This collection of short stories and poetry set in post-CeauÅŸescu and post-Cold War Romania takes readers on a journey through the author's home town of BrÄƒila in the east of the country. Exiled Romanian author Bogdan Tiganov explores social, religious and political issues with insightful frankness, through an array of colourful characters and narratives focusing on this newly, supposedly liberated world. Tiganov's stories offer an honest and rounded view of immigration like never heard the opportunities and the pitfalls, the reasons for and against mass migration, the pains suffered, the euphoric hope and optimism, the naivety and the greed. This revised edition features brand new short stories and a new introduction from the author. Candid and exposing, this warts-and-all look at Romanian life with its dark undercurrent of wit cuts to the very heart of the country's culture.
The Wooden Tongue Speaks is a collection of short stories and poetry, concerning the lives of various characters in post-communist Romania. Mainly set in Brăila, these tales are fragments into the day to day reality of a nation attempting to shake off the yoke of the Ceauşescu reign, a regime that was characterized by an increasingly brutal and repressive apparatus and, by some accounts, the most rigidly Stalinist regime in the Soviet bloc. It was also marked by a pervasive cult of personality, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union, isolating it from both East and West. This lead, eventually, to Ceausescu’s government being overthrown in the December 1989 revolution, after which he and his wife faced a hastily organised televised trial which ended with their execution.
So, what would make one feel nostalgic for those days? This is one of the questions raised in this book. In a nation that is haemorrhaging out it’s youth, as they head for the bright lights and bling culture of the west. The old & infirm are left behind without the support of family, and only past memories for sustenance, and yet with this freedom also comes opportunity, with all the positive and negative connotations in its wake. As an exile from Romania, Bogdan Tiganov, uses his own experiences to create these fragments of individual life, allowing us a glimpse into the day to day reality of a nation & it’s people.
In the introduction to this book the author states that:
“The lives of Romanians in post-communist Romania creates an endless pool of interesting characters and situations and I am determined to throw light on situations that are generally not covered by the media, without being overtly political. The wild democracy of Romania also allows for some absurd moments to occur that are humorous and sad at the same time”.
He does this through tales such as A personal history of a city called Brăila, in which he states that the walls of his home were so thin, you couldn't even whisper a joke about Ceauşescu, or An Interview, in which an individual is being sold a job as an au pair. Then there is Lost and Found, the tale of a lonely exiled Romanian returning home to find a wife. These are some of the tales in this collection that highlight the reality of a modern Romania with all its complexities, in the process taking us the reader on a guided tour of his birth place & revealing how life is lived in a post communist world.
Apart from the tales, there is also a series of poems that, according to the author, add another dimension to his tales and, having read them I agree with him. They add a more direct, instinctual & in some cases visceral edge, complimenting the stories in this collection.
The themes explored by Tiganov is home, emigration, loss, lack of employment and belonging.
I felt the collection made a perfect start with "A Personal History of a City called Braila". This is a descriptive story about home and the meaning of home.
"An interview" is about a person going to a job interview for au pair. The thoughts is about leaving home in search for work as there is no work at home. This is a recurring theme for Tiganov which considering the introudction is understandable (Tiganov wrote this when unemployed). The interviewers are also coaching the people for the embassy interview would have to go through.
Further along in the book, we have the story "The Killers" about 3 school friends who have varying lives after school. one becomes a doctor, one was a manager of a manufacturing company and the third a photographer. with the manager of the manufacturing company has to turn to taxi driving after the company goes out of business. (taxi driver comes up again in the story "Goodnight work" in which an engineer after his plant closes became a taxi driver like other engineering friends". "The killers" is a sad story and deals with how due to economic turmoil, the qualifications that the youth of today have earned throughout hard work (in the case of Gheorghe in the story. he had started at the bottom of the company) and education (Daniel in the story who was a photographer but now makes his living as a shop assistant while in the aforementioned "Goodnight work" this can also be said). This story or at least parts of it would resonate with young adults now in the economic troubles (thankfully, not me as of yet but i do have friends and family who have)
Personally, I really enjoyed most of the short stories. They do show Tiganov as having potential. He has an endearing voice, descriptive style and good at dialogue.
The Poetry is in free-form style. Poetry isn't something i am fond of but they are good. Probably would work better as songs rather than poems. "A Song about Survival" to a hard rock or a metal beat would work well i think.
Overall, a good collection of short stories and poems.
This volume of short stories and poems deserves its place in any library. Bogdan Tiganov distills emotion and offers frank descriptions to illuminate our vision. His composites of people, joys, scars, and of the ordinary are almost too lovely, too painful, and too eternal in their pure timelessness. With tranquil urgency Tiganov allows us to be with him in two places simultaneously as he captures images processed with blunt reality, composed of simple truths. We are shown glimpses into a heartless time that should not have been but was. These intriguing, profound, and significant portrayals are offered like a cool cup of water, they are not forced upon us. Be thirsty, swallow without gulping, and do not allow the sound of a car backfiring or a neighbor's barking dog to distract you.
Tiganov reminds us to remember what should not be forgotten in our own lives. His pen is specifically aimed at the hearts of readers who are still brave and still awake enough to feel. His vibrant hope contrasts the bleakness of life, his, mine, and yours. We all have stumbled in darkness. We all need a bridge across the senselessly raging river of lost freedom.
These pages weave remnants of the past into the fabric of today. The glitter of sun and stars of tomorrow are threaded in as well. This young talented, exiled Romanian writer is committed to exposing injustices, and he does so with stories and poems drenched in light. Do not pass the opportunity to own this book. It is more than a book. You will want to drink every word.