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Bucharest: The City and Its Stories, with NUP author Sean Cotter
October 29, 2021 @ 11:00 am–12:00 pm
Bucharest is a city of many tales, some more known than others. This conversation will revolve around three books that reveal, each in its own way, the multiple lives of Bucharest. One is Sean Cotter’s superb translation of a canonic text of the Romanian literature, Mateiu Caragiale’s Rakes of the Old Court. Initially published in 1929, the novel brings to life a fin de siècle Bucharest as a phantasmagoric city, where social hierarchies become increasingly blurry as disenchanted elites intermingle with the poor in the taverns of the Old Town. While a literary masterpiece, Rakes of the Old Court is, however, representative of the xenophobia and elitism running rampant through the Romanian society of the interwar years.
It is that history–and its political use and abuse–that Emanuela Grama critically examines in her book, Socialist Heritage: The Politics of Past and Place in Romania. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Bucharest, untapped archival resources, as well as many interviews with architects, urban planners, and tenants of the Old Town, she reconstructs a less known history of this neighborhood whose tenuous trajectory mirrors that of a city undergoing rapid change.
Change is also at the heart of Bogdan Suceavă’s apocalyptic novel, Coming from an Off-Key Time. He satirizes the violent end of the Ceaușescu regime in 1989 as he discloses the complexities of a quickly changing country in search of its bearings, and suspicious of its past.
All four speakers have deep connections to Bucharest, and those connections will become more visible as they will share their own stories and memories about the city.