Romania Rocks. The Blog – AL Kennedy meets Ioana Pârvulescu


The festival’s very own author Andreea Scridon observes festival events

One of the most sincere discussions that took place during the Romania Rocks Festival was the ‘Rock Talk’ bringing together AL(Alison) Kennedy, Scottish writer, academic, broadcaster, and stand-up comedian, and Ioana Pârvulescu, Romanian novelist, essayist and poet. Though from different countries and contexts, it quickly became apparent that the two have many – interesting – things in common. 

Kennedy stated that she has written long poems about contemporary turmoil in the past few months, while Pârvulescu too found poetry comforting in this time, writing a poetic narrative on her kitchen wall. Pârvulescu defines herself as a writer who always writes about the past, ‘instinctively escaping into a different time,’ as a result of being shaped by her ancestral home in the cosmopolitan city of Brașov. ‘A house is made of feelings … of everyone who lived in that house […] The house is the place where I learned to be myself.’ Her grandma and her father encouraged her to write in childhood – and her father, who died early, sensed that she would one day publish. For Kennedy, the past and present ‘coexist in layers’, and she considers ‘writing an experience of intensifying the experience of reading’, in which it is ‘blissful to be other people’. 

Both authors, who, according to moderator Rosie Goldsmith, appeal to literary and popular readership at the same time, define themselves as decidedly European. For Pârvulescu, this means identifying as ‘a human being, European, Romanian’ (in this order), and Kennedy spoke of what living in the very European city of Glasgow for thirty years has meant for her. On a related note, Ioana said that her translations are ‘acts of constructing bridges’, while for Alison being translated is ‘an absolute honour, the best gift an author can be given’. 

Communism made Ioana appreciate liberty. She recently edited an anthology of witness accounts from fellow Romanians on their memories of communism: ‘Young people these days don’t realise how wonderful it is to just go out and drink a coffee,’ she told us. But Alison, who grew up in Dundee, noted that poverty and cold were possible in the ‘Free World’ too, something she is aware of not only through personal experience but also a result of having worked with struggling people from many walks of life, mentally and physically handicapped people, and people in prison – offering ‘writing as a solution to suffering’.

Both authors clearly share an interest in the past, but also both engage actively with the world around them, listening and writing. An interesting example of turning life into art came from Ioana, who developed a sense of self-identification with the biblical figure of Jonah as a result of people misspelling her name along the years. This playful notion turned into a book, Prevestirea (The Prophecy) in which Jonah is the central character. We all look forward to its translation into English, hopefully next year by Alistair Ian Blyth with Istros Books.

By Andreea Scridon

Category: Romania Rocks

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