Carmen Bugan - "Burying the Typewriter"


Uploaded by GRCCtv on 21.09.2012

Transcript:
>> THOSE OF YOU WHO KNOW ME,
KNOW THAT I'M PRETTY EASY GOING MOST OF THE TIME,
BUT I HAVE A MANIA FOR PUNCTUALITY,
SO I'VE BEEN SORT OF ON PINS AND NEEDLES.
(chuckling)
UH, THE FAMILY IS GOING TO FINISH THEIR FINAL DESSERT
AND THEN THEY'LL BE OVER A LITTLE BIT LATER,
SO I'M GONNA START THE PROGRAM RIGHT NOW.
AND CARMEN, I GUESS WHEN THEY COME IN,
YOU GET TO INTRODUCE 'EM.
>> (indistinct speaking). >> OKAY.
SO, I'M DAVE COPE, AND THIS IS MY "SWAN SONG" AS A PROFESSOR
BECAUSE, OF COURSE, I'M RETIRING AT THE END OF THIS YEAR.
UM, IT'S ALSO THE LAST ACT OF THE POET'S CONFERENCE.
I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE HAD CARMEN HERE IN THE SPRINGTIME
WITH THE OTHER POETS THAT ARE GONNA BE IN THE ANTHOLOGY.
UM, BUT I WASN'T ABLE TO, 'CAUSE SHE HAS SO MANY COMMITMENTS.
I'M NOT GONNA GO THROUGH ALL OF HER DEGREES OTHER THAN TO NOTE,
UM, ALL HER DEGREES AND HONORS, 'CAUSE SHE'S GOT A LOT.
UM, SHE IS, I THINK, THE ONLY GRADUATE
OF GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE
WHO HAS EVER GOTTEN A DOCTORAL DEGREE
AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY IN ENGLAND...
AND IF YOU LET THAT SINK IN FOR A MINUTE,
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ONE OF THE TWO OR THREE TOP UNIVERSITIES
IN THE WORLD.
UM, SHE'S GOT TWO BOOKS OUT RIGHT NOW.
THE FIRST ONE-- "CROSSING THE CARPATHIANS"--
WON WONDERFUL HONORS ALL ACROSS THE U.K.
AND HERE IN THE STATES, TOO.
THIS BOOK, "BURYING THE TYPEWRITER,"
WHICH SHE'S GOING TO BE READING FROM TONIGHT,
WON THE BAKELESS PRIZE FOR NONFICTION.
IT'S AN INTERNATIONALLY PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE.
SO, UM, SHE'S BEEN REVIEWED ALL ACROSS EUROPE AND HERE, SO...
AND HAD BEEN ON A BOOK TOUR FOR THE LAST--
WELL, IT'S LIKE BEING A ROCK STAR,
I THINK, AT THIS POINT, BUT... (laughing)
SO, UH, SHE GAVE A HECK OF A PERFORMANCE THIS AFTERNOON,
AND WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IT TONIGHT.
SHE'S GONNA PRETTY MUCH ORGANIZE IT THE WAY SHE WANTS.
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, MY OLD FRIEND,
CARMEN BUGAN-- AND FORMER STUDENT.
(applause)
>> (with Romanian accent) THANK YOU SO MUCH, DAVID.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
(tapping mic) OH, HERE WE GO.
IS THAT-- CAN YOU HEAR ME OKAY IN THE BACK THERE?
YOU KNOW, I MUST TELL YOU THAT--
SO, THE AMERICAN WOMEN'S CLUB OF GENEVA SENT THEIR DIRECTOR,
UH, JUST A WEEK BEFORE WE CAME HERE,
TO INTERVIEW ME FOR THE CLUB'S MAGAZINE,
TO PREPARE THE PUBLIC FOR A READING
THAT I'M GOING TO GIVE ON OCTOBER 11th.
AND SO, SHE CAME IN-- VERY SWEET LADY WITH PRESENTS
FOR MY DAUGHTER AND MY SON...
TOTALLY THIS-- YOU KNOW, TOTALLY AMERICAN
WITH A LITTLE BAG AND ALL THIS, AND SHE SAID,
"HONEY, DO YOU MIND IF I TURN ON THE MICROPHONE?"
YOU KNOW, ON THE KITCHEN TABLE, "BECAUSE IT'S EASIER FOR ME
"IF I RECORD EVERYTHING." (audience chuckling)
AND I SAID, "GO ON-- I HAVE A VERY SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
"WITH MICROPHONES." (all laughing)
AND THERE COMES THE ARTICLE JUST BEFORE I LEFT.
(laughing) SHE SAYS,
"I KNEW I WAS IN FOR A TREAT WITH THE STORY
"ABOUT MICROPHONES." (laughing)
SO, I'D LIKE TO TELL YOU THIS STORY AS...
AS AN INTRODUCTION TO TONIGHT'S TALK,
TO SAY THAT I REALLY DO HAVE A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
WITH MICROPHONES, AND IT HAS STARTED IN ROMANIA.
UH, WHEN, UM...
I WAS ABOUT 12 YEARS OLD,
AND MY FATHER PROTESTED AGAINST THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT--
AFTER TYPING PAMPHLETS AGAINST THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT
WITH MY MOTHER FOR ABOUT THREE YEARS,
AND, UM-- AT AN ILLEGALLY-OWNED TYPEWRITER
BECAUSE IT WAS ILLEGAL TO OWN ONE THERE.
HE, UM...
HE BURIED THE TYPEWRITER IN THE DAY
AND HE UNEARTHED IT AT NIGHT TO TYPE HIS FLYERS.
THEN, HE DECIDED TO DO A ONE-MAN PROTEST AGAINST CEAUSESCU,
AND THAT'S WHEN MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MICROPHONES BEGAN...
WHEN THE SECRET POLICE CAME TO THE HOUSE THE DAY OF HIS PROTEST
ON 10 MARCH, 1983.
THEY HAVE PLACED MICROPHONES ALL OVER THE HOUSE,
AND THIS HAS BECOME PART OF MY CONSCIOUSNESS
FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS THAT WE LIVED IN ROMANIA
BEFORE WE WERE EXPELLED OUT OF THE COUNTRY WITH DEATH THREATS.
AND IT HAS-- THE RELATIONSHIP HAS TRANSFORMED,
HAS MORPHED INTO A VERY POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH MICROPHONES
IN THE UNITED STATES, WHERE, AS A STUDENT OF DAVID COPE,
I HAVE-- UNDER HIS TUTELAGE,
I HAVE BEGUN WRITING MY FIRST POEMS IN ENGLISH.
AND I ALSO BEGAN-- YOU KNOW, I STARTED A POETRY GROUP HERE.
DO YOU REMEMBER THAT? >> (indistinct speaking).
>> IN MY LIVING ROOM ON UNION STREET.
(laughing) AND, UM...
I HAD MY FIRST POETRY PERFORMANCES...
AND SUDDENLY, I WAS A PERSON WHO WAS, YOU KNOW,
WHO WAS ALL FREE AND VERY HAPPY.
SO, THE RELATIONSHIP WITH MICROPHONES--
AND THEN, OF COURSE, IT HAS TO ENTER A RELATIONSHIP
WHERE, YOU KNOW, NOW, I TALK ON A RADIO AND STUFF LIKE THIS--
SO, IT'S MUCH MORE-- NOW IT'S ABOUT ART, YOU KNOW?
IT'S ABOUT SOUNDING GOOD AND, YOU KNOW,
YOUR VOICE SOUNDING WELL AND READING WELL
AND ENUNCIATING THE WORDS WELL.
SO, IT HAS TURNED FROM--
AGAIN, AS I WAS TALKING TODAY AT LUNCHTIME--
FROM THE MESS OF LIFE,
HAS TURNED INTO A PROFESSION, INTO AN ART, IN A SENSE.
ANYWAY, THAT WAS A LONG STORY ABOUT THE MICROPHONES.
(laughing) HELLO!
I'M GLAD TO SEE SOME OF THOSE FRIENDS HERE, SOME ROMANIANS.
OH, I'M VERY TOUCHED TO SEE THESE FACES!
WE ARE TALKING AT LUNCH TODAY THAT THE STORY OF MY FAMILY
IS PERSONAL...
BUT IT'S ALSO REPRESENTATIVE.
AND BEFORE I START READING TO YOU FROM THE BOOK--
UM, A FEW EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK AND A FEW POEMS--
I WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE ROMANIAN COMMUNITY,
ESPECIALLY THE ONE IN GRAND RAPIDS.
BECAUSE AFTER THE FAITH UNITED CHURCH OF GOD
HAS ADOPTED US INTO THEIR--
INTO THEIR CHURCH,
AND THEY'VE BEEN PROVIDING A HOME FOR US--
OH, COMPLETE WITH SHAMPOO AND BED SHEETS,
AND YOU GUYS, YOU GAVE US THAT WONDERFUL BED
THAT WE PUT IN THE FRONT ROOM IN MR. STALWAKI'S APARTMENT
THAT HE WAS RENTING TO US...
AND WE WERE GOING AROUND SMELLING THE NEW SHAMPOOS
FROM THE CHURCH, GOING LIKE, "WOW, THAT SMELLS GOOD!
"WHAT IS THAT?
"THESE AMERICANS HAVE REALLY GOOD STUFF!"
(audience laughing) THEN, FOLLOWING THAT,
THERE WAS AN ARTICLE IN "GRAND RAPIDS PRESS"...
AND THERE WAS AN ARTICLE ABOUT THE REVOLUTION IN ROMANIA
AND ABOUT OUR FAMILY--
OUR FAMILY'S JOURNEY HERE.
UH, THAT ARTICLE LED TO TWO THINGS.
IT LED TO THE ROMANIAN COMMUNITY FINDING US,
AND SAYING, "OH, YEAH, WE KNOW THE NAME 'BUGAN.'
"OH, YEAH, WE'RE IMMIGRANTS LIKE YOU.
"AND WE--" THEY'VE ADOPTED US INTO THEIR COMMUNITY,
AND WE'VE BECOME-- SINCE THEN, WE'VE BUILT OUR OWN CHURCH
AND WE'VE BECOME OUR OWN COMMUNITY THERE.
THAT ARTICLE ALSO LED TO ME COMING TO GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE
WITH THE HELP OF ANOTHER IMMIGRANT FROM THE ROMANIAN COMMUNITY--
A WONDERFUL MAN NAMED CRACIUNESCU.
HE BROUGHT ME TO THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE
AND HE SAID, "HEY, DO YOU WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE,
"DON'T YOU THINK?"
I SAID, "OH, YEAH, I DEFINITELY DO."
SO, I TOOK THAT "GRAND RAPIDS PRESS" ARTICLE
AND I WENT TO THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE AND I SAID, "EXCUSE ME,
"HAVE YOU READ THE SUNDAY 'GRAND RAPIDS PRESS' LATELY?"
HE SAID, "UH, YEAH."
I SAID, "WELL, THIS IS ME AND MY FAMILY HERE."
(laughing) AND HE SAID, "OH, VERY NICE!
"AND HOW CAN I HELP YOU?"
I SAID, "WELL, I WANT TO BE A STUDENT HERE."
(laughing) AND THAT'S HOW MY RELATIONSHIP
WITH GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY STARTED--
GRAND RAPIDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE.
UM, SO, AGAIN, DAVID,
I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR NURTURING THAT CHILD--
THAT TEENAGER THAT CAME IN AT THE AGE OF 19...
AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE COMMUNITIES--
THE FAITH UNITED CHURCH OF GOD THAT HELPED US,
BECAUSE WE WERE REALLY--
YOU KNOW, WITH NO PLACE TO GO.
AND THE ROMANIAN COMMUNITY,
I WANT TO SAY JUST HOW PROUD I AM
BECAUSE PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY, YOU KNOW, "WHO ARE YOU?
"WHERE ARE YOU FROM?"
AND I SAID, "WELL, I'M FROM ROMANIA AND THERE AREN'T MANY OF US."
AND PEOPLE TRY VERY HARD AND THEY WORK VERY HARD.
SO, THIS IS A STORY ABOUT ROMANIANS WHO TRIED
TO MAKE THINGS BETTER IN THEIR COUNTRY
BEFORE THEY WERE FORCED TO MOVE HERE
FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER.
AND I HOPE I'M NOT MAKING THINGS TOO POLITICAL,
BUT JUST TO SORT OF FRAME THINGS IN THE WAY THEY ARE.
UM...
I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT IT WAS
TO GROW UP IN ROMANIA...
BEFORE I MOVE ON AND TELL YOU A BIT ABOUT, UH,
MOVING TO THE UNITED STATES
AND THE PROCESS THAT THAT LED TO.
AND I THINK I WANT TO CENTER THE DISCUSSION OF TONIGHT
ON FAMILY.
I WAS BORN IN...
1970.
NOW, IN 1969, IN THE SUMMER,
IN THE VILLAGE OF DRAGANESTI,
THERE WAS A LITTLE CAR ACCIDENT.
AND THE SCHOOL TEACHER
RAN OUTSIDE HER GARDEN,
TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED AND TO HELP.
AND THEN, THE PERSON DRIVING BEHIND THE CAR,
THAT HAD THE ACCIDENT, STOPPED TO HELP.
EVERYTHING WENT FINE--
THE PERSON WENT TO THE HOSPITAL
AND NOTHING REALLY BAD HAPPENED.
BUT THEN, THE MAN QUITE LIKED THE WOMAN...
QUITE A LOT...
"HMM, ESPECIALLY HER BEHIND," I THINK HE SAID.
(audience laughing)
HE THOUGHT SHE WAS QUITE CUTE.
NOW, THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS ABOUT-- WHOO-- QUITE YOUNG,
20 OR SOMETHING-- 20-SOME.
HMM, DIDN'T QUITE LIKE HIM, BUT OKAY.
HER MOTHER CAME OUT OF THE YARD-- CAME FROM THE WELL--
AND SHE SAID TO THE MAN HELPING WITH THE ACCIDENT, AND SAID,
"WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO COME IN TO WASH YOUR HANDS
"AND REFRESH YOURSELF AND MAYBE HAVE A GLASS OF WATER?"
AND HE SAID, "OH, YES!"
ESPECIALLY BECAUSE HE WAS INTERESTED IN THE GIRL.
AND THEN, MY GRANDMOTHER TOLD MY MOTHER,
"THAT'S THE SON-IN-LAW I WANT. (audience laughing)
"CLEVER, GOOD-LOOKING, AND STRONG."
LITTLE DID SHE KNOW THAT THAT MAN
HAD SPENT SEVEN YEARS IN JAIL FOR BEING A POLITICAL DISSIDENT.
LITTLE DID MY MOTHER KNOW.
BEFORE THEY KNEW, THEY WERE MARRIED.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MONTHS HERE.
THIS WAS LOVE AT THE FIRST TIME--
UH, AT THE FIRST SIGHT.
THEY WERE MARRIED, AND THEN, SOON AFTER THEY WERE MARRIED,
THE SECRET POLICE-- THE SECURITATE--
CALLED IN MY MOM AND THEY SAID,
"BY THE WAY, DO YOU KNOW YOUR HUSBAND SPENT SEVEN YEARS IN PRISON
"BECAUSE HE'S AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT?"
AND SHE SAID, "WELL, YEAH.
"HE KINDA TOLD ME ABOUT IT."
"WELL, NOW YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE...
"EITHER YOU HAVE YOUR CAREER AS A TEACHER--
"AS A SCHOOL TEACHER-- OR YOU CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY."
AT THAT POINT, YOU KNOW, MY MOTHER DECIDED
SHE WANTED MY FATHER.
AND THEY REMAINED MARRIED.
AND THIS IS HOW A RELATIONSHIP WAS BORN,
AND THIS IS HOW I WAS BORN-- IN THAT KIND OF FAMILY.
NOW, MY PARENTS WERE QUITE AMBITIOUS PEOPLE.
THEY WENT IN TO BUILD THEIR OWN HOUSE...
AND WHAT I WANT TO READ YOU NOW IS ABOUT--
WELL, FIRST, I WANT TO READ YOU ABOUT THE HAPPY FAMILY LIFE
THAT I ENJOYED WITH THEM BEFORE WE--
EVEN BEFORE WE BUILT OUR HOUSE.
UM, BECAUSE THIS LIFE CHANGES VERY QUICKLY,
AND IT BECOMES SOMETHING QUITE DRAMATIC.
THIS IS ABOUT A TYPICAL VACATION WITH MY PARENTS,
AND THIS IS ABOUT GOING TO THE BLACK SEA.
"IT IS JUNE OF MY SEVENTH BIRTHDAY
"AND SCHOOL IS FINISHED FOR THE SUMMER.
"MOM AND DAD ARE GOING TO MAKE UP
"FOR ALL THE WEEKEND DISCIPLINE AND BOREDOM
"BY TAKING US ON A LONG HOLIDAY TO THE BLACK SEA--
"IN ONLY A FEW WEEKS!
"I DON'T REMEMBER THE OTHER TIMES
"BECAUSE MY SISTER AND I WERE TOO SMALL,
"BUT THIS TIME WE ARE VERY EXCITED.
"WE EACH HAVE BRAND-NEW BLUE BEACH TOWELS, TOYS,
"BATHING COSTUMES.
"THE NIGHT BEFORE WE LEAVE WE HARDLY SLEEP,
"AND WHEN WE GET INTO THE CAR IT'S STILL VERY DARK OUTSIDE.
"BUNICA ASKS ME TO BRING HER SEASHELLS.
"THEN SHE WHISPERS TO ME, 'TELL ME IF THE SEA IS REALLY BLACK.
"'WILL YOU REMEMBER THIS?'
"I REMEMBER.
"AT MAMAIA THE SAND IS CRACKLY AND GOLDEN.
"THE WAVES ARE SO BIG THEY GO UP TO DAD'S CHEST.
"AS FAR AS YOU CAN SEE IT'S BLUE-- THE SKY, THE SEA,
"THE HORIZON, WAVES CHASING EACH OTHER IN THE SAND.
"THE SEA IS NEVER-ENDING, EVER-CHANGING HUES
"BETWEEN BLUE AND GREEN,
"ALL EXCEPT THE FOAMY WHITE CRESTS OF THE WAVES.
"DAD TAKES US TO SEE THE SUNRISE ON A BEACH--
"THE SUN COMES OUT OF THE WATER,
"AN INCANDESCENT BALL.
"HE CHASES US AND MOM IN THE SALTY, CHILLY BREEZE,
"CLOSE TO THE NOISY WAVES ON THE TIDE-WET SAND.
"WE BUY LOTS OF TOY TOOLS TO MAKE SAND CASTLES,
"EAT FRESH PEACHES EVERY DAY AFTER LUNCH.
"THERE ARE BOATS AND SAFARI-LIKE SETTINGS IN THE PARKS
"WITH LIONS AND ELEPHANTS AND WE FIND THE SEVEN DWARFS TOO,
"ALL MADE OF PLASTIC.
"MY SISTER AND I WEAR SAILOR'S OUTFITS
"AND BLUE-TINTED SUNGLASSES.
"WE POSE WITH ALL THE CREATURES AND CLIMB IN ALL THE BOATS
"THAT GO NOWHERE.
"BUT THE TRUE SOURCE OF FUN IS DAD.
"HE TAKES US UP ON HIS SHOULDERS AND THROWS US INTO THE SEA,
"MAKING MOM SCREAM WITH WORRY.
"HE HAS STRONG SHOULDERS AND ARMS.
"WE CLIMB ON HIS BACK, ASKING HIM TO SWIM WITH US FAR OUT.
"MOM IS BEST AT JUMPING WAVES--
"WE HOLD HANDS WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE WAVE
"TO LIFT US UP AND JUMP ON IT AT THE LAST MINUTE
"SO THAT FOR A FEW SECONDS OUR BODIES CREST WITH IT
"TOWARDS THE SHORE.
"THE SEA SHOWS US STARFISH,
"AND FISH WHICH MOM AND DAD HUNT WITH FORKS
"IN THE ROCK CREVICES.
"THE TIDES COME ALL THE WAY TO THE RESTAURANT TERRACE,
"MAKING THE CHAIRS DANCE.
"OUR FAVORITE RESORT IS CALLED VRAJA MARII,
"WHICH MEANS THE SPELL OF THE SEA.
"THERE IS MUSIC EVERYWHERE.
"MY SISTER AND I ARE IN A HAPPIEST DREAM.
"IN THE EVENINGS, WHEN MOM COOKS AT THE SMALL GAS STOVE
"ON THE BEACH,
"POLISH AND EAST GERMAN TOURISTS SELL BLACK-MARKET CLOTHES,
"TENTS, AND SLEEPING BAGS FROM THE BACK OF THEIR CARS.
"WE MAKE FRIENDS WITH THEM MOSTLY IN SIGN LANGUAGE
"AND OFFER THEM BUNICU'S TUICA BEFORE WE BUY STUFF FROM THEM.
"MOM CHECKS HER WEIGHT ON ALL THE SCALES,
"COMPLAINING THAT SHE IS GETTING FATTER,
"BUT HONESTLY I THINK SHE IS BEAUTIFUL
"IN HER RED BATHING SUIT.
"ONE DAY WE TAKE A SMALL WHITE SAILING BOAT TO OVID'S ISLAND,
"IN THE MIDDLE OF A LAKE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEA.
"DAD AND MOM TELL US ABOUT THE POET'S EXILE FROM ROME
"AND HOW IN THE END HE MADE FRIENDS WITH THE FISHERMEN,
"SO HE WASN'T THAT SAD IN EXILE AFTER ALL.
"MY IMAGINATION RUSHES WITH THE IDEA THAT SOMEONE
"HAD TO BE AWAY FROM HIS HOMELAND FOREVER.
"I CANNOT SEE HOW IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE FOR ME TO STAY ALIVE
"WITHOUT BUNICU, BUNICA, STELUTA THE HORSE,
"AND ALL THE ROOMS IN THEIR HOUSE
"WITH THEIR MAZE OF DOORS LIKE THE PRIEST'S HOUSE.
"THE STORY REMINDS ME OF THE CUCKOO BIRD FROM LUGOJ.
"THE BOAT SWISHES OVER WATER.
"THE WATER IS SHIMMERING BLUISH MILK-- 'PEARLY,' MY MOTHER SAYS.
"I AM RAPT FROM THE STILLNESS OF A LAKE, THE SUNSET,
"THE WIND IN A SAIL.
"I FEEL AS IF I AM GOING FAR AWAY IN A WORLD
"SUSPENDED BETWEEN HEAVENS AND THE EARTH.
"ON THE ISLAND WE DRINK LEMONADE WITH STRAWS AND EAT POLENTA
"WITH ROAST CHICKEN, NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS BUNICA'S,
"SOMETHING I REMEMBER TO TELL HER AS SOON AS WE'RE BACK HOME.
"AND I BRING HER A PLASTIC BAG CRAMMED WITH SHELLS,
"WHICH SHE SMELLS AND ARRANGES IN A DISH
"WITH THE SAND I GIVE HER.
"'THE SEA IS BLUE BLUE BLUE, BUNICA,
"'ONLY THE NAME IS BLACK.'"
AND, I THINK...
THAT KIND OF LIFE
IS THE KIND OF LIFE THAT I ALWAYS RETURN TO,
YOU KNOW.
AND WHEN MY FATHER WAS IN PRISON,
AND WHEN MY FATHER WAS POWERLESS,
AND WHEN MY MOTHER WAS REALLY GOING THROUGH THE STRESSES
AND THE PAIN OF RAISING US WITHOUT HER HUSBAND,
THESE WERE THE KINDS OF MEMORIES THAT WERE REPLENISHING MY MIND.
I WAS ALWAYS GOING BACK TO THAT.
AND OF COURSE, WHEN WE CAME TO MICHIGAN,
THE FIRST THING I DID WITH DIANA,
WHO IS THE PASTOR FROM FAITH UNITED CHURCH OF GOD--
WHEN WE CELEBRATED MY FIRST PAYCHECK
AS A HOUSEKEEPER AT A--
I DON'T KNOW-- I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S CALLED--
ONE OF THE NURSING HOMES ON 28th STREET OR 44th STREET,
SHE TOOK ME TO, UM, GRAND HAVEN TO THE RESTAURANT ON A BEACH,
AND THE FIRST THING I DID--
IT WAS THE MIDDLE OF THE WINTER--
DEAD OF WINTER-- THE LAKE WAS FROZEN--
I RAN INTO LAKE MICHIGAN...
AND I WAS ALL ALL WET, AND SHE WAS REALLY WORRIED ABOUT ME.
AND I SAID, "OH, MY GOD.
"THIS HAS TO BE MY NEW 'BLACK SEA.'"
SO, I'VE ADOPTED THE LAKE MICHIGAN
TO BE MY "BLACK SEA," STRAIGHTAWAY.
SO, THERE IS A LOT OF CONTINUITY.
NOW... (sighing)
MY-- MY, UM...
MY GRANDMOTHER, ANGHELINA--
THE ONE WHO ASKED ME IF THE BLACK SEA IS BLACK--
HAS BEEN THE GRANDMOTHER WHO TAUGHT ME
EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT BEING WISE.
SHE WAS A VILLAGE MIDWIFE.
UM, SO, HER JOB WAS TO BRING INTO THE WORLD ALL THE CHILDREN.
AND SHE HAD MILLIONS OF STORIES, YOU KNOW?
I USED TO SIT BEHIND HER BACK WHENEVER SHE WOULD--
SHE WOULD START KNITTING AND TALKING TO HER FRIENDS,
I USED TO SORT OF CUDDLE UP, YOU KNOW,
IN THE BED BEHIND HER BACK BECAUSE HER BACK WAS VERY WARM,
AND JUST LISTEN TO HER STORIES.
AND WHEN SHE DIED, I WAS AT THE AGE OF TEN.
IT WAS A REAL LOSS.
IT WAS A REAL, YOU KNOW, LOSS OF SOMETHING REALLY MAGICAL TO ME.
BUT IS ALSO-- IT WAS ALSO TIME WHEN I LEARNED,
YOU KNOW, ABOUT THE RITUAL OF THE FUNERALS,
ABOUT SEEING PEOPLE DIE AND ABOUT LEARNING THAT THERE
IS AN ORDER TO LIFE,
AND THERE IS ORDER TO PASSING AWAY.
AND WHAT I WANT TO READ TO YOU-- BECAUSE IN AMERICA,
PROBABLY, YOU DON'T HAVE EXACTLY THE SAME EXPERIENCE--
IS ABOUT THE MORNING AFTER SHE DIED.
JUST THE LITTLE EXPERIENCE THERE...
JUST TO GIVE YOU A LITTLE MORE, UM, TASTE OF ROMANIA,
AS IT WERE, AS I KNEW IT AS A CHILD.
UM...
>> "BUNICA ANGHELINA IS DYING.
"OUR FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS CROWD IN A SMALL KITCHEN
"TAKING TURNS STANDING AND SITTING AT HER BEDSIDE.
"HER BREATH IS SLOWLY GOING FROM HER LEGS UPWARD...
"AND AS THEY BECOME STIFF,
"THE AIR LABORS IN HER MIDDLE AND UPPER BODY.
"I WATCH HER BELLY BECOME STIFF AND HER CHEST HEAVE.
"I THINK IT TAKES A LONG TIME FOR THE SOUL TO LEAVE THE BODY
"IF YOU ARE DYING SLOWLY IN OLD AGE.
"IT IS THE FIRST TIME I SEE ANYONE DIE.
"WHEN TANTI SAFTICA AND MOM KNOW IT IS HAPPENING,
"THEY LAKE LOREDANA AND ME AWAY TO THE IATAC
"WITH SOME NEIGHBORS-- IT IS GETTING LATE.
"TANTI SAFTICA AND MOM RETURN TO BUNICA WITH LIT YELLOW CANDLES.
"THEY SAY THAT THE SOUL OF THE DYING PERSON STRUGGLES
"TO GO OUT
"IF THERE IS SOMEONE IN THE ROOM
"WHO FEELS TOO MUCH SYMPATHY,
"SO IT LINGERS TO COMFORT THE ONE WHO IS GRIEVING.
"THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WITH MY MOTHER AND BUNICA.
"I CAN UNDERSTAND THIS EVEN AT THE AGE OF TEN--
"MY MOTHER OWES HER HAPPINESS TO BUNICA
"AND IT MUST BE AWFUL FOR HER TO LET GO.
"TANTI SAFTICA SENDS MOM TO LOREDANA AND ME
"FOR THE LAST FEW MINUTES
"AND ALL I KNOW OF THIS IS MOM HOLDING BOTH OF US
"IN HER ARMS AND CRYING
"UNTIL THE SOUND OF KEENING RISES FROM THE KITCHEN
"WHERE MY BUNICA BREATHES OUT HER SOUL--
"OUT THE WINDOW, INTO THE NIGHT.
"KEENING IS A RITUAL THAT BLENDS WEEPING WITH SINGING,
"THE SONOROUS WITH THE THROAT-SQUEEZED,
"HICCUPPED FAREWELL.
"MOURNING IS A GENTLE RELEASE OF PAIN THROUGH A SONG
"ABOUT EYES TURNING INTO BLUEBELLS,
"BONES TURNING INTO FLUTES,
"AND THE BELLY GROWING INTO A TREE.
"MAYBE THIS IS WHY IN MANY ROMANIAN STORIES,
"THERE IS SOMEONE PLAYING A FLUTE UNDER A TREE--
"SOULS SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER.
"OR MAYBE DEATH REALLY IS NOTHING BUT AN ALLEGORY.
"IT IS THE LOT OF THE WOMEN TO KEEN,
"SO IN OUR VILLAGE THERE IS A CHOIR OF THEM
"TO WALK EVERYONE TO THE CEMETERY,
"THEIR SONG HALTING IN THEIR THROATS AS THEY WEEP
"AND SWALLOW THE GRIEF, TO MAKE IT PART OF THEMSELVES.
"THE FAMILY WOMEN ALL UNBRAID THEIR HAIR AND COVER IT
"WITH BLACK SCARVES.
"TANTI SAFTICA, BUNICA'S OLDEST DAUGHTER,
"HAS BLACK-AND-SILVER HAIR THAT FALLS DOWN HER BACK
"ALL THE WAY TO HER HIPS.
"I THINK THAT POETRY IS A LITTLE LIKE KEENING TOO.
"THE BEST POEMS PAUSE ON THE SOB IN YOUR THROAT,
"WEEPING BOTH FOR WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL
"AND WHAT IS LOST TO DARKNESS AND EVIL.
"THERE IS, FOR EXAMPLE,
"THE LEGEND OF THE MASTER BUILDER MANOLE,
"WHO BEGAN BUILDING A CHURCH THAT KEPT CRUMBLING EACH NIGHT,
"REDUCING THE DAY'S WORK TO NOTHING.
"A SPIRIT TOLD HIM THAT A SACRIFICE WAS NEEDED,
"SO THE FIRST WIFE WITH A YOUNG CHILD
"WHO COMES TO FEED THE WORKMEN NEXT DAY
"MUST BE BURIED IN THE WALLS OF THE BUILDING,
"CEMENTED OVER BY HER HUSBAND.
"HIS OWN WIFE WAS THE ONE WHO CAME FOR THE NEXT DAY.
"WITH A HEAVY HEART, HE BURIED HER IN THE UPPER WALLS
"OF THE CHURCH,
"WHICH THEN STOOD UNTIL IT WAS FINISHED.
"THE STORY SAYS THAT FOR DAYS HE HEARD HIS WIFE AND CHILD WEEP
"INSIDE THE WALL.
"SAD FOR HIS LOSS,
"FOR THE SACRIFICE THE BUILDING HAD ASKED OF HIM,
"MANOLE MADE A SET OF WINGS FOR HIMSELF FROM PLANKS OF WOOD
"AND FLEW FROM THE TOP OF THE CHURCH TO HIS DEATH.
"THE LEGEND IS TOLD IN POETRY, IN RHYMES,
"AND EVERY TIME I HEAR IT, IT SOUNDS LIKE KEENING TO ME.
"BUT DYING IS NO MORE THAN A TRANSFORMATION,
"FOR THE LEGEND OF MIORITA,
"WHICH YOU ALL SING AND RECITE FROM
"WHEN WE ARE LITTLE,
"SPEAKS OF A SHEPHERD SEEING HIMSELF
"AS A GROOM WHEN HE DIES--
"NATURE TAKES PART IN A WEDDING RITUAL
"BY TURNING FIR TREES INTO CANDLES,
"STARS INTO CANDLELIGHTS.
"I AM NOT SURE EXACTLY WHERE BUNICA'S SOUL GOES TONIGHT
"AS BREATH LEAVES HER
"BUT SHE HAS TOLD ME SO MANY TIMES ABOUT HER HOUSE OF STRAW
"AND HER HEAVEN THAT I'M DESPERATE TO BELIEVE HER.
"I WAKE UP TO FIND BUNICA LAID OUT IN THE FRONT ROOM
"IN A COFFIN BRIMMING WITH FLOWERS.
"THERE IS A ROUND CANDLEHOLDER MAKING SMALL BURNING SOUNDS
"ON A STAND AT THE HEAD OF THE COFFIN--
"THIN YELLOW CANDLES FLICKER
"AND DRIP INTO THE SAND SPRINKLED IN A SILVER VASE.
"THIS LOOKS LIKE A CONSTELLATION AT THE ENTRANCE
"TO THE FRONT ROOM,
"NEXT TO THE IATIC
"WHERE THE SPINDLE IS LAID TO REST FOREVER
"WITH A SINGER SEWING MACHINE,
"AND BUNICA'S SLIPPERS FORGOTTEN SINCE THE AUTUMN
"WHEN SHE STOPPED WALKING AROUND.
"AROUND THE COFFIN THERE ARE CHAIRS ARRANGED IN A CIRCLE.
"SHE LOOKS LIKE THE SUN
"AND WE ARE THE PLANETS HALTED IN OUR TURNING.
"FOR THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS
"THE ROOM FILLS WITH PEOPLE COMING,
"LEAVING, STANDING, SITTING,
"SUFFOCATING THE COFFIN WITH FRESH FLOWERS
"ON TOP OF WILTING FLOWERS.
"THE PRIEST HAS CROSSED BUNICA'S HANDS ON HER CHEST
"AND LODGED A SILVER CROSS BETWEEN HER PALMS.
"I INVENT MY OWN KEENING SONG FOR HER
"BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN THINGS TO SAY TO HER.
"I ONLY KEEP THE TUNE.
"BUNICU REPLACES THE CANDLE STUBS, GREETS PEOPLE,
"AND SITS OR STANDS ARE HER HEAD QUIETLY.
"I ASK AS MANY CHILDREN AS I CAN TO COME HOME WITH ME
"FOR THE FUNERAL MEAL.
"MOM AND THE WOMEN RUSH TO SET UP EXTRA TABLES AND CHAIRS
"IN THE YARD WHERE LOREDANA, OUR COUSIN FLORIN,
"AND I EAT WITH OUR FRIENDS.
"EACH PLATE OF FOOD EATEN HERE WILL ARRIVE IN HEAVEN FOR BUNICA
"AS FULL AND AS PERFECT AS MOM AND TANTI SAFTICA PREPARED IT
"FOR US.
"I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT BUNICA HAS PLENTY OF PROVISIONS
"SO SHE CAN WALK AROUND HEAVEN
"AND STORE THEM IN HER HOUSE OF STRAW.
"IN A WAY, THIS IS A CELEBRATION,
"THOUGH THERE ARE STILL WHITE AND BLACK RIBBONS
"TIED TO THE DOORS AND PEOPLE BRING FLOWERS.
"THE YARD IS FILLED WITH THE AROMA
"OF CONTINUOUSLY COOKED MEAT, RICE, POLENTA, AND SWEETS,
"AND WE ARE ALL TOGETHER, THE WHOLE BIG FAMILY.
"I WANT TO OBSERVE THIS TRADITION,
"I WANT TO BE PART OF THINGS DONE IN AN ORDERLY WAY."
AND I MEAN, I DON'T THINK THIS IS SOMETHING
THAT YOU ACTUALLY HAVE HERE.
THAT-- BECAUSE THE FUNERALS THAT I'VE SEEN HERE
ARE QUITE DIFFERENT, WHERE YOU--
YOU KNOW, PEOPLE STAY IN A FUNERAL HOME
AND THERE'S A DIFFERENT KIND OF GRIEVING.
SO, EVEN THOUGH THIS IS SORT OF A SAD MOMENT IN A BOOK,
I WANTED TO SHARE THAT WITH YOU,
JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF WHAT IT WAS LIKE
WHEN I GREW UP AS A CHILD,
AND THE KIND OF THINGS THAT I AM QUITE STILL ATTACHED TO,
UM, EMOTIONALLY.
NOW...
MY PARENTS WORKED IN A GROCERY STORE
IN A SMALL MARKET TOWN
NOT VERY FAR FROM MY GRANDPARENTS' HOUSE.
AND THEY WERE IN CHARGE OF SELLING, YOU KNOW,
THE FOOD THAT WAS COMING IN ON RATION CARS--
AND I THINK I WAS MENTIONING THIS AT LUNCH, TOO.
THE REASON FOR WHICH THEY DECIDED TO--
MY FATHER DECIDED TO RETURN TO HIS POLITICAL DISSIDENCE
AND MY MOTHER DECIDED TO SUPPORT HIM,
IS THAT THEY REALLY HAD A VERY DIFFICULT TIME
KEEPING UP WITH THE RATIONS.
SIMPLY, THERE WAS NOT ENOUGH FOOD TO SELL TO PEOPLE.
SO, MY FATHER SAID, YOU KNOW-- UH, WHEN THERE WAS ENOUGH FOOD,
PEOPLE SAID, "WOW, THESE BUGAN PEOPLE-- THEY'RE GREAT!"
WHEN THEY DIDN'T, THEY SAID, "OH, BUGAN PEOPLE ARE THIEVES.
"THEY STEAL ALL THE FOOD.
"THEY TAKE IT ALL TO THEMSELVES."
SO, I THINK AFTER ENOUGH YEARS OF DOING THIS,
IT WAS QUITE DIFFICULT TO, UM, TO DEAL WITH.
SO, MY FATHER HAS BOUGHT THE TYPEWRITER--
THE ILLEGAL TYPEWRITER--
THAT I WAS TELLING YOU ABOUT BEFORE.
AND, UM...
HE AND MY MOM STARTED THIS, UH, CAMPAIGN, I SUPPOSE,
OF JUST SPREADING THOSE FLYERS
ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
THE AMAZING THING IS THAT WHEN I HAVE RECEIVED THE ACCESS
TO THE SECRET FILES IN 2010,
I WAS ABLE TO FIND MAPS... (chuckling)
AND PICTURES OF THE MAILBOXES IN DIFFERENT TOWNS
WHERE THEY SPREAD THE FLYERS,
AND ALSO LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE WHO FOUND THE FLYERS
IN THEIR MAILBOXES,
AND THEY TURNED THEM INTO THE SECRET POLICE,
SAYING, "OH, WE'RE SCARED.
"WE DIDN'T-- WE DON'T AGREE WITH WITH THIS POLITICS.
"WE DON'T WANT THESE THINGS."
THEY TURNED THEM IN-- HUNDREDS OF LETTERS OF PEOPLE
BEING ABSOLUTELY INTIMIDATED BY THEM,
BEING ABSOLUTELY SCARED BY THEM.
UM, AND I PUT A COUPLE OF PICTURES
AT THE BACK OF THE BOOK,
SO YOU CAN SEE THEM.
YOU KNOW, THEY'RE IN THERE.
THEY GIVE THE ADDRESS WHERE THEY FOUND THEM AND WHO FOUND THEM.
THEY'RE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE.
ALL OF THIS HAS BEEN, UH, YOU KNOW,
QUITE DIFFICULT TO DEAL WITH,
IN A SENSE OF...
US BEING ON A SIDE-- (chuckling)
ON A WRONG SIDE OF THE GOVERNMENT
AND THEN PEOPLE IN THE VILLAGE HAVING TO SUFFER
BECAUSE THEY KNEW US.
THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE
WHO WERE EITHER FORCED TO INFORM ON US
OR THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO, WHEN THEY DECIDED TO HELP US,
WHO HAD SUFFERED INTERROGATIONS BECAUSE OF US.
AND, UM...
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENTS IN MY LIFE, I SUPPOSE,
WAS THE VERY CONFUSING REACTION
THAT WAS GIVEN AT MY PARENTS' DIVORCE.
UH, SO I WAS SAYING MY PARENTS WERE FORCED TO DIVORCE.
UM, IT WAS A BLESSING BECAUSE AT HOME,
I WAS HEARING FROM THE SECRET POLICE
THAT MY FATHER COMMITTED SUICIDE IN PRISON--
HE STABBED HIMSELF WITH A HANDLE OF THE SPOON.
AND THEN, SO, WE THOUGHT, "OKAY, IF WE HAVE TO DIVORCE,
"AT LEAST WE WILL SEE HIM.
"AT LEAST WE KNOW THAT HE IS ALIVE."
BUT WHAT WAS EXTRAORDINARY--
AND ESPECIALLY FOR A CHILD
IN THAT TIME--
WAS THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE--
UH, THE WORD GOT AROUND THAT MY FATHER WAS BEING BROUGHT
FOR THE DIVORCE.
AND A LOT OF PEOPLE SHOWED UP.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A SOCIETY WHEN PEOPLE ARE SCARED.
I MEAN, YOU DEFINITELY DON'T WANT TO GO TO A PUBLIC TRIAL
OF A POLITICAL DISSIDENT.
THIS IS NOT--
AND THEY WERE CHANTING HIS NAME
UNDER THE WINDOWS WHEN THEY SAW HIM.
AND I WANT TO READ TO YOU THAT EPISODE OF THE DIVORCE.
AND WHAT I WAS WRITING IN THERE,
I WAS TRYING TO ARTICULATE IN A BOOK--
AND I THINK I DID IT-- MY OWN FEELINGS AS A CHILD.
FIRST, BEING SCARED FOR MY FATHER.
AND THEN, BEING PROUD OF HIM.
IT'S-- THE SWITCH HAPPENED REALLY, REALLY FAST,
AND WHAT I WAS HELPED--
WHAT HELPED ME WAS THAT CHANGED REACTION
OF THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM.
UM...
SO, I THINK, IN A SENSE,
ALL THESE POLITICAL MOVEMENTS, I THINK,
THEY ARE, UH...
THEY CAN'T HAPPEN WITH ONE MAN ALONE.
THEY HAPPEN WITH MANY PEOPLE TOGETHER.
THIS-- AT LEAST IN MY EXPERIENCE.
WHENEVER THAT GESTURE OF COURAGE OF CHANTING HIS NAME,
IT HAPPENED WITH HIM.
AND IT'S STILL VERY HARD TO EXPLAIN WHY THEY DID THAT
AND HOW THEY DID THAT.
NOW, AT THIS TIME--
SO, WHEN MY FATHER RECEIVED THE NEWS OF THE DIVORCE--
THAT MY MOTHER HAS FILED FOR DIVORCE,
HE WAS IN PRISON AT AIUD,
AND I'LL START READING FROM THERE,
FROM HIS POINT OF VIEW.
"AT THE AUID PRISON THE GUARD OPENS THE SMALL SQUARE WINDOW
"IN THE WALL OF MY FATHER'S CELL.
"'BUGAN, TO THE INTERROGATION ROOM.'
"DAD IS GIVEN A GLASS OF BUTTERMILK
"AND IS TOLD THAT MOM HAS FILED FOR DIVORCE.
"'WE WANT YOU TO WRITE DOWN THE REASON FOR WHICH YOU THINK
"'YOUR WIFE WANTS TO DIVORCE YOU.
"'CLEARLY SHE MUST BE TIRED OF BEING ALONE.
"'SEE, EVEN SHE ABANDONS YOU.'
"THE GUARD LEAVES THE ROOM.
"DAD HASN'T SEEN BUTTERMILK IN AT LEAST TWO YEARS
"SO HE ASSUMES THE MILK IS POISONED.
"HE POURS THE CONTENTS OF THE GLASS, LITTLE BY LITTLE,
"INTO THE MOUTH OF THE SMALL FIREPLACE
"WHILE THE GUARD IS AWAY.
"THERE IS NOTHING HE CAN THINK OF AND HE WRITES,
"'MY WIFE AND I ALWAYS WERE COMMITTED TO EACH OTHER
"'AND I FIND NO REASON WHY SHE HERSELF
"'WILL WANT TO DIVORCE ME.
"'ION BUGAN.'
"THE GUARD RETURNS TO THE ROOM.
"ON THE TABLE HE PLACES THREE RED APPLES
"AND INFORMS DAD THAT MOM SENT THEM TO HIM.
"DAD READS THE SYMBOLISM-- HE HAS THREE CHILDREN,
"SO MOM MUST BE TELLING HIM THAT NOW HE IS LOSING HIS CHILDREN.
"IT IS TRUE SHE ALWAYS FOUGHT WITH HIM ABOUT HIS MANIFESTOS,
"ABOUT THE RISKS HE WAS PUTTING HIS FAMILY UNDER,
"ABOUT HIS SELFISHNESS TO THINK THAT IT'S ALL RIGHT
"TO SACRIFICE HIS FAMILY FOR A POINTLESS POLITICAL IDEAL.
"HE REMEMBERS THE FIGHTS,
"THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AT THE TYPEWRITER,
"HER HATRED AT LEAVING THE CHILDREN,
"HIS HEART POUNDING WHEN THE POLICE CAME TIME AND AGAIN
"TO CHECK THE TYPEWRITER.
"HE ALMOST BELIEVES THAT PERHAPS SHE SENT THE APPLES
"AND HE DRAGS HIS CHAINS AROUND HIS ANKLES
"BACK TO THE CELL CARRYING THEM IN HIS HANDS.
"HE PLACES THE APPLES ON A BED AND DOESN'T EAT THEM.
"IT'S SEVEN IN THE MORNING SOMETIME IN NOVEMBER 1985.
"DAD IS BEING BROUGHT FROM AIUD TO TECUCI, A TWO-DAY DRIVE,
"MEANING HE HAS BEEN IN PRISON IN GALATI LAST NIGHT.
"AT THE BUS STATION, LOREDANA, MOM, CATALIN,
"BUNICA FLOAREA, AND I MEET BUNICU NECULAI.
"WE GET OFF AT THE CITY CENTER ROUNDABOUT
"AND HEAD TOWARDS THE COURTHOUSE.
"I HOLD CATALIN, WHO IS TWO AND A HALF YEARS OLD.
"LOREDANA, BUNICU, AND I PASS CATALIN AROUND.
"I THINK ALL OF US NEED THE WARMTH OF THE CHILD IN OUR ARMS.
"WE NEED STABILITY AGAINST THIS DAY.
"WHEN WE ARRIVE AT THE COURTHOUSE
"THERE ARE PEOPLE STREWN ABOUT THE YARD
"WAITING FOR THE WINDOWLESS PRISON VAN TO ARRIVE.
"NO ONE KNOWS HOW THE NEWS GOT AROUND,
"BUT THE WHOLE TOWN AND THE WHOLE VILLAGE
"KNOW MY FATHER WILL BE HERE THIS MORNING,
"AND WHEN THE VAN SLOWS DOWN AT THE COURTHOUSE GATES,
"PEOPLE BEGIN CHANTING, 'BUGAN, BUGAN,
"'BUGAN, BUGAN.'
"I AM PRETTY SURE THEY DON'T REALLY KNOW THE SECURITATE,
"SINCE THEY MAKE THESE STUPID, RISKY GESTURES.
"THEY CHANT SLOWLY, WHISPERINGLY, CLEARLY.
"I AM SCARED AND I AM HYPNOTIZED.
"WE ALL HOLD EACH OTHER, MOM, LOREDANA, CATALIN,
"BUNICU NECULAI, BUNICA FLOAREA.
"DAD IS BROUGHT OUT TIED UP TO ANOTHER MAN BY HIS HANDCUFFS.
"HIS UNIFORM IS STRIPED, GRAY, HE HAS A CAP ON HIS HEAD
"AND HE BLINKS IN THE LIGHT.
"'TATICU, TATICU,' I SAY WITH LOREDANA, CALLING FOR HIM.
"HE SEES US AND ALL OF US FREEZE
"FOR THE SECOND BEFORE HE IS PUSHED INSIDE,
"BARE FEET IN BROWN SHOES,
"WITH HEAVY CHAINS AROUND HIS ANKLES.
"HE DISAPPEARS INSIDE WITH MY BREATH.
"FOR THE NEXT WHILE WE WAIT.
"AND THEN THERE IS ONE FINGER, ONE FINGER THROUGH THE GRATES
"OF THE TOP-FLOOR WINDOW AND PEOPLE START CHANTING AGAIN,
"LOUDER,
"ENCOURAGED BY SEEING HIM-- 'BUGAN, BUGAN, BUGAN.'
"THIS TIME I AM PROUD OF MY FATHER AND I WANT TO SAY,
"'I AM HIS DAUGHTER, YOU CAN ASK ME ABOUT HIM!
"'NO ONE CAN DO WHAT HE DID.'
"MOM WHISPERS BETWEEN HER TEARS, 'NELU IS ALIVE.'
"BUNICA FLOAREA SAYS, 'MY BOY'S ALIVE, THAT'S MY BOY.'
"BUNICU NECULAI SAYS, 'DEAR GOD, THE BOY'S WITH US, THANK GOD.'
"LOREDANA, CATALIN, AND I ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GO INSIDE
"THE COURTROOM,
"BUT A NICE WOMAN LEAVES THE DOOR SLIGHTLY CRACKED--
"JUST A CENTIMETER-- SO THAT WE CAN GET A GLIMPSE OF DAD.
"I ONLY SEE HIS FEET IN THE BROWN SHOES
"AND I CAN HEAR THE SMALL SOUND OF CHAINS
"ON A FLOOR AS HE SHUFFLES HIS FEET.
"EVERYONE ELSE IS INSIDE.
"IT'S COLD AND THE STEAM FROM OUR BREATHS RISES TO THE CEILING
"AND GOES THROUGH THE CRACK IN THE DOOR.
"AT THE END OF THE DIVORCE,
"I HEAR DAD STAND TO ASK THE JUDGE
"IF HE MAY SEE HIS CHILDREN, PLEASE.
"WE FREEZE IN THE OPENED DOOR UNTIL MOM SAYS,
"'CARMEN, WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO GO TO SAY HELLO TO DAD?'
"I RUSH TO HIS ARMS AND BURY MY HEAD IN HIS CHEST.
"TIME HALTS AND FREEZES.
"MY HOMESICKNESS FOR HIM BECOMES SO PROFOUND
"THAT I CLING TO HIM AS IF I AM ANOTHER ARM.
"I CAN'T MAKE SPACE FOR LOREDANA AND CATALIN,
"WHO ALSO STICK TO DAD LIKE ORANGE SKINS
"BEFORE YOU PEEL THEM FROM THE FRUIT.
"I WANT TO COVER DAD UP, TO MAKE HIM INVISIBLE,
"AND TAKE HIM HOME, GOOD GOD, TAKE MY DADDY HOME.
"THE JUDGE WEEPS AND LEAVES THE ROOM.
"IT TAKES TWO POLICEMEN TO UNSTICK MY SISTER AND MY BROTHER, AND ME
"FROM MY DAD'S BODY, LIMB BY LIMB,
"CHEEK BY TEAR-SOAKED CHEEK, FINGER BY CLUTCHED FINGER.
"BY THE TIME MOM AND MY GRANDPARENTS GO,
"I AM ALREADY NUMB WITH PAIN AND NEW LONGING FOR DAD'S ARMS.
"THEN IT'S ONLY COLD AIR IN THE STREET.
"I SEE NO ONE, I HEAR NOTHING,
"I WALK ALONG AND I WALK ALONG AND I KEEP ON WALKING.
"I DON'T KNOW HOW I ARRIVE HOME AND WHERE EVERYONE IS,
"BUT WHEN I COME TO THE GRAPE TUNNEL
"THEY ARE ALL SAYING THAT THEY DON'T REMEMBER
"HOW THEY ARRIVED HOME EITHER
"AND MORE IMPORTANTLY WHO HELD TO CATALIN,
"WHO IS ALSO, MIRACULOUSLY, HOME.
"MOM BEGINS CLEANING THE KITCHEN WINDOWS.
"SHE HANDS ME THE NEWSPAPERS.
"'YOU CLEAN THIS PORCH WINDOW.'
"I BREATHE ON A WINDOW. (blowing air)
"I WRITE ON MY BREATH 'DAD.'
"I BREATHE AGAIN ON A WINDOW AND I WRITE THE FIRST LINE
"ABOUT THE DIVORCE, WHICH WAS AN OATH OF LOVE.
"MOM SEES ME, 'HERE'S PENCIL AND PAPER.'
"I WRITE THE POEM AND ONE BY ONE WE READ IT,
"NOT ALOUD.
"IT RHYMES AND IT SPELLS IN QUATRAINS
"THAT DIVORCE IN OUR CASE IS REALLY ALL ABOUT LOVE.
"THE FIRST AND LAST STANZAS READ LIKE THIS-- UNDE ESTI TATICULE?
"LACRIMILE-MI CURG SIROAIE."
THIS IS BAD TO READ IN ROMANIAN BECAUSE IT'S VERY EMOTIONAL.
(crying) "DE CE-AI PLECAT TATA,
"AI LASAT IN URMA FURTUNI SI PLOAIE?
"SARUTA-NE TATA SARUTA-NE PE NOI
"CA NU SE STIE NICIODATA CIND VOM IESI DIN NOROI.
"DADDY, WHERE ARE YOU?
"MY TEARS FLOW AND FLOW.
"FATHER, WHY DID YOU LEAVE US INSIDE THUNDERSTORMS?
"NOW KISS US, FATHER, BLESS US WITH YOUR KISSES
"FOR WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN WE WILL COME OUT OF THIS MUD.
"DAD IS ALIVE, AFTER ALL.
"THE FOLLOWING WEEK WE FIND OUT WE CAN GO BACK TO SCHOOL,
"THIS TIME OFFICIALLY FATHERLESS."
I MEAN...
AND THIS HAS BECOME A POEM IN MANY VERSIONS--
IN DAVID'S CLASS AND THEN AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
AND FINALLY AT OXFORD,
WHERE IT HAS BECOME A POEM IN "CROSSING THE CARPATHIANS,"
BUT YOU CAN READ IT YOURSELVES BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO REPEAT
THE EMOTIONAL TURMOIL HERE. (audience chuckling)
WHAT I WANT TO READ TO YOU NOW IS A LITTLE PIECE
ABOUT THE JOY THAT WE EXPERIENCED
WHEN MY FATHER WAS RELEASED FROM PRISON.
WE HAD NO IDEA WHY HE WAS RELEASED.
THERE WAS AN AMNESTY--
THERE WAS A GENERAL AMNESTY THAT CEAUSESCU PUT IN,
AND HE SAID THAT EVERYONE CONDEMNED FOR TEN OR MORE YEARS OF PRISON
HAS TO BE FREED.
WE HAD NO IDEA, AT THE TIME,
THAT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
MADE MY FATHER THE PRISONER OF THE MONTH IN 1986,
THAT "INDEX ON CENSORSHIP" IN LONDON WAS PUTTING HIM ON A--
UH, NEXT TO LECH WALESA, SAYING, "THERE IS A POLITICAL DISSIDENT
"IN ROMANIA-- MAKE HIM FREE!"
WE HAD NO IDEA THAT THE AMERICAN EMBASSY KNEW WHO MY FATHER WAS
AND THEY WANTED US OUT.
NONE OF THIS.
WE ARE COMPLETELY ISOLATED.
BUT HERE WE GO-- MY FATHER'S HOME.
AND THIS IS, AGAIN--
I WANT TO READ IT TO YOU
BECAUSE IT'S THE EXPERIENCE OF JOY
IN A MOMENT WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN TALK BECAUSE OF THE MICROPHONES.
"OUR HALLWAY IS FILLED WITH BOOTS AND SHOES OF ALL SIZES--
"THE HANGERS GROAN WITH WINTER CLOTHES.
"TANTI SAFTICA ARRIVED AROUND ELEVEN IN THE MORNING
"WITH A HEN AND FRESH EGGS IN A WICKER BASKET.
"THIS MORNING SHE WEARS HER SCARF WITH PINK ROSES,
"THE PISTILS SEWN WITH TINY GOLD THREADS.
"HER USUAL WORRIED LOOK IS SUPPRESSED
"AND WHEN I KISS HER CHEEKS
"SHE SMELLS LIKE THE FRESH WIND OUTSIDE.
"BUNICU, BLUE EYES MOIST, WALNUT OIL IN HIS HAIR,
"AND HIS BLACK CHURCH SUIT FRESHLY DUSTED,
"STILL SMELLING OF INCENSE,
"CARRIES A FEW BOTTLES OF RED WINE
"THAT CLINK AGAINST EACH OTHER IN A STAINED CANVAS BAG.
"TITI AND IONICA, FANEL, COSTEL AND NUTA, FLORIN--
"TANTI SAFTICA'S SONS AND THEIR FAMILIES--
"HAVE BROUGHT RED CARNATIONS, FETA CHEESE, SOUR CREAM,
"AND UPSIDE-DOWN CHEESE PIES.
"TANTI BALASA AND UNCLE DAN COME WITH FRESHLY MADE MEATBALLS
"AND STUFFED VINE LEAVES, STILL WARM IN DEEP BOWLS.
"ALL THE WOMEN ARE CROWDED IN THE SUMMER KITCHEN
"PREPARING LUNCH.
"THE MEN ARE DIVIDED BETWEEN SPLITTING WOOD
"TO KEEP THE FIRE IN THE WINTER KITCHEN
"GOING FOR BAKING BREAD
"AND DRINKING THE FIRST GLASSES OF WINE.
"LOREDANA IS AWAY AT SCHOOL BUT WE CALLED THIS MORNING
"AND WE'RE EXPECTING HER TO COME WITH THE FIRST TRAIN.
"CATALIN AND I JUST WALK AROUND
"LISTENING IN TO VARIOUS CONVERSATIONS
"AND TRYING TO CALM BUNICA FLOAREA,
"WHO IS SO EXCITED THAT SHE WANTS TO TELL EVERYONE
"HOW MUCH PAIN AND SUFFERING HER DARLING SON HAS CAUSED HER
"AND HOW FROM NOW ON SHE IS GOING TO MAKE SURE TO BEAT HIM UP
"AND KEEP HIM CLOSE
"TO HER SKIRTS 'LIKE A GOOD MOTHER DOES.'
"AS MUCH AS THE OCCASION IS DAD'S RETURN HOME,
"EVERYONE CONGRATULATES MOM.
"'SEE, NOW YOU HAVE YOUR HUSBAND BACK
"'SO THERE SHOULD BE NO MORE WORRIES ABOUT YOU,'
"SAYS TANTI BALASA,
"WHO TRULY HAS BEEN A WISE AND PATIENT OLDER SISTER TO MOM
"IN DAD'S ABSENCE.
"'A WOMAN WITHOUT A HUSBAND IS MUCH WEAKER,
"'SO NOW THAT YOU ARE ALL A FULL FAMILY AGAIN,
"'MAKE SURE TO KEEP HIM OUT OF TROUBLE, THIS HUSBAND OF YOURS,'
"SMILES TANTI SAFTICA, WHO IS THE ONE WHO PRETTY MUCH SAW
"THAT WE SURVIVED DAY TO DAY.
"AND MOM GLOWS BETWEEN HER TWO SISTERS,
"HER THIN CHEEKS NOW THE COLOR OF CAMEO APPLES,
"HANDS DEEP IN DOUGH, FOREARMS WHITE AS THE DOUGH.
"I ALMOST DON'T BELIEVE THAT SHE DUG OUT
"HER KNITTED PURPLE MOHAIR DRESS
"AND CURLED HER HAIR-- I MUST HAVE BEEN STILL ASLEEP!
"UNCLE DAN PATS HER ON THE SHOULDER, 'THERE YOU ARE,
"'SO PROUD WITH YOUR HUSBAND HOME NOW,
"'YOU LITTLE HEARTY THING.
"'SEE, YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN SURVIVED,
"'AND NOW WE DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT YOU ANYMORE.
"'AND LOOK AT HOW YOUR LITTLE CATALIN IS GROWING!'
"ACTUALLY, I THINK, THIS SHOULD BE A MEAL IN WHICH WE CELEBRATE
"OUR RELATIVES-- ONLY THEY KNOW THE INTERROGATIONS,
"INTIMIDATIONS, AND THREATS THEY RECEIVED FROM THE SECURITATE
"OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS
"JUST BECAUSE THEY CAME TO VISIT US
"AND SUPPORT US.
"THE CONVERSATION WE ARE NOT HAVING IS PRECISELY THIS--
"HOW DID EACH OF THEM FIND OUT ABOUT DAD'S DEMONSTRATION
"AND ARREST,
"WHAT QUESTIONS WERE THEY ASKED AT THE INTERROGATIONS,
"HOW DID THEY COPE WITH BEING FOLLOWED AND SUMMONED
"TO GIVE 'REPORTS' OF THEIR 'ACTIVITIES'
"AT RANDOM TIMES DURING MOST WEEKS AND MONTHS
"FOR ALL THESE YEARS?
"QUESTIONS SUCH AS THIS NEVER ARISE,
"AND IN THE PLACID FACES OF BUNICU, UNCLE DAN,
"AND COUSIN TITI, EACH SMILING,
"CONTENT TO SIT DOWN AT THE TABLE WITH DAD
"AND LOOK INTO HIS EYES, STILL RED FROM THE TRAIN JOURNEY,
"IN THE PERFECTION OF THEIR STARCHED SHIRTS AND TIES,
"NO ONE WOULD GUESS THEY HAVE BEEN SUFFERING
"JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE RELATED TO HIM.
"AS FOR DAD,
"I AM DYING TO HEAR THE EXACT SENSATION HE FELT
"WHEN HE WAS TOLD THAT HE WAS FREE.
"I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THE FIRST FULL BREATH OF COLD WINTER AIR
"OUTSIDE THE AUID WALLS,
"THE TREPIDATION OF THE SHOCKED CHEST.
"ONLY MUCH LATER IN LIFE, AWAY FROM THE MICROPHONE'S REACH,
"I WILL FIND OUT THAT HE WAS PUT IN THE SAME CELL-- NUMBER 20--
"IN AIUD IN WHICH HE WAS GIVEN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
"SOME TWENTY YEARS BEFORE, AND THAT THE GUARD,
"THE SAME MAN WHO WATCHED HIM IN HIS YOUTH, RECOGNIZED HIM.
"HE WILL TELL ME, WHEN I MENTION TO HIM THAT I HAPPENED TO WALK
"AROUND SLIGO, IRELAND, ONE DAY
"AND MAYBE THROUGH A FAULT IN MEMORY
"THE CITY WALLS STRUCK ME A LOT LIKE THE CITY WALLS OF AIUD,
"THAT THE NIGHT HE WAS FREED FROM PRISON
"HE THOUGH THEY WERE TRICKING HIM,
"SENDING HIM OUTSIDE THE GATES ONLY TO MURDER HIM,
"AND WHEN HE BOARDED THE TRAIN WITH HIS BUNDLE OF CLOTHES,
"HE THOUGHT HE WAS DREAMING.
"ALL THE WAY HOME, TWO DAYS ON TRAINS,
"HE THOUGHT HE WAS DREAMING,
"AND HE LOVED THE SMELL OF FREE PEOPLE
"AND COLD FRESH AIR COMING THROUGH THE DOORS
"AT THE STATIONS.
"WHEN I WILL TURN TWENTY-SIX YEARS OLD, ON MY BIRTHDAY,
"HE WILL TELL ME, LIPS RED FROM DARK MERLOT
"AND HANDS BUSY WITH A PIECE OF CHEESE,
"THAT WHEN HE WAS TWENTY-SIX
"HE WAS ALREADY A POLITICAL DISSIDENT
"SUFFERING HIS FIRST BEATINGS.
"'OH, CARMENUTO, THEY TURNED ME INTO A SANDBAG,
"'HANDCUFFED AND BLINDFOLDED ME,
"'TOOK ME THROUGH A LABYRINTH OF CORRIDORS
"'IN A MUSTY-SMELLING BASEMENT,
"'AND THEY PASSED ME FROM ONE TO ANOTHER
"'THEIR FEET KICKING ME AND THEIR FISTS HITTING ME
"'TO SMASH MY CHEEKS.
"'BUT I FOUGHT SO THAT WORDS CAN BE FREE
"'TO BE UTTERED AND HEARD.'
"NEVER MIND WHAT I WILL FEEL LIKE HEARING THIS STORY."
SO, HERE YOU GO.
HE IS HOME AND WE ARE CELEBRATING...
AND A LOT OF QUESTIONS ARE GOING IN MY MIND.
THERE ARE A LOT OF QUESTIONS AND A LOT OF REPROACHES
THAT I HAVE FOR HIM AS WELL.
I SAID, YOU KNOW, "WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?
"DID YOU FEEL SORRY FOR LEAVING ME?"
AND YOU KNOW, HE SAID, "A SACRIFICE NEEDED TO BE MADE,"
YOU KNOW?
"A FAMILY HAD TO BE SACRIFICED FOR A COUNTRY."
AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS, ACTUALLY, YESTERDAY IN A CAR.
HE SAID IT JUST AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
YOU KNOW?
IT WAS A SACRIFICE THAT HAD TO BE MADE.
YOU KNOW, IT WAS ALL-- BUT THEN, WHEN HE CAME HOME,
HE CAME WITH MORE TROUBLE THAT WHEN HE LEFT
BECAUSE HE WAS PUT UNDER HOUSE ARREST,
AND WE WERE ALL PUT UNDER HOUSE ARREST,
AND LIFE BECAME REALLY IMPOSSIBLE,
SO WE HAD TO LEAVE ROMANIA.
AND I WANT TO END TONIGHT'S READING, UM, WITH A POEM MAYBE.
WITH A POEM-- UM, I'M NOT SURE IF I WANT TO READ A POEM
ABOUT LEAVING ROMANIA--
EH, YEAH, A POEM ABOUT LEAVING ROMANIA.
UM...
BECAUSE, AGAIN, IT FOCUSES ON RITUALS AND FAMILY.
THIS IS CALLED, "ON THE SIDE OF FORGETTING,"
AND I READ YOU SO MUCH ABOUT BUNICA ANGHELINA,
UH, ABOUT THE FUNERAL OF MY GRANDMOTHER,
AND I TOLD YOU SO MUCH ABOUT HER
THAT THIS POEM IS ALSO DEDICATED TO HER.
WE STOOD IN THE MAIN DOORWAY
ACCORDING TO THE CUSTOM OF IMPORTANT DAYS
(USUALLY MARKED BY THE VILLAGE PRIEST
WITH HOLY WATER DRIPPING FROM DRY BASIL
BUT NOW RECORDED IN THE SLOW TURN OF HINGES)--
"COME BACK," YOU SAID, "I WILL," I SAID.
YOU STORED THE COFFERS WITH MY DOWRY
AND WE WALKED TO THE STATION BEFORE DAWN.
THE MOON WHITENED THE CROSSING OF DIRT ROADS
SPREAD LIKE OPEN PALMS.
AFTER I LEARNED THE NEW LANGUAGE AND ABANDONED THE OLD ONE,
I PRACTICED PRONOUNCING NEW WORDS
AND FELT NEW IN THEIR NEWNESS.
WHEN LEAVES TURNED THEIR BACKS IN STORMS
I SAID IMAGINING THAT I WAS A CHILD BY THE SEA
WHISTLING THROUGH A FLUTE MADE OF CORNSTALK.
ONCE I SAW YOU IN THE CRISSCROSS OF AFTERNOON SUNLIGHT,
LIGHTING A CANDLE UNDER STAINED GLASS--
A HEART BEATING UNDER THE RIBS OF A CITY YOU WILL NEVER SEE.
THE CHURCH ORCHESTRA PRACTICED FOR EVENSONG
AND SOMETHING IN ME,
LIKE THE BREATH RELEASED FROM THE THROAT OF THE FLUTE,
ESCAPED-- I MATTERED TO NO ONE THERE.
THIS MORNING I AWOKE TO THE SOUND OF BIRDS
INSIDE THE YELLOW OF GORSE BUSHES,
THE HANDS OF HILLS ARE IN THE SEA,
TORY ISLAND IS A BOAT WITHOUT SAILS.
YOU WHISPER TO ME FROM HAWTHORNS AND HAZELS,
"THE EARTH WILL REMEMBER YOU."
YOUR WOODEN CROSS APPEARS TO ME
THROUGH THE RAIN WASHING THE CEMETERY.
I WANT TO WALK AROUND YOUR GRAVE THREE TIMES,
LIGHT INCENSE AND A CANDLE
INSIDE THE RUSTED BOTTOMLESS BUCKET
LODGED IN THE EARTH NEXT TO YOUR HEAD.
SO, FOR ME, NOW, THE RITUALS WHICH I LEARNED IN ROMANIA,
THEY HAPPEN IN POETRY.
I WRITE POEMS ABOUT THEM.
IT'S AS IF I AM DOING THOSE RITUALS.
IT'S CREATING A NEW HOME IN LANGUAGE.
I SUPPOSE THIS IS...
YOU KNOW, MY EXPERIENCE, MY LEGACY.
AND I'D LIKE TO CLOSE WITH ACKNOWLEDGING MY PARENTS,
IN FACT. (chuckling)
DAVID WAS GOING TO DO THIS EARLIER.
UM, THEY ARE IN THE BACK OF THE ROOM,
AND I'M GOING TO ASK THEM TO STAND UP.
(speaking Romanian)
THESE ARE THE HEROES OF MY STORY.
(applause)
I MUST TELL YOU, I WAITED FOR MANY, MANY YEARS
FOR A MOMENT LIKE THIS.
IT HAS TAKEN ME 23 YEARS TO WRITE THE STORY OF OUR FAMILY,
EVEN THOUGH WE TOLD IT--
WE TOLD IT TO YOU GUYS WHEN WE CAME,
AND TO DAVID, BUT IT TOOK 23 YEARS TO WRITE IT PROPERLY,
AND I'VE ALWAYS WAITED FOR THIS MOMENT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEM.
AND I'LL OPEN WITH QUESTIONS NOW.
(chuckling)
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> YES. >> (indistinct speaking)...
>> YEAH. >> (indistinct speaking)...
>> PROBABLY, YES, YES, YES.
I MEAN, THE FOOD WAS SHORT AND EVERYONE WAS RATIONING,
BUT EVERYONE KNEW THAT HE WAS BUILDING THE BIG PALACE
FOR HIMSELF AND, YOU KNOW...
UM, HE LIVED LIKE A MILLIONAIRE, BASICALLY,
SO... YEAH.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> OH, YES, I'LL TELL YOU ABOUT THAT, THAT'S FOR SURE.
>> (indistinct speaking). >> OH, YES.
UM...
I HAVE WITNESSES HERE TO PROVE IT AS WELL.
(all laughing)
I MEAN, WE WERE IN A CULTURAL SHOCK, UH,
FROM SEEING SO MANY COLORS THAT WE'VE NEVER SEEN.
I MEAN, ALL THIS GLOWING LIGHTS, ALL THESE LIGHTS IN STORES,
ALL THESE ADVERTISING...
(laughing) YOU KNOW?
IT WAS AN INVASION OF SENSES.
IT WAS-- YES-- A COMPLETE SHOCK.
AND, UM...
THE ABUNDANCE-- IT SEEMED-- UH, WELL,
LIKE MY FATHER SAID WHEN HE FIRST WALKED INTO A MEIJER.
I'M REPEATING THE STORY FROM TODAY.
WHEN THE PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH
TOOK US TO A MEIJER SHOP...
AND YOU KNOW, THE DOUBLE DOORS JUST KINDA SLID OPEN LIKE THIS,
ALL BY THEMSELVES, YOU KNOW, MIRACULOUSLY,
AND THERE WAS A ROW OF APPLES!
AND MY FATHER SAID, "OH, MY GOD!
"THE AMERICANS BROUGHT ALL THE APPLES JUST BECAUSE WE'RE HERE!"
(audience laughing) I MEAN, IN ROMANIA,
YOU WOULD NEVER FIND A STORE THAT BIG.
I'VE NEVER SEEN ONE.
AND YOU NEVER SEE SO MANY APPLES IN THE STORE.
I MEAN, THERE WERE-- YOU KNOW, AND THEN,
THE RED ONES NEXT TO THEM AND THE YELLOW ONES NEXT TO THEM.
THE ABUNDANCE WAS QUITE A SHOCK.
AND THEN, THERE WAS ALSO THE FACT THAT, I MEAN,
WHEN WE WERE SENT, WE WERE SENT WITH THE DEATH THREATS.
THEY SAID, "IF YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU BACK THERE,
"YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU GET TO THE UNITED STATES,
"WE'LL KILL YOU."
THERE WAS VERY SERIOUS...
BUT HERE, WE HAVE LEARNED FOR THE FIRST TIME
TO EXPRESS OURSELVES
AND TO TELL THE STORY, TO...
YOU KNOW, I MEAN, THERE WAS A FREEDOM, FIRST, TO TALK.
AND WHAT WAS EXTRAORDINARY FOR ME
IS THAT IN ROMANIA, BECAUSE OF THE MICROPHONES,
WE DEVELOPED THESE PERSONALITIES
WHERE WE WERE SPEAKING FOR THE MICROPHONES.
YOU WERE ONLY SPEAKING BECAUSE YOU ARE REGISTERED.
THEY HAVE PROOF OF THIS.
MY MOTHER JUST RECEIVED HER FILES FROM THE SECRET POLICE
BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN MADE PUBLIC JUST NOW--
3,000 PAGES,
INCLUDING ALL OF THE TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS THAT WE HAD,
TRANSCRIBED.
SO, WE WERE A FAMILY WHO COULDN'T--
WE COULDN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE
WHETHER WE'RE SAYING SOMETHING BECAUSE WE WANTED TO SAY IT,
BECAUSE WE FELT IT,
OR WE SAID IT BECAUSE IT WAS SAFE TO SAY IT,
SO THE MICROPHONES CAN HEAR IT.
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
IT'S WHAT WE DISPLAYED FOR OUR PROTECTION.
THERE WAS-- AND HERE WAS THE FIRST TIME
WHEN WE COULD FORM OUR PERSONALITIES.
I MEAN, I FORMED MY PERSONALITIES UNDER INTERROGATION.
AND YOU KNOW, NOW, HERE,
I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO BE WHO I WANT TO BE WITHOUT FEARING--
THE OTHER THING THAT I LEARNED HERE,
AND I WROTE ABOUT IN MY BOOK, IS...
OH...
I LEARNED TO TAKE REVENGE ON EVERYTHING, ON ALL MY SUFFERING.
WHEN I FIGURED OUT THAT WHEN I LOOKED BEHIND MY BACK
THERE WAS NOT THE SECRET POLICE MEN
TRYING TO HURT ME IN SOME WAY,
OR FOLLOWING ME, AND THAT THE SHADOW I WAS SEEING
WAS ACTUALLY A TREE...
AND I WAS A STUDENT AT UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN.
YOU KNOW WHAT I DID?
I WENT DANCING TILL 2:00 IN THE MORNING TO '70s MUSIC
WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS,
AND I WAS WHISTLING AND I WAS TYPING MY POEMS
AND I WAS NAILING THEM TO THE TREES ON A DIAG
IN A CITY CENTER OF ANN ARBOR,
AND I WAS DANCING AROUND THE TREES WITH MY FRIENDS,
YOU KNOW, HOLDING HANDS, BAREFOOT,
AND I WAS GOING ALL THE WAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
WITH NO FEAR, WITH NO RESERVATION.
AND SO, THAT WAS--
I MEAN, IF YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRANSITION,
I WENT ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE.
AND I PROBABLY DRANK TOO MANY PITCHERS OF BEER, TOO.
(audience laughing) TO ADMIT, YOU KNOW--
AND I MEAN, I CAN'T-- NO, I'M NOT IN A TEACHING SITUATION,
SO I CAN ADMIT IT BECAUSE, YOU KNOW--
(audience laughing) MY STUDENTS ARE NOT HERE.
BUT I DEFINITELY WOULDN'T WANT TO PUT THAT ON FACEBOOK,
YOU KNOW? (audience laughing)
I WAS GOING AND HAVING, YOU KNOW, POETRY COMPETITIONS,
AND I WAS-- I REMEMBER, YOU KNOW,
BEING ON A RADIO FOR THE FIRST TIME,
OR BEING-- THERE WAS A CLUB CALLED "THE HEIDELBERG CLUB"
IN ANN ARBOR, AND IT'S STILL THERE.
THEY ARE DOING THE POETRY SLAMS.
AND I DID SO WELL WITH THE POETRY SLAM,
I WENT TO THE NATIONAL SLAMS--
I MEAN, TO SAN FRANCISCO WITH THE ANN ARBOR TEAM,
AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MANY SHOTS OF DOUBLE--
HOW MANY DOUBLE SCOTCHES I HAD.
(audience chuckling)
AND SOME OF THESE EVENTS ARE RECORDED,
AND THEY WERE ON ANN ARBOR PUBLIC TELEVISION.
I MEAN, A YEAR LATER, WHEN I SAW THEM,
I WAS LIKE, "OH, MY GOD, NO-NO-NO.
"THIS HAS TO BE CENSORED."
(audience laughing) YOU KNOW?
THAT WAS THE TRANSITION THAT I HAD.
THIS KIND OF, "I WANT TO BE HAPPY, I WANT TO LIVE,
"AND THERE'S NOBODY OUT THERE TO HURT ME."
THAT WAS THE HUGEST THING FOR ME...
AND IT WAS WONDERFUL.
YOU KNOW, ASIDE FROM THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW,
YOU GUYS HERE LIVE VERY DIFFERENTLY, YOU KNOW?
THERE'S A NUCLEAR FAMILY, PEOPLE ARE VERY MOBILE,
THEY GO FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER,
THERE'S A MIDLIFE CRISIS--
WE NEVER HEARD MIDLIFE CRISIS,
I MEAN, IN ROMANIA. (audience chuckling)
HAVE YOU HEARD OF A MIDLIFE CRISIS IN ROMANIA?
NEVER HEARD OF IT, YOU KNOW? (audience chuckling)
EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT HERE...
BUT IT'S WONDERFUL.
IT'S VERY... FREEING
AND PEOPLE ARE VERY OPEN.
IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE
WHEN I LEARNED THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN SAYING YES AND NO WHEN I WANT SOMETHING.
I REMEMBER WHEN PEOPLE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD--
YOU INVITED US TO YOUR HOUSES, AND THEN YOU SAID,
"WOULD YOU LIKE SOMETHING TO DRINK OR TO EAT?"
AND WE SAID-- YOU KNOW, IN ROMANIA, YOU ALWAYS SAY, "NO,"
BECAUSE EITHER OUT OF CONSIDERATION THAT PEOPLE
MIGHT NOT HAVE TO GIVE YOU, OR JUST TO BE POLITE.
I MEAN, IT'S EMBARRASSING TO SAY, "YES, SURE-SURE-SURE,
"GIVE ME A MEAL," YOU KNOW?
WE SAY, "NO-NO-NO, I'M NOT HUNGRY.
"HONESTLY, I'M NOT HUNGRY," EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE STARVING.
I MEAN, YOUR STOMACH'S GOING, "BR-R-R-R!"
AND YOU GO LIKE, "I'D LOVE TO EAT SOMETHING,"
BUT YOU SAY, "NO."
AND HERE WE LEARNED THE DIFFERENCE-- WHEN PEOPLE SAID,
"IF I SAY I WANT A DRINK OR I WANT A SANDWICH...
"THAT MEANS I WANT IT."
IF I SAY, "I DON'T WANT IT," THAT MEANS, "HONESTLY, DON'T IMPOSE IT ON ME,
"BECAUSE YOU'RE STUFFING ME AND I DON'T WANT IT."
AND WE LEARNED THAT DIFFERENCE.
THAT WAS A HUGE, YOU KNOW, HOSPITALITY.
IT WAS A VERY HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THAT.
AND ALL OF THESE SORT OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL ANECDOTES--
I MEAN, IT'S ALL FANTASTIC EXPERIENCE FOR US.
I COULD GO ON, YOU KNOW, FOR THREE DAYS.
(audience laughing)
I WAS TELLING TODAY ABOUT GOING TO--
MY FATHER AND I--
ONE OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS WAS TO GO AROUND THE BANKS,
YOU KNOW-- TO-- YOU KNOW, THE DRIVE-THROUGH BANKS,
YOU KNOW, JUST TO SEE THE PLASTIC THING GO, "PSHHH!"
(audience laughing) TO CHECK OUR ACCOUNTS
ON ALL THE BANKS, YOU KNOW, TO SAY,
"WELL, THERE ARE MONEY IN THE WALLS IN AMERICA.
"YOU CAN TAKE THEM OUT--
"YOU PRESS A FEW BUTTONS AND TAKE THEM OUT."
(audience laughing) YOU KNOW?
THE DRIVE-THROUGH WAS THE SAME, SO...
AH, WELL, A CULTURAL SHOCK, I'LL TELL YOU.
SHALL I TELL THEM THE STORY OF THE BURGER KING?
I MEAN, I MIGHT AS WELL TELL IT.
(audience laughing) (chuckling)
SO, I WAS-- I THINK I WAS A STUDENT HERE--
NO, BEFORE I WAS A STUDENT HERE.
SO, I WORKED AS A HOUSEKEEPER IN A NURSING HOME,
AND I LOST A LOT OF WEIGHT BECAUSE I KEPT VOMITING.
SO, IN THE END-- I DIDN'T DO VERY WELL WITH THE CHEMICALS
AND WITH ALL THE CLEANING I DID.
AND IN THE END, THE MANAGER SAID, "PLEASE, GO AWAY.
"I'LL GIVE YOU A GOOD LETTER OF REFERENCE.
"YOU DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH--"
I MEAN, HE WAS CALLING ME TO THE ROOM
AND I WAS GOING TO THE WRONG ROOM,
I WAS USING THE FLOOR DETERGENT TO WASH THE MIRRORS...
(audience laughing) AND THERE WAS A PASTOR DIANA--
SHE WAS GOING CRAZY TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO ME,
"NO-NO-NO, DON'T DO THIS," YOU KNOW?
AND SO, I GOT MY SECOND JOB
AFTER I LEARNED A BIT OF ENGLISH,
AND I WENT TO WORK AT BURGER KING--
PLAINFIELD BURGER KING.
IT'S GOT TO BE LIKE A LANDMARK, YOU KNOW, IN THERE IN MY LIFE.
YOU KNOW, I SHOULD PUT A LITTLE NOTE--
NO, A LITTLE PLAQUE IN THERE.
AND I DID WELL.
I TOOK HOME THE MAPS, AND I STARTED LEARNING,
AND I LEARNED VERY WELL HOW TO MAKE, YOU KNOW,
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HAMBURGER AND A CHEESEBURGER
AND A WHOPPER AND THE BACON WHOPPER
AND A DOUBLE CHEESE AND...
AND I GRADUATED...
TO BE PUT IN THE DRIVE-THROUGH.
WOW. (audience laughing)
AND THE 15-YEAR-OLDS TAUGHT ME WHAT TO SAY.
(audience chuckling) HMM...
SO, HERE COMES MY FIRST CAR-- I HAVE THE HEADPHONES ON.
I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF.
I MEAN, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND, I'VE COME FROM ROMANIA
FROM WHAT I JUST READ YOU,
AND HERE I AM, IN A COUNTRY OF RICHES,
WHERE I CAN JUST GIVE PEOPLE THROUGH THE WALLS...
(audience laughing) AND I WEAR HEADPHONES!
HEADPHONES!
ME, TALKING TO PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE ROOM, HA HA.
(audience laughing) "HI!"
SO, I SAID TO THEM, YOU KNOW, I'M VERY EXCITED.
"HI!
"WELCOME TO PLAINFIELD BURGER KING!
"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT!?"
(audience laughing)
RIGHT.
THAT WAS THE REACTION IN THE CAR.
(audience laughing)
AND THEN, THEY SAID, "ARE YOU POLISH?"
I SAID, "NO, NO, I'M FROM ROMANIA.
"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT?"
(audience laughing)
SO, THE MANAGER HAD TO FEEL SORRY FOR ME, BECAUSE, I MEAN,
THERE WAS A COMMOTION-- PEOPLE WERE LAUGHING BEHIND ME
IN THE STORE... (audience laughing)
THOSE THAT ARE WAITING IN LINE BEHIND ME,
YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THE DRIVE-THROUGH WAS NOT--
YOU COULD HEAR IT.
THERE WERE PEOPLE LAUGHING--
AND THOSE THAT WERE MAKING HAMBURGERS--
AND PEOPLE IN THE DRIVE-THROUGH...
AND NOBODY MOVED-- I MEAN, NOBODY MOVED.
EVERYBODY WAS LIKE, "WHO IS THAT?"
YOU KNOW?
AND SO, THEY FELT SORRY FOR ME AND THEY TOOK ME AWAY,
AND THEY SAID, "THAT WAS..."
(all laughing)
THEY SAID, "NAH, YOU DON'T WORK ANYMORE IN THE DRIVE-THROUGH, HONEY.
"YOU KNOW, YOU GO BACK THERE."
THAT WAS MY JOURNEY, YOU KNOW? (chuckling)
TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THIS CULTURAL SHOCK.
YUP, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
(all laughing)
(indistinct speaking).
(all laughing)
>> WONDERFUL. >> (indistinct speaking).
>> MAYBE THERE'S A CULTURE IN THERE.
(all laughing)
MAYBE THERE'S A-- YOU KNOW, I LIKE TO TELL THIS STORY
TO ALL MY STUDENTS IN COMPOSITION COURSES
AND IN CREATIVE WRITING,
UM, AND I'VE BEEN TELLING IT TO MY STUDENTS HERE--
WHEN I TAUGHT HERE, WHEN I TAUGHT AT OXFORD,
WHEN I TAUGHT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF FRIBOURG
(indistinct) IN SWITZERLAND.
WHENEVER WE TALK ABOUT LANGUAGE PROBLEMS, UM...
I ALWAYS TELL THEM THIS STORY, AND I ALWAYS SAY THIS,
"YOU KNOW, IF I MADE IT, HA HA, YOU CAN DO IT BETTER."
(audience laughing) YEAH, LOTS OF QUESTIONS THERE--
YES, IN THE BACK THERE.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> YES, I MEAN, MY BOOK ON SEAMUS HEANEY
AND EAST EUROPEAN POETRY IS COMING OUT--
IT SHOULD COME OUT NOW-NOW-NOW,
BUT WE'RE NOT PRINTING IT UNTIL OCTOBER.
I STARTED "SEAMUS HEANEY AND EAST EUROPEAN POETRY
"IN TRANSLATION," AND PARTICULARLY,
I'VE BEEN WORKING ON THE INFLUENCE OF CZESLAW MILOSZ,
OSIP MANDELSTAM, ZBIGNIEW HERBERT, AND...
AND JOSEPH BRODSKY AND SEAMUS HEANEY.
SEAMUS HEANEY HAS DEALT WITH THE CONFLICT
IN NORTHERN IRELAND.
AND SO, THE ARGUMENT THAT I MADE IN THE BOOK
IS THAT WHEN POETS DEAL WITH HISTORY--
AND THIS IS VERY MUCH RELATED TO MY STORY,
AS YOU CAN IMAGINE-- WHEN PEOPLE DEAL WITH HISTORY,
THE QUESTION OF POETICS HAS AS MUCH TO DO WITH WITNESSING
THE ACTUAL HISTORICAL EVENTS
AS WITH THE POSITION IN WHICH THE POET
OR THE WRITER IS THRUST.
SO, WHAT SEAMUS HEANEY DOES IS A POETICS THAT AS YOU--
AND THIS IS HOW YOU WRITE THE POETRY
OF HISTORICAL UPHEAVAL,
AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HE LEARNED
FROM THE EAST EUROPEAN POETS.
AS MUCH AS HE CREATES THE PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
UNDER HISTORICAL DURESS,
BECAUSE HE HAS A LOT OF POEMS IN WHICH HE LAMENTS,
"WHY SHOULD I BE THE ONE
"WHO TALKS ABOUT THE NORTHERN IRISH CONFLICT,
"WHEN ALL I WANT TO DO IS TO CELEBRATE LIFE?"
DO YOU KNOW?
HE REFUSES TO BE-- AND THE REASON HE SAYS THAT
IS BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE--
BECAUSE HE'S VERY FAMOUS AND HE WAS QUITE GOOD
FROM THE BEGINNING--
UM, HE BECAME THE CATHOLIC POET IN NORTHERN IRELAND TO SPEAK,
TO REPRESENT THE CATHOLIC CONSCIOUSNESS,
AND THE GRIEVANCES THAT THE CATHOLICS
HAD AGAINST THE ENGLISH PEOPLE.
SO, WHAT I'VE LEARNED FROM HIS POETRY
IS ACTUALLY WHAT HE LEARNED FROM EAST EUROPEAN POETS...
STUFF THAT I ALREADY KNEW.
UM, I-- BASICALLY, I THINK I JUST TIGHTENED THE THREADS
THAT WERE THERE.
BUT THE PORTRAIT THAT SEAMUS HEANEY CREATES
OF AN ARTIST UNDER HISTORICAL DURESS, I THINK,
IS HIS BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO LITERATURE...
ESPECIALLY IN TIMES-- IN THESE CONTEMPORARY TIMES.
BECAUSE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE POETS AS HEROES--
THE IMAGE OF MANDELSTAM AND MILOSZ OF "POET AS HEROES"
IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM THE POSITION
IN WHICH HE IS, AS A POET, AS A REPRESENTATIVE,
AS SOMEONE WHO, YOU KNOW,
WHO HAS TO BALANCE IN HIS WORK THE--
YOU KNOW, IT'S THE HORATIAN POETICS
THAT HAS TO BALANCE THE DELIGHTING PART
OF THE POEM
WITH THE INSTRUCTIVE PART OF THE POEM.
AND SO, HE ACHIEVES THIS BALANCE
WITH THE EXAMPLE OF THE EAST EUROPEAN POETS.
AND I MEAN, IN A SENSE,
THIS IS WHAT I WAS TALKING AT LUNCH TODAY AS WELL--
YOU KNOW, THE HORATIAN POETICS,
WITHOUT SAYING THAT IT WAS THAT.
YOU KNOW, WHEN I WAS SAYING THAT ALSO IN MY WORK,
IS THE ATTEMPT TO DELIGHT PEOPLE.
YOU KNOW, TO GIVE YOU A BOOK THAT YOU CAN READ IT
AND YOU CAN ENJOY-- YOU CAN LAUGH AS WELL AS YOU CRY.
YOU CAN GET THE FULL LIFE OF A FULL PERSON.
BUT ALSO INSTRUCTIVE.
BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOU WILL LEARN, YOU KNOW,
WHAT HAPPENED IN A SOCIETY LIKE ROMANIA--
IN A TOTALITARIAN SOCIETY--
AND WHAT OUR STORY IS,
HOW DID WE COME TO THE UNITED STATES.
SO, I HOPE THAT ANSWERS A LITTLE BIT OF YOUR QUESTION.
MY BOOK IS COMING OUT QUITE SOON, THOUGH.
YEAH?
>> (indistinct speaking)...
...(indistinct speaking)...
>> YOU MEAN AFTER DIVORCE OR HIS ARREST?
OR ALL THROUGHOUT?
>> ALL THROUGHOUT. >> ALL THROUGHOUT.
WELL, IT WAS A QUESTION OF, ON THE ONE HAND, PEOPLE,
YOU KNOW-- YOU ALWAYS HAD THE OLD LADIES--
I MEAN, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT 80 YEAR OLD LADIES--
VOCIFEROUS OLD LADIES FEELING QUITE SORRY FOR US,
WHO ARE NOT AFRAID TO CRITICIZE
WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO US.
WE HAD THE SYMPATHY OF THOSE PEOPLE, WHO WERE NOT QUIET.
BUT THEN, YOU HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE QUITE SCARED,
AND I'LL GIVE YOU AN ANECDOTE-- A STORY ABOUT THIS.
WHEN I WENT IN 2010 TO CHECK THE ARCHIVES OF MY FAMILY,
OF MY FATHER, THE ONES THAT I PUT IN THE BACK OF THE BOOK--
UM, EXCERPTS FROM.
UM, MY HUSBAND AND I WERE WALKING ON OUR LITTLE DIRT STREET,
WHICH IS BEHIND THE CHURCH,
AND OUT ON THE FIRST HOUSE THAT GOES TO OUR STREET,
THERE WAS A COUPLE, YOU KNOW,
PAINTING THEIR FENCE...
AND THEIR SON WAS IN ITALY, SO WE WERE CHITCHATTING ABOUT THAT.
AND I SAID, "WELL, I'M THE BUGAN DAUGHTER."
HE SAID, "OH, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE."
I SAID, "WELL, HOW DO YOU KNOW ME?
"BECAUSE IT'S 23 YEARS SINCE I LEFT, AND I WAS A KID.
"I MEAN, HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE--"
HE SAID, "OH, I KNOW YOU-- I KNOW YOUR FACE.
"WE CAN'T FORGET YOU."
HE SAID, "YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I SUFFERED BECAUSE OF YOUR FATHER?
"JUST BECAUSE WE'RE NEIGHBORS ON THIS STREET,
"THEY THOUGHT I HAD CONTACTS WITH AMERICAN SPIES,
"AND THEY MADE MY LIFE MISERABLE AT WORK,"
AND YOU COULD SEE THE HATE ON THIS PERSON'S FACE
AFTER 20-SOME YEARS.
AND THERE WAS MY HUSBAND GOING LIKE,
"WHOA, HE KNOWS-- HE DEFINITELY REMEMBERS YOU."
IT WAS ONE OF THOSE STORIES-- AND HE WAS TRYING TO EXPLAIN--
NOW, MY HUSBAND DOESN'T SPEAK ROMANIAN.
HE SPEAKS ITALIAN.
BUT HE WAS TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO MY HUSBAND IN ROMANIAN
WHAT THE SECURITATE HAS DONE TO THEM,
JUST FOR BEING OUR NEIGHBORS.
SO, WE HAD PEOPLE BEHAVING
IN THE ENTIRE SPECTRUM OF...
HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND DECENCY.
I MEAN, THIS IS ALL I CAN SAY, YOU KNOW?
THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO STOOD BY US,
NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM.
AND THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO HAVE DOSSIERS
BECAUSE OF US, FOR SURE.
THERE WAS MY LITERATURE TEACHER WHO PRETENDED THAT SHE--
AND I SHOULD HAVE READ TO YOU TONIGHT THE EXCERPT--
SHE WAS PRETENDING, AT SCHOOL,
THAT SHE WAS TAKING ME FROM MY CLASSROOM.
SHE WOULD BURST IN MY CLASS,
AND SHE WOULD SAY, "BUGAN, QUICKLY,
"COME TO THE TEACHERS ROOM!"
YOU KNOW, "YOU'RE PUNISHED" FOR SOMETHING,
BECAUSE I WAS ALWAYS PUNISHED FOR SOME REASON.
AND SHE WOULD FEED ME SANDWICHES,
WHEN I WAS STARVED BY THE SECRET POLICE...
AND YOU KNOW-- AND SHE IS THE REASON
FOR WHICH I LOVE LITERATURE.
I MEAN, SHE'S-- I COULD NEVER--
I MEAN, I WAS VERY BLESSED IN MY TEACHERS.
I WAS SAYING THIS, ACTUALLY, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH W.C.V.N.
IN ANN ARBOR, SAYING...
YOU AND KEN, AND-- YOU KNOW, OH-- OH--
AND IT ALL STARTED WITH THAT TEACHER,
YOU KNOW, WHO SAVED MY LIFE.
UM...
AND THEN, THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE ABSOLUTELY SCARED.
THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WOULDN'T LOOK AT US.
THEY WOULD SEE US AND THEY WOULD CROSS THE STREET.
AND AGAIN, AT LUNCH, I WAS SHARING ANOTHER ANECDOTE
ABOUT THE ENGLISH TEACHER,
WHO SAW ME BEING KEPT HOME FOR INTERROGATIONS,
AND DIDN'T HAVE THE COURAGE TO SAY TO ME ANYTHING.
AND THEN, HE APOLOGIZED TO ME IN 2010-- 23 YEARS LATER.
HE SAID, "MY CONSCIENCE HAS BEEN HEAVY FOR ALL THESE YEARS,
"BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE THE COURAGE TO SAY TO YOU
"THAT YOUR FATHER IS A GOOD MAN."
SO, YOU SEE, IT WAS A SMALL VILLAGE, SO...
EVERYONE WAS IMPLICATED, IN A SENSE.
I MEAN, THE VILLAGE POLICEMAN, AT ONE TIME--
(laughing) I REMEMBER JUST BEFORE WE LEFT--
HE WENT TO MY DAD AND HE SAID,
"YOU KNOW, I USED TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF A BELLY.
"LOOK HOW SKINNY I AM.
"WHEN THE HELL ARE YOU GETTING OUT OF THIS COUNTRY,
"BECAUSE I'M TIRED OF YOU!" (laughing)
YOU KNOW, EVEN THEY WERE COMPLAINING TO US.
I MEAN, YOU KNOW, BECAUSE THEY HAD ALL THESE SECRET POLICE
THAT MOVED IN WITH THEM,
AND WAS, YOU KNOW-- IT WAS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY
THAT MY PARENTS ESCAPED AND DID ALL OF THIS...
THAT THEY WERE NOT VIGILANT ENOUGH.
SO, YEAH.
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> 1989.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> I WAS THERE VERY QUICKLY-- I THINK IT MUST HAVE BEEN '97--
TO SEE MY GRANDMOTHER, MY FATHER'S MOTHER,
WHO DIED OF CANCER,
VERY QUICKLY FOR A FEW DAYS.
AND THEN, PROPERLY, I RETURNED FOR THE FIRST TIME
IN JULY 2010 FOR...
I THINK I WAS THERE FOR TWO WEEKS OR THREE WEEKS.
WE STAYED THERE TO SEE THE FILES,
AND THEN I VISITED AROUND.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> YEAH.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> YEAH, WE SPENT A LOT OF VITAMINS AND A LOT OF...
(laughing) WE SENT TO MY VILLAGE SCHOOL,
WE SENT BOXES AND BOXES OF COLORED PENCILS AND PENS
AND VITAMINS WITH ALL THE TRANSLATED THINGS
AND PARACETAMOL TYLENOLS AND ALL THIS KIND OF STUFF.
AND THEN, MY PARENTS HAVE RETURNED--
THE HOUSE THAT WE BUILT WITH OUR HANDS
WAS CONFISCATED FROM US.
AND THEN, AFTER THE REVOLUTION,
THE GOVERNMENT RESTORED THE HOUSE.
MY PARENTS DONATED IT TO THE VILLAGE CHURCH.
UM, AND IT HAS GONE THROUGH-- IT'S A PAROCHIAL HOUSE NOW.
UNFORTUNATELY, WHEN I WENT THERE IN 2010,
UM, THE CURRENT PRIEST WAS NOT HOME...
SO I COULDN'T GO INTO THE GARDEN,
AND I COULDN'T GO TO VISIT THE HOUSE,
AND SO, WE JUST TOOK PICTURES FROM OUTSIDE.
BUT YEAH, WE WERE-- I MEAN,
MY PARENTS HAVE BEEN VERY CONNECTED TO ROMANIA.
I HAVEN'T BEEN...
BUT THEY HAVE BEEN AND THEY ARE VERY CONNECTED.
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
...(indistinct speaking)...
>> WELL, I MEAN, IT STARTED-- I MEAN, WE--
AS DAVID WAS TELLING--
IT STARTED IN CONVERSATIONS VERY, VERY LONG TIME AGO,
AND THEN, THERE WAS ANOTHER PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN--
I DID MY HONORS THESIS WITH HIM--
AND HE SAID, "YOU MUST WRITE IT."
AND MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TELLING ME ALL THROUGHOUT
THAT I HAVE TO WRITE THIS STORY.
UM, YOU NEED TIME.
YOU NEED DISTANCE.
I NEEDED TO LEARN ENGLISH, I NEEDED TO HAVE TIME,
I NEEDED-- BUT THE MOMENT THAT PRECIPITATED WRITING THIS BOOK
WAS REALLY WHEN I FELT PREGNANT WITH MY FIRST CHILD.
IT WAS THEN THAT I NEEDED TO-- AND I WAS--
AGAIN, I HOPE I'M NOT REPEATING MYSELF TOO MUCH--
UM, WHAT HAPPENED THEN THAT MADE EVERYTHING--
I WAS TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO MY HUSBAND
WHY IT IS THAT I WILL NEVER TEACH MY CHILDREN ROMANIAN...
BECAUSE I DON'T EVEN WRITE POETRY IN ROMANIAN,
OR ACADEMIC WORK.
I DECIDED, "I DON'T WANT THAT LANGUAGE ANYMORE...
"AND THAT COUNTRY."
SO, HERE I WAS, SAYING, "ROMANIAN LANGUAGE
"DOESN'T BRING ANYTHING TO ME,
"IT DOESN'T MAKE ANYTHING TO ME--
"I WAS NEVER FREE IN THAT LANGUAGE.
"IT BRINGS ALL BAD MEMORIES-- I DON'T WANT TO."
BUT THEN, ON THE OTHER HAND,
I WAS WALKING AROUND THESE OXFORD GARDENS
IN MY FELLOWSHIP THERE,
WHEN I WAS SUPPOSED TO WRITE BOOKS-- WHATEVER I WANTED--
BUT THIS WAS IN MY POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP--
AND I WAS SINGING TO MY BELLY ALL THE ROMANIAN BALLADS,
AND I WAS SINGING TO MY BELLY--
I WAS RECITING THE PRAYERS FROM MY GRANDMOTHER.
AND TODAY, AT LUNCH, I WAS--
WELL, I WAS SINGING A COUPLE OF THEM--
ONE AND, YOU KNOW--
WHAT I WAS SAYING TO MY SON,
UM, I WAS SAYING THE, YOU KNOW...
(singing in Romanian)
MY DAUGHTER WOULD PROBABLY HEAR IT
AND START-- (laughing)
(singing in Romanian)
(singing in Romanian)
(singing in Romanian)
AND THEN, I WAS RECITING TO HIM A PRAYER
THAT MY GRANDMOTHER TAUGHT ME WHEN I WAS VERY LITTLE...
UM, AND MY SON KNOWS.
(speaking in Romanian)
(speaking in Romanian)
AND SO, YOU KNOW, HERE I AM, SAYING ROMANIAN LANGUAGE...
AND ROMANIA IS SOMETHING THAT I WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND ME,
AND EXISTENTIALLY, AND CREATIVELY,
AND FROM A POINT OF VIEW OF, YOU KNOW,
HOWEVER YOU WANT TO PUT IT.
I WANT TO GO AWAY FROM THAT.
I DON'T EVEN WANT TO-- AND THEN, ON THE OTHER HAND,
EVERYTHING THAT IS BEAUTIFUL AND SACRED GOES BACK TO ROMANIA.
AND I THINK IT JUST REALLY SHOWS THE--
I DON'T KNOW-- THE EXILE.
THE PART THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU WANTED TO FORGET...
AT THE SAME TIME, IS YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE.
UM, AND SO THAT...
THAT... COMPLICATION THERE OCCASIONED THE WRITING
OF THE BOOK.
AND THEN, OF COURSE, I HAD TO MAKE CHOICES
OF WHO IS GOING TO BE TALKING IN THE BOOK,
WHAT VOICE AND WHAT TONE DO I WANT TO HAVE IN A BOOK?
DO I WANT TO WRITE A HISTORY BOOK?
DO I WANT TO WRITE A BIOGRAPHY OF MY PARENTS?
DO I WANT TO WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY?
OR DO I WANT TO JUST LET MY POETRY COME OUT?
AND JUST LET MYSELF GO, GO-- JUST GO?
BE A POET AND JUST WRITE A MEMOIR?
WRITE EVERYTHING THAT WAS IMPORTANT TO ME
AND EVERYTHING THAT HAS MARKED ME IN MY LIFE,
AND PUT IT THERE IN THOSE EPISODES,
IN THOSE VIGNETTES THAT YOU FIND IN THE BOOK.
YOU KNOW, STRING IT ALONG A CHRONOLOGICAL NARRATIVE.
SO, THAT'S WHAT IT WAS.
IT WAS REALLY-- HAVING A CHILD DOES THIS TO YOU.
WHEN YOU HAVE A CHILD, YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF.
IT'S AS SIMPLE AS THAT, YOU KNOW?
SO, YEAH.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
...(indistinct speaking)...
>> YEAH, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WE TALKED ABOUT TODAY,
IS HOW LIFE ORDERS ART AND ART ORDERS LIFE.
I MEAN, I NEEDED THE GOOD LIFE
THAT I EXPERIENCED IN THE UNITED STATES,
AND BY THAT, I MEAN I NEEDED TO BE FREE,
I NEEDED TO DANCE, I NEEDED TO WRITE,
I NEEDED TO TRAVEL,
I NEEDED TO BOUNCE FREE OF EVERYTHING...
AND I NEEDED TO LEARN ENGLISH.
AND ALL OF THOSE HAVE PUT A PERSPECTIVE INTO MY MEMORIES.
INSTEAD OF ANGER, INSTEAD OF FEAR,
INSTEAD OF WONDERING HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ,
HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO INTERPRET, YOU KNOW?
UM, MY STORY...
UH, I-- YOU KNOW, THAT GAVE ME THAT DISTANCE.
YOU NEED ARTISTIC DISTANCE FROM YOUR MATERIAL.
THAT'S ALL I CAN SAY.
AND THEN, HAVING THE BOOK NOW OUT, AS AN ARTIFACT,
AS SOMETHING THAT I COULD SAY, YOU KNOW, "I'M VERY PROUD OF THIS."
THIS IS MY ENGLISH EDITION OF THE BOOK AS WELL--
YOU KNOW, THE HARDCOVER.
I CAN GIVE IT TO PEOPLE AND I COULD SAY, "HERE'S MY LIFE.
"THIS IS WHAT I REMEMBER FROM MY LIFE,
"AND THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU," DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE,
I CAN TELL MY STORY THE WAY I WANTED IT,
AND IT'S A HUGE SENSE OF RELIEF, AND...
AND A HUGE SENSE OF PRIDE THAT I COULD--
YOU KNOW, I COULD FINALLY DO IT, AND IT'S ON MY TERMS.
I MEAN, I HAD AN INTERVIEW IN "NEW STATESMAN" IN LONDON
VERY SOON AFTER PUBLISHING THE ENGLISH EDITION,
AND THE QUESTION THAT THE JOURNALIST ASKED ME--
HE SAID, "WHY IN ENGLISH?
"WHY ON EARTH DID YOU WRITE IT IN ENGLISH?
"I MEAN, IT'S SUCH A ROMANIAN BOOK,
"AND IT'S SUCH A STORY OF YOUR FAMILY.
"WHY?"
AND IT'S ON MY TERMS-- THAT'S WHY.
IT'S ME-- I CHOSE IT-- IT'S ON MY TERMS.
BECAUSE HERE, I FELT FREE TO SAY IT THE WAY I COULD SAY IT
AND THE WAY I WANTED IT.
AND IN ANY CASE, BECAUSE I LEFT ROMANIA WHEN I WAS 19, RIGHT,
AND I DON'T HAVE A UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN ROMANIAN,
AND MY LANGUAGE SKILLS, AS FAR AS LITERARY WORK GO,
ARE LAGGING BEHIND.
I MEAN, I SPEAK ROMANIAN FINE
AND I CAN READ ANYTHING YOU WANT IN ROMANIAN,
BUT WRITING IS A DIFFERENT-- IT'S A DIFFERENT THING.
SO, THIS HAS BECOME, YOU KNOW, MY LANGUAGE.
IT'S AN ATTITUDE TO LANGUAGE, REALLY,
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
>> WE TOLD PEOPLE AT CHURCH STRAIGHTAWAY.
RIGHT-- WE-- WE TRIED TO EXPLAIN STRAIGHTAWAY WHAT WAS GOING ON.
WHAT WAS EXTRAORDINARY WAS THAT THE FIRST NIGHT AT THE AIRPORT,
WAS THE FIRST-- WAS THE-- WAS AN IMMEDIATE ACT OF TRUST.
SO, WE WERE-- THERE WERE PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH WHO CAME TO--
OUR SPONSORS-- WHO CAME TO MEET US AT THE AIRPORT.
AND FOR THE FIRST TIME, UM...
YOU KNOW, EVER, WE WERE ALLOWED TO BE SPLIT.
HALF OF THE FAMILY WENT IN ONE CAR,
HALF OF THE FAMILY WENT IN THE OTHER CAR.
AND THAT WAS A TREMENDOUS ACT OF TRUST
THAT SORT OF BROKE EVERYTHING.
I MEAN, WE WERE FREE AT THAT POINT.
BUT...
I MEAN, IN A SENSE, WE WOULDN'T REALLY GO AND-- HOW DO YOU SAY--
PUBLICIZE OUR STORY.
IT WAS ALL HAPPENING VERY SLOWLY IN VERY SMALL COMMUNITIES--
WE WERE VERY NURTURED-- IT WASN'T--
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME
THAT I'M TELLING MY STORY IN PUBLIC LIKE THIS, DO YOU KNOW?
WITH THIS BOOK.
I MEAN, SOME OF IT HAPPENED WITH "CROSSING THE CARPATHIANS"
IN 2004.
BUT THIS WAS POETRY,
AND IT REACHES A MUCH, MUCH SMALLER AUDIENCE,
AND IS BASED, REALLY, ON YOUR SKILL AS A POET.
IT'S NOT SO MUCH--
BUT, UH...
IT DIDN'T TAKE AS MUCH TIME TO TRUST PEOPLE HERE.
IT TOOK US A LOT OF TIME TO TRUST WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO US.
I MEAN, ON ONE HAND,
WE WERE TELLING PEOPLE AT CHURCH WHO WERE TELLING PEOPLE--
WE TOLD YOU STRAIGHTAWAY HOW WE CAME
AND WHAT HAPPENED-- THAT MY FATHER WAS IN PRISON--
AND WE TRIED OUR BEST.
WE DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH AT ALL THOUGH.
UM...
BUT JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF HOW PARANOID WE ARE...
UM, WHEN WE LIVED IN THE FIRST RENTED HOUSE,
ONE DAY, THERE WAS-- I WAS HOME ALONE,
AND THERE WAS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR.
AND I OPEN THE DOOR--
THERE WAS A CHAIN ON THE DOOR THAT YOU COULD KEEP A LOCK--
UH, LOCKED.
I OPENED THE DOOR, AND I LOOKED OUTSIDE,
AND THERE WERE TWO PEOPLE WITH A BIBLE.
JEHOVAH WITNESSES. (audience laughing)
THEY CAME AND THEY WANTED TO TALK TO ME ABOUT GOD.
WELL, I CLOSED THE DOOR AND I LOCKED IT, STRAIGHTAWAY.
I WAS CONVINCED THEY WERE COMING TO KILL ME...
(audience laughing) BECAUSE WE KNEW THE SECRETS.
AND THEN, I TOLD MY FATHER STRAIGHTAWAY...
AND WE WERE TRYING TO CALL THE F.B.I.,
BECAUSE WE WERE CONVINCED THAT THESE PEOPLE
WERE COMING TO STEAL ME,
THEY WERE COMING TO STEAL ME AND TO KILL ME,
THESE JEHOVAH WITNESSES. (audience chuckling)
AND THEN, ANOTHER ACT OF PARANOIA...
THE WINDOWS ARE OPEN, YOU KNOW, ONE EVENING.
MY SISTER AND I WERE IN OUR BEDROOM TALKING--
JUST TALKING, JUST WONDERING AROUND THE ROOM AND TALKING.
AND OUTSIDE THE WINDOW, WE SEE A COUPLE OF BOYS.
YOU KNOW, COULDN'T TELL REALLY IF THEY WERE BOYS OR MEN
OR WHAT THEY WERE. (chuckling)
WE CALLED THE POLICE. (laughing)
WE DEMANDED THE F.B.I., AND YOU KNOW WHAT THEY WERE?
PEEPING TOMS. (audience laughing)
THERE WAS NO END TO OUR PARANOIA.
WE THOUGHT-- AND THEN, THE OTHER THING THAT HAPPENED--
EVERY ROMANIAN WE MET, WE THOUGHT, "OH,
"HOW DID YOU COME TO THE UNITED STATES?
"WHAT DID YOU DO?"
I THINK ALL OF US DO THAT, DON'T WE?
ALL OF US DO THAT.
EVERYBODY ASKS, "HOW DID YOU COME?
"ON WHAT SIDE WERE YOU, AND WHY ARE YOU HERE?
"ARE YOU A SPY, OR ARE YOU A GOOD PERSON?"
AND WE CHECK EACH OTHER OUT, YOU SEE?
WE REALLY CHECK EACH OTHER OUT--
THERE IS THIS SUSPICION THAT IS INGRAINED IN YOU...
SO, IT'S A COMPLICATED ANSWER,
I'M SORRY... (chuckling)
TO YOUR QUESTION-- BUT YES, IT'S A MIXTURE OF PARANOIA
AND WANTING TO TELL A STORY.
YOU WANT TO TELL YOUR STORY, AND YOU DO SAY IT SOMETIMES.
BUT THEN, AT THE SAME TIME, YOU'RE QUITE RESERVED, YOU KNOW?
IT TOOK ME A VERY LONG TIME TO MAKE--
FOR EXAMPLE, TO MAKE ROMANIAN FRIENDS ON MY OWN.
IT TOOK ME A VERY LONG TIME.
AND NOW, I HAVE SOME OF MY VERY BEST FRIENDS IN OXFORD--
THEY'RE ROMANIAN.
IT'S FUNNY, BUT THEY--
AND I TRUST THEM AS MUCH AS I TRUST MY FAMILY.
BUT THEY WERE CHECKING ME OUT.
THEY WANTED TO KNOW HOW I GOT TO OXFORD AND WHO I AM,
AND THEY WERE ALL GOOGLING ME AND CHECKING ME IN THE LIBRARY
TO SEE IF THIS BUGAN STORY IS RIGHT, CHECKS OUT.
AND I WAS CHECKING THEM OUT!
I WAS LIKE, "OKAY, WELL, HOLD ON A SECOND.
"LET'S SEE WHO THIS (indistinct) IS, YOU KNOW, AND WHAT HE DID."
AND YOU KNOW, WE'RE ALL FINE PEOPLE.
I MEAN, WE'RE OKAY. (all laughing)
BUT YOU KNOW, IT'S THAT KIND OF THING THAT, YOU KNOW...
WE DO.
SO NOW, I MEAN, MY PARENTS LIVE
IN A VERY STRONG ROMANIAN COMMUNITY, SO...
IT'S ALL VERY TIGHT, ACTUALLY.
YEAH?
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> OH, IT'S BEEN 23 YEARS
AND WE'RE TRYING TO FIGURE THAT OUT TONIGHT.
(audience laughing)
I HAVE HERE A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH
THAT SPONSORED US,
AND WE WERE JUST TALKING BEFORE THE READING,
"HOW DID THEY FIND OUT ABOUT US?"
UM, WE JUST GOT A NOTE FROM THE EMBASSY
THAT WE WERE WANTED IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN,
SO WE LOOKED ON A MAP AND WE CAME HERE.
NO QUESTIONS ASKED.
AND THEY SAID THEY HEARD THAT,
"THERE IS A FAMILY THAT NEEDS HELP,"
BUT THEY DON'T KNOW WHO THEY HEARD FROM--
SOMEBODY IN THE CHURCH TOLD THEM THAT.
THEY DON'T KNOW EXACTLY-- THERE WAS NOT A PARTICULAR--
I THINK YOU SAID THEY MAY BE CATHOLIC HUMAN SERVICES,
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THAT OFFERED TO HELP THEM.
BUT WE HAVEN'T MADE THAT LINK YET.
FROM THE AMERICAN EMBASSY TO FAITH UNITED CHURCH OF GOD--
IT'S NOT QUITE MADE IT.
UM, SO, THAT'S HOW WE CAME.
(chuckling)
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> NO, MY FATHER DOESN'T HAVE THE TYPEWRITER.
HE'S GOT MANY COMPUTERS.
(all laughing)
HE'S GOT A LOT OF LAPTOPS.
NO, HE DOESN'T.
I DID-- YOU SEE-- YOU SAW IN THE BOOK THERE
ON THE FIRST PAGE--
I WAS SO DELIGHTED ABOUT THIS.
WHEN YOU OPEN THE BOOK, YOU WILL FIND THE BURIED TYPEWRITER,
HOW THE SECRET POLICE FOUND IT BURIED IN THE GROUND.
IT'S IN AN OLIVE OIL CONTAINER,
AND HERE'S HOW THEY UNEARTHED IT,
AND THIS IS THE RESULT OF, YOU KNOW,
HIM GIVING THEM DIRECTIONS TO IT,
AND ALSO, MY INTERROGATIONS,
BUT I DIDN'T SAY WHERE IT WAS.
I WAS THERE... WHEN THEY FOUND IT.
SO, NO, WE DON'T HAVE IT, UNFORTUNATELY.
I THINK THAT WOULD BE VERY COOL TO HAVE IT, ACTUALLY.
IS, UH-- SHE WAS NAMED ERIKA. (chuckling)
IT WAS AN EAST GERMAN TYPEWRITER.
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> AM I GOING TO KEEP WRITING ABOUT MY LIFE?
I'LL COME BACK TO YOU IN A SECOND.
YES.
SO, MY NEXT PROJECT
IS NOW I HAVE THE DOSSIERS OF MY FATHER
ABOUT HIS PREVIOUS SEVEN YEARS IN PRISON
FOR TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM ROMANIA,
AND FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT THEN.
MY HOPE IS TO USE-- BECAUSE I HAVE THE MAPS,
I EVEN HAVE THE PICTURES OF THE BACKPACK WITH HIS BINOCULARS
AND THE ANTIBIOTICS THAT HE TOOK ON THE TRIP
WHEN HE TRIED TO ESCAPE BY HIMSELF.
HE WENT FROM ROMANIA THROUGH BULGARIA,
SLEPT IN HAYSTACKS AND COAL PILES WITH A FRIEND OF HIS.
THEY WENT ALL THE WAY TO THE IRON CURTAIN,
AND THEY FOUND OUT THAT THE IRON CURTAIN
HAS TWO LAYERS, NOT ONE.
THEY JUMPED THE FIRST ONE--
THEY WERE SHOWERED WITH BULLETS--
AND SENT BACK TO THE ROMANIAN JAILS FOR TRYING TO ESCAPE THE--
UH, FROM THE SIDE OF THE IRON CURTAIN--
WHERE THEY WERE.
AND SO, WHAT I WANT TO DO IS TO TRACE THE JOURNEY
USING THE MAPS--
USING ALL THE ARCHIVAL RESEARCH, MAKE MY OWN JOURNEY,
AND HAVE FLASHBACKS AND FLASH FORWARDS ABOUT--
IT'S GOING TO BE A BOOK ABOUT LIVING ON BOTH SIDES
OF THE IRON CURTAIN.
SO, I'LL USE THE FILES FROM MY MOM AS WELL
ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE ON ONE SIDE OF THE IRON CURTAIN,
WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE IRON CURTAIN.
AND I'M TRYING TO CONVINCE MY FATHER VERY, VERY MUCH
TO COME WITH ME ON THAT JOURNEY.
YOU KNOW, HOPEFULLY, WE'LL DO LIKE A TWO-WEEK VACATION,
WHEN WE COULD JUST TALK,
AND HE COULD JUST WALK ME THROUGH WHAT HE DID
BECAUSE, I MEAN, OH, THE DOSSIER OF THAT ESCAPE IS A MOVIE--
I MEAN, IT'S DEFINITELY A MOVIE-- IT'S FASCINATING.
AND SO, I'M DYING TO SEE THAT.
BUT YOU KNOW, IT'S GOING TO BE A BOOK,
WHICH I HOPE TO BE DEEP ABOUT LIVING IN THAT DIVIDE,
AND HAVING LIVED ON BOTH SIDES OF THE CURTAIN,
BECAUSE I THINK IT WOULD BE QUITE INFORMATIVE FOR PEOPLE.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> OH, AND THE POEMS AS WELL, YEAH.
MY-- MY-- IN FACT-- YEAH. (chuckling)
I HAVE MY SECOND BOOK OF POEMS NOW--
IT'S CALLED, "THE HOUSE OF STRAW,"
AND I'M HOPING TO FIND A PUBLISHER VERY SOON FOR THAT
BECAUSE IT'S FINISHED,
SO THAT WILL BE NEXT BOOK-- "THE HOUSE OF STRAW."
YEAH, THERE WAS A QUESTION HERE, YES.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
...(indistinct speaking).
>> MY PARENTS-- MY GRANDPARENTS WERE AMAZING.
THEY WERE MUCH MORE RELAXED THAN MY PARENTS,
AND THEY DIDN'T TELL US A LOT--
A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT WERE HAPPENING.
FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT I FOUND NOW IN THE FILES
IS THAT MY PARENTS HAD WHAT IS CALLED
THE "D.U.I." TYPE OF SURVEILLANCE...
UM, AND THEY DIDN'T TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT THIS.
SO, WE FELT QUITE FREE AND HAPPY WITH THEM.
>> ANYTHING-- ANY OTHER QUESTIONS?
I DON'T WANT TO MISS ANY...
YES, PLEASE.
>> (indistinct speaking)...
...(indistinct speaking)...
>> WELL, THERE IS A-- I HAVE AN AGENT IN LONDON,
WHO IS LOOKING INTO MAKING THE BOOK A MOVIE.
SO-- BUT I CAN'T--
YOU KNOW, I CAN'T SAY THAT THERE ARE PROMISES ANYWHERE.
WE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING YET.
BUT IF IT WILL BE, IT WILL BE--
THE BOOK WILL BE MADE INTO A MOVIE,
AND IT WILL BE A DOCUMENTARY,
AND WE'LL PROBABLY EXPAND QUITE A BIT,
BECAUSE NOW I HAVE THE FILES,
SOMETHING THAT I DIDN'T HAVE WHEN I WROTE THE BOOKS.
SO, UM, AND I WAS JUST HAVING DINNER--
I WAS INVITED FOR DINNER
AFTER A TALK IN CHICAGO JUST A FEW DAYS AGO
BY SOME PEOPLE WHO WERE SUGGESTING, IN FACT, JUST THAT--
THAT THEY MIGHT MAKE SOME CONNECTIONS,
SO THAT THE-- BUT THAT IN ORDER TO WRITE THE PROPER DOCUMENTARY,
AS YOU WERE SAYING, AS OPPOSED TO JUST A MOVIE--
BUT A DOCUMENTARY, A PROPER DOCUMENTARY,
USING THE FILES AND INTERVIEWING MY FATHER,
INTERVIEWING MY MOTHER--
SOMETHING THAT WOULD REMAIN AS A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT.
SO, THAT'S BEING THOUGHT ABOUT IT BY OTHER PEOPLE AT THE MOMENT,
AND HOPEFULLY, IF ANYTHING COMES OUT OF THAT,
I WILL DEFINITELY BE VERY INVOLVED IN THAT.
YEAH.
>> (indistinct speaking).
>> I THINK I'M ALL DONE HERE-- >> (indistinct speaking).
>> YEAH, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR COMING.
(laughing)
(applause)
I THINK I LOST SOMETHING OVER THERE...
>> I DON'T KNOW, PROBABLY.
YEAH, OKAY, GOOD.
OKAY, SO...
UH, IT ASTOUNDS ME BECAUSE WHEN I FIRST HAD CARMEN AS A STUDENT,
WAY BACK IN '91, I THOUGHT TO MYSELF,
"IF SHE DOESN'T BLOW UP
"AND GIVE HERSELF A HEART ATTACK
"BY THE TIME SHE'S 30, SHE'LL BE WORLD FAMOUS."
(chuckling)
PROBABLY THE HARDEST WORKING, MOST ENERGETIC PERSON
I'VE EVER MET IN MY LIFE,
AND SHE STILL IS THE SAME WAY-- IT ASTOUNDS ME.
UM, HER BOOK, "BURYING THE TYPEWRITER,"
IS ON SALE HERE TONIGHT FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED.
UM, $16-- I THINK YOU CAN PAY BY CASH,
CHECK, OR CREDIT CARD.
SO-- AND OF COURSE, CARMEN WILL BE HERE,
IF YOU WANT TO MEET HER, TOO.
SO, THANKS FOR COMING.
I REALLY APPRECIATE IT, AND OF COURSE CARMEN DOES, TOO.
(applause)