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This report is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.

Letter from Transylvania Peter Riley

It is six o'clock on an October evening in a small village in Maramure,s, which is a mountain-ringed enclave in northernmost Transylvania, close to the Ukrainian border. Although on a main road of sorts, it is a remote and quiet place devoted entirely to peasant farming. We have been sent here because there is, surprisingly, a 'poetry festival' taking place - we have been promised twenty Romanian poets, which is rather more than we would normally have chosen to sit through, but we are assured that this will not be necessary - that part of it will be over. Already it is getting dark. There are lights on in the village hall and a few cars and about a dozen people standing outside it. We are waiting, we are told, for the poets to arrive. They were scheduled to be here at half past five. There are people in the hall busy preparing food, and children in the local costume running around here and there. Where are the poets? They are in the church, reading poetry and drinking. Would we like to join them? No, we'll wait till they've finished.

As always, people are terribly concerned to look after us and keep us informed. Drinking? That was what was apparently said. It will be the locally made fruit brandy, clear as water and said to be 60 percent proof, which accompanies all human intercourse in these parts. The poetry event happens here at this time every year ...


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