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March 30, 2023

Culture beats prison in Romania

Officially declared enemies of school books, never familiar with the pages of volumes arranged according to colour on the shelves of expensive villas built with other people’s efforts, unfamiliar with writing besides their signature and a bunch of zeros, convinced that reading brings you no money and is a waste of time, high-level criminals arrested lately by prosecutors and placed behind bars for bringing Romania to bankruptcy discovered, while sitting in the prison cells, abilities nobody would suspect they had. As if they burned of impatience for their entire life to write books but had no time to act according to their desire because of their full time jobs as thieves, they cannot stop writing and publish one novel after the other, creating an unusual phenomenon witnessed incredulously both by us and by cultural personalities abroad. And all of these because publishing a book while in prison brings the imprisoned person a cut of up to 30 days of the sentence, according to law no. 275/2006, article 76, paragraph 1, letter f.

Therefore, as the lawmaker deemed that writing was work – albeit a painfully difficult one for people facing prison time – it is preferred to other works that can be done while in jail.

One of the first offenders to be hit by sudden inspiration after the shadow of prison bars fell on their faces was Miron Cozma, the Morning Star of the Coal, this misunderstood Eminescu who had spent his life among crystal clusters and ended up reciting poetry to his guardians, hoping that the arm of law would be less rigid in his case, as he was a poet.

Adrian Nastase was another writer stimulated by jail. We might say that he did nothing other than write long and complicated phrases he named scientific works, with the undeclared purpose of gaining benefits. And he made it. He was released on parole after eight months in jail. Afterwards, he entered once again the world of wrongdoers, he was caught again on the wrong foot and started again scribbling prison rows, tortured and torturing, about politics and history, hoping that the wonder would last.

One of the most controversial characters in the post-December period, Gigi Becali, imprisoned after avoiding the law better than football player Hagi avoided his adversaries on the field, started to write a book on his turn, much to the surprise of people who never imagined anything like that from the former ungrammatical shepherd turned landowner and millionaire and spreading thousands of EUR left and right? And what other topics could the former owner of the team Steaua approach, other than his two great passions, sports and religion?

Among these people, who consider themselves as proper successors to Constantin Noica and Nicolae Steinhardt, there is also Relu Fenechiu, convicted to five years in prison, but also Florentin Scaletchi, former President of OADO, because, obviously, work is hard, writing useless stuff is convenient and money for publishing may be found from what was left after levies.

Antonie Solomon, the former Mayor of Craiova, also wrote in his cell. He wrote economy books. Not one, not two, but three books that brought him conditioned release in the end.

Gica Popescu, the former football player of the national team, was also struck by talent after his prison sentence was pronounced. He ended by now his first book, about the art of kicking the ball with one’s foot and started his second book, sort of a fantasy about life in another time dimension, one where he was not arrested and he had become the leader of the Romanian Football Federation.

For the famous Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, Jilava was a muse as well. Behind bars, he wrote a scientific work about Communism and transition, that brought him a reduction of 33 days in his sentence.

Ionel Mantog, the former manager of the Turceni Energetic Complex and ex-State Secretary in the Ministry of Economy, convicted for corruption, was also among the people who devoted eight hours a day in his prison time to book writing. And, as everybody writes about what they know best, Mantog wrote about the vice of corruption.

The former Mayor of Cluj, Sorin Apostu, convicted to Gherla for corruption, also felt a profound yearning to share his ample experience to the world and authored a book entitled “Making of meat products” that has brought him a cut of a month in his conviction. Especially in this case, any futher comment would be useless.

Dinel Staicu, the former owner of the Universitatea Craiova football team, also scribbled a literary work behind bars. And it was not just some ordinary mix of words, but a homage dedicated to Nicolae Ceausescu, and also a critical view on capitalism.

Among sportsmen who seem to have found an oasis of inspiration in prison, there is also the ex-manager of Steaua, Mihai Stoica, convicted in the file of transfers. Stoica’s first masterpiece debates various matters related to analyses and statistics, as if this was his sole interest as a free person.

The former president of the team Gloria Bistrita, Jean Padureanu, is also perspiring heavily while working hard behind bars, perhaps writing a thriller on a topic he knows so well, fixed matches. Nonetheless, Padureanu insists that his attempt to literary immortality would be published posthumously.

And thus, thousands of copies of books written to serve only one purpose, that of shortening prison time and definitely not contributing to the cultural fund of the country, end up forgotten on the shelves of book stores and libraries, condemning the trees of our country to a useless death.


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