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August 15, 2022

Romania at Paris Book Fair – between honor and scandal …

The Paris Book Fair, one of the world’s most important events of its kind, is held today through Sunday. Romania is the guest of honor.

What was expected to be an absolutely special event risks turning into a huge scandal, as several Romanian writers invited since as early as last year by French organizers to attend the event, are refusing to participate. Among them, Andrei Plesu, Gabriel Liiceanu, Mircea Cartarescu and Neagu Djuvara, who refused to attend the event in the French capital alongside Andrei Marga, director of the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR). While the three were invited by the French, the traveling costs were to be equally split between the organizer of the Paris Book Fair and the ICR. It is this detail that triggered the writers’ reaction. Aside from the list of guests invited by the French side, the ICR made up its own list of participants including historian Neagu Djuvara, who, too, refused to attend the event.  The Andrei Marga-led ICR’s involvement in financing the Romanian authors invited by the French editors is the chief reason for their refusal to attend.

A few days ago, Andrei Plesu told HotNews.ro he viewed  as “ immoral to allow myself included in the program of an institution going adrift”.We should point out that, aside from the list of Romanian authors made up by the French organizers, the ICR leadership found it appropriate to draw up two more guest lists (one fully funded by the ICR, the other, by the Ministry of Culture).  “This is no longer about celebrating Romanian book in Paris,” Gabriel Liiceanu said in his turn. “The French organizers’ selection of Romanian writers was opposed a Romanian-made list eventually reflecting the political and personal settlement of accounts by the current leadership of the ICR,” Liiceanu, director of the Humanitas Publishing House, told the quoted source. While Mircea Cartarescu, who also refused to attend the event, would not give any grounds for doing it, France Presse wrote his decision could have been due amid the fresh attacks by the new ICR leadership against some intellectuals.The ICR list includes Augustin Buzura, Nicolae Breban, Stelian Tanase, Adrian Cioroianu, Cristian Parvulescu, Mircea Dinescu, as well as Neagu Djuvara and Daniela Zeca Buzura. Augustin Buzura said he decided against attending the event on health grounds, Andrei Marga announced recently. This is how historian Neagu Djuvara explained his absence: “It doesn’t tempt me at all to show off at book fairs, this tires me, and the ICR leaves me cold now. I don’t keep in touch with those who run the Romanian Cultural Institute now and neither do they with me, so that I’m delighted if they leave me be”. Asked why it increased the original guest list,  ICR explained in a press release  that “this is about a major cultural event and is only major for as many authors as possible to attend, from all the literary genres actually. We wished a most comprehensive participation possible of Romanian literature at a honoring moment for the national culture”.

Referring to the guest selection criteria by the French side, literary adviser Laure Hinckel told Adevarul daily newspaper that it relied on “guests’ work translated in French or on the authors belonging to the Francophone writers published by publishers in France, Belgium or Switzerland”.Writer Ana Blandiana told Mediafax she goes to Paris to represent neither the Romanian government, nor the Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR), but her own books and Romanian literature, which is the guest of honor at the fair. “I will be in Paris as a guest of the French Ministry of Culture and from a natural obligation I have to my French who launches «Les Saisons», a volume of fantasy novellas, financed by he himself, without the help of the  ICR,” said Ana Blandiana.

Andrei Marga replied to the guests’ decision not to attend the event in the French capital, telling Romania TV on Sunday that “each takes the decision they want Some said their health condition doesn’t allow themselves to do it, others provided no reason for it, and neither do they have to do it,”The Paris Book Fair, France’s most important book event <180,000 visitors per edition), is formally opening on Friday, in the presence of French President  Francois Hollande. While Romanian Premier Victor Ponta originally planned he would attend the opening of the event, yesterday he announced he would not do it after all. Romania will be represented by Culture Minister Daniel Barbu.“In the Romanian style of the same people, namely, if we can make a mockery of ourselves and make a  scandal, so that nothing good remains of a good action, I see they don’t miss on any opportunity to do just so. However, I believe Romania should be proud for having this special status, France’s president will be there, at the Romanian stand as well, there are scores of writers who deserve being praised.

True, there are a couple who concern themselves with that and I’d rather…(….) It’s already a practice by our political opponents to wash their dirty laundry in the European public. I think this is the worst thing they could do to Romania,” the PM said at the beginning of yesterday’s government session.

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