Posts tagged “Alina Alens

learn to un-learn or, better still, learn to love

Dalai Lama Quote









Nelson Mandela Quote

Easter and Palm Sunday Red

I found myself mysteriously attracted by the pigment 

in this kind of red… 

You can give it a number, don it a code, paint it on nails,

wear it on lips or eyelids,

stamp it on paper under a fingertip, or bury it in your memory…

It will still be the same kind of red, will it not?

 Take a closer look at the wall on the stage in this picture of beautiful Angela Gheorghiu. 

It seems to be the same kind of red, doesn’t it?

Listen to “Love is Blindness” 

on an album in this colour.

Can you hear the same kind of red? 

Feel your heart beat. Is it the same kind of red pumping in your chest?

What does time smell like?

In a world devoid of senses,  let the tip of your tongue taste fear.

What kind of red does it taste like?

When one by one, the senses leave you, what is left?

Imagine dying in a world without senses. It seems a cruel fantasy, doesn’t it?

Imagine being born without senses. What kind of reality does this spell?

 Whether imagined or excruciatingly real, as it sometimes is, living with or without senses has the same kind of answer. Love. One and the same. 

Feel it, savour it, nourish it,  absorb it into your lungs, wash your body in its aura, dive in its seas, relax in its softness, fade away in its grace.

Happy Easter and Happy Palm Sunday to you, all!


Writers Passing Through Krakow: Zadie Smith and Gabriela Adamesteanu as Seen by Alina Alens

Today, on what is deemed to be the international Day of Poetry, I happened to have a meeting with one of my students, Mariusz Walczak, who translated to me from Polish an interview with Zadie Smith  taken after the Czeslaw Milosz Literature Festival, and published in the first issue of the book magazine “Ksiazki” in July, last year.

Zadie Smith and Alina Alens (Photo by Tomasz Wiech)

While discussing the questions, answers and several inevitable translation issues as we went through the interview, I was brought back to the meeting with Romanian writer Gabriela Adamesteanu in Krakow 7 days ago, on the occasion of the release of her novel, “Dimineata pierduta”, in Polish translation “Stracony Poranek”, albeit across three languages – Polish, English, and Romanian -, a linguistic reality I am by now familiar with, by force of circumstance. 

Both authors happened to be, in 2011 and last week, at their second visit to the city of Krakow. As a temporary city resident since late 2006, I was fortunate to meet them both, exchange a few words, and offer each of them a copy of my book of poems “The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love”.

To paraphrase Zadie Smith – via Mariusz’s translation that I am grateful for :), Thank you, Mariusz!, we live in a world that favours non-fiction/ the things that actually happen(ed), over fiction/ the things that occur(ed) in an author’s imagination, a world in which people have lost their patience for being guided into fictional worlds of sorts – all except, maybe, some educated elites within the contemporary reading public. Is it a stretch of the imagination to say that living in one’s head as a self-exploring writer nowadays is more than a risky business, verging on a kind of self-imposed social isolation?

Asked what type of literature she prefers to write, Zadie Smith gives a two-fold answer, saying that she writes articles, essays and reviews  requested by various publications for practical reasons and with  immediate results, whereas writing a novel is a much more unpredictable endeavour. That is because while writing a novel a writer can dive in and disappear for what can sometimes end up to be years. Gabriela Adamesteanu is, in her turn, well-known for her non-fictional review and article writing in the Romanian cultural press. When asked if her non-fiction writing sometimes blends into her fiction, she asserted that, even though the research for certain articles could work to the advantage of something she writes, the fictional worlds stand alone, uniquely anchored in the imagination, no palpable reality strings attached.

 The greater part of the interview with Zadie Smith, as well as the greater part of the meeting with Gabriela Adamesteanu, rested in a talk on different aspects and qualities of literary speech, in other words, on the mechanics of the dialogue that the literary characters engage in. According to Zadie Smith, there are three categories of writers when it comes to the art of dialogue, which she does not see as an outdated strategy for building characters: there are writers like J. D. Salinger, who write sparkling, natural dialogues with ease and perfect intuition, writers whose characters tend to sound like themselves (in terms of humour, tone, concepts, phrasing and the like), which lends them a certain artificial quality, like the School of Saul Bellow, and writers like John Updike, for whom dialogue is nothing complicated, and who tend to always preserve and observe a certain thesis behind their characters’  speech. Each category of characters created by these three types of writers is different, some being kept willingly diverse, others remaining homogenous. In the case of Gabriela Adamesteanu, the characters of her novel released  in Polish translation last week refuse to remain homogenous, and their language, the main topic of that and many other literary meetings, we were told, spanned the Romanian social hierarchy from its very  top to its very bottom, in a manner that has made it such a daring challenge for any translator, and so true to the reality of the Romania of the inter- and post-war period, that the author herself confessed that when she thought of her book being one day translated into another language, that possibility was as far from reality (as she saw it) as astronomically possible.

In writing the text of the five scenes of the play “Born A Foreigner” for the Talking About Borders international drama competition, over  two weeks before  December 21st, 2011 – coincidentally a year before the Mayans predicted end of the world, I myself  was confronted with the challenge of creating strong, independent characters with voices of their own, while prserving the intended meaning of their sentences. The most challenging character voice in the play was Wido’s, as he is a character whose English, the original language the play was written and meant to be acted in, is not very good, so that the risks involved in illustrating his linguistic limitations proved very high. “Is the character’s language that bad, or does this author have no clue about how to write?” became the question. As “Born a Foreigner” was written as a play, I decided to use correct language and, instead of  inserting pauses and mistakes, I (subsequently) added introductory notes in which I advise the actor playing Wido to improvise and reduce the language of the character as he sees fit:

 ACTORS’ NOTES: The language used by Wido, Alta, and Nomura in order to communicate is not their mother tongue. The original language of the play is English, which Alta and Nomura have a good knowledge of. Wido’s knowledge of this language (or the language the play is translated in), on the other hand, is more limited than the other two characters’. Therefore, the actor playing Wido’s part has to make use of pauses, hesitations, or mistakes and insert involuntary linguistic inaccuracies while communicating. The texts of the two scenes of Act 1 include the lines that Wido would have used if he had spoken English (or the language the play is translated in) well. Each of Wido’s lines is subject to alteration. As a result, Alta and Nomura’s lines may also undergo changes. Wido’s linguistic difficulties remain consistent throughout the play, throughout Act 1 and Act 4, respectively. In spite of language mistakes, the general impression conveyed by the two scenes of Act 1 is one of apparently successful communication.

Clever trick? Lazy writer who makes life hard for the actor who happens to play Wido and the director who happens to direct the play? May the audience decide. I am ready for any outcome, as I assume each of the writers passing through Krakow might be, should they decide to have their words performed on stage. When Gabriela Adamesteanu’s “Wasted Morning” was put on stage in 1987 by Catalina Buzoianu, it  became a cultural centre of interest at a time when the Ceaușescu regime had entered its more repressive phase. I promise to be back with impressions from the first performance of “Born A foreigner”, in Poland or elsewhere there are still skin colour lessons to be learnt. For now, I am just passing through, from winter into spring, from circles of silence into other circles of silence, in this border-line fictional world of the blogosphere.


OR HOW I CAME ACROSS THE MOTTO FOR MY PLAY (one of potential others)



In December last year, not so long ago, I finished writing Born a Foreigner, a play currently submitted to the  Talking About Borders international drama competition. The term in the title has an interesting history. The complexity of its meaning goes far beyond the five acts of the play I wrote, which is why I hope to dedicate it a few other posts here at a later time.

Ever since  I finished writing this play – or, rather, ever since I initially thought I had finally wrapped it up – I have been haunted by its immaterial yet-not-so-ghostly corpora and had to revisit it on more than a few occasions.

In the world of metaphors that life often swerves me into I picked up – or thought I did – character lines or responses, and continued to make  associations that led me to the next set of inevitable post scriptum revelations; in short, as the tormented author (and now emerging dramatist) that I prove to be, I continued to keep the flame burning, which continued to sparkle more ideas about the treatment of the subject, brought forth a dedication, plus the thought of extended notations and directions for the opening of the majority of acts. Last night  I found the motto (the first of possibly more) for Born a Foreigner, which I’d like to share with you here. It comes from Constantin Brancusi (1876 – 1957), one of my favourite artists of all time. Here it goes:

There are no foreigners in art.

I may not have come across this quote scribbled down a while ago if I hadn’t written a post on Florentijn Bruning’s Mona Lisas on my poetry blog yesterday, which starts with another quote from Brancusi, his definition of art. Click here to read it.

The acclaimed music producer Ashish Mahchanda, founder of  the Flying Carpet Production company in Mumbai, whom I met in my trip to India in 2010 and with whom I share the day of birth and a timeless sense of friendship, believes that even after a song seems finished, one should always take about two weeks’ time to revisit it for potential changes and overall improvements. In the case of Born A Foreigner, which is entering its first post scriptum month, there are still improvements to be made, from its layout to the note additions before some acts, or to the plethora of questions, and who knows, maybe even more mottoes to be uncovered. 


As for the parallels, here is a recent one I drew between the scene discussing the dead zone in The Good Wife (created by Michelle King and Robert King, episode 2, series 3, 2012):

The Good Wife: ‘Mr Branch, what is the death zone? ‘
Mr Branch: ‘The death zone? In mountaineering parlance it’s the altitude above 26,000 feet where oxygen is insufficient to sustain life.
The Good Wife: ‘It’s also a place where perceptions were not to be fully trusted?’
Mr Branch: ‘Sometimes.’
The Good Wife: […] And an absence of oxygen would increase the likelihood of untrustworthy perceptions?
Mr Branch: ‘Yes.’
The Good Wife: ‘So, when you say that you … we have to take your word for it, and yet your words could be coloured by your oxygen-deprived perception.’
Mr Branch: ‘I believe… that follows.’
The Good Wife: Your Honour, I would like to make a motion at this time to dismiss this law suit. […] There is too much inherent uncertainty here. This is a case built on perception, and the death zone makes those perceptions essentially suspect.


and the scene discussing the death zones in Born A Foreigner:

NOMURA: “[…] sometimes the strong cannot withstand the weak. […] Massive fishing, pollution and an increase in water temperature have led to lower oxygen levels, creating what scientists call a dead zone. As you can very well imagine, very few species can survive in these toxic zones where the sewage and run off can only provide nutrients for the zooplankton…
ALTA and WIDO, in unison: “The giant jellyfish!”
NOMURA: “Indeed! The jellyfish can thrive in the dead zones, feeding on zooplankton, which is their favourite food.” She takes a sip from her tea and places the cup on the table.
WIDO: “Are there many such dead zones on Earth?”
ALTA: “My question, precisely.”
NOMURA: “There are currently hundreds of dead zones in the world’s oceans. None of them were spared. My father also tried to find a possible solution. He studied the reproduction process and the various stages in the development of jellyfish. He noticed that any increase in light and temperature increased their breeding rate. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete his research.
She stares out somewhere in the distance for a while and then goes on.
Other scientists have tried to reduce the  number of jellyfish by means of force. They sent out large ships to spot them, equipped with huge nets with metal cables that were meant to shred entire groups of  giant jellyfish.
Alta stifles a sigh.
WIDO: “And, did it work?” […]


To be continued

Breakin’ Bread on My Birthday

Happy Birthday!-s feel as joyous everywhere on this planet.

Breaking bread anywhere in the world comes just as easy. 😀

Fred Wesley’s

♥concert at the Jewish Festival on July 2nd inspired me to dedicate his song to all of you who sent me their best wishes on my birthday this Saturday!♥

♥You can watch the entire concert at this link:

21 festiwal zydowskie w krakowie – Szeroka Czesc 5.♥

♥The concert starts at minute 08:00

and the song that I dedicate to you, Breakin’ Bread, starts at 31:33!♥

♥Enjoy & visit my poetry blog for my Birthday Award Ceremony LIVE right now! 

Take a PEEK to see who the awarded books went to! You might follow next & you might like it! :D♥

Abraham Inc. Concert, July 2nd, 2011

Meeting Zadie Smith at the Literature Festival in Krakow

Zadie Smith and Alina Alens (Photo by Tomasz Wiech)

“The language itself can contain your ideas,”


even if you may “feel like a stranger in the act of writing,”

and you won’t meet your old writing self half-way along the page.

You’ll be amazed at the capacities you will discover in the act of writing.


you might not know it yet, but an age of “novel nausea” or the years-of-less-and-less-time for reading might catch up with you sooner than you think…


to be read by strangers – they may turn out to be some of your best readers;


embrace freedom in your way of life and at the same time respect the language you’re writing in – staying true to your language in today’s world is, as you may agree, a “radical act.”


don’t be afraid to be perceived by others as a “friend of failure,”

as long as you are your own true friend… 

Imago Mundi – Part II

Worlds Taken Apart and

Put Together Again

Inspired by Bohumil Hrabal’s

“The Little Town Where Time Stood Still,”

by Radu Jude’s short movie, “Alexandra,”


by the recent event in Polish history (10.04.2010)

In December last year I was handing out an end-of-term assignment to my students based on the short movie “Alexandra,” directed by Radu Jude (2007), and on a fragment (Chapter 3) from “The Little Town Where Time Stood Still” by Bohumil Hrabal. The assignment was an essay writing task, prompted by such questions:

“Alexandra” (2007)

  1. How would you describe the members of this family?
  2. How many broken things can you identify in the short movie?
  3. Does the metaphor of the broken bicycle tell you something about the Romanian society? What about the society we live in, in general?
  4. What is the “oil” that keeps the mechanism of our society running?
  5. Can you think of any situation in which the mechanism of society got broken or came to a halt? Were the damages irreparable?

“The Little Town Where Time Stood Still” (1973)

  1. Have you ever looked for mistakes or flaws in some systems you were using?
  2. Are such mistakes predictable?
  3. How well prepared can we be for unexpected breaches in the systems we count on?
  4. If there are breaches, what keeps it all together?
  5. Are there any things beyond our ability to fix?
  6. Can we be ready to deal with things that we are unable to fix?
  7. What is the fuel that keeps our society moving on and progressing, despite breaches and tragedies?

No one could have predicted the tragic event that occurred only yesterday and left a country without its presidential couple and without an irreplaceable part of the Polish political and social infrastucture. The thoughts that crossed my mind in this context brought back many memories. Among them, the questions above, that I had formulated for the essay writing task thinking about events that break and reunite a society. I believe that the outcome of the tragic event in Smolensk, that we are experiencing in Poland and abroad at this time, is going to be overcome by precisely the kind of fuel that always brings people together in time of  need: human solidarity, love, support and wisdom-driven actions.

Looking back on apparently minor things like this assignment, I am grateful for the inspiring moments that make us think further than we think we can. As usual, when I set a task for others, I set it for myself too. You can read my thoughts on Radu Jude’s short movie and Bohumil Hrabal’s novel below.

For the next seven days I will post on  the English Learners Blog selected papers written by my students, on the same topic: events that breach systems and solutions that make them work again.

For a selection of my students’ papers click on the links below; for an overview in my own words, read on!

DAY 1, DAY 2, DAY 3 , DAY 4, DAY 5, DAY 6, DAY 7


In a world affected by distrust and divide, even a child’s question can shatter long-held beliefs.

Alexandra is a child who lives with her mother, her grandmother, and her mother’s boyfriend in Bucharest. Just like any child her age, she is asking a lot of questions.

Why is water called “water” and why is her father’s name “Tavi” when daddy (in Romanian “tati”) seemed to have sufficed?

Her innocent childish questions become real threats to her father. They turn into proof of lying, deceit and manipulation in his eyes. His seven-year-old child must have been taught by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend not to call him father (“daddy”/ “tata”) any more. He feels he is gradually losing ground, especially since the divorce. Doubts give rise to suspicion and quarrels are easy to spark. When the “guilty” try to disculpate themselves, their efforts are vain. Tavi is not easy to give up on suspicion, since he is not in control of his daughter’s time any more. The only part of time he can “control” is her Sundays, and he is not going to give up on this scrap of her time without a fight.

It is difficult to make any righteous comments after watching the ten-minute cross-section of this family’s tragedy. Divorce, separation and distrust may affect the world as irreparably as wars or human loss.

How people deal with such tears and scars is a process that transcends nationality, gender and race. Just as these tears and scars, belief, love, hope and faith in the future are also universal. It is only natural for salvation to rest in them too.


We are all children of the Earth, contemplating with marvel the mysteries of its mechanisms.

Dad, as long as we still had the Orion, that dreadful motorbike, which had to go in for general repairs after every ride, used to spend every Saturday stripping it down, but never alone…

(1993, p. 164)

Bohemia is the little spool of a town on which Bohumil Hrabal’s story is wound. Apart from spool-like towns like Bohemia there are, of course, other smaller and bigger spools in the greater universe of lives and stories. However, Bohemians like the father in this story, who sets apart his motorbike without it being broken only to understand its mechanism and prevent future mishaps, who does this always in someone’s company (to ensure a legacy being instituted) and always with the aim of putting it together again a little better each time, always strikes my imagination into motion.

In this stirring of the imagination Bogumil Hrabal had won me over as a reader ever since I read on of his books for the first time – one of my all time favourites, “Too Loud A Solitude.” The force in his writing is remarkable, considering that he wrote several of his books as he was recovering from the grips of illness.

I wrote this Little Town in the early spring of 1973, when illness was in the offing, and I fondly imagined that I alone held the keys to these stories […] So again this text, like The King of England, is written by the spontaneous method of peril in lingering […]

Why, some may ask?

I am putting the bar so high that it vanishes in the glittering azure, because for what I shall be attempting, to join consciousness and unconsciousness, vitality and existentiality, to abolish the object as the outer and inner model, for that leap is required, and only my illness, that university of mine, which I lived through in the hospital on Charles Square, only that may perhaps be able to prepare for me a jumping-off point, from which I shall  jump head first into the gravitational field of emotionality. Up then towards that which as yet is not.

Selected quotations from the author’s Afterword (1993, pp. 300-302)

The temptation of deconstructing, disassembling, and reorganizing the mechanism of a utility such as a motorbike, springs out of a noble desire of improvement known to us all. The frequency with which it occurs in this particular case is what pushes noblesse into the realm of the hilarious. Yes, our character falls prey to the same impetuous desire of disassembling and reassembling the inner mechanism of his bike every single weekend. He also likes to lure into his endeavours at least a witness or follower.

To anyone not in the know Dad, on a Saturday afternoon, would pop the question, “What are we doing then this afternoon?” And anyone unawares would reply honestly that they were doing nothing special[.] And anyone not in the know came along, little suspecting  that Dad was dismantling the big end, and the neighbour would hand him the spanners and dad would delve further and further down towards the rattle in the engine, which was a congenital feature of that engine, a kind of permanent ailment it was, like someone with a hobble on one foot or with a stammer. [Y]oung men and old men alike took the bike apart with Dad, and time marched on towards midnight, and dawn began to rise, and dad decided that now was the time to put the engine together again, what joy awaits us when at ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, when the bells begin to ring, let’s have a bet on it, Dad proffers his hand, I kick the starter just the once to try it out and the engine peals into life like the Sunday bells.

(1993, pp. 166 – 167)

Sometimes, however, bets don’t work, the unexpected happens, and plans that seem concrete vanish. Good intentions have to come to a halt, which in this case is as abrupt as time stopping.

…And Dad ran about with the hammer, and being unable to kill [what caused the problem and thwarted his plans], he took out his watch, put it on the little anvil and with one blow shattered it to smithereens, the only way to save himself from smashing in [the invisible head of the problem] instead of the watch…

(1993, pp. 165-166)

This is when the time stands still in the watch that was smashed and in the world of the one who smashed it into stillness. Tragedies make us feel like that, like the Time has stopped or, in any case, has to stop. However, Time itself never stops. It marches on, irrespective of tragedies. It is us who need to take some time, pick up the broken pieces and eventually move on.

Where do we take our strength from?

The hope in other people’s eyes, from helping hands, Chopin, candle flames, and memories.

For everyone the time to recover Time is a personal mystery.

What we can do is join in each other tragedy in support, love, and understanding, and

let our watches tick minutes of Life, Joy, Friendliness and Gratitude

once again!

In pas de reverenta – Discurs de 1 Decembrie

The Main Public Library in Krakow, December 1st, 2009

Despre devenirea și nașterea poeziei în trupul unei limbi străine

Discurs ținut de Alina Alens,

cu ocazia lansării cărții sale de poezie și a zilei naționale a României

1 Decembrie 2009

la Biblioteca Județeană din Cracovia

Versiune de traducere a primei poezii din volumul „The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love”

Alina Alens

Când dragostea îmi împrumută glasul

În care colț, te-am întrebat aseară-n vis,

Se-ascunde, dincolo de șoaptă, glasul meu?

Ești tu aceea care mă va învăța să îmi găsesc în rătăcire vocea?

Pierdut în tunet și tumult, și în castele de cuvânt,

Cum părăsește glasul meu tăcerea?

„De cântec glasul tău e-ademenit.”

Răspunsul tău, în vis, m-a liniștit.

Ecoul gol din gândul rău,

Ecoul plin de gând venin,

Ecoul care mi-a răpus orice răspuns,

De el m-ascund și glasul mi-l feresc,

Ascult atent.

Când glasul nu-l aud, mă tem că l-am pierdut deja,

Mă tem că nu-l voi mai găsi în nici o șoaptă.

E un mister când glasul meu dispare,

E o minune când îl regăsesc.

Am început, deja, să cânt…

Cracovia, 2007


Glasul, ființă a poeziei și a cântecului, trup al cuvântului scris și rostit, se leagă pentru mine foarte strâns de dragoste.

„Incompleta fantezie pe care o numim dragoste,” publicată la sfârșitul lunii aprilie, 2009, a fost scrisă în aproximativ două luni, de la mijlocul lunii mai până în 17 iulie, 2007, la opt luni după venirea mea în Cracovia.

Deși scriu în limba engleză, rădăcinile pe care le revendic aparțin în esență, părții mele de Românie și Polonie. De la mamă am dobândit, cred, puterea cuvântului, de la tată, liniștea și cântecul. Numele pe care l-am primit de la părinți, Cîrlănescu, este un nume foarte respectat în orașul în care m-am născut, Sfântu Gheorghe. La fel ca tatăl meu, Nicolae, mama mea, Florica, a studiat Dreptul. Ambii părinți au lucrat la Prefectura Județului Covasna. Tatăl meu, fidel acestui loc de muncă până în ultimul moment, a fost, pe rând, jurist, șef de birou, secretar general și subprefect. În cei 39 de ani de muncă, a câștigat respectul tuturor celor cu care a colaborat. De aceea simt, poate, un sentiment de familiaritate când traversez Plac Wszystkich Swietych, unde își are sediul instituția similară prefecturii din România, Zarząd.

Numele Alens s-a născut în 2007, odată cu poeziile. Este inspirat de o melodie familiară: Ali…, Ale… – așa ne chema tata pe mine și pe sora mea, Alexandra. Care sunet e mai frumos, m-am întrebat, decât melodia din numele copiilor tăi? Așa am ales acest pseudonim, adăugând „n” din Alens de la inițiala tatălui meu.

Alina Cîrlanescu s-a născut în România. Alina Alens s-a născut în Cracovia, câteva luni după mortea tatălui meu. Este un pseudonim prin care îl onorez și care mă onorează. ALENS este și numele proiectului meu muzical, pe care l-am inițiat la întoarcerea mea în Cracovia, pentru cel de-al doilea an la rând, în octombrie, 2007.

Reîntorcându-mă la rădăcini, trebuie să menționez câțiva dintre mentorii mei de-a lungul timpului petrecut în România.

Profesoara mea de limba și literatura română din liceu, Marianne Iliescu, este un om de litere cu o memorie fantastică. La fiecare lecție din timpul liceului Marianne Iliescu făcea dovada unei mari subtilități analitice. De la ea care am învățat, din liceu, teorie literară și istorie literară cu multiple trimiteri la literatura universală, materii pe care studenții le studiază în primii ani la Facultatea de Litere. Doamna Iliescu are abilitatea rară de a stoca informații. Ceea ce era remarcabil era faptul că modalitatea dumneaei de memorare și rememorare era caietul sau cuvântul nostru. Noi notam ceeea ce spunea, iar ea alegea la început de lecție o persoană care reproducea comentariul ei anterior. În acest fel se oglindea pe sine prin noi, iar discursul ei se contura liber, cu continuitate și naturalețe, fără nici un alt ajutor mnemotehnic.

Prin ea am ajuns, în anul III de Facultate, la Cluj, să mă apropii de doamna Profesor Doctor Universitar Carmen Vlad. Soțul doamnei Vlad a fost conducătorul lucrării de doctorat a doamnei Iliescu, iar relațiile dintre cele două familii erau foarte strânse, în ciuda distanței dintre orașele în care locuiau și lucrau, Sfantu Gheorghe și Cluj. Dacă aș încerca să o descriu într-un cuvânt pe doamna Carmen Vlad, aș alege cuvântul „regalitate”, cu sensul de demnitate, prestigiu și eleganță. Partea mea de Românie îmi vorbește prin multe voci – cele din familie, vocile de prieteni, profesori, oameni de cultură, dar printre vocile pe care nu le pot uita se numără cea a doamnei Carmen Vlad și a unei persoane pe care nu am întâlnit-o niciodată, dar pe care am ascultat-o cu mare interes la televiziunea națională, unde prezintă în continuare, cred, emisiunea „Nocturne,” Marina Constantinescu.

În 2003 am început stagiul de student doctorand sub conducerea doamnei Carmen Vlad. Cercetarea mea ținea de domeniul lingvistică și semiotică. În toamna aceluiași an, 2003, am început să lucrez ca profesor titular de limba engleză la Școala „Emil Isac” din Cluj. Au urmat un alt Masterat și o bursă în Anglia. Îmi amintesc vorbele tatălui meu la plecarea în Anglia: „Ăsta e biletul tău. Să zbori departe.”  În primăvara anului 2006 am devenit membru AIESEC și câteva luni mai târziu zburam spre Cracovia, unde urma să încep stagiul de un semestru ca profesor de engleză la Jagiellonskie Centrum Językowe. Acel prim semestru s-a prelungit la un an, doi (studenții nefilologi studiază doi ani de engleză în Facultate), apoi trei. 2009 este cel de-al patrulea an al meu în Cracovia.

Cum s-a născut „The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love”

Poate părea ciudat, dar prima mea carte de poezii m-a luat prin surprindere, de la bun început, ca și acest oraș, Cracovia, de altfel, despre care nu știam foarte mult. Coincidența face că familia Vlad, doamna Carmen și domnul Ion Vlad, au petrecut, la rândul dumnealor, o perioadă de timp în Cracovia, unde au predat limba română. De aceea s-au bucurat la aflarea veștii că voi lucra în Cracovia un semestru și nu au fost surprinși de decizia mea ulterioară de a prelungi această ședere. De la început mi-au recomandat cu căldură acest oraș, care îi cucerise și pe ei cu câțiva ani mai devreme. Doamna Vlad stabilise o legătură de prietenie în Cracovia cu doamna Joanna Porawska, astfel că acest nume nu mi-a rămas străin. Coincidență, sau nu, înainte de a o cunoaște pe doamna Porawska, l-am cunoscut pe fiul dumneaei, la o prezentare a organizației non-guvernamentale care a facilitat venirea mea in Cracovia – o prezentare AIESEC, la Akademia Ekonomiczna.

Datorită ambianței prietenoase de la Centrul de Limbi Străine unde lucrez și în prezent – unde am fost recrutată de doamna Małgorzata Swiątek (persoana care a solicitat  prezența mea în Cracovia în vara anului în care Centrul de limbi străine a inițiat un contract de colaborare cu organizația AIESEC, 2006), și datorită mediului internațional al celorlalți „trainees” AIESEC, am descoperit în Cracovia un mediu fascinant și cosmopolit.

Cracovia pe care am început să o descopăr în toamna anului 2006 era pentru mine în același timp o parte reprezentativă a Poloniei și a întregii lumi. Asemenea corabiei care traversează mări străine, ape necunoscute, în căutarea unor țărmuri noi, pluteam în Cracovia mea, expolrând, învățând, crescând ca prințul din povești, într-o lună cât alții într-un an.

Limba română este o limbă romanică.  Faptul că ea conține elemente slave nu ușurează semnificativ înțelegerea, astfel că, m-am pomenit exilată lingvistic de limba polonă. Un scriitor într-o țară cu o limbă pe care nu o vorbește și, mai mult decât atât, un scriitor care nu folosește limba sa maternă în scrierile sale este un caz curios pentru critici, editori și pentru unii cititori. Ar putea fi foarte bine un scriitor mut, fără voce, fără cititori, dacă ar fi să gândim din perspectiva unei singure limbi – cea neutilizată de scriitorul în cauză. Am fost întrebată de ce scriu în engleză sau de ce țin atât de mult să public această carte în Cracovia.

Am presimțit dinainte acest șuvoi de întrebări, neîncrederea, îndoiala. Piedici reale pentru mulți, însă eu nu le-am perceput ca atare. Această carte, pe atunci manuscris, e, recunosc, un caz aparte. În opinia mea, însă, limba pe care o utilizez sparge limite, șterge bariere, reunește oameni din culturi diferite și facilitează înțelegerea și comunicarea.

Tot un caz aparte ar putea părea și decizia lui Jan Szutkowski, poet, cu pregătirea unui psiholog și muzician, de a traduce în polonă poeziile din „The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love” după doar două scurte întâlniri la o cafea, în timpul Academiei Internaționale de Jazz organizată în Cracovia in iulie 2008. Decizia lui s-a născut, este concluzia mea, sub imperiul muzicii, una dintre formele esențiale ale comunicării umane translingvistice. De la ea, de la marea comunicabilitate a muzicii, aveam să descopăr ceva mai târziu, am împrumutat dez-limitarea, spargerea barierelor lingvistice. O dovadă în plus, doamna Doctor Agnieszka Korycinsk-Huras, pe care am avut plăcerea să o cunosc, prin intermediul unui fost student, în vara anului 2008, a decis, în urma lecturii textelor mele în limba engleză, să sprijine publicarea acestui volum. Atât eu cât și Jan Szutkowski am avut suportul acestui om extraordinar, care nu încetează să se dăruiască pe sine celorlalți. Îi suntem recunoscători pentru încredere și apreciere și pentru comunicarea de dincolo de cuvânt.

În modul în care gândesc, în ceea ce scriu și compun, muzica e cheia.

Acest adevăr esențial care transpare din munca mea ca profesor de engleză, din relaționarea cu ceilalți, din deschiderea și franchețea pe care îmi doresc să o inspir ca autor de versuri, proză, sau compozitor, a început să capete claritate odată cu maturizarea mea artistică, odată cu nașterea Alinei Alens, la câteva luni după sosirea mea în Cracovia.

Este Cracovia orașul-amprentă în prima mea carte de poezii? A fost necesar să includ în ghidul de lectură: „A se citi în Cracovia sau închipuindu-te în Cracovia”? La ambele întrebări răspund cu un „DA” apăsat. Ca spațiu al dezvoltării mele spirituale, Cracovia va avea întotdeauna un loc special în tot ceea ce fac. Este orașul care m-a readus mie și mi-a readus aminte de muzica pe care o purtam. De aceea intenționez să dau ca titlu primului meu album muzical numele „Back to Myself” – reîntoarcerea la sine.

Dar să revenim la prima mea carte.

S-a întâmplat să fie o carte de poezie.

Alina Szczepanek cunoaște un detaliu neștiut de alții, acela că m-am pomenit scriind poezii atunci când credeam ca lucrez la un roman. Acest roman, inspirat din primul meu an în Cracovia, va exista. Sperăm să publicăm, cu suportul unor instituții din Cracovia, o ediție în engleză, română și, de ce nu, în polonă, a acestei cărți și sperăm să vă avem alături în decembrie 2010, când am dori să vă vorbim mai multe despre el.

Poeziile din prima mea carte sunt rezultatul unor căutări existențiale și al unui tumult interior, care ieșea uneori de pe scala Richter. Ele au fost scrise în variante pe care le-am eliminat succesiv, alegând forma și cuvintele cu cel mai puternic impact asupra mea. Nici una dintre aceste poezii nu a scăpat acestui exces de amprentare sufletească. Dragostea e cea care a purificat, adesea prin suferință, dincolo de dezamăgiri, până la esență, fiecare vers.

Figura de stil în care trăiesc, respir, visez și mă trezesc, ca scriitor, veți observa, este metafora. Metafora e forma în care topesc într-o pastă fluidă cuvintele. Am ales de cele mai multe ori cuvinte mici, pentru a exprima adevăruri mari. La fel ca viața, muzica sau dragostea, comunicarea interumană nu are nevoie de mai mult.

S-ar putea ca poeziile pe care le-am scris să se transpună în romanul pe care îl voi scrie. S-ar putea ca acest romanul să se transpună în poezie. Oricum ar fi, deasupra sau dedesubt va fi întotdeauna muzica, vocea, înțelese ca metafore.

Muzica mea nu e muzica altcuiva, la fel cum cuvântul pe care îl aleg e diferit de cuvântul ales de altcineva. Dincolo de diferențe insignifiante, prin filtrul gândului bun, am încercat să mă înțeleg și am încercat să-l înțeleg pe cel de lângă mine.

Dacă nu am fost deplin înțeleasă, mă aștept ca sămânța gândului bun pe care am sădit-o în cuvântul scris să înflorească în adevăr mai târziu… Mă veți găsi aici, așteptând cu răbdare primăvara din privirea voastră.

Vă mulțumesc pentru atenție!

Massolit Literary Evening – 28.11.2009

Thank you for joining Patrycja Gierat, Joanna Kita and myself tonight, at Massolit!

It was a pleasure to navigate through various constellation of readers with you!

Special thanks to David Miller and the Massolit staff!

Behind Curtains: David Miller

The conditions at take off were promising,

and everyone found themselves landing  safely by the end of the journey.

We hope we’ve managed to bring a little sparkle and wind to your wings!

Thank you for flying with us!

The story is open, and we welcome you aboard, again!

Thank you for your smile!

Thank you for your questions, interest and support!

Alina Alens

E. JUNGER: JCJ Glass Bees Riddle – A Case of Iconic Irreverence


Ernst Junger


Does it seem possible for someone to make out the greater picture, the universe of a book, after reading only a few fragments from it? Which fragments should these be? The last or the beginning? Whatever the answer, I chose to use The Glass Bees as a testing ground. My idea was to hand out to my students excerpts from the last eight chapters of this book. I limited their “reading-at-first-sight” perspective to a maximum of two chapters and handed out different chapters to four groups of readers. The first task set: summarise the chapters after reading.

In doing this I meant for synthesis to precede analysis, for summarizing to precede indepth thinking.

Did it work? In the very beginning, the readers found the summarising rather challenging. Summarising a fragment from The Glass Bees is not an easy task. In the chapters chosen, the flood of memories washes out the happenings and events of the present and manages to carry characters and readers alike into a realm of implausibility. I made sure, though, to drop a key. It’s nothing more than a man waiting in the garden for a possible employer to finish interviewing him for a job, I told them. The interviewee, Richard, the mighty and mysterious interviewer, Zapparoni.

What is plausible, and what is implausible for you in the chapters you just read? was my second question. It’s not at all easy to discern what is real from what is artificially constructed in this superbly written novel. Cut-off ears, transparent glass bees, surveillance cameras hidden inside tiny, bee-like automatons, thorough descriptions of  feelers quivering or delicate calyces are all confusing and charming the reader.

If you were to use this story for a movie, this movie would be… A science-fiction movie or a thriller with cut-off ears swimming in a bloody pond were the answers from some. For others the answer was silence. We have no problem understanding the words or the plot. The underlying meaning, however, eludes us, they concluded. Bees and glass bees – possibly a symbol for work or a working class… were some of the hypotheses, but the ideas seemed to stop there.

Let’s meditate on this for a while, shall we? I suggested. But what is the meaning for you, they insisted. I started then by laying out some reference points from the author’s life and the beginning chapters. Junger was a paradoxical personality, a brilliant military man  and a renown entomologist. A man at times on a war path, carrying a gun  while collecting rare flowers and bugs. The character in his book, Richard, is a man who knew and lived in two worlds: the “shining armour” time of  his youth, when he was an atypical soldier in the midst of heroes and foes, and the present time of need – a kind of  belated maturity, when he has to turn his weakness into strength, his defeatism into another kind of victory. The book witnesses the struggle within the character before he turns his weaknesses into the strength  to be harnessed by the responsibilities and tasks of  a certain type of work. This is where I stopped at the time.

I would like this blog to be a continuation of my own meditation on The Glass Bees. Give me a moment. I’ll be right back.

Alright. Thank you!

Two ages are facing each other in the two species of bees. Unlike their natural counterparts, the glass bees are perfect workers. Sexless, they need no sleep, no food, they can work without interruption. Their flight back to the hive which they never enter is a mere reminiscence of  the “homecoming” instinct of most living creatures.  This association is striking. All the more so, considering the fact that their glass, probe-like, tubular tongues collect almost all the pollen during one stop around a flower, leaving none, or close to none, for the rest of the bees. How generous is nature? we may ask. Can “its plan” accommodate the artificial,  man-created automatic bees? Is the honey produced by them as good as the natural honey?  Richard is asking himself similar questions. He mentions that “[b]ees are not just workers in a honey factory. Ignoring their self-sufficiency for a moment, their work – far beyond its tangible utility – plays an important part in the cosmic plan […]”

“As messengers of love, their duty is to pollinate, to fertilize the flowers,” he continues. (p.98)

What is man’s part in the cosmic plan? Is it to “push the developments of these automatons ahead […], manufacturing them in series,” in the manner of Zapparoni? (p. 104) Will man be superseded by his mechanised replica, by his  automatic alter ego?

“I was like a man of a former civilization who stands at a traffic intersection” Richard finds himself thinking. (p. 105)

Just like “the first automobiles which made the horses shy,” the existence of the glass bees marks the beginning of change. “The horses sensed what was in store for them. Since then the world has changed.” (p. 34) At the moment when Richard discovers the glass bees, and later on the cut-off ears floating in the pond, he senses that the world has undergone yet another change. He senses all too well that he does not want to be a part of this changed world. He’d rather stick to his own defeatism, go home to his Teresa, and look for another job. When Zapparoni reveals to him the story behind the cut-off ears, and welcomes him aboard the new establishment as an arbiter of change, he reconsiders his options.

“I might now conclude my story as in those novels where one presses on to a happy ending.

Other principles hold good here. Today, only the person who no longer believes in a happy ending, only he who has consciously renounced it, is able to live. A happy century does not exist; but there are moments of happiness, and there is freedom in the moment. […]

Soon perhaps, I shall describe in detail the consequences which my position as an arbitrator involved, and my experiences within the Zapparoni’s domain. (Until now I had been only in the outer courts.) Only a person who does not know the force of destiny will assume that my evil star faded out. We do not escape our boundaries or our innermost being. We do not change. It is true we may be transformed, but we always walk within our boundaries, within the marked-off circle. […]

There were rooms into which I had never looked before, and there were also great temptations; until finally my evil star triumphed again. Who knows, however, if my evil star might not be my lucky star? Only the end will tell.

But that evening, driving back to the plant in the little underground train, I firmly believed that my bad luck was over. One of the cars which I admired that morning took me back to the city. Fortunately some shops were still open here and there; I could buy myself a new suit. For Teresa I bought a nice summer dress with red stripes, which reminded me of the one in which I had seen her for the first time. It fitted to perfection – I knew her measurements. She had shared many hours with me, mainly the bitter ones.

We went out for dinner; it was one of the day one never forgets. Quite soon the happenings at Zapparoni’s garden began to fade in my memory. There is much that is illusory in techniques. But I never forgot Teresa’s words, and her smile when she spoke. Now she was happy about me. This smile was more powerful than all the automatons – it was a ray of reality.” (last chapter, pp. 148-149)

Can this be made into a thriller, a horror, or a science-fiction movie?

To me it is “a ray of reality.” It is the book or the movie in which man is wandering through the convoluted maze of his thoughts and recollections while being confronted with the genius, the middle- and master-minds of the present.  The fact that he finds his way back home does not exclude the possibilities of getting lost again in the future. However, there is a ray of light that pierces through defeat, loss and disappointment, and this is love. Whoever follows it is led on, safely, home.

In the darkness of today or tomorrow, one only has to follow the light.

Young Poets of Krakow – The Joyful Irreverence of Youthful Thinking

Together at a drink in Dynia, celebrating the young Krakow poets new book

Ladies and gentlemen, on Thursday, November 19th,  I had the pleasure of meeting the young Krakow poets (whether Krakowians by birth or spiritual affiliation is only for them to decide), and of celebrating the publication of their poetry anthology,
. . . wszystko razem z niebem na osciez rozdarte.
This is the fifth consecutive year in which the WBP (the Voivodeship Library in Krakow) and The Youth Education Centre Henryk Jordan have selected the best poems to be included in an anthology after a literary competition.
The warmth of their welcome added to the subtlety of the tongue-untying effect of the drinks and out of hidden, inner Slavic resources I found myself  articulating in Polish.
There has to be a start at some point, I thought, so what better opportunity than that?
I have to mention that my motivation was supported throughout the evening by the familiarity and openness of Katarzyna Grzesiak who, a poet herself, could write indefinitely about love.

Dominika (first left), Katarzyna (second left) and the young poets

Even though we met only days before, we embarked on a common territory of faith where the belief in trans-linguistic communication is an acknowledged rule of law.
Poets of different expression will find a way to communicate. That’s what we thought, and that’s what we did, as I discovered yet another proving ground for using Polish. It was, I think, the best thing that could have happened to my Polish, and I have to thank everyone present there for their great support!
Looking back on that evening, I’m wondering whether, in terms of wisdom, the youthful thinking differs from the more experienced, knowledgeable thinking.
What do you think about it?
The answer doesn’t have to be either yes or no, as any larger concept of thinking rejects simplistic tailoring.In truth, we are all suspended, at different points, in thinking. Young and old, citizens of one country and foreigners, such distinctions disappear, as thinking breaks free and we see ourselves living our inner lives on the edges and rifts of our lonesome individualities, as we see ourselves as children sharing one huge sandbox and playing games of life under the same blue.
Should you, the reader, see in what you’ve read so far a sign of youthful irreverent thinking on my part, I confess to it: I am guilty as charged, and I am going to put it in writing, just as before, so keep on reading!

Maksymilian Novak-Zemplinski – AGITABILIS – The Irreverence of Floating

Wyspianski Pavillon, Krakow, November 6 - 7, 2009

Wyspianski Pavilion, Krakow, November 6 - 7, 2009



What is the artist’s eye meant to encompass within its gaze?

Maksymilian Novak-Zemplinski’s eye encompasses the past and the future, the mysteries of civilizations past and upcoming, in a realm of fantasy and awe.

The force of insight blares out of solid frames. It blows into the sails of flying objects of the past and future, and in this blowing it alerts the gazer of an emergent mystery.

The revered motion in Zemplinski’s universe is flying, floating in a wind of unpredictability,

as well as resting, resting on doubt, resting against reason, logic or physical precepts, resting on the edge of faith.

                                 Inside A G I T A B I L I S

Inside A G I T A B I L I S

The spaciousness of vision allows the eye to relax. The paradox occurs when the eye brushes past encrypted symbols

and equilibrium challenges.

In this universe, man’s presence is not denied. Ghostlike figures accompany huge flying objects, together with stray beasts or stone-carved faces.

In a painting man’s presence is elevated to myth – undeniably a self-portrait.

Maksimilian Novak-Zemplinski, Alina Alens, and "The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love"

Maksimilian Novak-Zemplinski, Alina Alens, and "The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love"

The journey is ongoing, and this is maybe the most important:

being in motion, floating, flying, escaping into wonder and mystery.

Follow the eye of the mind

and step into a parallel, magical side of life!

Be sure to enjoy the ride, apart from solving its riddles!

Ingrid Ledent – The Irreverence of Time

5 November, 5pm – The International Cultural Centre in Krakow,

The Ravens Hall

I had been listening to Ingrid Ledent speaking about “litho” in a self-revealing speech.

Within an hour and some minutes, a transparent channel was forged as speech travelled into sight and hearing could envision the larger context of  what it was, back then, the art and life in Belgium, Prague or the US. From mere coincidences to serendipity – the smart use of coincidences, art influences the artist just as much as the artist is trying to influence it in return. True art is self-revealing, true art is honest. “I have always been in my art” each of her works  seems to say about Ledent. There was a time for struggle, for fighting the inadequacy of expression, and this time has been included in all her works, until it was refined to invisibility. This is how the initial struggle, the dissatisfaction with “lotography,” gave way to lithography. Ledent’s “loto” led her to integrate the concepts of “communication” and “reproducibility,” to “incorporate the body in the artistic work.” In time, the accidental, pure “litho” has given way to a mixture of “litho”  and new media. If, in recent years, technology may have caught up with craftsmanship, the value of intuition has always been at work in what Ingrid Ledent has created.

Thus, following an intuitive and self-revealing trail, the alphabet of the artist was made clear for the rest of us. Admirable truths were shared, and a spell of magic inherent to gist and focus, to Ledent’s art, was spread. The art is in “me” and the “me” is in art. Here we are offered a perfect example of time’s irreverence: the duration of “me” in what the artist calls her art.

Ingrid Ledent, Alina Alens and "The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love"

Ingrid Ledent, Alina Alens, and "The Incomplete Fantasy We Call Love"

As a continuation of Ingrid Ledent’s discourse about duration and time, I proceeded by asking her about the way ahead. The channel previously forged was fortified, and, between eyes reaching far into the horizon of the same metaphors, the flow was re-directed between a “you” and an “I” caught in the same stream of consciousness.

I found it fascinating to watch the making of a “litho” video.  It reminded me of the sawdust story a student of mine had shared at one of my classes, but I’ll have to tell you this story another time.

What is Ingrid Ledent’s secret? some may ask. To me the answer is simple: her desire to reveal the secret of her art.

We have to thank her for that!

Per Olov Enquist – The Irreverence of Transparency

Aula of Collegium Novum UJ, Krakow

Per Olov Quist at the meeting "Inne zycie" during the 1st edition of the Conrad Festival

November 4, the Aula of Collegium Novum. Per Olov Enquist on life, writing, and the future of literature.

“If everything started so well, how could it end so badly?”

The writer writes with low intermissions, filling the thought-rigged frame with life. His life? His long dead father’s life? Your life? My life?

Life floats in and out of hard covers. It permeates the print, and in its overflow it even gives you a lesson in diving.

A Romanian writer once said all valuable work  is perfused with autobiography. What is autobiography, I ask, other than our answer to the questions of Life?

The journey out of the Islandic night brought out the gestures of surrender and irreverence: the surrender to the grip of creative writing and the irreverence of transparency.

The reality in the book is different from and, yet, it is indeed related to the reality as you and I know it.

The work as a period (“.”) is meant to bring closure. Before writing, the period awaits. It settles in the memory after the ink dries out.

“Here’s a question I cannot answer: What next?” More transparency…