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Interview with Tatiana Niculescu Bran

by: Ciprian Marinescu 13 Mai 2009

"A small culture is often self-encouraging by considering that it has a cosmic importance"

-interview with Tatiana NICULESCU BRAN-

A journalist with the BBC ‘school', Tatiana Niculescu Bran is the author of the books "Spovedanie la Tanacu" ("Confession at Tanacu" - n.t.) and "Cartea Judecătorilor" ("The Book of Judges" - n.t.), but also of the dramatisation on the basis of which the director Andrei Şerban made the show "Spovedanie la Tanacu" ("Confession at Tanacu" - n.t.) - a project made by the Odeon Theatre in co-production with the Romanian Cultural Institute, within the Itinerant Academy Andrei Şerban (an initiative of RCI New York).

How was the life of a writer for Tatiana Niculescu Bran before Spovedanie la Tanacu (Confession at Tanacu)?
My life as a writer, if it can be called like that, began with Spovedanie la Tanacu (Confessions at Tanacu). Before it, I never thought I would write a book. It was by chance. I wrote two books about the Tanacu case out of a practical necessity, out of the desire of understanding what happened there. I was working in a radio editorial and I had reached the conclusion that neither myself nor my colleagues understood what it was about, though the incident from Tanacu benefited from a giant media coverage. I started with the chronology of the facts.


How is a journalistic novel written?
The non-fictional novel is a genre with a solid tradition in Great Britain and the United States. The continental Europe is cultivating it less and the Romanian literary critic considers it a less interesting stylistic hybrid. It is true that the attempts made until now are not very encouraging. Such a novel is written with piles of documents on the table, with countless transcriptions of recorded interviews and it demands from the author impersonal rigours. You must stubbornly and consistently keep the distance from the story that you write and from your own emotions or theories. Which is not always easy. As proof stand some attempts of non-fiction in which the authors don't resist the temptation of speaking about themselves and about the experiences that they have.


In what way has the celebrity post-Tanacu involved and solicited you?
The two books - Spovedanie la Tanacu (Confession at Tanacu) and Cartea Judecătorilor (The Book of Judges) - have enjoyed indeed somewhat of a success. I don't know if we can talk about celebrity. But the public success confirmed that there were other people who wanted to understand and to find out facts rather than their indignant interpretations. Of course that any writing approach is in itself an interpretation, a version of the facts, but in the case of Tanacu there were many phantasmagorias, passions and pulsations that had taken the place of true facts.


How would you comment the word ‘celebrity' in the context of the Tanacu case?
The case Tanacu was already famous when I started writing about it. Somehow, this celebrity that was too easily won made me think that things might be more complicated than they seemed, less spectacular then they were described in newspapers, but that more serious. The celebrity was an effect of tabloids, of hysteria and of a great anticlerical frenzy that has darkened many minds. It was a sad and profoundly deforming celebrity. In the two books I went against it because that's the way the real facts drove me through.


Do you believe that, together with the movement of the public interest towards other subjects, the social representative of the Tanacu case has consumed itself for the present Romania?
The case remains relevant for the world in which we live in and not only in Romania. A small culture is often self-encouraging by considering that it has a cosmic importance, good or bad. As long as there is loneliness, despair, faith, confusion of competences, indifference, lethargy of institutions, trickery and naivety, love and abandonment and many other things for which we live or die, the Tanacu case remains a troubling story. The subject - if we are to speak in journalistic terms - is not the exorcism, but the impotence of accepting the other and of truly meeting him. As Andrei Şerban well said, Tanacu within us is a much more serious story than a divers event from a village in Vaslui.


Spovedanie la Tanacu (Confession at Tanacu) made your entrance into theatre. How did that happen, more exactly?
I wrote my first book, Andrei Şerban read it, he liked it and he invited me to participate in a workshop of dramatic creation within the Academy that caries his name. The workshop was made on the basis of my text, somewhere in the Apuseni Mountains, with young actors from several theatres in the country. Then the director from the RCI New York, Corina Şuteu, one of the few specialists in cultural management that Romania has, saw what the actors were doing, she was impressed of what came out of our workshop and, with efforts that only she knows and I only suspect, succeeded in turning this experiment into a real show. Therefore, in October 2007, we had the premiere at the LaMaMa Theatre in New York and then, in 2008, in Bucharest, at the Odeon Theatre. The success of the play with the public and the awards obtained - since then we have played both in France and Poland as in Iaşi and in Timişoara - confirm my thought that it is not a divers event that troubles us in the story from Tanacu, but something much deeper inside our souls, of each one of us.


To what extent are the valences of objectivism, filtred through the artistic act?
Compared with books, the theatre play has at least two scenes that are pure fiction. There are plausible scenes, that are based on documents and memories, but which never took place as it appears in the play. I won't say which are these scenes, in order to invite the interested ones to see the show. The play is the dramatisation of both book about Tanacu, although it caries the name of the first. Theatre is, on the other hand, a space of emotion and Andrei Şerban knows this thing better than anyone. A play based on real facts, confronted with real characters, contemporary with them, as it is Spovedania... (Confession...), can become an extraordinary launcher of individual and collective emotions. I saw this effect several times. That is in fact the true show: the one that takes place with spectators.


After the closing of BBC Romania, whose chief-editor you were, you stated in the press that you are thinking about writing theatre in a consistent manner. Did you take into consideration this possibility before Spovedanie la Tanacu (Confession at Tanacu) became a theatre show as well?
I think I said that I'm thinking about writing literature consistently. I wrote theatre because Andrei Şerban made me write theatre. I don't know if I would write this of my own initiative. Either way, even if I would write theatre again, the dramatisation of Spovedanie... (Confession...) remains for me a unic experience.


How, more exactly, did you think to do this thing - in other words, which will be the next step in your life as a playwright?
I don't know which and if there will be a next step. For now I'm writing a book inspired from another real case, but it is too early to go into details.


Does your formation as a journalist announce a writer of social theatre?
I worked for 14 years in BBC, where I encountered totally special people, from whom I learnt a lot and whom I owe my formation as a journalist. Either way it is less the time of journalists than it is the time of analysts and of experts. My wish is to be able to tell and write stories about regular people. It is not an easy enterprise, but I'm patient with myself. As for the social theatre, I've probably done something in this way, as long as the actors of Spovedanie... (Confession...) were invited to do the play at a first South-East European congress of social psychiatry and spirituality, at the beginning of June.


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