Dear ISF readers,
Have you read the first two parts of the “Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction” by Cătălin Badea-Gheracostea? No? Then just click here and here to read it, you will not regret it, I promisse!
And if the answer to our previous question is “yes”, then let’s continue our jorney and learn more about Romanian Speculative Fiction:
Short (Hi)Story of Romanian Speculative Fiction
told for strangers, aliens and secluded scholars
(Third Part of the Article)
A Last Breath Before Dying
I cannot end my case study without letting you know my favourite sequence from Dan Doboş writing. It is at the end of The Abbey’s first volume. It shows how Dan Doboş prepares in hundreds of pages only one page. It is the death of a super-soldier, super-man, super-intelligence, the death of Rimio de Vassur, the imperial quint sent by the Emperor to control the Abbey. Two clones of the same woman, Maria, one with a saint-like personality, the other more of a whore, both extremely empathic and intelligent, are seen only one at a time by the poor superman. Falling in love with a complex woman makes Rimio de Vassur slower with hundreds of a second, enough to receive a deadly blow from one of the Marias, when, in the final showdown, both clones are present for a couple of seconds, surrounding their super-victim for the kill. This is my favourite sequence because Dan Doboş knows when to refrain in offering the final explanation: we shall guess again and again, which Maria, the Saint or the Whore, killed the Man?
Second Quantum Leap: 1989 – 1955
New Wave and Literati
It would be seen for sure as unfair the assigning of only one chapter for two generations of speculative fiction writers, immediately after one case study and after another chapter assigned to the last generation of Romanian SF authors. I stay by my choice as time is having a crunching effect on people and books, surviving the decades avalanche is something for great names and great books only. Which is another formula on saying this (hi)story only gets better by going back in time. The hopes from the beginning, from today, are changed with sure hits, the evolving authors still writing are changed with historic figures, the awarded glories of the moment are changed with proven masterpieces.
The time period from the title bears the fascination of having people and texts from all said categories.
Let us begin this leap by defining the words from the title. The Romanian science fiction use for New Wave is not overlapping perfectly on what it means as a sub-genre for world’s science fiction. It is more a label for the generation of writers coming to publish around 1980, the biological and ideological relatives of the mainstream Romanian writers called “ the eighty-ers” (“optzeciştii”), on short, the ‘80ers. In science fiction, as we saw mentioning Cristian Tudor Popescu, the ‘80ers, the “new wave”-rs, made the jump to speculative fiction in a more direct way, even if under a multitude of personal narrative, discourse and even poetical structures and styles. Their enthusiasm was severely controlled under the communist censorship, even subtle manipulated (Cătălin Ionescu has a comprehensive study on the subject; Mihail Grămescu has a novel The Irritation (Iritaţia) describing the fandom and himself under the influence of party activists, masters of „carrot and stick” policies.)
Literati is my term, under the influence of Mircea Opriţă and even Voicu Bugariu’s studies on the Romanian SF community and manifestations, to describe the writers who made career in science fiction starting with or around the sixtiees. It is no coincidence this generation has its counterbalanced label in the mainstream as „the sixty-ers” („şaizeciştii”), on short, the ‘60ers.Their literary approach, closer to poetry than ever before, was a response to the naïve technicism and blunt propaganda of the Sputnik years. Up to this point, the hardcore of Romanian speculative and science fiction major texts are these two generations’ production. Especially that I couldn’t hide my warm feelings for the more recent Romanian authors and their creations, I have to recognize that the trial of time is what they need for their confirmation – precisely what the new wavers and the literati have had.
The first important author of the ‘80s, already mentioned twice, is Mihail Grămescu. His short stories book Aporisticon (1981 – 1st edition, 150 000 copies; 2012 – 2nd edition, bibliophilic number of copies), with the subtitle Imaginary Civilisations Glossary (Glosar de civilizaţii imaginare) is an ice-breaker as literary ideology and a printed proof on the extra-literary interventions of a criminal regime. The latter should have its own comparative study between editions. The first assertion is easier to prove: out of an alphabetically organised catalogue of short and very short stories, one can find clear influences of Borges, Galeano, Calvino, with their imaginary worlds, myths and towns, as well as dark utopias after Wells and monster stories like Klein’s or Lovecraft’s. It was as if Grămescu tried to write everything again. He bore this obsession in his following volumes too: in short stories, Jumpers in Void (Săritorii în Gol)(1994), and especially in the novel Phreeria (1991), where he complicates the text even more under the influence of Hermann Hesse’s The Marbles Game. Per total, Mihail Grămescu wrote 16 books, touching every literary genre. He still has a significant role as a catalyst in fandom. Because he greatly dislikes the label of “postmodernism” which stuck with his writings due to their massive intertextuality, I would prefer to mention here only an expressionist prose by Mihail Grămescu: The Myst Form and The Drops of Nothing (Fenotipul de ceaţă şi picăturile de nimic) in which a lovely woman literally disapears after she shares her essence („the ectotype”) in tens and tens of small capsules („the pearls of nothing”) with her lovers and friends.
Leonard Oprea is the second example of new wave writer who got in trouble with the communist regime. This happened after the critics’ appraisal of his only book published before the collapse of the said regime: Forbidden Domains (Domenii Interzise)(1984, the orwellian year), a book of dark utopias, echological manifestos, few sequences of space opera and a lot of introspection with jazz in background. The best texts of the volume, all dystopicin their very core, are: The Colony (Colonia), Flash Back: Chasing out from Heaven (Flash Back: Izgonirea din Rai) and the one which gives the title. The Colony received in 1981 the altogether equivalent of RomCon and Colin awards, at Iaşi. Leonard Oprea’s writing covers after 1989, when it happened the collapse of communism in Romania, an alienating realism or a magic and mystical dimension of literature, farther and farther away of speculative and science fiction. For this (hi)story the Forbidden Domains is to matter most: the mutant Dranoel is used by his Parent, the political Parent of all and Dranoel’s father, to suppress any antagonists by the use of the hypnotic power of his “special” eye. The use of Dranoel, the implementation of the killing orders, are needing from0 him to dream nightmares. After Dranoel is realising he is pushed to kill people similar with the Parent and after he accidentally kills his first love, he clumsily try to revolt. The Parent has to take the right decision to preserve the power. The End. The simplicity of Forbidden Domains story and the direct construction of any other character than Dranoel is balanced by the strong visual sequences of the mutant’s nightmares and his ambivalent permanent self-analysis. One cannot feel enough remorse after Dranoel’s elimination.
Probably the most controversial figure of his generation, Cristian Tudor Popescu gives Planetarium (1987) as his only volume of short stories within the borders of speculative fiction, just to become one of the most influential columnists in the new free press after 1989, a “presidents maker”. Bearing the indelible mark of lucidity, 11 books of journalism are what CTP – as he is renowned – has published till 2011. There are also a realist novel with SF inserts, The Time of The Dry Colt (Vremea mânzului sec) (1991), an anthology of SF favourites and three retakes on the debut volume. What makes CTP unforgetable is his direct, rugged, very visual literary style. If a half of Planetarium is a training ground for imagining worlds as planets from a personal cosmography, the other half has texts such as Pythia – a story of an AI appearing by chance in the main frame of a computer centre, and its relationship with a novice programmer; Omohom – a story on arbitrary response in an false utopian display, where a Sphinx-like entity jeopardises the life of the narrator’s child; Cassargoz and Phalanx – where the rough necks characters always lose in a controlled by others environment, precisely at the moment they think they have made it. However, for the sake of this (hi)story, the Dead Time (Timp mort) dark uchronic text is more significant. Written as close as possible to a film script, Dead Time is about what the rest of Romania, through common people characters, knows and can do about the destruction of Timişoara in reprisals onto the revolt of december 1989 against Ceauşescu’s dictatorship. Extremely sharp observations, credible negative characters – the secret police (Securitate) officers -, a story which takes partially place in a mental institution, everything is giving the deadly cold atmosphere of the “what if?” Ceausescu would still be with us…
But probably the best dystopia wrote in the final years of Ceauşescu belongs to Lucian Merişca and is called Pest Control (Deratizare)( in volume, 1999). The micro-series shows in a gray blocks neighbourhood similar with those existing in every town from 1980s Romania the life of a family of lowest category of people. This „life”, in its absurd, details of daily gestures (you need tickets to walk on streets, there are controlers who can beat you if your ticket is not dented), the extrapolation on food rationing, education and knowledge, public life and intimacy under the communist regime, makes Pest Control a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Lucian Merişca’s other writings are far behind this brilliant.
In a warmer note than the four above authors, the new wave generation in Romanian SF has had examples of decent escapists, with only one, maximum two volumes published before and after 1989. I have to say here that if magazines, fanzins and sites are available today for the new writers to meet the public, and before 1974 there was the fortnightly CPSF booklet collection, in the ‘80s the only publication was an almanac, Almanahul Anticipaţia. I allow myself to hypothesise that the scarcity of volumes of authors of real talent might be a consequence of an insidious communist regime’s manipulation, who suggested that the debut book should be the last book… We have in this category, with one-two volumes, writers like: Cristian-Mihail Teodorescu, Marian Truţă, George Ceauşu, Lucian Ionică, Marcel Luca etc., all people of considerable talent, winners of significant literary contests in the last decade of the communism regime and in the first decade after its collapse, authors easily identifiable by style and subject of choice. I would argue my position with the titles of Marian Truţă and Lucian Ionică volumes: The Time of Cession (Vremea Renunţării) (2008) and The Confused Day (Ziua confuză) (1983). Then an example in example: Lucian Ionică’s character Teo Gil from the short story Everything is possible (Totul este posibil) is a public servant who is given the chance to become the creator of the future. He does nothing, but thinks that if he only was to get that job several years before, his behaviour and drive would have been totally different.
Another escapist of a writer is Sorin Ştefănescu, whom I mention here only because he gave the most straight forward, fast forward space opera of his generation: Zee (1982), followed by the milder The Shaman (Şamanul) (1994). His pattern is pure adventure with some forays in aliens’ ways of thinking. In a different publishing environment, Sorin Ştefănescu might have been the author of gigantic series of pulp.
The spirit of adventure can be found more thoroughly exploited and with a richer psychological life at Silviu Genescu and Dănuţ Ungureanu. An expert storyteller, Silviu Genescu is a perfectionist who shines his texts indefinitely. However, he succeeded to publish two volumes: D from the End (T de la sfârşit) (1994) and rock me adolf adolf adolf (2009), with the last one gaining the Vladimir Colin award, 2008-2011 edition. My all time favourite from Silviu Genescu writings is the novella Da Noiz. It is the way too credible story of governmental Anglo-American organisations deciding to use dangerous frequency sounds to influence public, with more ellaborate experiments like designing special guitars for self-destructive rock stars. Da Noiz has more than any other story of Silviu Genescu a base of years of documentation, hence its appearance of „realist” fiction, which doubles the „sense of wonder” effect.
Dănuţ Ungureanu’s type of adventures, on the other hand, possesses a tremendous eye for the urban life, its masses, as well as an astute knowledge of reading individuals. So, with his own personal „realist” approach to his characters and places, Dănuţ Ungureanu can easily let free his imagination in dealing with the odd thing which disrupts the order. He published three volumes: Marylin Monroe on a Closed Curve (Marylin Monroe pe o curbă închisă) (1993), Fairytales on Earth’s Orbit (Basme Geostaţionare) (2008) – these are short stories -, Waiting in Ghermana (Aşteptând în Ghermana) (1993) – a novel. I would endeavour to call Waiting in Ghermana the best science fiction novel of the new wave generation. It tells the story of Genetiah Yablonski, policeman in the „Cocoon” heliported force. Losing his partner after they both watched without possibility of intervening a ritual kill during a concert, Yablonski starts an investigation apparently on his own to find who and why did that. All the undercover journeys in all the neighbourhoods of the metropolis where Yablonski lives, give the author the chance to describe vast urban pictures, with in-depth views on fragments of society, on cultural groups, powerful or just interesting individuals. I would say also that in only 200 pages, Dănuţ Ungureanu succeeds to build the most coherent society into the most complex megalopolis, into a post-war, post-industrial capitalist frame in Romanian science fiction. Towards the end of the inquiry, when meeting the bad boys and girls is inevitable, Yablonski receives the medical shot which renders him virtual immortal – but this will be known by him and by the reader only after a violent burst which should have killed him. The sense of „now what?”, perfectly described by the author as felt by the character, is also what the reader feels ending the book. In the desolate industrial ruins of Ghermana lies the treasure containing the culture – literature, films, music – of the pre-war world. That treasure was coveted by the negative characters and retrieved by the good ones with Gene(tic)’s Yablonski’s help. The Romanian language, at vocabulary and phrase level, used by Dănuţ Ungureanu in Waiting in Ghermana is one of the most poetical and, simultaneously, the best to express action in recent decades.
If he was still alive, Alexandru Ungureanu might have been a fierce competitor for “the best novelist” of his generation. With the novel The Great Threshold (Marele Prag) (1984), but with no short stories ever published in an author’s volume, Alexandru Ungureanu was one of the top three most popular SF writers of his generation among Romanian fandom. His short stories Modern Martial Arts (Artele Marţiale Moderne), Tudose contra calculator (Tudose against computer) were some of the most read, commented, criticised and imitated in Romanian science fiction. Still, the major work of Alexandru Ungureanu is his modular novel The Great Threshold (Marele Prag) (1984). Starting with what was to become the model of first person writing for the next decade, with the voice of a picaresque hero in Letter from Hypercube 14 (Scrisoare din Hipercubul 14), the novel continues with more and more surrealist sequences on the labyrinth theme and the motive of the Machine. To escape an underground factory makes the hero believe that „the Machine is infinite”. To escape from a military campaign on a rainy alien planet, makes him meeting symbolic aliens who given him paradoxical similar answers like the Machine in the confessor’s role. Alexandru Ungureanu has his own voice in questioning the borders of reality to illusion, with a very personal humour, far away from the morgue of Grămescu or Oprea, closer to the other Ungureanu’s benign cynicism. On short, the story of the videoplasm from Modern Martial Arts, synthesises very well Alexandru Ungureanu’s grip on the matter: in a future when the martial arts become more spectacular due to psy training and more deadly due to imported technics and weapons from alien races, the technology of videoplastor, which creates neutronic perfect doubles of the competitors, is helping them to stay alive. The narrator character – a main feature of Alexandru Ungureanu’s writing – is a challenger and a candidate to become a master in Modern Martial Arts. He has to fight the Grand Master in order to receive the ranking and the title. For this fight, the character chose to give up everything else, including his love for Her – another feature of Alexandru Ungureanu’s writing, the idealised love never gets a name -, in order to master his art. In the arena, spectacular two fights between videoplasms take place, both won by challenger’s, but only just. Especially the last fight, where the Grand Master’s videoplasm tried to humiliate him by hypnosis and the victory was brought by a risky submission act of his videoplasm, was hard to watch by the “original” challenger. The fundamental question is uttered by the videoplasm: was it worthwhile to have a videoplasm and not risking your life if you don’t have Her to go back to? The answer lies in action with Alexandru Ungureanu: after the second fight, the challenger’s videoplasm kills also the “original” Grand Master. To avenge this crime, the hero is condemned to fight his own copies in the arena. The narrator voice lets the last question in the air: “What if the original is not among us?”.
Last but not the least new wave author is Ovidiu Bufnilă. A master of the concetto, Ovidiu Bufnilă succeeds to give novels made of conceits, with hundreds of characters who buzz in innumerable odd spaces, Jazzonia (1992) and Moreaugarin’s Crusade (Cruciada lui Moreaugarin) (2001), the first being a musical utopia, the second, an incoded exploration of everything. The immense capacity of buffing the same manner of writing, makes Bufnilă unique overall Romanian literature. In the short stories volume The Purple Death (Moartea purpurie) (1995), one can find amongst 48 texts written in the said manner, glitters of every speculative and science fiction sub-genres, from space opera to utopia to catastrophic tales to heroic tales to crime stories with SF key etc. My favourite is The Perishable Object (Obiectul perisabil). In here the narrator’s character talks with the writer’s character, confusing the levels of discourse. The dialogue is hermetic, but here is the following line: “You are wrong. The ambiguity comes always from rigour.” For me this is the best sign of Ovidiu Bufnilă’s lucidity.
With the Literati, the 60ers, we are entering a chapter of literary history in which more authors are dead than those still around us. Normally, this difference is trivial, however, this text is a story as much as is a history. Henceforth I will allow myself to speak firstly on those who can still bring new titles in the larger dynamic of speculative fiction.
Florin Manolescu, the Bucharest University Literature professor with the first PhD on science fiction from Romania, is the author of two significant short stories volumes, The Mistery of the Closed Room (Misterul camerei închise)(2002) and The Mentalists (Mentaliştii) (2009). There are intelectual games of constructing worlds and solving crimes in strange spaces, not necessary all in one. The style is classical, with no ambitions of proving anything. An intriguing story is Caliphate (Califat) which is an uchronic view of day by day life into an Islamic Romania. The precision of the details is chilling.
Voicu Bugariu is a controversial figure of Romanian letters since the ‘70s. With speculative and science fiction he has had a love-hate relationship, publishing volumes of short stories and novels over four decades, with an obvious mastery of the internal genre’s conventions. However, Voicu Bugariu tried to have a say in modelling the Romanian SF space, with writings spanning the same four decades. In my opinion, Voicu Bugariu’s mistake was best shown in Literati and sci-fi-ers (Literaţi şi Sefişti) (2007), a coda con tutti opera, where Bugariu drops the literary analysis and charges sociology, psychology and even politics to prove a paradigmatic rift between “mainstream” and SF authors and writings, the latter ones being obviously of an essential inferiority. The oddity of this theory is even more baffling as coming from Voicu Bugariu, a very valid science and speculative fiction author – you can see for yourself. His debut with short stories in SF is made with the volume The Vikings’ Voices (Vocile vikingilor) (1970), and at the novel level with The Sphere (Sfera) (1973). Another short stories volume comes in 1981, The World of Als Ob (Lumea lui Als Ob). Then, under the signature of Roberto A. Grant, he gives two novels The Apathy God (Zeul Apatiei) (1998) and The Concrete Animal (Animalul de beton) (1999), who flagrantly contradict his own theories: The Apathy… is an uchronic tale of Romania becoming a Gypsy state, with Romanians being overcome economically and culturally by their former slaves. If on similar texts of younger authors the critic Bugariu dropped even the accusation of “racism”, his way better and at a larger scale constructed novel just includes even more “sins” if we are to judge it with the theoretical instruments of its author. For me is the most disturbing proof of double standards in Romanian SF in the last decades. This being said, I am forced to recognize the literary value of all the science and speculative fiction texts of Voicu Bugariu, with a special exclamation point on his last novel, The Honest Courtesan and The Astrologist (Curtezana onestă şi astrologul) (2011), an introspective love story in a today’s world in which love is magic and to make love is science. Maybe the last book of a master.
Mircea Opriţă has occupied recently the central place in the heart of Romanian fandom. It is well deserved as his theoretical and fictional writings are a constant reference and a constant help in set up the internal standards of Romanian speculative fiction. Mircea Opriţă is a national treasure, see http://www.mirceaoprita.ro . Since his absolute debut in 1960, Mircea Opriţă gives Romanian SF short stories in Meeting Medusa (Întâlnire cu Meduza) (1966), the novel Argonautica (1970, 1980), more stories in The Nights of the Memory (Nopţile memoriei) (1973), The Truth about Chimeras (Adevărul despre himere)(1976), Waxworks (Figurine de ceară) (1978, extended 2004) and the novel Journey to Capricia – Really the last of Gulliver’s Adventures (Călătorie în Capricia – Cu adevărat ultima aventură a lui Gulliver) (2011).Remembering his monumental history of Romanian “Anticipation” – as he prefers to call almost everything on which others will put a SF label -, of which my creased copy stands on my desk in this very moment, and bearing in mind this is not the only theretical and critical book on SF Mircea Opriţă has written, one should choose any of the above titles for the perfect argumentation why an entire generation of writers, spanning three decades, is to be called Literati. I would stay near Mircea Opriţă’s last novel, a Gulliver travel, for satisfactory and complete proof. Gulliver is brought by a storm through space and time to visit today’s Romania. The parodic registry, the ardent ironic descriptions through the eyes of an XVIIIth century English gentleman who struggles to understand the way of thinking, behaving, being of Romanians/Capricians, is masterfully written with a Romanian language similar with the one used in the translations of the original Gulliver’s Travels. The effect on the reader is outstanding, it was no surprise the veteran Mircea Opriţă won with his Gulliver the popularity award at the novel contest organised by Eagle publishing house at the end of 2011. It is a feat of arms hard to counter or equalise.
After an empty line we are going to meet the authors significant for this (hi)story who are no longer able to complete it with more titles.
Ovid S. Crohmălniceanu was an academic who taught not only at Uni, but also in literary clubs the new generation of the ‘80ershow things should be done. For speculative fiction, the two short stories volumes under his signature, Astounding Stories (Istorii insolite)(1980) and Other Astounding Stories (Alte istorii insolite)(1986) are almost a schoolbook on classical SF writing. The worlds and conflicts of Crohmălniceanu are having a personal note of beauty, see Letters from Arcadia (Scrisori din Arcadia), from the first volume, where a visitor in the year 3016 finds a world which is obsessed with harmony and beauty to the point the children are taught in schools a new arithmetic, based on a “harmonising” new operation. The world from Letters from Arcadia is utopic allright, but with subtle shades of gray: the history read by people of 3016 is selecting the facts which can have an artistic impression, dropping out the facts with no such effect… Tayloring history, knowledge, language and behaviour, even in the name of beauty, is rather a dark utopian element.
Ion Hobana was and will be considered the artisan of rebuilding Romanian science and speculative fiction space after the shock of communism instauration. His input as publisher, translator, theorist, critic, promoter is second to none over the last 60 years. Ion Hobana started the SF collection at Tineretului publishing house and, in the early ‘60s brought back Wells and Verne under Romanian printing press. Simultaneously, he managed to start building Romanian fandom around the young writers and the tens of thousand of readers of CPSF collection, together with Adrian Rogoz. Ion Hobana helped countless young hoping authors to publish and to steady their feet: Mircea Opriţă is an example from the ‘70s, Ştefan Ghidoveanu from the ‘80s, Ona Frantz from the ‘90s, your not-humble-enough storyteller, me, from around 2000 – and these are only the first faces which jumped to my mind while writing this. Ion Hobana was a great friend, of an archetypal generosity – he founded the award Vladimir Colin in the memory of his friend, for the appreciation of the younger writers’ best volumes. Besides his primarily effort which was exegesis of the overall science fiction and anticipation, with a special approach, universally acclaimed, on Jules Verne, Ion Hobana wrote five fiction books. However, being a writer of self-imposed high standards, for the definitive edition he chose only one volume, re-writing it completely, and printint it as Time for Love (Timp pentru dragoste) (2009) and Men and Stars (Oameni şi stele) (2011).
Here comes the place of Vladimir Colin. As a promoter, in his peak and latter years, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Vladimir Colin played his part alongside Ion Hobana and Adrian Rogoz in promoting science and speculative fiction in Romania and Romanian genre’s productions abroad. He took care of the young troubled Leonard Oprea. He tried to heard the ‘80ers closer to the literary side of science fiction (see Colin’s portrait in Grămescu’s Iritaţia). The best proof of his central place in any Romanian SF&F history is that Colin still is the best known Romanian writer, at least at academic level, around the world. His wiki page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Colin , is one of the most complete pages on a Romanian author, no matter the genre of his writings. What more can be said then? Well, simplifying the academic view over Vladimir Colin’s presence, I would mention only one mythological tales volume – Vamland Legends (Legendele ţării lui Vam) (1961), one space opera – The 10th World (A zecea lume) (1964), one science fantasy novella – Entertainment for Witches (Divertisment pentru vrăjitoare)(1972), and one science fantasy novel – Babel(1978, 1992). Babel won the Eurocon award at Stresa, in Italy, in 1980. For those into syncretic hermeneutics, Pentagrama novel (1967, 1993) can be an epiphany. As anyone can see, Vladimir Colin never wrote brute SF, probably cured by being a communist censor on what an utopia might be. Vladimir Colin took refuge on the poetical border of fiction, understanding the psychological similarities in how we reflect magic and science. For this (hi)story, the masterpiece Giovanna and The Angel (Giovanna şi Îngerul) gives a measure of Vladimir Colin’s genius. Written at the end of the ‘60s, the short story brings the love story between a fascinating woman, clever and beautiful, and a man about whom the reader finds out at the same pace with Giovanna, that he is an bioengineered immortal. Playing with the immortality’s myth, finding Homo Eternus, Vladimir Colin does not present this in a spectacular way, but by a gradual psychological process which takes place during elliptical dialogues and introspections with Roman ruins in the background. Vladimir Colin’s art is in creating a tension within his characters, in this case, Giovanna, which tension passes over to the reader. The prose has a moral dimension too, although without a thesis, a final judgement. Vittorio, the “metahuman” – that is how we would call him today – might be the first of a new race which will forget to empathise with the “inferior”, mortal humans. Love is what erases that moral problem, as Vittorio wants to make Giovanna immortal too, and then, if the experiment succeeds, all the people. Giovanna and The Angel is one of the few happy ending stories of Romanian literature which preserves a sense of tragic (as the author is not letting us know if Giovanna survives the project), which is certainly the entrance to sublime.
It was mentioned the name of Adrian Rogoz and, for mnemonic purposes, I will repeat that Rogoz, Colin and Hobana were the backbone of Romanian science fiction space after WWII. The merit of Adrian Rogoz lies primarily in keeping alive between 1955 and 1974 Colecţia povestirilor ştiinţifico-fantastice (CPSF), where the large majority of the ‘60ers made their debut and which let a strong mark on Romanian literary psyche, as it was “reborn” as Anticipaţia-CPSF, in 1990, precisely after the number 466, at which it was cut off in 1974. But Rogoz sacrificed his writing to publish the others. We can only have regrets today for not having more of Rogoz’ texts like A Deer Heart (Inimă de ciută) (1955), which anticipates the heart transplant only to happen in 1967. The volume with impossible name, The Secant Price of The Abyss (Preţul secant al genunii)(1974), makes Rogoz not enough justice. The short story The Altar of Stochastic Gods (Altarul zeilor stohastici)(1974) is memorable showing mathematics without moral is not only absurd, but also deadly: a human character survives an incredible improbable course of accidents, but the AI’s who lead his world decide to kill him, as a sort of twisted award, for preserving the close to impossible statistical event for eternity, the life of a human being insignificant against numbers.
I would not finish the short insight on Literati without mentioning Camil Baciu. His novels are the link between the Sputnik years type of science fiction and the more artistic ‘60ers. However, The Garden of Gods (Grădina Zeilor) (1968, 2003) represents for me a speculative fiction masterpiece with its encoded description of Romanian reality using the life of a family over decades. Some said it is just an ordinary fantastic novel. I believe The Garden of Gods is the Romanian One Hundred Years of Solitude.
(To be Continued)