by the French and not recognized as a country until 1878. Yet they emerge with a character that defies this confusion, that is definitely, emphatically, unmistakably Romanian.”

What do you think? Is this still fair to Romanians of today? 

It’s out – and proud

A Stake in Transylvania – the English edition of my book first published in Romanian translation (Din Liverpool în Carpati) – is now published, at long last.

British Ambassador Andrew Noble, Bucharest, Romania, Arabella McIntyre-Brown, A Stake in Transylvania, book launch
British Ambassador Andrew Noble and author Arabella McIntyre-Brown at the book launch on 26th September

The book was launched with a reception at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Bucharest, where the guests from business, the book world, the British community and friends heard Ambassador Andrew Noble extol the book as a paean to rural Transylvania that will play a part in lifting the reputation of the area and attracting more visitors.

But what intrigued him about the book was – woven into the colourful stories of life in a mountain village – the candid discussion of mental illness, ageing, and living alone. The challenges are all too common, but not much shared.

In response to readers’ comments that the book reveals very personal details that seemed quite shocking, I told the guests: “Menopause, bereavement, getting older – they’re part of every woman’s life; it’s not our fault, there’s nothing we can do stop the process – why shouldn’t we talk about them?”

In her report of the event, well-known Bucharest journalist Alison Mutler said: “The 330-page read is a fascinating and honest study of her own state of mind, the seasons, animals (both pets and wild creatures), fences, making hay and naturally the locals and other folk she encounters. Arabella read out loud an excerpt about sheep wandering into her garden and home which delighted and amused the British and Romanian audience at Thursday’s reception.”

Mr Noble believes the book will become a bestseller. “Move over Peter Mayle,” he said, referring to the British writer who wrote “A Year in Provence” in 1990 which became an international bestseller and was made into a TV series.

I’m very grateful to the Ambassador and Mrs Noble for launching the book with such élan, and to the guests for braving filthy weather and Bucharest traffic that was worse than usual.

More about the book, and where to buy it here.