Writing about peasants now seems like an act of mad courage on the part of any writer

Reporter: In 1999, you edited the volume The Irretrievable with an interesting cover graphic. How much attention should an author pay to the cover and the title of a book? How much do these details matter for the work as a whole?

M.M. Loviste: An inspired title and reasonable graphics increase the value of a book and the reader’s appetite to read it. The cover and the title of the work can act as a genuine business card of the one who wrote it. Ultimately, it is the content that decides the value of the work. As for me, I bet everything on the content and strive for a graphic that I should not be ashamed of.

R.: What made you choose this narrative? Why The Irretrievable?

M.M.L.: I thought of this book twenty years before it was published in 1999, that is, around 1979, when I was in my final year of studies. I was coming home for the winter break with a suitcase in my hand, happy to see my parents again. In front of the gate, I found two oxen-drawn wagons, loaded with mountain maize, and, on top, three sacks filled with maize flour. The mayor of the commune, the militiaman, the watchman, and the male cleaner of the popular council were standing grinning at the gate. On the eve of the winter holidays, they had confiscated all the maize and maize flour that my parents still had, because they had refused to perform the twenty-five days of annual corvée for the benefit of the Collective Agricultural Production RED FLAG Boisoara. My mother was mourning her work of an entire year, while the heads of the commune were laughing at her. The image has followed me my whole life. It was also an occasion to experience on my own that nothing is more agonizing in the world than hunger. After the fall of communism, I wrote this volume The Irretrievable for my parents, my villagers, for my Romanians. I wrote it with joy, without passion, revenge, or hatred. I wanted that those who come after are able to find out all the harm done to the Romanian peasant by the communist order in such a beautiful landscape, where I was destined to be born.

R.: How would you characterize in a few words the volume The Irretrievable?

M.M.L.: The volume The Irretrievable was written, like, in fact, my complete oeuvre, under the motto of literature as resistance. This represents for me a way of being, it’s all or nothing.

R.: In the last two decades of Romanian literature it’s rumored it were no longer fashionable to write about peasants, as the subject seems slightly obsolete after everything Cosbuc, Agirbiceanu, Slavici, Rebreanu, Sadoveanu, or Marin Preda wrote. There would be no more substance, no more peasants, a total drought. The subject would be exhausted, outdated, expired in this sense. Writing about peasants in 1999 or now seems like an act of mad courage on the part of any writer. I would like you to comment on this.

M.M.L.: I don’t think there is an exhausted, old-fashioned, or expired subject in art. A forerunner said that science would be somewhat limited compared to art, whereas artistic creation knows no bounds and has the ability to circumnavigate the earth countless times. In literature, no one and nothing can stop the force of creation. The greatest artist is God himself ‒ the All-Creator. The rest of us are the little creators, also endowed by Him with the gift of creation.

There is a lot to tell about the people of my native Loviste, this Paradise offered to us by God and transformed into Hell by communists. Here nature is welcoming and life-giving. The locals are friendly, generous, understanding, and wonderful storytellers. And they lead a not at all easy life. It’s hard to keep up with them, because the people of the mountains wake up in the middle of the night, feed and water their animals, then hitch their oxen to heavy wagons and go to their work, where they toil until evening. They fall asleep quickly along with their animals, because the next day they start all over again early in the morning. Saturday is the day when they return earlier to clean their houses, stables, gardens, preparing for the holy day of Sunday. Then they dress in clean clothes, so as not to miss the Holy Mass on Sunday in their small church. In the afternoon, they gather in the heart of the village for the hora, where they dance until evening, with their thoughts on a new hard week of work. These vigorous people of the mountain do not ask anything from anyone, because they have everything they need from the Lord. Can anyone not love them?

R.: How did your people from Loviste receive The Irretrievable?

M.M.L.: Author life has taken me from simple book launches to international literature festivals. I brought the book to Loviste a year after it was published. I confess that I have never and nowhere encountered so much interest, a warmer atmosphere, such an overwhelming joy bathing the faces of those present, a love from the bottom of the heart. Most of the villagers had already read it and could not wait to comment on it. Among them were some of the surviving heroes of the three short stories: Teodora, The Return, and, of course, the short story The Irretrievable, which also bears the title of the book. They received me as a true liberator, but in their own way. First, the men, who shook my hand, hugging me manly, that my bones were cracking. Women of all ages kissed my cheeks, caressing me like their own brother. Then they began to tell stories as if they had written the book. They knew everything they had, but also what they hadn’t done, and were convinced that everything I had written had happened to them. I didn’t matter anymore, because I was one of them. Now only they were the important ones, and the world had become too small for those who wake up in the middle of the night and go to bed with the chickens. I have never been happier anywhere!

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