Author Archives: Andreea Sepi

Short prose in Romanian on Liternet.ro

Standard

Dear friends,

Romanian online publisher Liternet.ro has graciously accepted to publish my latest short prose (a travel-cum-anthropological report of sorts) in their Atelier section. The three pieces of this feature will appear on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and can be found here:

A big thank you to Razvan Penescu, founder and coordinator of Liternet.ro!

In case you’re curious what else I’ve been writing and publishing on Liternet over the years, have a look here:

https://www.liternet.ro/autor/1035/Andreea-Sepi.html

(spoiler alert: it’s all in Romanian).

I hope you like it.

Best of Romania 2021

Standard

“It is said that some Bolsheviks, deeming that a love based on choice and exclusivity was only a prejudice infiltrated by the bourgeois spirit, tried to abolish it, treating love as an instinct, an instinct like all the others, falsely adorned hitherto with a passionate halo. (…)
The big mistake was that they thought love resides in free mating… But two individual people on a beach, where there is a clutter of hands and feet, think and feel themselves completely different from all the others (…).
Love is preference and, even possessed by an entire platoon, a woman cannot be prevented from preferring in her mind and smiling with her eyes, just as no one can restrain the pride of knowing yourself the object of someone’s preference or your tender gratitude for it. For if preference itself can be forbidden, the thought of preference escapes all obstruction. Love requires no more than this.”

Camil Petrescu – Patul lui Procust (The Bed of Procrustes), 1946

#viatransilvanica #banatulmontan #cernadomoglednationalpark #timisoara #romania #august2021 #travel

Quote of the day

Standard

“Uniformity in the opinions expressed by teachers is not only not to be sought, but is, if possible, to be avoided, since diversity of opinion among preceptors is essential to any sound education. No man can pass as educated who has heard only one side on questions as to which the public is divided. One of the most important things to teach in educational establishments of a democracy is the power of weighing arguments, and the open mind which is prepared in advance to accept whichever side appears the more reasonable.”

Bertrand Russel (philosopher and Nobel Prize winner) – in an essay called “Freedom and the Colleges”, 1940.

#education #pluralism #freedom #opinion

Children saying scary things

Standard

My daughter (10), elated that she got into the class she wanted and avoided the all-girls class: ‘All-girls classes suck!’

Me, naively: ‘Why?’

My studious 10-year-old: ‘Because they’d be all prissy and there’d be no boys to fall in love with.’

Ladies and gentlemen, the main purpose of public schooling, right there… in case there was ever any doubt.

(And I say this sarcastically, of course, because when the knowledge content has been thinned out and dumbed down beyond recognition, what else is left but socialization…)

The Angler

Standard

He didn’t mind the waiting. In fact, that was the best part. He was there for the wait.

He did have qualms about impaling the worms, though. That much is true. But he’d shrug it off: ‘If I don’t get them, someone else will. Some other animal. Not my fault they were born to be food.’ He’d run the hook through them with great care, covering the whole length of it. With a grand, yet by now mechanical gesture, he’d unleash his reel, let the nylon fly gracefully through the air, lower the lure into the water and wait. He’d settle into his small foldable chair, hunched shoulders, hat pushed back, and wait. Occasionally he would yank the rod, reel it in a bit. Once in a while he’d rub the bristles on his neck or pass his palm pensively across the stubble on his face. And while waiting, he’d take a deep breath, then another. He absolutely loved it.

Some people hate fishing, he thought. They get competitive about it. And then they can’t stand the wait. But that’s where they get it all wrong. You set a target, a goal, and pretty soon it takes over. It runs you. It prods you. You become its instrument. Why put yourself under pressure? Fishing is precisely about taking it in stride. Take it as it comes. And if it doesn’t, then just have yourself a few quiet hours staring at the water. That was why he was there, anyway. No clocks, no schedules, no expectations. No emotional blackmail either. Just pure pleasure. No fish ever came out desperately pleading, ‘You promised to marry me, I’m pregnant!’.

No voices. The fish are all quiet. Here it was just him and the water and the lure bobbing on the surface of it and his thoughts free to glide along. Life on mute, the way he liked it. As mute as fish.

He did throw most of them back in. He kept just enough to justify his hobby, bring something home to the wife. The ones he kept he never watched. He hated to see them suffocate, gasping for air. They reminded him too much of himself. Too much of the hook he’d bitten into: a family, kids, the responsibilities of it all. Sometimes he could tell he’d caught something, but he’d just let them play around in the river a little bit longer with that hook in their mouth, give them the illusion they were still free. Give them a chance to free themselves. If they’d bitten too deep, if they were too damaged, he’d keep them, put them out of their misery, make them into food. If not, he’d simply release them back, with a lesson learned. Can fish learn?

He could, but by now it was too late. He had his little escapades, his early weekend mornings out of the house, all by himself. He enjoyed it all: the river bank, the water flowing, the solitude, the wait. He’d gotten used to telling everybody he was going away to catch some fish. But he knew he was not there for the catching. He knew. He was there for the wait.

The wait. That illusion of freedom, that suspended moment when anything might still happen. Man, fish, earth, water. Cells, the lot of them. Molecules. Life feeding upon itself.

Podge and his book from the sky – A fable

Standard

Once upon a time there was a badger. We’ll call him Podge, because that’s what his friends called him. Podge was an intrepid and adamant little badger and he liked to roam the neighborhood at length, looking for fellow creatures to pester – or to snack on.

On one of his nocturnal foraging trips, Podge went a little further than usual and pretty soon came across an animal he had never seen before. An animal so different from himself.

‘What a strange animal… !’ Podge thought and drew closer. ‘Too large to eat and very funny-looking.’

In fact, this animal was so bizarre that, in the dark, Podge couldn’t really tell which end was the head.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

At first there was no answer, so he tried again.

‘Hi,’ he repeated. ‘My name is Podge and I’m a badger. What are you?’

The strange animal stirred.

‘Why are you talking to my tail?’

‘Oh, sorry,’ Podge said and came trotting around to the other end.

And indeed, upon closer inspection, he was now able to make out a long, thin snout and a pair of ears.

‘I have never seen an animal like you. What are you, exactly?’ Podge asked.

‘What do you mean? I am me. I am who I am. Do you want to be friends?’

‘I guess, but… what are you?’ he insisted.

‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to be something in particular?’

‘Well, we’re all something. We all have to be something.’

‘Why?’

‘Just to know what we are. To know where we belong.’

‘ Well, I may not know what I am, but I still know who I am. I’m me. Isn’t that enough?’

‘But… but all the creatures in the world need to know what they are!’ Podge spluttered.

‘Why?’

‘I’m not exactly sure, but I am very pleased to know what I am and what everything around me is. I know what is food, friend, or foe. It’s easier to play with things when you know what they are.’

‘Hm,’ the other creature said incredulously and walked on, snout to the ground.

‘Aren’t you curious what I am?’

‘You’re someone who calls his friends thing names.’

But Podge didn’t hear.

‘I’m a badger,’ he pronounced proudly and confidently.

‘Says who?’

‘Everyone I know.’

‘Badger,’ muttered the creature. ‘That’s just a sound. It means nothing to me. But if you’re fond of this sound, so be it, you will be the Badger.’

‘And you? What are you?’

‘I already told you. I’m me. Why are you so obsessed with categories?’

Podge went home and found it extremely hard to fall asleep. It bothered him. He did not know where to place this creature he had met. And what should he call it? The following night he went back determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. He packed his sacred book and a flashlight. For hours on end he looked at the creature, looked at himself, then leafed back and forth through his book. It was morning already. The sun was up. He was getting tired. Finally, he exclaimed:

‘I know! I know what you are! You’re an aardvark!’ He was so relieved.

‘You think so?’

‘I know so!’

‘How do you know?’

‘Because my book says so, look!’ he said and pointed to a picture on a page that said “Aardvarks”.

‘And how does the book know I’m an aardvark? Maybe they just had to come up with a name and didn’t know any better.’

‘Oh, no, no, no. Not a chance. This book knows everything there is to know. It’s a magical book. And it’s always right.’

‘Really? How do you know that?’ the aardvark asked again.

‘Well, because this book came to us directly from the sky!’

‘No kidding…’

‘Yes, yes. I found it myself one morning on the forest floor. There was nobody else around, and it’s too heavy for our birds to carry. So, it must have fallen from the sky!’

‘Hm,’ the creature muttered again and tried to sniff out some ants.

‘You eat ants! Perfect, that’s perfect. You’re a good aardvark!’

‘How do you know I’m a good aardvark?’

‘Because that’s just what my book says you’re supposed to eat!’

‘I also eat cucumber,’ the aardvark replied.

‘Oh no, you really shouldn’t!’ Podge retorted with a worried look on his face.

‘Why not?’

‘Because my book says nothing about cucumbers. That means you’re probably not allowed to eat them. Oh boy, why do you have to eat cucumbers? What is wrong with you? It’s so unnatural.. You should eat termites!’

‘Hm,’ the aardvark said. ‘I had no idea there was something wrong with me until just now. But I do eat termites rather frequently,’ he apologized.

‘Oh, good!’

‘I’m curious,’ the aardvark inquired. ‘Do you always do what the book says?’

‘Oh yes, always!’

‘And what does your book say about badgers?’

‘A badger is a short-legged nocturnal omnivore,’ Podge read solemnly.

‘Nocturnal, huh? Then how come you are up and about after daybreak?’ the aardvark wanted to know.

Podge blushed, felt guilty and fell silent. He picked up his things and scurried home to sleep on it.

‘What a strange animal… !’ the aardvark thought. ‘He walks around at night with only one book and a tiny flashlight, yet claims to know what everything is…’

Things you can observe at 7 a.m.

Standard

I watched blackbirds today.

I couldn’t sleep.

Early at dawn I watched a parent

feed her chick.

The older one was dark –

as burdens darken us;

the younger pale,

unknowing, made a fuss.

Peck, peck, they went

as their small beaks touched

From where I sat,

it looked as if they kissed.

And it occurred to me

that this is how you feed

the nerve to fly,

which I so sorely missed.

Quote of the day

Standard

On sex education:

“There is no sound reason, of any sort or kind, for concealing facts when talking to children. Their questions should be answered and their curiosity satisfied in exactly the same way in regard to sex as in regard to the habits of the fishes, or any other subject that interests them. (…)

The child who is told what he wants to know, and allowed to see his parents naked, will have no pruriency and no obsession of a sexual kind. Boys who are brought up in official ignorance think and talk much more about sex than boys who have always heard this topic treated on a level with any other. (…) All ignorance is regrettable, but ignorance on so important a matter as sex is a serious danger. (…)

Speaking not only from theory, but from practical experience, I am convinced that complete openness on sexual subjects is the best way to prevent children from thinking about them excessively, nastily or unwholesomely, and also the almost indispensable preliminary to an enlightened sexual morality.”

Bertrand Russel – Our Sexual Ethics (first published in 1936!)

Quote of the day

Standard

“Surely, inspirational language to create a secure consensus is still used, in our time, to cover up serious conflicts of interest in that consensus, and to cover up, also, the omission of large parts of the human race.”

Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial, Reissue Edition 2015)

#language #languageandpolitics #languageandthemedia #discourse

Wind in the tall grasses

Standard

Today I will write about the wind in the tall grasses.

Lost, immaterial, like our souls,

Just a passage from one place to another.

Just air. Just breath.

Soft stalks undulating. It’s ballet. Beautiful submission.

Soothing choreography under a ruthless sun.

People pass by on their bicycles

Barely noticing.

Barely noticing the road leads nowhere.

Barely noticing they’re cycling in circles,

Like the seasons,

Inevitably ending up the same, just older. Drier.

Have you noticed how heavy our souls have become

And how they weigh on the landscape

Chased by this cruel big sky?

How hard the wind has to blow to still move them?

Two blades of grass standing tall,

Then bent by the gale. The caress of a green tassel.

Two blades touching each other for a second

Softly, until they don’t. Until they cut skin.