The Wooden Tongue Speaks
Romanians: Contradictions & Realities

Author: Bogdan Tiganov

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.

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“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.”

Helena Drysdale (author of Looking for George)

“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.”

In Romanian:

“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.”

Ilinca Bernea (author of Iubiri in Camasa de Forta)

“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)

Average Rating:

4.4 rating based on 9 ratings (all editions)

ISBN-10: 0956665802
ISBN-13: 9780956665805
Goodreads: 10813116

Author(s): Publisher:
Published: //



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.

Click here to read a full excerpt of The Wooden Tongue Speaks.

6 Responses to “The Wooden Tongue Speaks”

  1. Brandon says:

    I would like to have a copy of this book. It seems so interesting. Perhaps the stories included on this book can be a source of moral lessons to all the readers.

  2. Mya says:

    I just read some stories from The Wooden Tongue Speaks and I find it worth reading. I will finish reading it as soon as possible.

  3. Seb says:

    The Wooden Tongue Speaks is an outstanding collection of short stories and poems which relate the experience of post-liberation Romania to wider human questions – what it it to be free? How does man transition from Marxian determinism to the alleged self determined realm of the post capitalist world? Is tyranny certainty? What do we do when all we yearn for is to be rid of those who tell us how to live our lives, yet find we long for someone to tell us how to appreciate freedom?

    A grand set of stories – even if it’s truths are largely bitter ones.

  4. David Rose says:

    I was very impressed with this book, right from the gorgeously atmospheric cover. Tiganov’s writing is deft, often with a brilliant turn of phrase, but deliberately unflashy, with a gritty integrity that stays true to his subject, so the effect of the stories becomes cumulative. They build up a convincingly depressing picture of a bleak Eastern Europe that we in the West struggle to grasp imaginatively, yet still allowing his characters flashes of humour and hope, especially in the strange delirium of democratic disillusionment.
    The occasional stylistic flourishes, and the exceptions to the social realist approach – “Green” for example, with its almost magic-realist profusion of plants taking over a barren town – are there not for virtuosity, but to add further refracted planes to the picture.
    But it’s the characters themselves who matter: redundant office clerks moonlighting as taxi drivers; a pastor moonlighting as a decorator; the old confronting their past or bewildered present. All trying to get by, better themselves, in a way we in the West should be humbled by.
    I am certainly looking forward to whatever Tiganov has now up his sleeve.

  5. Matthew Firth says:

    Are Honest Publishing books distributed in Canada?

  6. admin says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Yes, our books are distributed in Canada and should be available through Amazon.

    The Honest Team

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