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Simona Sora

Biography

Simona Sora (born 8 July 1967) has published literary reviews, essays, and translations in cultural journals in Romania and abroad, as well as prefaces and postfaces to various works of contemporary literature. Between 2005 and 2007, she taught courses and seminars on Romanian literature and publishing theory at Bucharest University. She has translated My Creed by Carlos Fuentes (Curtea Veche, 2005) and is among the authors who contributed to the anthologies Women Fellow Travellers: Female Experience under Communism (Polirom, 2008) and First Book (ART, 2011). She has published the essays Regasirea intimitatii (The Rediscovery of Intimacy, Cartea Romaneasca, 2008) and Ultima Thule. Cetatile dacice din Muntii Orastiei (Ultima Thule. The Dacian Forts of the Orastie Mountains, Artec, Spain,...

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Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Ego. Prose series, Polirom, 2012, 272 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: Bozicevic (Croatia)

Book presentation

The story of Hotel Universal begins in what was one of the main places to be in old Bucharest, and from here, via events, coincidences and above all characters, the space built by a member of a local merchant dynasty spreads its web as far as the Crimea, Bulgaria, Constantinople, Aleppo, and Damascus. Through the serial ironies of history, the Hotel Universal, the bellybutton of the world of days gone by, becomes an oriental sink, a secret headquarters for the communist secret police, a proletarian brothel, and finally a refuge for bohemian students in the years immediately following the 1989 Revolution. It is said that in the beginning, the Hotel Universal, originally called the Hagi Tudorache Inn, after one of its first owners, was located in the exact centre of Bucharest. A strange place, with countless hidden nooks and labyrinthine cellars, the building at No. 12 Gabroveni Street has led many lives: it has burned down a number of times, been rebuilt, and witnessed dramatic events recorded in the chronicles of the times. It survived the communist period, with numerous alterations, and after 1989 was converted into a student hall of residence, living a third, equally unpredictable life until it was reclaimed by its former owners and recently closed down.
The novel is set in two different historical periods: the first commences in 1856, when Vasile Capsa, the founder of the celebrated Bucharest restaurant of the same name, suffers a dismal failure in his first major business enterprise, which takes him to the Crimea; the second begins in the spring of 1993, when a murder or suicide – which of the two remains to be seen – takes place in the Hotel Universal. The character who links these two temporal planes is the fantastical, somnambulant Maia, the great-great-granddaughter of the “golden girl” that Capsa brings back with him from the Crimea. In a room in the Hotel Universal she writes and rewrites the family story her grandmother has recounted to her over the course of many years, in a ritual that constantly changed according to the girl’s age, tastes and interest. As she recalls her grandmother’s accounts, the family story is transformed into a series of “narrative exercises” (classic or postmodern, streams of consciousness or third-person storytelling) and, above all, “spiritual exercises”, which, like those of Ignacio de Loyola, are not to be read, but practised.
An autobiographical fiction and a book of initiation, Hotel Universal is the novel of a bygone world, a motley, cosmopolitan world, but whose essential values have remained intact.

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