V is for Victory?


1989 brought about a lot of changes in Eastern Europe, but the transition to democracy has been like a rugged road filled with potholes and boulders.

Politically speaking, there are many problems — an arduous clean-up after fifty years of state rule — but here I’ll focus on the cultural aspect.

With the new freedom of expression, there was a rush to publish works previously censored. In the early 1990s, a great many publishing houses appeared but didn’t last long in the fragile economy. Bad management and the absence of subsidies didn’t help either.

Still, some houses survived and prospered by changing old rules, and of course by increasing the quality of the books. Among the most notable publishers are Humanitas in Bucharest and Polirom in the city of Iaşi.

Newsprint periodicals followed a similar route, first failing then re-emerging. Among those were Dilema Veche (Old Dilemma), Revista 22 (Magazine 22), and Observator Cultural (Cultural Observer).

Joining a long list of Romanian authors, new writers made a name for themselves. Among them is Mircea Catarescu. The ties with the Romanian diaspora are stronger than ever, considering names like Andrei Codrescu (who now writes primarily in English).

As a writer, I’m proud to call such artists my fellow countrymen.

Theater and Film


Romanian theater also suffered in the transition. Some venues survived due to their prestige, others by investing in material and high quality of productions. Independent theaters are now quite popular in university cities. 

After some desperate times, Romanian film-making returned strong with Filantropica, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, all extremely well received in Paris and Cannes.   

Those are small but important steps in a place where substantive change can take centuries. Like drops of water — to quote an old proverb — slowly shaping a rock.


Image: drop forming with the sun on  to see the blue flash,         www.lixcaliber.com; Maia Morgenstern, www.icr.ro


26 responses to “V is for Victory?

  1. ‘Drops of water – slowly shaping a rock’ – how true this is. Little by little, ever so slowly, change happens.
    Have a great weekend Silvia – we’re just about off to the mountains for the weekend.
    Garden of Eden Blog

  2. I can only imagine how wonderful it was to be able to publish freely. Also, I don’t think the potholes and boulders ever go away with capitalistic and democratic societies. Happy Friday!! And then it is XYZ!

  3. There are so many things we take for granted. Simply being able to read the books we want to read is an honor. Being able to get those published/self-publish without censorship is truly a gift we shouldn’t take for granted.


  4. Susan’s and Denise’s words are wise. Even in democracy I have seen books banned because they spoke of an “old way of life.” Where I, like others, don’t like some of the things we did in the past, we can see the bad and learn from it so we hopefully don’t make those mistakes again.

    Cultures need to examine the past, as often the cycles repeat themselves… as in the Roman culture. I am happy to hear that publishing and theatre are becoming more popular in Romania.

    Thank you for the interesting post. I enjoy reading your stories.

  5. I’m so glad change is happening, even if slowly. I still can’t quite believe that it was all as long ago as 1989 – seems like yesterday when I look back. A sign of getting old!

  6. I may not be Romanian, but any victory for writers feels personal to me because of my own struggles to get published. :) Great post!

  7. Freedom means many things to different people These days in North America with the stress on political correctness, I sometimes question just how free are we?

  8. I think you have to expect changes like this to take time. So happy it IS changing!

  9. Another enlightening post, Silvia. I can see why you take pride in your fellow countrymen. You need to write a book or at least a story about this.
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

  10. Beautiful post – so much to learn about other countries. Thanks for sharing!

    D.B. McNicol
    A to Z: Romance & Mystery…writing my life

  11. So very much like what happened in Czechoslovakia!

  12. Love that quote about the water shaping the rock as it is so true. It must have been such a shock to so many people and it must still be difficult. I always think with freedom comes great responsibility. Thankfully the arts are doing well and that is nice to hear

  13. I agree with m denise c, everyone has potholes and boulders, not only in their countries but in their personal lives. I love your quote!!

  14. Your writings are so informative and thought provoking. I am so glad you are able to be here with us and tell your story.

  15. I had no idea what I’d find on your blog–and I was pleasantly educated in a bit of history. I’d not thought about state suppression of creativity. But wow, such a huge thing! Thanks for sharing this. :-)

  16. It’s hard for me to imagine…

  17. Americans live in such a bubble, and it is hard to imagine the struggles of another nation.
    Thank you for cracking the bubble.

  18. I can imagine how difficult it would be for publishers to know their customers after having the state control what media was produced for so long.

I welcome your thoughts.

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