The Wooden Tongue Speaks
Romanians: Contradictions & Realities
ISBN: 9780956665805 | 199 pages
This collection of short stories and poetry set in post-Ceauşescu and post-Cold War Romania takes readers on a journey through the author’s home town of Brăila in the east of the country.
Exiled Romanian author Bogdan Tiganov explores social, religious and political issues with insightful frankness, through an array of colourful characters and narratives focusing on this newly, supposedly liberated world.
Click here to read the press release.
“With Tiganov, the intricateness of reality does not lose perspective of the intricateness of the imagination. In this way, the realm of detail becomes a political asylum.”
Lucas Hüsgen, Het labyrint wil niet (The Labyrinth is Unwilling)
“A collection of short stories and poems, The Wooden Tongue Speaks uncannily distills the very essence of Romanians, from the small joys and beauty to familiar warts-and-all everyday domestic blights.”
Read the full review by Andrew Begg at Vivid
“This volume of short stories and poems deserves its place in any library. Bogdan Tiganov distills emotion and offers frank descriptions to illuminate our vision. His composites of people, joys, scars, and of the ordinary are almost too lovely, too painful, and too eternal in their pure timelessness. [...] Do not pass the opportunity to own this book. It is more than a book. You will want to drink every word.”
Book Review by D.B. Pacini American Writer and Youth Mentor/Advocate November 16, 2008 California, USA
“These moving memories, stories and poems explore the mind-warping paranoia created by Romania’s notorious dictatorship, and are a brutally honest insight into the bleakness of its post-communist disillusion.”
“A mature book from a young author, whose writing already carries the fingerprints of a personal style with powerful lyrical accents, that decants in a language crossed by a rough, uncensored sensibility contrasting images from a disintegrated universe recomposed in words from the substance of nostalgia.”
“O carte matura a unui autor tânar, al carui scris poarta deja amprenta unui stil propriu cu puternice accente lirice, ce decanteaza într-un limbaj de o sensibiliate frusta, necenzurata, imagini contrastante ale unui univers dezintegrat si recompus apoi din substanta nostalgiei.”
“The wonderful prose pictures that the exiled Romanian writer Bogdan Tiganov paints of everyday life under an oppressive regime are both vivid and revealing. The dialogues and arguments which punctuate many of his stories unmask the tensions and the feelings, both of profound love and intense hate, that arise within families and friendships. The ‘Wooden Tongue Speaks’ is a worthwhile and impressive addition to the literature of Romanian exiles.”
Exiled Writers INK (Esther Lipton)
It bothers me to think that I was being listened to, that my phones were tapped, my walls too, and the neighbours had glasses up to theirs. In fact the walls were so thin there was no need for glasses. As a boy I could hear how my neighbours upstairs chased each other and the woman screamed: “Help!” But nobody stopped her husband.
I couldn’t whisper a joke about Ceausescu without being told to “Shh.” I realised it even then. I knew I couldn’t say everything I wanted or everything that came to mouth, but that was fine. I now know not everything that comes to mouth is useful. Not everything, if anything, is worthwhile.
But there in my home, and in my grandparents’ home, what was there to listen to? Why would it interest anybody else? Do you want to hear how my parents are unbelievably tired and bad-tempered, shouting at each other because they can’t understand each other’s point of view? You don’t want to hear that. You can hear that in your own home. I certainly didn’t want to hear it. Do you want to hear what we’re screaming at our new colour television? We’re screaming: “Bullshit!” because we no longer believe what you’re showing us. You’re telling us how everything’s rosy and how we’re the best but I don’t see that on the table. My table’s empty and I’m hungry. The electricity’s gone off. We light some candles. The walls start shaking and so does the floor. Do you want to listen in to our panic as we hold on to what we have so it doesn’t smash on the floor and we lose it all? Nature tells us that we’re fragile.
At times, during our exile, we wanted to leave the problems of living in a foreign country as refugees and go back home to what we thought we knew. Would you swap isolation and loneliness for love? The love, we felt, would not come simply from our family, but from the very trees and the earth that uprooted them. The expressions on peoples’ faces would make us feel like we belonged. Be it poor, sad, heartbroken, happy, delirious. We had these fantasies. I still get flashes of fantastic euphoria though I know that they’re as much bullshit as what the Communists were feeding us.
I’ve learnt to mistrust the easy answer.
Maybe you’re so interested in my family because television’s not enough for you, your life is not enough, so you start listening and reporting, ratting and spreading lies about us because you are now a fully-grown unshakable demon of a pervert. You’re addicted to what we’re having for dinner, hooked on to our morning routine, how mama brushes my hair or how tata shaves, how many plops you hear in the toilet. You’re in love with our dreams and imagination, how innocent, naive and terrifying.
Most of all, it bothers me to think that some element of happiness or sadness or honesty was lost because we were hiding it from you. We didn’t want you to know how deeply scarred we were, our stomachs slashed inside and our hearts burning slowly on a spit, but all you heard was some hysterical laughter or howled cries. That’s all you heard. What we couldn’t hide. And mama realised we’re alive right now so why waste it? Why give so much and receive so little?
What does it matter now though? You must feel utterly satisfied sitting in your villa in the mountains with the eagles singing to you and a great big pitchfork impaled up through your anus and out of your mouth. Enjoy the horrifying silence you created and upheld.