April 22, 2010

Lights, camera, action

A while back I wrote a story about obsessions pushed to the limit.
Some of the people who read it told me it was very good.
Others, like a dear friend of mine who is one of the best editors I've ever known, told me how I could make it even better. So I kept writing and rewriting.
Then a movie director asked me if I was interested in turning my story into a script. Huh? Script? Who, me? You mean the story? Well, I wouldn't know how...uhhh...I don't write scripts...so... errrr... ummm... no?!
Luckily, she was patient enough to explain things in the tiniest detail, so I finally understood I wasn't supposed to actually write the script all by myself, but rather to come up with a first draft which will then fall into the hands of professional script writers, with whom I'll be working closely for the upcoming months.
And so I wrote it.
And she liked it.
It still feels a bit surreal.

April 21, 2010

Language freak?

Probably, if these things sound familiar:
  • you have a few favorite words in each foreign language you speak.
  • you tend to buy dictionaries and / or grammar books even if you're not currently learning that particular language or planning to do so in the near future.
  • you think etymology is entertaining.
  • you immediately spot foreign words spoken around you and can identify at least the language family, if not precisely name the language.
  • you know the very basic words and can form simple sentences in at least five languages.
  • you don't think there is a universal method when it comes to learning foreign languages. To each its own.
  • you like to mingle with the locals wherever you go and you don't have a problem with making a fool of yourself, because it's one of the best things to do in order to enrich your vocabulary.
  • you love your accent(s).
  • you're not afraid of mistakes.
  • you can tell the difference between front, central and back vowels and you don't think the international phonetic alphabet looks scary.
  • you might consider learning a new language just because you like a word / song / quote in that language and the language factor is crucial if it comes to moving to another country. In fact, you could move to another country just because you like speaking the language.

April 17, 2010

Facts and fiction

I'm a fool for catastrophes and apocalyptic scenarios. I think I've seen more disaster films than I'd ever be willing to admit. Earthquakes, floods, fires, volcanoes, asteroid collisions, hurricanes, acid rains, killer bees / snakes / rats, tornadoes, landslides, aliens - you name it, I've seen it. Even the crappiest, most embarrassing and poorly directed disaster made in Hollywood will keep me hypnotized for hours. I won't move, breathe or talk (!) for as long as the world is falling apart in front of me. These films are just like gummy bears - different colors, same taste, unproblematic and they leave me wanting more every time. With books, it's quite the opposite. Sure, I've read and loved the apocalyptic scenarios of Saramago, Auster and H.G. Wells but there's more to these books than just disaster, whereas the literary equivalents of the above mentioned films have no effect upon me.
So now, with the ash cloud from the unpronounceable volcano above my head, I may have found the perfect treat for a lazy Saturday afternoon: White Noise by Don DeLillo. There's nothing I love more than an appropriate fictional response to a real situation. Saves me from elaborating my own fictions and lately I've been doing that quite a lot. A well deserved and very enjoyable break.

April 15, 2010


One of my favorite places in Warsaw is the Department for Foreigners at the Mazovian Province Office. Not because of the lines, the lack of air or the extremely unfriendly employees, but because it's one of the most multicultural venues in the city. As I was quietly waiting to get my hands on the document that finally made my stay in Warsaw legal, I met the following people: brother Jonathan and brother Joshua, spreading the word of God and being annoyingly nice and extra talkative, Fernando from Spain who has his own business in Poland and who looked disappointed when I told him I wasn't exactly interested in natural leather bags, a Nigerian law student with perfect abs on display under an absurdly tight I heart Poland t-shirt, five Koreans who had just moved to Warsaw and, wisely enough, decided to have the official papers sorted out without delay, one Japanese lady who seemed very confused and overwhelmed by the pile of documents she was carrying and a very charming French gentleman with his lovely and much younger Polish fiancée.
It was pure bliss to hear Polish spoken with our wonderful foreign accents and even better to finally be legalized :)
And then...it wasn't so much fun anymore, as El Santino and I returned to the office to find this right outside the window:

Later, on the way home, we almost ran over two children and a nun and we had a rather unpleasant encounter with a bus. These days, walking might be a safer option. Actually, the only option.

April 11, 2010

The other side of the mirror

One month ago, part of my inner world collapsed. True, it had the consistency of a sandcastle and its demolition in the blink of an eye was rather predictable. Nevertheless, I was torn apart and overwhelmed by sadness. Then all I wanted was to get away. To escape into the outer world, thinking that the ruins might magically disappear if I just looked the other way. But the outer world was non-responsive and it followed its course as if my drama wasn't even there. So I had to consume it in order to overcome it, even though the days seemed empty and it took me four weeks to remember how much I valued my happiness and just how great my inner world was, even without the sandcastle.
Now all I want is to isolate myself from the outer world. I'd want my inner world to be strong enough to shelter me from sadness, I've never been good at dealing with my negative emotions. The mere thought that I have to pass by the Presidential Palace on the way to work makes me shiver.
Turns out there's no escape. And though there may be times when the inner world and the outer one are on the same wavelength, some other times it's almost impossible to run away from one into the other. But it would be nice if it didn't take sadness to overcome sadness and one shock to forget about another one.

April 10, 2010


70 years after the tragedy of Katyn, Poland goes through a national nightmare all over again. I'm sad and shocked and somehow I still can't believe it. But just like in the course of its dramatic history, Poland will manage to recover and move on. Again and again and again.

April 8, 2010

Lela Pala Tute

I was just about to write a long and boring post about cultural awareness, stereotypes, the never-ending confusion Romanian / Romany (yes, we are different, and this mix-up might be offensive to many Romanians), my admiration for their passion and the beauty of their culture.
But they don't need me as their spokesperson, not even on my own blog. Because they have their fabulous music. Yeah, and they have Eugene :)

April 8th, International Day of the Romany Nation.
May 24th, Celebration of Santa Sara Kali, patron saint of the Gypsies.
May 25th, Gogol Bordello live in Milan. The perfect beginning for a disco-radical-transglobal vacation.

April 3, 2010

Not funny anymore

The saddest thing when working with books is seeing what the author intended to do, understanding what the book was meant to be and noticing how it failed on all fronts. Even though I know for a fact that one of the next books I'll be translating will be loads of fun and definitely not a failure, I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth going through this ordeal. I don't normally remember my dreams, but when I wake up in the middle of the night because of dead babies, dirty diapers and abortions I find it quite alarming.
I was very close to emailing the publisher and sending the book back, thus pulling myself out of my misery.
But this teaches me a very valuable lesson: never again will I accept a translation based solely on a one-page assessment written by somebody I don't know and trust.
I'm looking at a long and unpleasant weekend.

Later edit: The nightmare is over. It taught me two other lessons and once I'm done sharing the wisdom of the monster it will not be mentioned again, under any circumstances.
1. An MA in Creative Writing can help you become a better writer. It does not make you a writer, let alone a good one. Maybe you know structure, character, voice, plot, message, but when your writing skills are too poor to cover all the above the result is a sad little novel that's just a bit better than a mediocre assignment in creative writing. And if you like Saramago and feel inspired by him (who wouldn't?) and think you can get away without dialog tags just because he does, think again.
2. Maybe I was very subjective and, possibly, very wrong about it. In the end, the monstrosity has a reputable publisher and it's been longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2008. But this doesn't solve the mystery of the pyramids. Unless I read science fiction or fantasy (and this does not happen very often) I expect the authors to research every info that's in the book. Major and minor issues, doesn't matter. You're telling me a story and it's set in a world I might have some idea of, please make it plausible. It's very simple. When the main characters have their pictures taken with the three pyramids in the Valley of the Kings, this is not just a proof of the author's poor knowledge of history (not knowing it is perfectly acceptable if you're not going to display this in a novel) but also a proof of disrespect. For the story, for the readers and, ultimately, for yourself as an author.
There. It's out of my system. And yes, there is a reward. I just have to be patient :)

April 1, 2010


For the first time in ten years, I've been thinking about giving up smoking. Not because I don't enjoy it as much as ever or because I've become smarter and finally understood it was bad for my health, but rather because I was curious how it feels to be a nonsmoker.
Yesterday a friend gave me a book that apparently works wonders and brainwashes you into not smoking.
Today I came home with a hundred duty free packs of Marlboro Lights.
They say that last cigarette is something to remember for the rest of your life and transform into a success story.
I'm still researching, but can't seem to find any information about the last two thousand cigarettes.