Ears, too many of them, catching any accidental voicing of free thought, the tragicomedy of spraying trees with green paint during the Leader's visits... The deadly denial of the existence of serious "imperialist" diseases, three hours of TV broadcasts per day, food rationing, power cuts... Then, the Romanian Revolution of 1989 - the swapping of communism with democracy, stability with chaos, external threats with internal tensions, power with corruption, religion with greed... and one dread with many new fears.
It is a personal journey of someone, who was a Transylvanian-born child of Hungarian minority during Ceausescu's dark 1970s, a teenager during the suffocating Romanian '80s, a student during the surreal '90s, and an emigrant during the more recent decades.
His journey from a world that Kafka imagined, but Ceausescu created, to a society that is still fighting with its numerous ghosts reveals parallels between facets of a totalitarian society of the past and those of a rapidly Westernised society.
There are a number of aspects that are immediately noticeable whilst reading this quite unique memoir.
I do use the word unique, because after many desiccated accounts of various dictatorships, it is truly refreshing to read something that combines the memories of a child's personal experiences with the subtle humour of the reminiscing adult, genuine literary craftsmanship, a gentle lyrical tone of remarkable restraint even when writing about everyday experiences we can't even imagine to live through once.
To quote a part of the synopsis, "It is a personal journey of a Transylvanian Hungarian ethnic child of Ceausescu's dark `70s, a teenager during the suffocating Romanian `80s, a student during the surreal `90s and an emigrant of recent years.
His journey from a world that Kafka imagined, but Ceausescu created, to a society that still fights with numerous ghosts also reveals unexpected parallels between that past totalitarianism and the disturbing transformations of his recently adopted home."
On the other hand, it is not just a memoir of years spent during an infamous totalitarian regime - it is also a sensitive and deeply observant description of what came after the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
The tableaus of a society going through the most disorienting tectonic shifts, seen from `street level', are simply remarkable. What is novel for what seems to be `just' a memoir, is that in the final chapters there are revelatory parallels drawn between the author's former and his later adopted home.
Whether the dumbing down and exquisite propaganda tactics are used by a communist dictator or, years and miles apart, a free democratic country's government seeing itself in the second line of a so-called `War on Terror', it becomes evident: the context and details may differ in certain methods used by radically different powers, but the essence and intent of those classic methods can be remarkably similar.
This is a memoir of someone who not only hasn't taken for granted what his past and present homeland has offered to (and/or forced upon) him, but also, despite all the fast and slow traumas, kept a fascinatingly clear analytical eye for the very different worlds he experienced.
If you want a stunning picture of former and current Romania, coupled with an analysis of how a formerly free country's powers ended up adopting alarmingly familiar `classic' methods to achieve their political goals, read Ears...
This isn't a history book with dry facts and dates about the Romanian dark "golden era" and the forthcoming post "revolution" period, but that is the strength of it, which usual and "objective" history analysis lack. It gives you a personal and painfully vivid picture of the general state of mind of this slice of this unique period. Romania had a "special" status in the Eastern communist block, here was the darkest regime of suppression, brainwashing and fear in the twentieth century's Europe. Then there was the revolution, which didn't change the society as much as we think because of one common. Its people remained the same. I (and all future readers) who lived that era will have that sour taste of nostalgia from the very first page, and after all these years thinking how we ever possibly could live, remain sane in that ridiculous, illogical and mindless period.
I also highly recommend this book to those in the western - so called democratic countries who never faced any totalitarian regime, thinking that Orwell's 1984 is just pure fiction. Here, at the end of the civilized world it was an everyday reality, and through this book you can smell, taste the feeling of it through a personal (maybe sometimes too personal, but it doesn't mean it wasn't real) point of view of one who experienced it's everyday realities. Maybe reading it you will have a clearer picture of what is happening in other present totalitarian regimes like North Korea, and sadly you will find some similarities with the present and the future we are heading on in the western countries.
Have only had the opportunity to read the preview. It is written well, with careful thought and detail.
‘Ears’ is a memoir, a personal journey of a Transylvanian Hungarian ethnic child of Ceausescu’s dark 1970s, a teenager during the suffocating Romanian1980s, a student during the surreal 1990s and an emigrant of recent years.
The journey starts in a world that Kafka imagined, but Ceausescu created. It combines the recollections of a child’s personal experiences with the subtle humour of the reminiscing adult. It is not just a memoir of years spent during an infamous totalitarian regime - it is also a sensitive and deeply observant description of the many unexpectedly dark changes that came after the optimism that followed the Romanian Revolution of 1989.