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.

 

Tourist sight is my neighbours’ life

Charming short article in The Guardian, by Rena Effendi, about the living tradition of haymaking as part of the still-extant peasant lifestyle of Transylvania. This picture (also by Effendi) was taken in Maramures, where the haystacks are tall and thin.

Maramures haystacks

Here where I live, in southern Transylvania, the haystacks are fat and stable to withstand tougher winds.

Magura132-1

Another article, this time in the Financial Times, suggests that Transylvania is the new Tuscany. An Italian living in the Saxon villages is extolling the ancient ways of Saxon Transylvania as being reminiscent of the old Tuscan lifestyle.

Romania at the London Book Fair

I’ve just found this video from the Romanian Cultural Institute’s event at the 2018 London Book Fair. I was very much the easy-reading grit in the academic literary oyster… My bit starts 1 hr 11 mins in.

panel at Waterstones April 2019

By bat or magic carpet

Another jolly interview, thanks to Transylvania Beyond – lots of photos in this one.

Transylvania Beyond headline & intro

Candour or caution?

RJ headline & pic

Thanks to the Romania Journal for some keen questions in yesterday’s interview. I opted to be candid, since cautious answers make for an anodyne read…

What do you think – should I have responded more neutrally?

Dahlia and friends take a bow

Dahlia’s Pet Detectives (Dalia si micii detectivi) will be in the spotlight at the end of next week (Thursday 31st May, Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June) when my new book is launched at Bucuresti’s Bookfest (Romexpo).

If you read Floss the lost puppy, you’ll recognise the village of Fân (Hay) where Dahlia and Chip are neighbours and schoolmates of Thea and Tudor Thimble. A completely new story, but set in the same Transylvanian village, high up in the Carpathian Mountains.

I have a Pinterest board devoted to pictures of cats like Onyx, and crows like Gossip. So you can see what Dahlia’s friends look like as you read their adventures…

I’ll be waiting to meet you on the Booklet Fiction stand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at midday, ready to sign your copies. Come and say hello!

Read more about Dahlia and her friends here!Dalia cover

Official: I’m an eccentric, says Kanal D

screen shot of KanalD

Another little TV slot – this time on Kanal D – which has brought some more enthusiastic Romanians to my digital door. Thank you, Kanal D!

I love the caption to my silliest photo (can you see I’m typing in ski mitts?): “She gave a kingdom for a Romanian hamlet.”

George Cat, Papi Dog, my neighbour Georgi and her two cows all appear. Let me know what you think…

 

 

Digi24 comes to tea

Beautiful TV presenter Ioana Mihalca and her expert crew came to see me in Magura last month, and made a charming 8-minute film from their afternoon’s visit. They also talked to my neighbour Roxana, and my friends from Zarnesti, Dan and Luminita Marin.

The resulting film was broadcast on the show Bonton at the end of November.

What do you think?

 

Help me save a dog for Christmas!

Floss cover 2I’m donating royalties from my new book, Floss the lost puppy, to two fabulous animal charities here in Romania.

Every book you buy will help save a dog (or a cat) that is homeless, sick or injured.

Romania Animal Rescue is an amazing group of vets at the Centre of Hope in Bucharest – see what they do every day to save dogs and cats.

Eli Pet Transport is a Romanian-British charity that rescues dogs from all over Romania, socialises them till they’re ready for a new home, then takes them to the UK to their new families.

All the people involved are stellar human beings who have devoted their lives, their homes, their careers to the welfare of cats and dogs.

If you love animals, buy a book, donate direct to their websites, spread the word about what they do, teach kids about the value of pets and how to care for them – help in any way you can…

Thank you!!!

PS: You can find out more about Floss on his website, and read reviews of the book here.