Xenophon & Romania

Non-fiction and fiction

The Persian Expedition


Translated by Rex Warner

Very interesting historic event. I felt I was with the soldiers on this great expedition across plains and through mountains, experiencing the political manoeuvres and negotiating through enemy territory.


Along the Enchanted Way

William Blacker

Truly enchanting. William Blacker lived many years alongside country people in mountainous northern Romania, the almost mediaeval Maramureş.

bury me standing

The Gypsies and Their Journey

Isobel Fonseca

A great learning and understanding about Gypsies. Fonseca’s book may change a reader’s attitude. I knew so little, particularly of Gypsies in the European Eastern bloc.

Salman Rushdie endorses bury me standing “A hidden world – at once ignored and secretive, persecuted and unknown – is hidden in these pages… A magnificent achievement.”

Jan Morris, Sunday Times says “A grand panorama of European gypsydom, its history, its present condition and future prospects.”

The next three are enlightening works. Glad I found them prior to my trip to Romania. 

  • A History of the Romanians by Georges Castellan
  • Romania The Great Union by Ioan Scurtu, Nicolae Sarambei and Corneliu Rades
  • Rumania by Romulus Seişanu – a lot to absorb

The more I read about Romania the better equipped I’ll surely be to appreciate not only the natural beauty but perhaps the people and their doings. I’m looking forward too of browsing the magical Bookshop in Bucharest: Cărturești Carusel — “The prettiest bookshop in Romania”   — a restored 19th Century building confiscated during the Communist Period but in 1990 returned to the Chrissoveloni family who were in  possession of it in 1903. The bookshop spreads over six levels totaling 1000sqm. It is open 1000-2200 – great idea the late closing hour for booklovers!

Kyra Kyralina

Panaït Istrati

Translated by Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

 A good read by a born story-teller, “a teller of Oriental tales”. Romain Rolland says in the preface to this charming little book (138 pages) that in a letter arrived from a hospital in Nice, his (Panaït Istrati’s) genius for storytelling is so irresistible that even before his suicide attempt, twice he interrupted his desperate account to narrate two humorous stories from his past life.

Panaït Istrati (1884-1935) was born in Romania six years after Romania separated from the Ottoman Empire. Later this son of a Greek smuggler lived in Constantinople which played a central role in Kyra Kyralina. First published 1923 in French, Kyra Kyralina established Panaït Istrati as a leading Modernist writer.

p.69 “The Danube attracted me like an irresistible force. I was eleven-years-old but had never known the pleasure of gliding along the river on one of the boats on which the rowers languorously sang as they made their way downstream.”

p.126 “What is charming, picturesque or interesting about the tumultuous life and adventures of a man with a fierce soul is not always found in the more prominent facts of his life.”

 Each of the three “Books” of Kyra Kyralina is a short story as if memories from childhood (or a young man as Adrien Zograffi is in Book I) on the banks of the Danube to old age on different shores, amidst oppression and extraordinary living difficulties. Istrati left home as a 12 year-old and wandered for 20 years through Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the East, Greece, Italy often penniless. For a while he was mixed up in revolutionary movements. But for Panaït Istrati friendship was a sacred passion. His insights into the human condition are profound. His writings take the reader into lives as if some other Thousand and One Nights. 


Jump to Award-Winning Ioana Pârvulescu


My Genre

Identifying my Fiction Genre challenged me. Why? Had Computer Tags confused me such that a Cross-Over could be considered?


Literary Agents, Publishers, Retailers and Libraries (seem to) prefer one elected Genre although I note in earlier years often a book was catalogued with several Categories

I love the smell of books, the feel of them in my hands. And I can turn pages back to a great turn of phrase or idea I marked with a satin ribbon.

Is multiple-cataloguing unique to non-fiction like Byron Akyanoglu’s The Taste of Honey, Peter Thompson’s Pacific Fury, Sandra Lee’s The Promise?

But Rafik Schami’s fiction, The Calligrapher’s Secret, lists four Categories.

p38 4bks BA PF SL RF

I suppose that came with reading mountains of non-fiction. And then, coming to grips with Tags for Posts!

For A Greek Matinée, I had chosen Contemporary Fiction as the Genre (noted in my post Contemporary Fiction, Genre – A Perspective, and considering A Greek Matinée ) while I was immersed in early stages of creating my manuscript. Then I changed it to include sub-categories! Now I’m back to Contemporary Fiction. Keep it simple! However, A Greek Matinée is Literary Fiction.

The story is set in contemporary times with characters who are thrown together on a journey, swivelling through personal and social problems. Boundaries were extended as the main character became enthralled by mythology and legends. To her the figures and creatures are very real so as she sees them, those ancient characters face their own difficulties and complications.

Computerisation? Tags? Meta-tags? Reading a book on a luminous screen? Every day life becomes more complicated. Eyes glue to screens. Bums get bigger. Sadly hours spent browsing in sizeable establishments with books shelved floor to ceiling are fast becoming a thing of the past. But,

I love the smell of books. The feel of them in my hands.

I can turn pages back to a great turn of phrase or idea I’d marked with a satin ribbon; keep my finger where a map clearly shows where the story has moved to like in Harry Sidebottom’s Warrior of Rome (“a rollicking page-turner”), Christian Cameron’s Tyrant series (great action story) and Giles Milton’s White Gold– all great reads and the non-fiction Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker.

p38b 4bks HS CC GM WB

But soon, I’ll enter a magical bookshop in Romania, Cărturești Carusel (http://carturesticarusel.ro) located in the Old Town (Strada Lipscani 55, București 030033) — “The prettiest bookshop in Romania”   — a restored 19th Century building confiscated during the Communist Period but in 1990 returned to the Chrissoveloni family who were in  possession of it in 1903. The bookshop spreads over six levels totaling 1000sqm. It is open 1000-2200. What a great idea the late closing hour for booklovers! That’ll be when the world recovers from the present crisis. I was booked to go early 2020. Then all flights and stuff of course were postponed.

Keep safe everybody. Love and respect is key.

And now it’s 2021. Still the world trembles and we’re not permitted overseas travel. We’re, rightly for our protection, locked in our state. Oh yes, we can travel to NSW or Victoria where their cases of the dread disease are skyrocketing, but we will not be able to get back into Queensland our home – without rare special permits, lengthy delays, seemingly never… and if we are lucky to cross borders, we’re whipped, rightly, into quarantine. Those southerners are not allowed in. How lovely for us to go to a restaurant, meet with friends. Sip coffee together. Walk on the beach.

December 17 2021. Border with NSW opens. I don’t think this a good idea. We’ve been so lucky to be relatively free of the problems down south.

2022 January. Now we too are stressed, overstretched, masked and trying to keep safe. How long can we hold our breath? And extraordinary weather events beset us – as is happening in the northern hemisphere. Has Earth finally reached the end of it’s tether? Retaliating for our not looking after it better?


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