Conversation with Doina Ruști, writer

It all reminds me of a movie that years ago seemed nothing more than a cheap comedy: Idiocracy (Mike Judge). Now it’s like we’re all playing a part in this very film. (2020-06-23)
Conversation with Doina Ruști, writer - Doina Ruști

1) Romania is experiencing an economic boom in current years, how do you think that it is affecting society and literature?

They say economy lays the foundation of all evils plaguing culture, and in our case, there have always been issues. If there is an increase, I haven’t noticed it. The pandemic has affected publishing houses and, implicitly, literature, but what I remarked is an increase in individual enthusiasm: writers publish their own books, create non-distribution publishing houses, publish their novels in electronic format or on social networks. On the other hand, I did note an increase in the production of audiobooks. In our country, Litera Publishing House has opened recording studios.

*2) Which Romanian writers you consider to be the most important ever and which ones influenced you the most? *

In my opinion, Nicolae Breban (also translated into Italian – In assenza dei padroni, Edizioni Cantagalli, 2013) is the most noteworthy Romanian prose writer alive. His powerful, realist novels inspired me, especially the novel In assenza dei padroni, a three-part masterpiece that subtly constructs the parable of a world without masters, the communist world, as the novel was first published in the middle of the totalitarian era and represented a form of vehement protest against society. I am inspired by writers from all literary periods, but especially by works such as The Hieroglyphic History by Dimitrie Cantemir, the fantastic prose of Eminescu, the realist novels of Liviu Rebreanu or Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu, the experimental novel of Camil Petrescu, the postmodernist writings of Mircea Horia Simionescu, the stories of Mircea Cărtărescu, the impressive works of prose of Radu Aldulescu and many others.

3) What is your opinion of the European Union and the actual Romanian government?

Wow! I have long ago ceased to hold any opinions regarding our leaders. I havent owned a TV since 2010 and the news rarely reaches me. However, periodically, about once a year, I do make an effort and find out what I’ve been missing. Things do seem to become more and more morally light: ten years ago, it was perfectly normal for former convicts to run in elections. At the moment, a class of illiterates connected to social networks has risen and their only priority is their personal image. It all reminds me of a movie that years ago seemed nothing more than a cheap comedy: Idiocracy (Mike Judge). Now it’s like we’re all playing a part in this very film.

4) Who are your favorite Italian writers?

I am a Latinist, so I am familiar, through Latin culture, with the Italian Renaissance. From Dante to Boccaccio, with a passionate acknowledgement of neoplatonists Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino, lies the basis of my culture. In high school, during communism, when foreign literature was rarely translated, I came across Grazzia Deledda's writings. Their tone and vibe touched me, the characters charmed me. Something specific to a marginal Latinity was forever embedded in my heart. I discovered Cesare Pavese in college and I fell in love with his prose, which hides promises behind every phrase. Among contemporaries, I was delighted by the complex simplicity of Alessandro Baricco. Paolo Giordano, with The Solitude of Prime Numbers, is my favourite. I admire the risks Niccolò Ammaniti takes. I am currently reading The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi, its translation into Romanian having been published just a few days ago.

5) Where did you took the inspiration for your book “L’omino rosso”?

It was my debut novel, published in 2004, when I was still hoping for an economic revival, for a brilliant capitalism. Although things were bleak at the time and the communist legacy proved harder to bear than we had imagined, spectacular things were happening: the creation of the Internet, video editing and music processing programs, the massive influx of Western products (the first Nuttela jars, for example, or Italian shoes). The action of the novel L’omino rosso (Sandro Teti Editore, 2021) is set against this backdrop of economic change, in the sense that any sudden change entails other anomalies. Laura (the narrator) has a BA in classical languages ​​and hopes to earn a proper place in society. She only manages to find a job as a cook, working for a family. Her frustrations generate humorous situations. In this context, an IT engineer creates a virus (a soft experiment) that will turn her entire life upside down. These are the premises of a fantasy novel, which nevertheless relates to the years 1990 – 2000.

6) On what projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on a short story volume called Love Oddities in Phanariot Bucharest. These stories are inspired by various occurrences recorded in certain documents of the 18th century.

trans. Bianca Zbarcea

more: in Faro din Roma (it)

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