miercuri, 17 august 2016


Photo by Monica Manolachi (London, 2015)

Daniel Dragomirescu: The End of a Dictatorship 
(Bibliotheca Universalis, Bucharest, Romania, 2015)

Daniel Dragomirescu is a Romanian author, essayist, publicist and editor who was born in Bucharest in 1952. He is a member of the Writers’ Union of Romania, a graduate of the Post-Secondary School of Secretariat-Stenography and External Commerce, Bucharest, and a Bachelor of the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest. Between 1978 and 1980 he worked as assistant stenographer at the Linguistics Institute, Bucharest and subsequently in the education system before pursuing cultural and literary activities on a freelance basis. Between 2006 and 2007 he was the editor of 'Adevărul Literar din Vaslui' and in 2008 he became the founder and editor of 'Orizont Literar Contemporan' (Contemporary Literary Horizon) which is an intercultural journal with contributions in English, Spanish and Romanian. His novels include Nothing New Behind the Iron Curtain (2003); The Red Desert (2004); Dark November (2005) and Quicksand (2007).

Most of the sixteen articles and essays included in this book have been published over the last ten years in the national and local press but some are published here for the first time. Collectively they cover a number of significant topics which includes an exposéof the electoral system, a brief history of Transylvania, a crusader’s testimony about incidents from the First World War, perspectives on Russia (the old Russia and post-soviet Russia), an account of the current educational system, the horror of the Colectiv nightclub fire, an account of Nadejda Mandelstam’s novel “Hopeless”, reflections on Daniel Defoe’s character Man Friday and  the relatively peaceful demise of specific dictatorships in recent years in other parts of the world.Not surprisingly, the two themes that dominate this volume are those of democracy and dictatorship.

Politics comes to the fore in the very first essay which questions the legitimacy of political rule through the ballot box in Romania between the years 1926 and 1946. In ths essay, Dragomirescu focuses onthe campaign for the General Election in Romania in 1946 which has already been well-documented by many other writers and journalists over the years. It is widely known that this campaign was one-sided. During the process, many instances of irregularities were reported, but not carried through. As official results were announced, voting slips were immediately destroyed. The election resulted in the Communist Party and its allies achieving an overwhelming majority in the Assembly of Deputies. This changed the course of history and Dragomirescu details the extent of the corruption which was to permeate all levels of society from then onwards.

In 'Old Romania', new Romania, Dragomirescu says that we should seriously revise our concepts if we believe that after 1989 Romania has successfully reintegrated itself intothe capitalist system. On the contrary, there is every sign to suggest that the countryis still carrying the wounds of its recent past. The totalitarian regime managed to wipe out all that the country had successfully created a century before in terms of modernisation.

The essay on the education system, 'The School – a Cinderella?' points all too clearly to the need for change. Dragomirecu draws comparisons between the French education system and the Romanian one and states that although successive governments have declared education a national priority little is actually done to improve the state of education overall. Becoming a Communist country in 1947, Romania was led by tyrannical dictators Ion Anonescu and Nicolae Ceausescu until the fall of Communism in 1989. Using the schools as a platform, it sought to infiltrate the curriculum, the education was highly regimented and controlled and, although many changes have occurred since then, chronic underfunding has meant that the infrastructure needed to bring both the quality of the teaching and the actual fabric of the school buildings up to standard is sadly lacking.

In another essay, Dragmoriescu charts the history of Transylvania, which has been dominated by several different peoples and countries. Once the centre of the Kingdom of Dacia (82BC to 106AD), it became subsumed within the Roman Empire, and later came under the rule of tribes such as the Visigoths, the Huns and the Slavs and, later still, was settled by the Hungarians. Union with Romania did not come about until 1918 but even after that, border disputes continued until the Treaty of Paris in 1947 when the Northern part of Transylvania was finally returned to Romania.

The Colectiv nightclub fire, which occurred in Bucharest on 30 October 2015, is the subject of another essay.  A total of 64 people died and a further 147 were injured. The fire, which was the worst incident to happen in Romania since the Baloteşti plane crash, took place during a free concert performed by a band called Goodbye to Gravity. The use of sparkler firework candles ignited the club’s flammable polyurethane acoustic foam and the fire spread rapidly throughout the building. Mass protests over the corruption linked to the fire led to the resignation of the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta.

In these essays, Dragomirescu repeatedly speaks of the severe crisis of faith that Romanians have in their government where there is no opposition to hold anyone to account. In Democracy and responsibility he points out that “there is no democracy, in the modern sense of the word, without political pluralism.”

In his essay 'Man Friday and the Social Man' Dragomirescu asks “Is man good by nature and corrupted by society, as Jacques Rousseau considered in the 18th century?”It is a question that is pivotal to the whole history of his country and also to all of the essays to be found in this book. Leaving literary comparisons aside, Dragomirescu concludes that “Man is neither good nor bad by nature – but he turns into the one or the other during his existence, because there are all kinds of determinisms at play”. Over the years, Romania has had more than its fair share of determinisms to deal with and now, as a part of the European Union, it is learning once again to adapt to yet another step-change shaped once more by political history.

Cultural profile

Neil Leadbeater was born in Wolverhampton, England. He was educated at Repton and is an English graduate from the University of London. Author, poet, essayist and critic, his work has been published widely in anthologies and journals both at home and abroad.

His publications include Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey (Littoral Press, 2010); Librettos for the Black Madonna (White Adder Press, 2011); The Worcester Fragments (Original Plus, 2013); The Loveliest Vein of Our Lives (Poetry Space, 2014) and The Fragility of Moths (Bibliotheca Universalis, 2014). An e-book, Grease-banding The Apple Trees is available as a PDF from Raffaelli Editore, Rimini.

Now based in Scotland, he is a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland). He is also a regular reviewer for the on-line magazine 'Galatea Resurrects (A Poetry Engagement)' (USA). He has been an honorary contributor to 'Orizont Literar Contemporan' ('Contemporary Literary Horizon') since 2011 and his work has been translated into Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

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