Poetry, that obscure amplification…INTERVIEW with DINU FLAMAND

 

 

(Romania – France)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moldova and Bârgau

 

 

 

Anchidim Flămînd (literary pseudonym: Dinu Flămând)  is a Romanian author and journalist born on June 24, 1947 in Susenii Bîrgăului, a little village in northern Transylvania. He studied in the literature faculty at Cluj, graduating in 1970.

 

 

 

Dinu Flămând, The poetry of the earth

 

 

 

In the seventies, he took part in the creation of the literary journal Équinoxe, which would be the starting point of one of the most important cultural movements of his country.

 

 

 

Dinu F. and writer Ion Pop, 70 years

 

 

 

Assigned to Bucharest, he worked for various publishers and journals, for example Amphitheatre and Le 21-e Siècle. He published essays, poems and translations in most of the literary journals of the period. His first poetry collections were published starting in 1971: Apeiron first of all, then Poésies (1974).

 

 

 

DF, the writers Cezar Ivanescu and Gabriela Melinescu, 70 years

 

 

 

But it was with Greffons (1976) and especially État de siège [state of siege] (1983), which expressed an important development in the work of the poet, that the tone became decidedly polemical. Poems were deleted, censored, segments of phrases disappeared or were replaced. While the authorities believed they saw in that last book a (too) transparent denunciation of the repression in Poland, the description applied, in fact, to his country, Romania, where the situation was getting worse and worse. Part of the collection will be published next year in Spain under the title Estado de sitio.

 

 

 

DF and the great novelist Marin Preda at Mogosoaia, in Romania

 

 

 

At the same time, Dinu Flămând is extremely active as a columnist, journalist and literary critic. He wrote the introduction to the collected works of the great Romanian national poet G. Bacovia (1981), (whom he compares later to Portuguese poet Pessanha, in an article published in Portugal by the journal Nova Renascença, vol. IX, 1989).

Dinu Flămând also published L’intimité du texte, in 1985. In the field of translation: Le pollen insidieux (1977) by Martin Booth, in collaboration with Liliana Ursu, and Vingt poètes latino-américains, an anthology of contemporary poetry (1983) in collaboration with the Chilean poet Omar Lara – at that time he was in exile in Bucharest. With the ideological climate becoming more and more suffocating, Dinu Flămând was forced to limit his activities as a critic and translator.

 

 

 

DF and the great Romanian poet Nichita Stanescu (1983)

 

 

 

It was then that he discovered the Portuguese, Latin-American, Spanish, Italian and French poets who would save him from the morass of socialism: Fernando Pessoa, Miguel Torga, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andressen, Jorge de Sena, Herberto Helder, Fernando Assis Pacheco, Al Berto, as well as Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Umberto Saba, Samuel Beckett, Lautréamont, César Vallejo or Pablo Neruda, whom he began to translate. An impressive number of anthologies were also published in Romania (very recently one by the Spaniard Antonio Gamoneda, and a fourth volume of the works of Fernando Pessoa).

He received a Gulbenkian grant in 1985, which facilitated his first contacts with Portugal. It was after a second invitation to Portugal to a conference of Portuguese-speaking writers that, on the way home, Dinu Flămând asked for political asylum in France.

From May 1989 to April 2010, Dinu Flămând worked as a bilingual journalist for Radio France Internationale in Paris.

Since 2011, after returning to Romania, he has been producing and hosting a weekly television broadcast on current domestic and international social and political affairs. He currently works at the Romanian Department of Foreign Affairs.

The collection Vie à l’essai (1989), published in Romania, marked the time of his reintegration into post-revolutionary literary life. It would be followed by De l’autre côté (On the other side) (2000), a bilingual edition, translated from Romanian to French by Pierre Drogi, with illustrations by Neculai Paduraru, as well as the anthology La migration des pierres (2001, 2004) and Tags (2002). The latter book obtained the national poetry prized from the Romanian writers union. Poèmes en apnée, in the translation by Pierre Drogi, was published in Paris with Éditions La Différence (2004). Another bilingual anthology, Havera vida antes da morte?, published Quase in 2007, in the translation by Teresa Leitão, with an introduction by António Lobo Antunes, is available in Portugal.

 

 

 

DF writer in residence at Itaparica, Quinta

 

 

 

In 2010, Palomar, in Baril, Italy, published the anthology La luce delle pietre (translation Giovanni Magliocco) covering the period 1998-2009. The same year, Vasile Goldis University of Romania awarded him an honorary doctorate. In 2011, he was given the Mihai Eminescu National Poetry Prize for the body of his poetic work.

His most recent book in Spanish is En la cuerda de tender, translation from the Romanian by Catalina Iliescu, (Ediciones Linteo, Spain, 2012).

His latest book published in France: Inattention de l’attention (La Passe du vent, 2013), translated by Ana Flamînd, with a preface by Jean-Pierre Siméon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RD: – Dinu Flămând, poet, literary critic, journalist, translator of major names in Latin-American poetry, winner of many prizes in Romania, currently Minister Counsellor, representing La Francophonie at the Romanian Embassy in Paris…, thank you for agreeing to this interview for issue 10 of our Levure littéraire. I would like to begin our conversation with an atypical remark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinu Flămând: – Fine, go ahead!

 

RD: – What does the word « levure » (leavening, yeast) represent for you?

 

DF: – First of all, I would like to confess that I almost tasted the yeast with my first contact with the site and the title of this effervescent, fermentative journal! Yes, one would say in short that a mysterious leavening stimulates poetry, makes it grow; an undefined substance that swells our sensations, our memories, our dreams. Something of the same substance…

 

RD: – Yes, a kind of pith and marrow of the text, and then a burning of the imaginary, as François Rabelais would say …

 

DF: – Yes, because once that burning that is creation has passed, in the best cases, good poetry is made into good bread. A noble profession, but which is sometimes spoiled by bad movements, decisions, preparations, ingredients, or by the wrong quantities, or worse, by spoilt flour, etc.; thus, often, a burnt product, a failure, absolutely pitiful even though all your most noble intentions have gone into the ferment…

 

 

 

DF and the Seine

 

 

 

RD: – I see you know something about the taste of yeast!

 

DF: – I know the taste. My mother used to send me to buy that substance at the little cooperative in the village, at a time when each family still produced its own basic food. And in my memories still, the little greenish end that got smaller and smaller, shrunk gradually, as I made my way home on foot, where the one who was responsible for my birth, had already been waiting for some time for me to contribute to her the ferment to make the ten big weekly loaves of the tribe. I really liked eating yeast! My fondness for the raw yeast, which even to this day I have not been able to yet define the exact taste, ended, each time, with a little weird indigestion. Later, already wiser, I stopped eating yeast.

 

RD: – The yeast of your memories, the leavening of the past that had expanded your experience…

 

DF: – I nourished the hope that the seller in my village always kept a supply of little packets of yeast, to continue to supply my ghost village; and also to help me to raise the dough of my texts. Let’s continue with the leavening…

 

RD: – Yes…, I see that leavening can spark a beautiful conversation.

 

DF: – It’s one of those words that dematerializes.

 

RD: – And the effects/results?

 

DF: – You know, industrial manipulation hides its noble and poor texture, its vaguely musty taste, its conniving odour is almost non-existent in a finished product that no longer tells its story. It’s like milk without the cow, for the new generations that no longer know that it’s the cow that makes the milk and not the factory that powders it. A bit like poetry without soul. There’s nothing you can do about it, in each era, there are words that fall by the wayside.

 

RD: – The leavening of authors, in our cases, absorbs us in its mass of linguistic, philosophical and poetic ferments, also!

 

DF: – Hence the major difficulty for each reader of poetry each time he can no longer identify in his direct experience, the words and contexts that the poetry suggests to him. He is obliged to go to the museum to see with his own eyes the form and material of the cnemis, if he wants to have an accurate representation of one of those hoplites that confuse the epic tales and other major ancient texts. This is a good definition of participatory reading, a mandatory condition in each experience of reading, when the life of poetry is activated. As for problems with transmission, we won’t talk anymore about those that overload the poet. He can consider himself happy if instinct and his experience help him avoid a few formulas and words undermined by insidious erosion. Neophytes imagine that in poetry each era really defines its style, its vocabulary, the expression of its speech and its « isms. » But from Sappho to Sylvia Plath, from Mariana Alcoforado to Gabriela Mistral and Emily Dickinson, passions, fears and ecstasy are expressed in the same timeless language.

 

 

 

DF and Jorge Semprun, The Danube Delta, Romania 2002

 

 

 

RD: – Does poetry evolve over time?

 

DF: – Poetry knows no evolution. It requires involution toward the revolution of its own leavening.

 

RD: – Beautiful autobiographical pirouettes around the word/concept « leavening » and its multidisciplinary universe. Let’s go a little farther… Let’s talk about the author Dinu Flămând. Dinu, you’ve made your mark in the Romanian literary world with a robust, direct, crisp style, as the poet of the « cutting word. » Do you agree with this?

 

DF: – I’d like to believe it. Especially the « made my mark » aspect! It is perhaps true that I am moving toward the simplification of things …

 

RD: – Mannerist, according to the critics?

 

DF: – (…) I have been known, in my « mannerism » – qualificative, definitive and vaguely despised – that is reserved for me by the industrialized literary criticism of my country, to bite sometimes.

 

RD: – Bite? How is that?

 

DF: – (…) we’ll say it like that, to symbolize things better, since it often amounts to self-cannibalism.

 

RD: – Oddly dangerous…

 

DF: – Not myself being someone who appreciates himself, the exercise vaguely nourishes me and reluctantly. I love the lavish style, the phrase with balconies and garrets, abounding with climbing ivy that adorns its rather shady façade, to hide the mystery of its deep chambers, where the tragedies of time unfold. This is what led Pessoa to celebrate prose – the supreme art according to him – more than the poetry, the serious impiety that is ascribed to him, but to him alone (and to very few others, starting with Lautréamont).

 

RD: – Yesterday and today. The author and the reader. And tomorrow? What will the day after of our books be like? 

 

 

 

DF public reading, Alicante, Spain 2014

 

 

 

DF: – Our readers of poetry are becoming more and more rare, but I have to acknowledged that the protocol of style, which for me represents respect for the reader but also an intimate strategy to tame my fears, can in no way dispense us from true empathy and communion. The « long time, » the long run, is also required to write and to live poetry, as a reader. I don’t know what will become of this new fashion or obsession with reading superficially and in haste, segments of texts, summaries, the meagre garbage of an exoteric production that erases the mystery and flattens the relief of the unknown. So yes, I’m going off on a tangent, I’m reacting with crude words. But to get to the very heart of a few nodal dilemmas that deserve to be materialized, there is a long labour upstream from the word. We have to clear the way, invisibly and silently.

 

RD: – Writer-gladiator who doesn’t fight to defend himself, who doesn’t throw his spear or his hatchet to kill, but to better split in two his forgettings and his pains that are secret and thus metaphysical, Dinu, I have always seen in you one of the greatest athletes of the verb « forget »! Is your writing a forgetting of (…) or an awakening to (…)?

 

DF: – Now there’s a perch to raise me toward self-satisfaction. Thank you! This shift toward forgetting is very tempting. I’ll accept since the diagnosis seems likely to me. Except that I eliminate the « gladiator, » with his whole virile arsenal.

 

RD: – No weapons…, just souls to aim at!

 

DF: – Yes, exactly… My memory still holds a wonderful passage by Fernando Pessoa…

 

RD: – You translate and accompany with passion Pessoa’s books.

 

DF: – Yes, I translated him again recently… and I recall that magnificent passage, which speaks well of a suicidal « Stoic, » the Baron of Teive, to his last hour, who takes his life with his sword in the arena, an arena that also symbolizes the World!

 

RD: – But alas, this is not your case…, you seem to be very successful in your life and your writing.

 

DF: – Yes and no, but okay, it’s better to instead say no, we are in complete agreement, this is not my case. I cajole and I fight forgetting. We both, you and I, come from that complex, unknown and metaphysical Transylvania (Plato himself could have chosen the name!). We know very well that each family there has its stories which, in turn, have hatched ordeals and horrors.

 

RD: – You were born in a traditional family, you have beautiful roots that draw their energy from the land of Transylvania!

 

 

 

Dinu’s parents, Livia and Traian

 

 

 

DF: – The fact that I spent my childhood in a traditional family, where three generations lived under one roof, and I heard true stories from the first and second global conflagrations, of which the protagonists haunted my grandfather, my own father and many neighbours, fixed for good, I believe, in my genes, the impossibility of forgetting.

 

RD: – I can imagine…
 

 

 

DF and the great writer Jorge Amado, Lisbon 1984

 

 

 

DF: – And you know, the Communist period, I saw it as a third war, powerless as I was to spare in particular my grandfather that new and unfair ordeal. I still don’t understand how others shake off the past so quickly. I am still working, in my secret loquaciousness, to correct and improve this obsessive past. Don’t tell me that it’s impossible, unnecessary, counterproductive or « inconvenient. » Dammit!

 

RD: – Your past is still active and above all in revolt, I see!

 

DF: – Poetry succeeds sometimes in doing the dirty work. Or else I have that impression, which is the same thing. And if we manage to really bring out from the inside a little text that really disgusts us and bugs us, with all our powerlessness reactualized and flayed on the walls of our souls, when it can happen that a reader comes and supports us.

 

RD: – Do you still believe in the role of the poetry reader?

 

DF: – Yes, something special happened to me last year at the book fair in Gothenburg, in Sweden. I was giving a public reading, with my Swedish translator, I was reading a little poem in which I recounted something from my past: the sad trick of my grandfather pretending not to be of sound mind, in the village bistro, just for the pleasure of being able to loudly insult Stalin, during the toughest period of terror. And in front of me, a Swedish woman started crying, visibly uncomfortable with the fact that she was participating heart and soul in my pain.

 

RD: – You found that moving…

 

DF: – We mustn’t forget such a moment, such a sharing, such an exchange of emotions.

 

RD: – Do you carry anxieties about your raison d’être?

 

DF: – To live honestly in the world of poetry means to somatize it, including its fears. I love the poets who have certainly somatized their poetry: Vallejo, Bacovia, Holan, Sylvia Plath, Saba, Carlos Drummond de Andrade but also the paradoxical Pessoa.

 

 

 

DF and the statue of Drummond, on Copacabana beach

 

 

 

RD: – Put them together to climb back up the lyrical slope of the present past…

 

DF: – I know that associating them might be surprising. No one seems less insubstantial than Pessoa… But I think that they’re all present, suffering or else rejoicing with their bodies in their texts, through the almost carnal texture of emotion; and it can be, also, that the vibrations of their poetry electrocuted their bodies during their lifetime.

 

RD: – Somatize poetry?

 

DF: – I wouldn’t be able to summarize here in a more explicit way what « somatize poetry » means, but I maintain the hope of being able to explain myself in a book (for which I continue to collect and clarify my reflections). It is even more difficult for me to blather about « raison d’être, » if I exclude poetry…

 

 

 

DF and the well-known Romanian writer GELLU NAUM

 

 

 

RD: – What does writing represent for you and poetry before and after everything?

 

DF: – Frankly, I don’t know. But I have the superstition of my intuitions. To write (but also to live poetry) is a weird experience that reveals intensity – another name for emotion. Sometimes the material is poor and makes fun of the criterion of diversity that is so dear in our era. But intensity always has to be maximum, unbearable, a spike on the graph of our lives that have so little relief. Everything is enormous in poetry – that obscure amplification… Lethargic in its matrix, because it accumulates slowly. Every time when it is big, it becomes a violent revelation, a hallucinatory clarity. Writing involves the interior, the essence of our being, it begins from the inside. But the approach, through the text and for the text, is in a way the unhoped-for gift of a privileged position, from the outside. One see oneself leading the text and being guided by it. Time becomes malleable, sorrow mellows, fear shows a friendly beauty, the happiness is felt and expressed, and a formidable virtual music remakes the world.

 

RD: – And reality? What about reality in all that?

 

DF: – But we don’t work directly with reality. Our intelligence and our soul intently develops moments of synthesis, experience and the possible, answering a single question: how to be in the world?

 

RD: – Yes, how to be in and with the world?

 

DF: – Like Taoist calligraphy, which reproduces the landscape developed in one’s memory and knew that you needed to prepare intently and elicit the proper time to inscribe in a single stroke on paper, the poet seeks to define for himself and for others that « feeling of the world, » as Drummond said. An ideogram in perpetual motion… The marvellous Su Shi (1036-1101) said: « the idea precedes the brush. » There must be a poetic knowledge that precedes poetry. To access it, the experience of a single lifetime is not enough.

 

RD: – Infinite life that nevertheless come to end, one day or another.

 

DF: – Yes…
 

 

 

DF in Prague , The house-museum Vladimir Holan

 

 

 

RD: – … Let’s be optimistic… Dinu, do you still like sports? I know than in the past you have flirted with sports… This athletic past left an impression on you. You are an athletic poet…Your poems are tracks for athletics. Except that on those tracks one runs backwards…, one is initiated, as if in a Celtic dance, one discovers death like a new birth!

 

DF: – Physical effort is wonderful. The inspired wise men in Ancient Greece saw it as a liberating poetic art. They were the first to understand that fighting for performance is a metaphysical commitment. We fight against our limitations, even though philistine minds appreciate only the pugnacity of pride, and vanity arranges on our foreheads the abstract shadow of a few laurel leaves. But today, we have trouble understanding that the great athletes sweated and dreamed as a supreme reward, an ode by Pindar! I began to accept and then adore the heavy tests imposed on my body through work on my parents’ farm, a time when I understood that I loved a challenge. There is, yes, the opposite of the obstacle course – the backwards race, as you say, dear Rodica. But all psychological, anthropological and even poetic sophistications are incapable of teaching us how to negotiate the big turning point.

 

RD: – In track and field, there are the lanes, the number of which varies from one to eight, which carry the feet of the runner trained for this purpose. In poetry, it is the words of verses (or the verses of words) that direct and generate imagination and aesthetic beauty. Between the lanes of athletics and the stanzas of the poem, there is a resemblance at the level of breath of the athlete and the inspiration of the poet, because both performers bring their bodies into play, in the name of an immediate or distant ideal. The athlete and the poet measure their creative records with the expression of the uniqueness or specificity of rhythm and image! Throughout their journey, between the mind and the body, there is a perpetual ceremony of opening and closing of the self, of a great emotional intensity! Who is waiting for you in the past of your poems? And in the present?

 

DF: – Our world accumulates so many more or less essential symbols, to then fill them with futilities. Very recently a commercial brand name that sells striped t-shirts taught me that it was the French navy that had decided the number of stripes, according to the number of Napoleon’s victories. The Symbolist poets incorporated better than us the correspondences of the world around them, and their forest of symbols trembles under the real wind that beat down on the real forests of Arden. Or am I wrong? Your associations are beautiful.

 

RD: – Thank you!

 

DF: – They can be used to explain the coincidence of freedom and rigour in that fixed form of the sonnet, a little secular cantata that the unruly laziness of our era carelessly places in the museum of poetry. I didn’t know what was waiting for me in the past of my poetry. I know it now – it is the child that I continue to keep alive. Or else, at this time, I see another witness, less funny, less physical, rather symbolic: vanity that cheats with me and sometimes gives me the illusion that I have properly completed such and such a text. Worse than the body, the mind doesn’t know very well how to avoid mediocrity.

 

RD: – You have devoted your whole life to books. What are the books you have used as pillows? What have they taught you?

 

DF: – I never read in bed and quite simply used the most appropriate cushions. But I continue to read elsewhere than in bed, because the books were and will remain my primary source of freedom. All my books have great importance for me, the bad ones too.

 

RD: – Book experience and life experience, life that gives itself, life that is read, the book that we live, as the textualists say…

 

DF: – In my view, these days, what is called « book experience » seems to me to be a bad word. As if books prevented us from living! As if the life of books wasn’t real life. The classical totalitarian systems already used the book/experience dichotomy. The communists pushed us toward the patriotic work projects, never toward the libraries. I observe with fear this new, insidious social hypocrisy that is marginalizing reading – that is, the interconnection of knowledge, emotions, and other exercises of wisdom through traditional reading.

 

RD: – The competition of the virtual, the commerce of the Web…

 

DF: – What is the point, they say, if the information is stored in big digital collections, available to everyone? Reading is being reduced to accumulation: since the business mindset dominates, we are delivered information on order (and in business, you have to move your inventory quickly!). We almost never talk about multi-century and intergenerational dialogue, which is the real and necessary contact with any historicized text, fiction or not. But I see that my contemporaries will continue to buy books, much more than in the past. Do they read them or do they just put them on the shelf somewhere in their houses? I think they read them. So why this schizophrenic discourse on « people don’t read anymore! »?

 

RD: – Why wouldn’t people not read anymore? Unculture is fashionable these days…

 

DF: – I saw a young man in a bookstore, totally engrossed in reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead. I suppose that he had already acclimated his soul to the first hard questions about death. It was by chance that he had learned that a great earthly civilization had made great efforts to build in stone, over several millennia, pyramidal buildings to trap eternity. He was coming to the source. He is already the great reader of tomorrow, I’m very optimistic about that.

 

RD: – Do your own writings begin to exist on the basis of a word or a feeling? What makes you dive into the black waters of ink?

 

DF: – I always wait for the accumulation of my emotions. But diving into it is always a difficult moment, hindered by doubts, dry spells, nihilisms and other enervating suspicions. We are always more authentic in silence than in the vanity of imposing our egos. I envy the work of the prose writer, who sits in his chair in front of his table and forces combustion, the continuity of daily labour. Poets are more unstable and I am no exception. What helps me to get started is reading other poets. And not quite the reading of either old or new poems, but the transfer of a certain melody, the reception of a certain « legitimacy. » A handover, as in that magnificent track event that forces us to start to run even before we run.

 

RD: – The philosopher Gilbert Durant said that poetry suggests well the presence of absence. And that presence places in magic danger the life of the poet. In your book Inattention de l’attention, you write:  » and now that your absence forever / is beginning to take its roots / in the simple past / like the myceliums on the walls of abandoned houses / everything rebels before the insistence with which you deny yourself / » (… – to my father, p. 84, Éditions La passe du vent, 2013). Is the poet a Bedouin in the desert of things?

 

DF: – I have no experience per se with the « desert of things » – generic absence, if I understand it correctly. Each absence that marks my life is specific; each time the revelation of its presence inflicted on me a new, astounding paralysis. It’s incredible to what extent each new absence arises rich with unexpected pains, which puts to the test something in me that receives the aggression of absence. The absence caused by death, but also that caused by betrayal, in love, which is still the worst of the worse, the fact of no longer being loved or no longer loving. The wounds never close up. In addition, there is no « useful » experience of previous suffering that could help us get through a new suffering. Everything has to be done again. But already Augustine formed a vigorous friendship with the tyranny of memory and the emptiness of absence in the desert of Hippo.

 

 

 

1989, DF and Sophia de Mello

 

 

 

RD: – What new can be said about the condition and mission of the poet today?

 

D.F. – It is up to him to convince himself whether or not he has a mission. And it is always he who has to specify it, his « condition, » without harbouring big illusions. These days, thank God, poetry is no longer an institution. But poets have to assert their right to speak through institutional initiatives that ensure that right. We mustn’t confuse this right with forms of « prestige » remuneration, which cajoles more the prestige of politics, making that right his whim. Poetry can and should be a stronger voice, to be heard in the din of the daily « spectacle. » I loved the surprise of finding in bookstores, in Spain, an anthology put together very urgently, at the beginning of that very difficult period that that noble country went through in the bewilderment of the economic crisis. They found the right title for it: En legítima defensa [in legitimate defense]. The great and still rebellious poet Antonio Gamoneda wrote the preface for that group protest. Another winner of the Cervantes Prize took part – José Manuel Caballero Bonald. I open at random, at the page with a poem by Joan Masip: « What is happening /…/ in this world run by the apocalyptically stupid »? In legitimate defense …a nice X-ray of the moment!

 

 

 

DF and Antonio Lobo Antunes, Lisbon

 

 

 

RD: – We often talk about poets, about writing poetry, but rarely about translating poetry… Dinu, you’re the translator of major books of universal poetry! Talk to us, please, about the work of the translator. What knowledge do you need to not betray poets? By translating them, you accompany them to another language.

 

DF: – You have to be at home in your mother tongue and in the spirit of literary work also, which is a completely different thing than the usual exercise of communicating, the one that abuses written language. You become the avatar of the poet you’re translating. You try not to betray his ideas and emotions, being conscious of having accepted an even more difficult task: that of ensuring the same life for his poetry in your language. You become the one responsible for the success of his difficult linguistic asylum in your mother tongue. When that becomes impossible, you have to admit it. You have to explain, without explaining yourself, at acclimatize the reader to the social and private universe of your literary refugee, by reconstituting also that strange beauty that embellishes poetry read in a foreign language. Then, for the tips and tricks, the list is long… In any case, two recommendations: you have to work intently on the topic of the phrase. Apparently, the Romanian language requires no agreement of tenses. Apparently… In the end, the translation should not sound in our ears like a translation.

 

RD: – What is your most beautiful experience as a translator?

 

DF: – Ricardo Reis, Pessoa’s Horatian heteronym, slammed the door in my face. I wasn’t able to get close to him. Because it is infinitely more difficult to get under the skin of a classical writer than to drink with Michaux or with the taciturn Beckett. Now I know, the proliferation of mythological references placed a screen between us. I took the time to understand that each reference to Cronus, Ceres, Apollo, Cecrops, and other Moirai corresponded to other usual terms of our daily lives. When I understood that Reis’s odes focus on something other than the evocation of the ancient Pantheon, I also found, I think, the appropriate musicality to use the hexameter/pentameter alternation, but also the rich swaying of Romanian popular poetry. More surprising still, for the first time I then read with pleasure the great odes of Horace, and I even spent several months understanding and translating into Romanian the most mysterious of them: the incredible Archytas Ode (I, 28), that mathematician who was convinced that he embodied the mind of Pythagoras, but whose ode featured the spirit of an unburied sailor, begging a few handfuls of earth to rest in peace in the waters of the sea. it’s a magnificent text, it provokes waves of ambiguity in the heat of that ancient Italy, on the shore between life and death.

 

RD: – Dinu, you know the path of exile. What did exile steal from you and what did it give you in return?

 

DF: – I thought that my exile was going to end very quickly, after the revolt that shook my country. But the second level of the same power very quickly took up the reins. The changes were so superficial without, however, the West being able to understand and react. A paralyzing despair took hold of me, for a very long time. At that moment, exile gave me the hardest blow. I was not in Romania to fight (all the « returnees » had become suspicious, and most of them were increasing the flow of all kinds of manipulations), and the West could no longer protect me from the dark fatalism that was gnawing at me. I could no longer shout neither my final disillusionments nor wash away the feeling of dirtiness that was weighing on me. Exile took everything from me and gave everything back to me in dribs and drabs, so that I could reconstruct myself, in a way, slowly. Fortunately poetry knows about slowness. And I was lucky enough to be helped by true friends in France to « accomplish » this survival and I would never be able to say more about it.

 

 

 

DF at Matignon 2006

 

 

 

RD: – Recently you began representing at a very high level Romanian Francophonie in Paris. How and from what, culturally speaking, do francophone Romanians in Romania live? And in France?

 

DF: – Even though there are fewer francophiles than in the legendary statistics we see in the media, Romanians will remain practising francophones, because that beautiful religion adapts well to their linguistic gifts. We know that in the past many Romanians had chosen French as the definitive language for their literary creation. The phenomenon is being repeated, on a smaller scale, under new conditions, those of the choice of language and a multilingualism shared by several generations. For many young people, in various fields, La Francophonie becomes this new experience of the diversity that was a dream, the one of their parents who before were behind the Wall. I represent my country with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). It must be said that that prestigious organization does not defend only the use of French in international, governmental and private life, but in particular it defends the diversity of languages, and therefore of cultures, in the face of the reductionists who propagate global monolinguism and monoculture. We have understood that La Francophonie is not at all the defeatist response of a few countries that broadly use the French language in the face of the tsunami of English and Mandarin. In this sense, the OIF promotes the cultures of the member countries, hence the Romanian culture too; and I consider important the fact that this organization recently opened a permanent office in Bucharest to revitalize La Francophonie in central and eastern Europe. The Romanian culture has a lot of catching up to do, before it can be made known in Europe and in the francophone world. We benefit from all the opportunities offered to us by the OIF, and it is even my ambition to make a few of them permanent in Romania. I would like, for example, to found an annual music and poetry festival.

 

RD: – What are your other missions in the francophone world?

 

 

 

 

 

DF: – I’m discovering how a big international organization operates, I’m adapting myself and I’m making known the voice of my country in its major political, economic and cultural decisions. The OIF is getting more and more involved, not only in the world economy of tomorrow, given the increasing strategic importance of African countries, but also in the protection of the political interests of member and associate countries when they are threatened by crises – whether in the Central African Republic, Ukraine or Egypt. But, each time the opportunity presents itself, I slip in a little word in defense of poetry and literature, an obsession that the other national representatives find rather charming.

 

RD: – Romania is a francophone island in the Balkans, but in Romania French is neither the mother tongue nor the official language. What are the new special ties that make the connection between Romania and France so strong?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DF: – The case of Bulgaria is similar, as is Greece, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Countries are drawn to La Francophonie by affinity, but you are only accepted into it by showing evidence of a concrete, institutional will to join that family. The French language does not duplicate the national language, rather it is supposed to enrich it by bringing to it francophone practices that have proven their worth. Most francophone countries have adopted the traditions of the French model in administration, jurisprudence, educational programs, notarial practice, constitutional law, etc. They consider these models to suit them better than any other model, such as the British one, and that is their choice. The OIF is there to help them. If we look closely at the huge university network of francophone countries, the networks of media, sports, artisans and artists, women and young people, we realize that we are one big, complex family, but which is careful not to impose as mandatory the language of Molière in the African savannah or in Armenia.

 

RD: – Do you feel francophone in your heart or more lusophone (recalling your many translations from Spanish and Portuguese)?

 

DF: – I’ve significantly improved my French after spending more than two decades in France, but the limitations of my former teacher (my limitations – because I was self-taught out of necessity!) are tenacious. I’m happy that I can read in several languages fluently, I speak a few, and I’m happier to receive them with their heritage than to try to express myself clumsily when I try to use those languages. I still have a superstition that unsuspected deposits are waiting for me in the depths of my mother tongue, the only place where I am authorized to excavate, if I still can.

 

RD: – In the poem « la niche » you note: « it is enough sometimes to close your eyes until the end until the end / to rediscover the secret brick that slowly slides from the wall / and behind it a glass marble that has always been waiting for you » (p. 98). Dinu, when you close your eyes, what do you see in your glass marble?

 

DF: – It is the immense happiness of contemplation that materializes. Before I was talking about an unexpected recollection of my childhood. But what mediocre confusion – actually a great scandal – has tarnished for some time the very name of « poetry »! In the time of great poems and epics, you would never have dared say that a sunset was poetic, or that giving someone flowers was a romantic gesture.

 

RD: – Is your marble a bubble, a ball? Poetry follows you everywhere…

 

 

 

 

 

 

DF: – These days, all the goats are ruminating on poetic hay. And in the mechanical circulation of clichés, people conceive of poetry as the hazy mirror that captures the world reduced to its ornamental aspect. In fact, poetry is never received as an object, you go toward poetry, you seek it and you provoke it. In cases of rare and timid beauty, it shows itself, sometimes, as a meteoric symbol: like a sparrow approaching the poet Vladimír Holan in a station, when he opens his pouch and takes out his food. And the poet understands that that bird is a message of death.

 

RD: – And in conclusion, a thought for yourself, for your friends, for your readers …

 

DF: – I will write here a little phrase, for me and my presumed friends, so it will be possible to rediscover it with one’s own eyes, if by misfortune I am carried toward the fatigue of doubt: poetry is a mysterious force of beauty and truth; it exists before the word and continues to oscillate in the universe after having enriched and abandoned it. Crossing its path is one of the great happiness reserved for man, as long as he opens himself with complete honesty and humility to its barely suspected presence.

 

RD: – Thank you for these moments of high lyrical flights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Translation: Howard Scott (Montreal, Canada)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Journaliste : Rodica Draghincescu

http://www.draghincescu.com

 

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