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Filip Florian

Self-portrait

These days, I swear I wouldn’t know what to say about myself. At forty, it has become clear to me that I’m never going to be a football player, I’m beginning to lose hope that I’ll ever have long hair, I wake up increasingly early in the morning, I eat unbelievably few cherries (which I once cherished), I smoke unbelievably many cigarettes

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Biography

Filip Florian (b. 16 May 1968, Bucharest) – between 1990-99, he worked as a journalist and editor for the Cuvintul (The Word) weekly and then as a correspondent for the Free Europe and Deutsche Welle radio stations. He spent five years in the mountain town of Sinaia writing his first novel Little Fingers, which was published to great critical acclaim by Polirom in 2005. Greeted as...

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Fiction LTD series, Polirom, 2012, 280 pages

Copyright: Filip Florian

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Book presentation

Polirom’s bestseller at the Gaudeamus Book Fair (Bucharest, November 2012). 

 

All the Owls is the novel of a deep friendship, one that breaks all the usual moulds: the friendship between a rebellious teenager from a small town in the mountains and a man forty-eight years his senior. Their relationship has little to do with any archetype of master and apprentice, for it unfolds under the star of absolute freedom, under the mirage of forests, windswept crags, and the laughter that heals wounds and sufferings. Above all else, at the heart of this friendship is the old man’s knowledge of how to talk to owls in the twilight, far from the eyes and ears of other people, using a secret language of dozens of shrieks, whoops and whistles.


The novel spans the period of time from January 2000 to October 2012. The account is in the first person singular, but in two continuously alternating voices. Luci describes how he grows closer to the man from Bucharest, on the one hand, and the adventurous, rebellious childhood of a young tearaway, on the other. In his escapades involving imaginary lost treasures, petty thefts, revenge, girls, and places in the mountain wilderness, the boy is almost always in the company of his dogs and a few close friends. The other voice is Emil’s, but he speaks not of the present or the recent past, but of events of long ago, which he records in the pages of a notebook. Containing autobiographical and family stories, his memoirs cover more than half a century, recounting the dramas of the war and the communist period, and relate the thoughts of a man in his sixties and seventies about the world, chance, loneliness, and his peers.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Fiction LTD" collection, Polirom, 2008, 272 pages

Copyright: Filip Florian

Translation rights sold to: Magvető (Hungary), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (USA, English world wide rights), Panorama + (Bulgaria), Alcantilado (Spain)

Book presentation

Joseph Strauss (a Berlin dentist, Catholic, without family, a steadfast client of the Eleven Titties brothel and of Der Große Bär beer cellar) leaves Prussia in the spring of 1866 and follows Captain of Dragoons Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to Bucharest, where the officer is to ascend the throne of the United Principalities, assuming the title Prince Carol I. Because war is imminent in Central Europe, the journey is an adventurous one, but the company of Siegfried the tomcat, who is a kind of guardian angel, helps the dentist to overcome all dangers. Joseph discovers a city whose rhythms, intrigues and customs are oriental, strikes up a close friendship with barber Otto Huer, and, thanks to money donated by the Prince, manages to open his own surgery. His passion for scrubbers, schnapps, cards and endless conversations combine with the privileged relationship he has with the Prince, for a time. Herr Strauss, who, like none other, understands the perplexities of the young ruler of such a strange land, ends up soothing the Prince’s anxieties with a powerful drug prepared from a poisonous mushroom. Moreover, knowing that the Prince shuns behind-the-scenes intrigues, he takes him to Linca, a blind prostitute, making sure that his identity will never be discovered.
The enamoured Siegfried the tomcat writes psalms in the feline tongue on the backrests of chairs, while Joseph in his turn falls in love with and marries Elena Dukovic, a nanny employed in the household of a pretender to the throne of Serbia, who has taken refuge north of the Danube. Prior to his own marriage (to Elisabeth Pauline de Wied), the Prince brutally curtails his relationship with the Berlin dentist, seeking to erase all stains from his past. Joseph’s son and the Prince’s daughter are both born at the same time, and so too is another baby boy. Far from the royal palace, Herr Strauss, highly affected by the death of the little Princess Maria (at not even the age of four), is amazed to discover that Petre, the son of the blind prostitute, bears a striking resemblance to the man on the throne. The secret is oppressive, obsessive, and the dentist chooses to look after the child without the knowledge of his wife or friends. On a number of occasions, he tries to reach the Prince and communicate to him the secret, but he does not succeed. When at last they meet again, at the front, on the eve of a battle in the war against the Turks, he prefers to remain silent.
In a Bucharest which, for better or worse, has adopted something of the appearance of a Western-European city and which has finally emerged from beneath the Sultan’s caftan, the marriage of Joseph and Elena is torn apart, as though by a devastating storm. The Serbian woman leaves the dentist, convinced that Petre is his illegitimate son and that Linca is his mistress. Herr Strauss takes to drink, and tries and fails to commit suicide. On 10 May 1881, when Prince Carol I is crowned King of Romania, Siegfried the tomcat, performing a further miracle, his last, manages to reconcile his masters and to elucidate the situation.
In The Days of the King, love and friendship, in their countless guises, traverse the last half of the Romanian nineteenth century.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

novel, "Fiction LTD" series, Polirom, 2007, 256 pages

Copyright: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Translation rights sold to: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (USA, world wide rights), Suhrkamp (Germany), Magveto (Hungary), Czarne (Poland), Kalligram (Slovakia), Didakta (Slovenia), Acantilado (Spain), Fazi (Italy), Ciela (Bulgary), Animar (Egypt)

Book presentation

In a small town in the mountains, a mass grave is discovered. Public prosecutors, journalists and former political prisoners arrive ; the issue becomes the main topic for the press and a daily source of political wrangling. The explanation that it was a crime perpetrated by the communists (in the 1950s) seems the most likely. Petrus, an archaeologist, researches old archives, visits and listens to the town’s old folk, seeking a convincing lead, in order to quell the furore surrounding the bones. Afternoons with auntie Pauline (who reads the coffee grounds and interprets dreams), the tales of Dumitru M. (a nonagenarian former industrialist and refined gourmet), the history and dramas of Eugenia Embury (a Lady, the widow of an English oilman), the appearances of Paraskeva M. (with her mystic trances and blue-blood caprices) all stand out against a world convulsed by communism, a world which craves justice without begging for it. As the credibility of the military prosecutors is zero, given their ties to the former and current regimes, a number of investigating Argentinean anthropologists arrive in the small mountain resort. Their verdict is disappointing for a country where communism murdered wholesale and mutilated lives: the mass grave is the product of the mediaeval Black Death and not red machineguns. Another hand intervenes, however, on the following night. The hand of an unknown anticommunist resistance fighter from the mountains, who sprinkles old, rusted bullets among the bones, thus causing supreme justice to prevail over that of men.

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2006, 264 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Czarne (Poland), Acantilado (Spain), Panorama + (Bulgaria), University of Plymouth Press (United Kingdom)

Book presentation

This book by brothers Filip and Matei Florian is original first of all for its technique : each narrator recounts an event from his childhood through his own eyes, while the other rounds off the story, gives it new meanings, and offers revelations to his co‑narrator and brother. Thus, ‘delicate matters’ that had remained unelucidated in the past are cleared up in the present, confessions are made, and truths unuttered at the time are now spoken. The dialogue between the two narrators provides delights for the reader, as the pair’s childhood grows from memory beneath our very eyes, with a candour and force that transports us to a miraculous world, interpreted and evaluated by the mature eyes of those who now reinvent it.
However, beyond this aspect, there is a freedom from constraint, created by the child’s viewpoint, whereby serious, personal subjects are dealt with, such as their parents’ divorce or the death of their grandparents, but above all general aspects of life in a totalitarian society. The aberrations of the ideology and way of life imposed by communism are refracted through the prism of childish naivety, which accentuates their absurdity and grotesqueness. What remains in spite of such aspects is a serene book, whose finale, to which every page builds up, is, in fact, brotherly love, a love ‘narrated’ through the personal miracles of each brother, miracles that are now dissected, brought down from the magic of childhood into a realism which naturally still preserves a question mark, a fairytale thread.
The authors familiarise us with the various characters that descend from the world of fairytale into Baiut Alley in Bucharest, where the two brothers live : for example, Sting and Stung, Matei’s friends, who suddenly turn up in a jar of mustard, and whom Filip now regrets, at the time the story is told, because he never saw them. Or we delight in characters who cross over from the cinema, television and children’s magazines, becoming ‘Joe Lemonade’, ‘Giani Morandi’, ‘Rome Specs’ or ‘Brooslee’, names reinvented for the stars of the day, filtered through the childish imagination and brought back to life for the amusement of the reader in the pages of the book.
Their shared love of football, moreover for the same team, Bucharest’s Dynamo, creates other episodes, develops another world, one of sighs and incomprehensible passions, which draws the two brothers closer, creating for them a shared frontline. This love unfolds at a level that comes close to poetry : football and its related passions are narrated with candour, so that we discover a story beyond the stands, another tale of the miraculous which we all too often pass by without discovering.
In the end, The Baiut Alley Lads is a novel about the miracles in our own back yard, regardless of whether they occur in an obscure lane in an obscure district of a land kept in obscurity by communist dictatorship. However, even if they are viewed only through the lens of naivety and now transformed into an exceptional tale, for miracles there are no impediments, no barriers. And those who attempt to raise barriers to the miraculous are, ultimately, doomed to disappear. What remains is a simple tale, but one that is astonishing in its power to absorb us even now.

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