Reviews

REVIEWS

If Anamaria Beligan were in Scheherazade’s place, she would captivate Shahryar through her way of telling stories more so than through the substance of her stories. Enchanted (like a literary critic!) by her display of narrative formulas, the sultan would forever keep postponing the storyteller’s execution.

Invention, an eye for detail, a baroque imagination, the pleasure of creating an atmosphere of psychological mystery, as well as a cosmopolitan perspective on life, all these lead to a kaleidoscopic kind of fiction. The writer escapes definition. Her lucidity, her critical spirit, her assumed femaleness make her avoid predictability.

And yet, yet, one can detect a constant feature inside this protean artistic structure. It’s the capacity – and the pleasure – of seeing the human comedy in almost every episode of daily life.

Alex Ștefănescu, Addendum to the History of Romanian Contemporary Literature, Cultura, 263/2010

Her writings are built on contrast and counterpoint. Tensions are resolved through humour, the “realities of life” and the fantasies are set against – and inform – each other, the fundamental solitude of the individual is resolved through elective – meaning: free – associations, both here and there; these no longer have to travel any distance to relate to each other, because the distance is given by the storyteller’s lucid gaze.

A dense biography and a wealth of readings mark both the writer and her protagonists, so that the reader is free to discern affiliations, but also forced to acknowledge the net originality of her writing.

Irina Petraș, Romanian Contemporary Literature – Addenda, Casa Cărții de Știință, Cluj-Napoca 2010.

WindermereCoperta_H

…about Windermere: Love at Second Sight:

WINDERMERE: DRAGOSTE LA A DOUA VEDERE

Interrupted gestures, significant moments of silence, ambiguous procrastinations, tempestuous returns come together into an impeccable structure, built with intelligence, sophistication and a great understanding of human nature.

Mircea Petean, publisher

It’s not love at first sight, with its ecstatic emergency and its commonplace inertia communicated by means of cautionary tales (…); and it’s not love at last sight, which Walter Benjamin detected in the modern torment of Baudelaire’s sonnet, À une passante; it is love at second sight, as an expression of the soul’s intelligence, that Anamaria explores here. The tale of love and old age is not new: this is why it is not in danger of falling down the slopes of haste. In Love in the Time of the Cholera, Garcia Marquez had extended his yarn over more than half a century: a love which is heroic, manic, heretic, and finally, calm. In Anamaria’s novel, the lover’s glance has a dual direction, as it travels along the circular calendar of Eros, from one end to the other and then in opposite direction, going back to the beginnings, never knowing at which moment of this ritual repeat it will attain the blessed point where it transcends time.

Windermere is a classy novel which outlines its future encores.

Călin Andrei Mihăilescu, Observator cultural

…Anamaria Beligan knows how to use, with plenty of charm and ease, “collateral stories” which are either made up, or partly borrowed, from the history of localities, of streets, of houses; from anecdotal history or from encyclopedic history – which are part of the novel’s décor. The story of the blue, dusty, imperial album; the story of the torn up photograph, which preserves the Mother’s image and gives birth, at the same time, to adventurous presumptions; the story of the four and a half litres of perfume which evaporated when Martha Bibescu’s Posada castle went up in flames; certain glimpses from the history of anaesthesiology are not only delightful ingredients of the main yarn, but also a way of saying that the world is in fact smaller than we think, and filled with mysterious connections.

Dan Cristea, Luceafărul

The book is impeccably translated from English by Dana Lovinescu (the writer’s mother) and by the author herself, both of them well initiated into the linguistic secrets of Romanian and English. The harmony and the rhythm of every sentence, the capacity to capture imperceptible nuances are some of the text’s strengths.

With this novel, Anamaria Beligan adds another milestone to her literary career, with a voice that is unmistakable, in both Romanian and Australian literatures.

Ilie Rad, Tribuna


Windermere
… discusses the chance of reconsidering reality, because at first sight, things never suit us, or match our expectations. Life means procrastination, adjustment, retracing one’s footsteps. Secondly, it dwells on the art of focusing one’s sight, as the novel is full of scenes that detail settings, gestures, small occurrences, which have always been the salt of a good tale about the human condition.

As well, the film maker’s eye knows how to provide panoramic views, how to combine sequences that appear to diverge, how to extract the most significant element, without eliminating the necessary amount of ambiguity. Because the author is not just a writer, she is a lover of stories, with a refined and intoxicating pleasure of detailing the memorable: ‘Big Things always come down to little details’ and life is often ‘something between a state of things and a state of mind’.

Irina Petraș, România literară, 2/2010; Apostrof 237/2010

The dominant colours are blue and purple: Dr Bill brings in bunches of violets, lavenders twigs are thrown into the fire… the photo album is greyish blue. (…) Anamaria Beligan’s writing is synaesthetic: the images, which unfold cinematically, are accompanied by significant colours and symbolic scents.

Gabriela Rusu-Păsărin, Scrisul Românesc

Anamaria Beligan stated in an interview: “When the world seems unbearably predictable, I find in my writing a space where miracles still happen”. In her most recent novel, Windermere: Love at Second Sight, the miracle that she creates is the love between two septuagenarians, Yvonne Kuron, the Polish Widow (who is neither Polish , nor widowed) and Doctor Bill, William Montgomery.

…the erotic theme is unpredictably mixed with that of old age and the mystery of female nature. Also to consider are the elegant writing, the author’s cultural knowledge and, last but not least, her indisputable narrative talent.

Gabriela Gheorghișor, Ramuri, March 2010

After a relatively late debut, Anamaria Beligan regularly returns on the literary scene with yet another enchanting book, which discloses a tragic-comic, highly individualized world; this defining feature makes it impossible to associate her to any other writer, Romanian or otherwise. (…)

Windermere: Love at Second Sight (…) takes one into the hallucinating atmosphere of a universe which forms the background to a splendid love story between two people in their old age.

Antoaneta Turda, Tribuna, 117/ 2010

The novel Windermere: Love at Second Sight, the author’s masterpiece, comprises the heroic-comic epic, but also the overwhelming tenderness, of the love between Yvonne and William.

The novel could be thus summarized (ironically, in the author’s style):
“If only (Yvonne sometimes whispered to herself)…
If only…
If only William grew a moustache. Simple, practical, well trimmed. With a discreet scent of eau de cologne and a faint whiff of Prince of Wales tea. What a natural extension of his kind, subdued, but nevertheless salient masculinity! Oh, things would be so perfect if he grew a moustache. Everything would fall into place.”

As if guessing his beloved’s secret desire, William grows a moustache at some point in time. And everything in the universe falls into place.

Alex Ștefănescu, Cultura, 263/2010

This is a Scheherazade-esque novel. The writer is preoccupied with recuperating stories (…), the stories of immediate lives; from this point of view, there is a Chekhovian dimension (…) which relates to her East European, Romanian heritage, meaning that she is interested in the story no just in its major sense, but also in its immediate, humanised, ‘small destiny’ sense.

The preoccupation with stories is not only evident in the content, but also in the technique that Anamaria Beligan uses. (…) Although the novel is accessible – it’s hard to let go of the book once you’ve started it! – the technique is complex (…) One of the subtle technical elements that the writer uses is the coup de theatre.

Sanda Cordos, book launch presentation,
Writers’ Union, Cluj, 22 September 2009

 

mamabenaen…about motherbena.com:

In but one of the baroque twists in this provocative and elegant satire on life in the weird world of today, a rat-infested old cinema in Melbourne becomes the improbable hiding place for illegal immigrants. Mother Bena, originally from a remote Romanian village, now heads a great Australian business empire, ruling it and her strange family with a rod of iron and a kind of ruthless wit.
Anamaria Beligan, in her distinctive and cinematic style, has created a narrative that glides from shocking tragic-comedy to poetic revelation to a sad grandeur in this commentary on who does business in the world, how they do it, and what it costs.

Carmel Bird

An excellent novel! A joy to read.

Razvan Petrescu

 

Written with ascetic lucidity.

Adrian Gavrilescu – Esential

A well-mastered, vividly paced narrative, rich in entrapments and false leads. But this wouldn’t mean much if Anamaria Beligan had not tried – and achieved – to address a profound issue (…) the inherently tragic character of the human condition… The two plots – the soapie and the real life — are interchangeable, so that, like in some Chinese story, one could ask, ‘if everything is nothing but a dream, who is doing the dreaming?’

Dania-Ariana Moisa – Ramuri

Wealth in wonder of stories.

Aaron Langmaid  - Leader

Anamaria Beligan: a Romanian-Australian Sheherazade

T. Alexiu – Ziarul de Arges

The language is overwhelmingly vernacular, the writing – interactive, addressing a “dear reader” who is both witness and co-author (…) of the book, which writes itself before his/her eyes. …The world we live in is brutally mirrored in Anamaria Beligan’s novel: decadent, insane, addicted to playing Russian roulette with words, living in a ‘surrealist space, somewhere between the bazaars of Istanbul, the semi-rural iarmaroc of southern Romania and the explosive kitsch of an Indi rock clip.’

Valeria Manta-Taicutu – Agonia.Ro

An interesting, challenging post modern novel, with powerful characters, especially Mother Bena, a sort of female ‘Godfather’, ‘busier than an airline company’ and ‘more restless than a global corporation’.

Saptamana Financiara

The best novel about Romanian immigrants. With a plot based in Australia but also in the dilapidated world of the Romanian village, this book is a breathless read and contains all the ingredients of a bestseller of high literary quality: love stories, suspense, humour, satire, thriller elements and a high paced drama unravelling across several levels and timelines.

Revista Avantaje

 

trabant…about Love is a Trabant:

DRAGOSTEA E UN TRABANT

“…one of the most promising collections of Romanian fiction belongs to Curtea Veche publishers and has a suggestive title: Povestasi romani (Romanian Story-Tellers). I would like to believe it is not by accident that the first volume of the series bears the signature of Anamaria Beligan, one of the most gifted story-tellers in Romanian literature…
“… Her happy and sad, jocular-bitter stories, about the lost, the strayers, the marginalised, about the small tribe of those who failed, about those suspended between worlds, have a magical effect. They could easily become our own unlived stories, because they bring to life both the past and the future (…), they change the present and reality to make them more intelligible and more bearable, while we sit down around the author, watching her and listening to her in an enchanted state, page after page, like one does with a genuine story-teller.”

Adriana Babeti, Orizont

“If (…) I were to find an author who is closest to Anamaria Beligan, my first thought would be to re-read Mircea Eliade’s stories which he wrote in exile, particularly during the eighties and nineties. (…) The similarities start, primarily, with the fact that both writers are of Romanian origin, but made their mark in a different culture…
“…The majority of the texts in Love is a Trabant prove that the story – alert, captivating, strange or miraculous – becomes paramount. I don’t know if it was a deliberate decision to inaugurate the Povestasi romani collection with Anamaria Beligan’s book, but I have no doubt that, in doing so, Curtea Veche publishers have made an excellent choice.”

Radu Pavel Gheo, Orizont

“Her Western cultural experience is immediately apparent in Anamaria Beligan’s writings, and it is difficult to identify which cultural space they really belong to. More likely, it is the Australian space.
“… Anamaria Beligan pays much attention to detail, uses a contrapuntal style, and cuts her sequences well (there are no flat moments, the stories are full of verve and dynamism), the dialogues are spicy, the vocabulary is varied (bearing witness to her linguistic preoccupations) and she does have humour.”

Marius Chivu, Observator cultural

“Anamaria Beligan possesses a good insight into the lives of migrants, whose tribulations she turns into a type of fiction which could be categorised as behaviourist, if it weren’t for the short but powerful incursions in the realms of obsessions, oneirism and absurdity which belong to (…) our traumatic, post-modern world…
“… Love is a Trabant leaves the impression of a fresh, alert style (…) coupled with the serious anxieties of one who has witnessed the human comedy transplanted, as it were, from native Europe into the “exotic” circumstances of the Antipodes.”

Gabriel Cosoveanu, Ziua Literara

“The language of Love is Trabant is neither English nor Romanian. It is the language of beautiful story-telling (…)”

Crenguta Napristoc, Observator cultural

Love is a Trabant, the main story of this collection, equally reminds us of Mircea Eliade’s short story La Tiganci (At the Gipsies’) and of Emir Kusturica’s Gypsy movies. An exotic-erotic adventure located in the Gypsy milieu, incandescent feelings, magic atmosphere – but also, as a distinct feature, the high quality sarcasm that Anamaria Beligan uses with virtuosity.

Alex Stefănescu, Cultura, March 2010

 

afew…about  A Few More Minutes with Monica Vitti:


The title story in Anamaria Beligan’s assertive, inventive collection A Few More Minutes with Monica Vitti celebrates the unforgettably lush sexiness of Monica Vitti (…) seen through the eyes of a young migrant to Australia from “a communist country whose fantasy of building the workers’ paradise had left its workers completely drained of fantasy”. (…) In Beligan’s own east European background, in her abundant cinematic and literary references and in her wicked sense of irony, there’s more than a touch here of Milan Kundera, although many of her rather sly stories are set in inner Melbourne.

Tony Maniaty, Week End Australian

 

The mastery in Beligan’s style is to involve the reader in eavesdropping on a conversation between a young barrister and her friend ensconced in a lounge of the Queenscliff Hotel. (…) From this vantage point the reader is drawn into the delicious details and suppositions surrounding the whereabouts of the skull. (…) The sense of the master storyteller’s skill is perhaps best seen in the end of the introduction to her first story when she says: “So, my dear, anonymous and voyeuristic reader, it is for you that I am now going to file what started on a Monday evening, last August, in the delicious privacy of one of the three lounge rooms of the Queenscliff Hotel.” How could any reader put down a book after this kind of literary entrapment?

John Watts, Leader Newspapers

“Anamaria Beligan’s fiction is imbued with remarkable professionalism… and a maximum of virtuosity.”

Dan Stanca, Romania Libera

“This is an enthralling book. Anamaria Beligan has managed to write extremely naturally about matters which are quite unnatural.”

Mircea Mihaies, Face to Face television program Channel 2, Romanian National Television

 

“This book is one of the achievements of a generation of writers to which Anamaria belongs only biologically… Hers is a certain type of magic realism which does not resemble any other writing, a type of elegance which is by no means feminine, a mastery of dramatic effects, a clarity of construction, a type of imagination so strange, yet so vivid in its strangeness…”

Adriana Babeti, Face to Face television program Channel 2, Romanian National Television

 

“With extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity, the author creates the atmosphere of a contemporary fairy-tale (…) Anamaria Beligan’s major quality is that she is a master storyteller. (…) The return to a traditional type of story, unrestrained by the rules of realism, combined with an original style that vaguely reminds one of Mircea Eliade, bestow a special charm on this book, a charm which is rarely found in contemporary literature.”

Radu Pavel Gheo, Contemporanul, 27 May 1999

“…her short stories create an atmosphere which is filled with psychological mystery, with a slightly perverse sensuality, with segments of hallucination and with a mixture of iciness and incandescence, of voyeurism and refined morbidity.”

Dan C. Mihailescu, The 22 Cultural Journal, 25-31 January 2000

 

Anamaria Beligan’s characters are haunted by History’s curse or – as in Milan Kundera’s case – by History’s jokes. (…) Anamaria Beligan’s first book reveals a mature writer, who perfectly masters the skill of narrative construction. Beside the unpredictable and spectacular explosion of her imagination, the most important qualities of her fiction are the balanced composition and the excellent use of dramatic effects.

Daciana Branea, Orizont Literary Journal, January 2000

Her writing is complicated and well articulated, like the prose of Somerset Maugham. But it also contains a degree of bizarreness and cruelty, which brings to mind the fantastic-Gothic imagery of Daphné du Maurier.

Alex Stefănescu, Cultura, March 2010

scris… about Letters to Monalisa

Scrisori catre Monalisa

With every book, the anguish, the biographical and social-historical tensions are more rigorously controlled, as the accumulated existential material becomes quality literature. The writer reconciles countless stories, combines them symphonically, with an excellent flair for textual symmetry. Despite the rough language, which is natural in this marginal, inconsistent universe, the book is constructed like a poem, with rhythms and modulations, with refrains. With humour. Inter-human relationships burn up like tiny fireworks, allegiances fluctuate, unions are misleading. Arkadia is a hole-riddled honeycomb where the characters vainly try to secrete a new certitude. Betrayed illusions, anguish-ridden limitations dangerously infantilise the contemporary human being. A violent identity crisis erases borders and differences, mixing everything together, like in a degraded purgatory rife with resentment, insecurity, big plans and small victories. Since there is nothing to redeem, the guilt belongs to everyone and nobody, and paradise is a dream harassed by nightmares. In a time of extreme relativism, the price of fiction, of fantasy, of the word, is going up again. For they are what they seem: identities.

Irina Petraș, România literară, no.44/2012

 

“I wonder who wouldn’t read in one breath Anamaria Beligan’s lively novel, Letters to Monalisa (…) – about East Europeans leading a promiscuous, sordid yet vivid existence inside a refugee camp which brings to mind Emir Kusturica’s Gypsy movies. (…) The atmosphere in this German camp instantly captures the reader, not only because of the mixture of well-suited jargons and poetic nostalgia, but also because of its higher level, which deals with the metaphysics of exclusion. (…) Living as an excluded person entails a permanent tension (…) which is conveyed by every page of this book. Anamaria Beligan manages the difficult task of investing the camp – ironically named ‘Hotel Arkadia’ – with the signs of a disturbing, almost pathological melancholy, in order to endow the entropy of the declasses with the magnitude of an insidious utopia, echoing John Lennon’s Imagine, which is heard in the end. (…) The last pages – particularly strong and poetic – prove, among many other things, Anamaria Beligan’s undisputed talent as a story-teller.”

Gabriel Cosoveanu, Ramuri Literary Journal, December 1999

 

Letters to Monalisa, a novel of exasperation and revolt, reveals an experienced writer, in charge of her tools, with an extraordinary skill of veiling and unveiling meanings. The stakes are high, the bet is a difficult one. Yet it all ends in brilliant victory (…) “

Magdalena Roibu, Orizont Literary Journal, January 2000

 

“…her language is fresh, daring, strong, original. Devoid of exaggerations or sentimentality, it manages to impress the reader through its profound evocative power. (…) Anamaria Beligan and her characters operate inside a disturbingly vivid historical farce, which arises from the past, in order to explain the tragedy of the present, the confusion of post-communism.”

Cristina Cheveresan, Orizont Literary Journal, January 2000

 

“Anamaria Beligan is an extremely gifted writer – her style does not betray for one moment the author’s gender (…). She writes naturally, effortlessly, with remarkable neutrality, liberated from any feminine complex (…) Her cultural knowledge is remarkably well woven into the text: notice the discussion on Leni Riefenstahl, or the dog named Nazarin, after Bunuel’s 1959 film. (…) This book is powerful and deep, and very rich in symbols. (…) Its fragmented and crushing reality brings to mind Kusturica’s movies. (…) Letters to Monalisa is a profound and lively book.”

Radu Voinescu, Luceafarul Literary Journal, 1 December 1999

 

“(…) the theme of the captive migrant, living inside Hotel Arkadia (what a name!), in a transitory state between everywhere and nowhere, as well as the narrative pattern which brings to mind Gorky’s The Lower Depths, provide the author with a generous chance to bring together contrasting characters and picturesque situations.

“Matei, the anxious amnesic with an artistic imagination (see page 125, where he imagines an affair between Romanian poet Ion Barbu, a lecturer in Berlin, and the famous Leni Riefenstahl!) is the central character around whom gravitate Vera’s disillusioned femininity, the amoral cynicism of Victor Cotenet (see the succulent page 64, in which the former truck driver summarises the general corruption under Ceausescu’s regime), the hallucinatory drunkenness of Krzysztof the Pole, the sensual timidity of the Bernd-Satri pair, the endearing loquaciousness of the Gypsy Nae Lebadaru, Beno’s exhibitionism, the dreamy confusion of the Croat Radovan Balen, and so on. It all ends in a dream-like manner, with a fire and a purifying snowfall: the burning down of the Purgatory.”

Dan C. Mihailescu, The 22 Cultural Journal, 25-31 January 2000