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“The forward movement of Eastern Europe should be evaluated not only for its ability to modernize political and economical structures, but also for its ability to clarify the recent history of these scarred societies, and to direct them toward the full truth. This is not an easy task, and it is first and foremost the task of intellectuals, not politicians. But our future is premised on the quality, on the probity, of our understanding of the past”

This is the final of an article written by Norman Manea and published in 1998 in the New Republic. I found the article today in a faxed paper from Vladimir Tismaneanu to Andrei Codrescu. The paper was enclosed in a 2003 book from the Codrescu collection that I was cataloging. All three of them were living in US at that time but they were(and are) thinking about the well being of Romania.

In 2000 The Romanian Institute for Recent History was created and its mission resemblance the Manea’s call. Their web page however is not updated and there is not much information online about their recent activities. Nevertheless a different organization, the Institute for Investigation  of Communism Crimes is very active: have different projects and publications. There is a clear sign that things started to move in a good direction. What trace they will leave remains to be seen. I like the fact that they “investigate” and that they accept students as volunteers.

T.:”I am going to marry my boy.”

K:”Who’s your boy?”

T:”A. is. I’m going to marry him. I like him”

K:”What if he will not like you?”

T.:”I’m going to beat him up!”

T. is not three yet and A. is her friend at day care. As you can see she is very serious about her love… I am T.’s mom and I am in trouble. 🙂

Old Dilemma – the cultural magazine that I’ve already talked about – had as theme for this week’s issue: “How we used to read in communism”. With a big question like this, addressed to Romanian students and intellectuals I was curious to see the answers. I already knew about informal networks that existed in Romania back then that circulated the books. Everybody respected a “good” book and was desperately trying to get one for their own library.  A visit to the house of a middle class Romanian in Communism would surprise any Western visitor. The center piece of the living room was always a library. The number of volumes differed, but my guess was that there was no direct connection between income and number of volumes. Having a library was setting a social status.

In Dilemma  intellectuals, mostly writers, expressed their thoughts, shared their experience about reading during Communism. While reading about them, I realize that books were valuable not only because of their content but because of their potential anti Communist content. A book was more popular and was sold right away if there were rumors that it had difficulties with the censorship or if the author was not popular with the regime. After books that were said to be “good” and were nowhere to be found in bookstores, the black market would start making profit out of them. A policemen would confiscate a book who’s author was not liked by the regime and wold sell it on the black market.  I was very little aware of the economic role of books back then.

Anyway, the public or school libraries are mentioned briefly in this issue of Dilemma about reading in Communism:

Mirel Banica presents public libraries as places where one could get books only in cases of “extreme emergency. There [ in libraries] it was cold, dirt, dusted books. But what wander me away from there was the deep hate that comrades librarians had for us, they were profound disturbed from their hibernation by our request […]”

When in high school Radu Pavel Gheo wanted to read Marx’s The Capital so he went to the library. (Of course this was not a “good” book)

Mihai Dinu Gheorge mentions libraries as places where people could find books. However they come only third  after Book stores and Second hand bookshops.

Vintila Mihailescu was very disappointment to discover, after 1990 that intellectuals from West did not have their own huge library but were borrowing books from the library. “And I was dreaming years after years that Them, out there, were spoiling themselves in big libraries, spending nights on endless corridors full of bookshelves…” ( He is talking about private libraries …The idea of a public one, for public sharing is not there)

Where does one start to rehabilitate an institution that existed only for a small number of people in “extreme emergency” situations and had such a bad image. A comparative research with UK or USA libraries would seems pointless( What am I thinking!!!). We are so far from them and yet we (librarians and our public libraries) need to be so close to be able to play an ctive role in our communities.

This morning I added two records for Ada Milea’s music CD’s in OCLC. I was very happy to find her name in LC names. Quijote, her 2006 book and CD  from Polirom already had  a record and is owned by Stanford and Harvard Universities. Now there are also records for Absurdistan and Republica Mioritica Romania. It’s not a big deal but I am so happy I did this.

This is something newer than what I cataloged today. Nevertheless is still Ada Milea:

As a side thing, for writing these records I derived from an already existing record of Angela Simiea’s Un roman de iubire intre-un albastru infinit. (Angela Similea was the most popular singer in Communits Romania) I don’t know why I thought of her when I was trying to find a Romanian singer in OCLC… In the process of editing the record titles of songs like Să mori de dragoste rănită (To die of broken heart) was replaced by Ada’s ironic songs.  🙂

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