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November 29, 2022

The Rewarding Diary of an Unrewarded Emigrant

By Daniel Deleanu

It must be clearly stated from the very beginning that in Neîmplinirea împlinitului. Jurnal de emigrant (The Fulfillment of an Unfulfilled Man: An Emigrant’s Diary, Sibiu: Tribuna Publishing House, 2021) Mircea Ghinescu proves to be a truly talented narrator, whose writing style is both edifying and pleasant to read. Ghinescu is an innate storyteller, somewhat like Ion Creangă or Mark Twain, and the autobiographical element that forms the substance of this book adds texture to the orality that so resplendently seasons his narrative.

As far as this reviewer is concerned, he has been predisposed, to a certain extent, to enjoy Ghinescu’s biographical account because of its subject, since he, too, has been an emigrant. But any reader of Ghinescu’s book cannot be disappointed once his writing is undeniably accessible, standing out with the author’s own tone and arguments throughout. The acts that make up the spectacle (both comedy and tragedy) of his emigrational experiences move chronologically. They showcase, as such, the ups and downs of his personal life after the decision to leave Romania for good was painfully taken by him and his family.

The story of Marius Ghinescu’s emigration, nevertheless, is not about someone who defied the odds stacked up against him by fate and came out on top. Not in the least! The odds were no longer in his favour at the very moment he had made the decision to start a new life thousands of miles away from his homeland, first in New Zealand and then in Australia. Leaving behind his rather comfortable life – in his homeland he worked as a reporter for Radio Romania – he ventured into the unknown, where he had to overcome countless barriers and hindrances. As a result, not only was he forced to change his profession, but also to accept all sorts of economic sinecures, some of them not necessarily demeaning, but nonetheless at odds with his professional background. Even so, Ghinescu has eventually made it: now he is a fulfilled man, but his fulfillment is somewhat incomplete, because, as the critic Ion Dur points out in the foreword to the book, Ghinescu, upon leaving Romania, “could neither pack in his voluminous luggage his motherland, nor take on the soles of the sneakers he was wearing on the plane soil from his parents’ backyard” (p. 14).

Ghinescu, who was gifted with a sharp tongue and a sound sense of humour which match his innate sensibilities, was, more or less, planted in fertile ground in Romania despite the hurdles he’d had to face during the communist regime and immediately after the Iron Curtain had fallen. Still, he took full advantage of what he had been given in his native country. The new life he began far from home has proved to be much harsher than he expected, but he has never given up. He continued to build on what he and his family had created in Romania, looking at the same time for opportunities to learn and grow. And because his life has not been without hardship, he keeps lashing insults at it. This may not result in a cathartic effect, but it is good medicine for someone who partially feels betrayed by life. Imprecation and his cheerful disposition help, especially since he knows that one can write one’s way out of any problem; moreover, one can even make it amusing, expressly when job hunting becomes a major pest, as one can learn from an excerpt like this: “In the job descriptions made by the employers, they mentioned all sorts of nonsensical requirements, such as: to hold a university degree so that you know how to sweep the floor, or to be a polyglot in order to be able to say to the cow you were supposed to milk ‘Don’t move, bloody beast!’ in three different languages” (p. 43); and, similarly: “In any civilized country, one assumes that there is no such thing as discrimination, but in reality, in New Zealand it is visible everywhere, especially when it comes to immigrants. A good example would be my attempt to work for a radio station. I reckoned at the time that I was fulfilling all the requirements for such a job – after all, I had received a university education in the field and possessed lots of experience, which would make me easily qualify for a position of reporter/editor. The reply to my application turned out to be blunt: ‘Unsuccessful.’ Moreover, it came without any explanation, and also very swiftly, circa three months after I’d submitted my application. It was as if it had travelled around the world by child scooter” (pp. 68-69).

Ghinescu thereby puts his wisdom from the Balkans to good use, this being in fact the very genesis of the book under review. So, if there is a thesis to Ghinescu’s autobiographical book, it’s exactly this: suck it up and take life by the horns, without forgetting to swallow some self-irony pills, otherwise you may end up taking yourself too seriously, and this could prove to be perilous. Consequently, the veil between seriousness and self-mockery is thin in Marius Ghinescu’s book. And sarcasm subsequently becomes a subconscious full-body armour meant to protect one from the adversities of an émigré’s life: “Leaving my bitter-sweet words behind, I could say that an immigrant’s life is little known by those from home and even less discussed by those who have left their home country. And that is due to the fact that many of us did not rid ourselves of the negative stereotypes that we still possessed at the time of our departure: But what will our friends or acquaintances or relatives say of us?” (p. 200).

If life is, indeed, a narrative, then we are its heroes. And, as he proves in his book, Marius Ghinescu can be, as the poet Virgil through the inferno envisioned by Dante, our psychopomp guide through the inferno of expatriation. Still, despite the struggles narrated in this book, which are both saddening and humorous, he never gave up. The words with which the author concluded his diary therefore come as no surprise: “I am not in the position to pick the measuring rod of success; yet, I believe that, wherever you might be residing, being successful equates with the power to hold your family tight around yourself in both happiness and sorrow, and to be able to make friends and cherish them” (p. 200).

By writing this honest diary, which is both an informative and entertaining read, Marius Ghinescu gathered the strength to kick the door of immigration open with the toe of his opincă (traditional Romanian sandal) and march through New Zealand first, and then through Australia, proudly, keeping the door propped open so that we can take a look in there and weigh the highs and lows of an immigrant’s life, that is, of the fulfillment of an unfulfilled man.


About the author:


Daniel Deleanu is a Romanian-Canadian writer and academic who sways between Toronto and his native town of Sibiu.

He has published articles, reviews and critical studies in cultural journals and academic journals from Romania and abroad (USA, Canada and Great Britain).

He has also published more than 1,300 academic books (critical studies of universal and comparative literature, studies of philosophy of literature, theory of literature, etc.) in English language, most of them in Canada.




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