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This review is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

ROMANIA AND THE LINGUA FRANCA Ion Caraion, Poems: a bilingual edition with English translations by Marguerite Dorian and Elliott B. Urdang (Ohio University Press) £5.00 pb.
Marin Sorescu, Selected Poems translated by Michael Hamburger (Bloodaxe Books) £3.50 pb.

The literature of Eastern Europe has had most impact in this country when a given country of origin - whether it be Hungary, or Czechoslavakia, or most recently Poland - has openly fought for freedoms we take for granted, and by virtue of so doing has become politically destabilized to a greater or lesser degree. Quiescent since the sabre-rattling of Ceaucescu ceased some years ago, Romania - like the rest of the once turbulent Balkans - has returned to the obscurity from which it seemed likely to emerge, and in literary terms occupies about as much column space as its near-neighbours Albania and Bulgaria. Yet the language spoken in Romania, unlike those of Eastern Europe generally, preserves recognizable links with the Latin which was at one time the lingua franca of an undivided Europe, and in a similarly independent fashion it has always looked westwards, to France especially, in its largely forlorn attempts to participate culturally in a milieu from which it is artificially isolated. It is no accident that our closest contact with writers of Romanian origin has occurred - as with Tristan Tzara, Eugène lonesco, E. M. Cioran and Mircea Eliade - when they have left their native country, taken up residence in Paris and in due course begun to write in French.

No prose writer in Romanian has enjoyed a pan-European audience, and not until 1961 was there a serviceable anthology of Romanian poetry. It took until 1972 for there to be a serious ...

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