Tag Archives: Writing stories

Stories from Memory

Memories are stories we revisit, fragments of the self, quick glances into a past life. They’re some of the greatest short stories.

From time to time, I write Medium articles. If you’re not familiar with Medium, it’s an open platform for readers and writers. Some of the biggest names across the geopolitical, literary, you name it world are on there.

A recent curated article was titled, and I paraphrase: I Hate Short Stories. The funny tag attached suggested a humorous story, and since I had consumed my reading for the month, I couldn’t read the piece. But it got me to thinking how much I love to read and write short stories.

And why.

Since I wrote the article for Medium, they have the copyrights. But I’ll offer the memories that inspired it (quotes), and the link for the article below.

As Neil Gaiman said: Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.


A rich imagination sets the scene for Neil Gaiman’s quote above.

As a child, I lived in Bucharest, Romania. There were residential buildings scattered throughout the city called blocks, similar in color and design. They were called sister buildings, having been build around the same time, 1980s, and due to their similarity and proximity. We lived on the fourth floor of one such apartment building sandwiched between several others.

In the evenings, I’d spend time watching the world outside my window — a universe within a universe — and there was a lot to see. People rushing along, kids playing, commuters getting off busses and trudging home.

Then there were the wide open windows — people airing out the heat of the day. Welcoming the breeze. They didn’t seem to care the open windows invited onlookers inside their homes. They lived as if no one was watching.

Day after day, I could see families going through their routines. In the building across, a young family — mother, father, and young child — would start their dinner routine with remarkable punctuality. The father would always bring dishes to the table, so I pegged him as the cook. He gesticulated a lot in between moving dishes. A hand talker. The mother threw her head back quite often, laughing. Easily amused. Or her husband had a knack for humor. The young child would pop in and out — the top of his head barely visible. It would take forever to set up the table, but once they sat down, they attacked the food, consuming it in record time. A fun, no-nonsense family, living an organized life, at least around dinnertime.

In the lateral building, there was a young woman, in breezy summer dresses, always in pale colors, reading. Every now and then, she’d set her palm on the page and stare out the window. I imagined she had read something powerful and needed a few seconds. Or maybe she was watching someone also though open windows. She was two floors below and couldn’t see me. Same as the young family across.

Years later, I realized that someone from the floors above was probably watching me stand there, head swiveling between windows, pegging me as a nosy little brat.

The wide open windows were journeys I made into other people’s lives, not far from where I stood, yet a world away. They were short stories, complete, profound, filled with rich characters and enough detail to briefly let me into their lives. They were encapsulating narratives contained to those moments in time.

A novel is different, although many short stories are later expanded to novels. In a novel, the reader is invited to step across the threshold of a home and inside, rather than catching stolen glimpses through open windows. The entryway might look enticing, so the reader keeps going. Moving from room to room, the reader may be enchanted or disappointed, but she’s gone in and has more rooms to see. She must decide whether to continue or go home.

Short stories are about one feeling, one mood, from start to finish. More is implied, less involved. The reader rides one emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. If the story is well written, it’s a worthy ride.

Source, Via Medium

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photos credit Unsplash: Jan Jakub, Dawid Zawila

The Beauty of Language — translations, post 1 of 3 (Mihai Eminescu)


Mihai Eminescu (1850 – 1889)

    To speak of Mihai Eminescu is to encapsulate the spirit of his country in one name. Many of his poems are based on Romanian ballads (Miorita or The Little Ewe), and embraced by generations as favorite poems or songs. It would take pages to describe the poet’s life and works of art. I will not attempt to do that, as others have done it masterfully. I am, however, interested in exploring translations of his work.

Being so deeply traditional, Eminescu seemed to remain forever ingrained in Romanian literature. It was impossible to imagine his verse translated well enough to be evocative and understood. To be loved. Regarded as the national poet, he is adored by Romanians everywhere. A part of me liked the idea of keeping Eminescu to ourselves — the loving part — but not sharing his art, not reciting it to the world, seemed unjustifiably selfish.

Luceafarul (The Evening Star) is widely viewed as the poet’s greatest work of art. It is a 98-verse poem, although the length is up for debate, as a number of verses were said to have been removed after his death. Luceafarul is a philosophical composition in many ways, with heavy mythological and cosmic aspects. Perhaps an astronomically influenced poem, as suggested in many circles, but at the core it describes love, life, and sacrifice.

Here is a short section from the original followed by two translations side by side and closing notes below:


Porni luceafarul. Cresteau
In cer a lui aripe,
Si cai de mii de ani treceau
In tot atitea clipe.

Un cer de stele dedesupt,
Deasupra-i cer de stele-
Parea un fulger nentrerupt
Ratacitor prin ele.

Si din a chaosului vai,
Jur imprejur de sine,
Vedea ca-n ziua cea dentii,
Cum izvorau lumine;


Adrian G. Sahlean                                        C.M. Popescu

(The Legend of the Evening Star)          (Lucifer)

So left the Evening Star. His wings                   Lucifer set out and o’er
Grew large across the sky                                    The sky his wings extended,
As thousand years of reach would spring        And million years flew past before
And at a wink go by;                                             As many moments ended.

A canopy of stars below,                                      A sky of stars above his way,
Above, a starry dome:                                          A sky of stars below;
An endless lightning seemed to flow                As lightning flash midst them astray
And through the heavens roam                         In one continuous flow.

And in the dark that streamed around,           Till round his primal chaos hurled
As on the first day’s morn,                                 When from enwrapping night
He glimpsed the chaos vales unbound            The first, upflaming dawn unfurled
From where the light is born.                            Its miracle of light.


I know how much I love the original and leave the English versions for you to enjoy.

The main question is, do the translations convey what the original had set out to do?  I think the answer is yes, although it’s hard to fully appreciate a poem by reading three verses. So I ask, how was it possible to interpret Eminescu?

In looking at the original then the translations, I see one element maintained throughout, and that is flow. At least to a large degree. Of course we have two translators, and as such the versions differ in that respect. The rhythm changes (the rhyming part of it), but not very much. That leaves us with the words and meaning, perhaps the most difficult part when translating poetry, or any work of literature for that mater. The meaning is altered somewhat, words changed, but the beauty of language is in that we can say the same thing in several manners and not dilute the significance of what is being conveyed.  Emotion and feeling, so vital to the art form, are not sacrificed. As a writer, I find that fascinating.

Think about it, musicians have what,  12 notes to vary, rearrange, and play in different tones. But language — how many words are there in any given language? The Oxford Dictionary says “there is no single sensible answer to this question.” Of course not. Take English, for example. Is play one word or two? It sure has more than one meaning, as in child’s play (verb) and theater play (noun). In writing, and perhaps translating, it is how the writer uses the words to convey feeling and emotion that counts. It is what makes all the difference. If musicians and great composers can arrange and rearrange such limited number of notes to keep us enthralled and entertained, the possibilities are without limits for writers. The same is true with interpretations, I suppose.

It is how I came to accept that my beloved Eminescu could be translated. Through the beauty of language.

Come on in.

Hello there!

Let me start by saying I’m honored you clicked on my blog link. My name is Silvia, and I spend a lot of time writing because … well, it soothes my heart, and there are so many stories to be shared. But I’m not going to take your time with writing advice, because Stephen King and others have already covered that market. If it comes up in a discussion, fine, but I’m no teacher. What I’m going to do is share stories. You can call this a blog about sharing a passion. Tales from a fan of the written word, a mother to a little guy who loves basketball, a wife to a man who loves and plays music, an occasional traveler, and everything in between. That, and a myriad of changes in my life after having moved from Romania to the U.S. during college, and I  just might have enough material to cover — stories, music, sports, opinions, and so much more. And my husband promises to share some of his music — songs he wrote, stories about gigs he played.

2012-12-01 17.59.12-1

My music man


In ’93, shortly after my arrival to the U.S.

So, do stop by when possible. Let’s have a conversation. I’m open to anything interesting. Life is a story, isn’t it? Sharing it makes the occasional doubt we stumble through a little more bearable. And I love to listen. Who learns without listening, anyway?

Cheers, blog friends!