Last month, the first foreign-language edition of the Book Review was launched in … Romania?
Don’t be so surprised. The post-communist, Romance-language-speaking country of 22 million, recently famous for global cinematic sensations like “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and “12:08 East of Bucharest,” also has a thriving literary scene. “Romania is one of those countries where it seems that every literate person has written a novel, a book of essays, or at least a play,” says the Times film critic A.O. Scott, who recently traveled there to research his excellent article on the Romanian New Wave.
Scott mentions in particular the delightfully titled weekly Dilema Veche (The Old Dilemma), an independent literary and political journal roughly equivalent to the New York Review of Books. Corina Suteu, the director of the Romanian Cultural Institute New York, also cites a dozen or so other influential publications, though she notes that circulations can be small and Romanian readers still face challenges in gaining access to books and news of books. “In Romania, most newspapers do not carry book reviews, although some have so-called cultural supplements each week,” she said. Suteu also mentions a series launched two years ago by the newspaper Cotidianul, which features books by important international writers like Susan Sontag, Amoz Oz, Carlos Fuentes, and Ian McEwan, with introductions by critics. In the last few years, Suteu says, the Romanian book market has gone from an “almost exclusive interest” in foreign authors to a “more balanced awareness” of local writers. Recently, for example, Mircea Cartarescu’s “Why We Love Women” racked up higher sales than the books of global record-smasher Dan Brown.
The Romanian edition of the Times Book Review, published by Editura Univers with a beginning print run of 40,000 copies, is currently a mirror copy of the English edition but hopes to add coverage of Romanian books in a few months. The online version won’t be up and running until March, but check out this cover from the inaugural issue, which features Jeffrey Rosen’sreview of Anthony Lewis’s new book “Libertate Pentru Opinile Pe Care Le Detestam” — that’s “Freedom For the Thought We Hate” to you and me. The very groovy cover illustration, by Patrick Thomas, reproduces the text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The words “New York Times Book Review” are rendered in English, but the rest of the cover provides some phrases bookish travelers might find useful on their next trip to Bucharest, including “novel” (romanul), “history” (istoria) and “neoconservative” (neoconservativ).
Foarte bine! (Cool!)