I’ve been engrossed these past few days in a book about Romania called Children of the Night – the strange and epic story of modern Romania by Paul Kenyon (2021) which is a gripping and superb read - even if the sub-title is rather misleading since the book is not about contemporary Romania. It actually ends on Xmas day 1989 - with the trial and summary execution of the 2 Ceausescus just a few days after the dramatic scenes in the television studio.
The opening pages follow Vlad Tepes and his 2 sons making an unfortunate visit to the Ottoman Court in the 15th century - but the book is devoted to the century which separates young Princess Marie’s train journey in 1893 to her future in-laws in Bucharest from the violent events of 1989. It paints a vivid picture first of the personalities at he Royal court and then of the dominant characters during the turbulent politics of the inter-war period as the country descended into right-wing and ultimately Fascist rule.
The Romanian communist party at the time consisted only of a few hundred people but the country’s common border with Russia (and western indifference) ensured that it was quickly under Soviet domination – broken only in 1958 when the Soviets withdrew their troops and the country moved to a more independent role save when Ceaucescu stupidly subjugated the country and its people to the misery of IMF tutelage and the forces of Big Capital in the 1980s.
I had not expected the book to be so captivating – with the interwar period in particular being largely unknown to me.
And reading it encouraged me to go back and update the text of Mapping Romania which I had produced in 2014 – you’ll find the new version here. But I’ve changed the sub-title from “Notes on an unfinished journey” to “Notes on a 32-year journey” since it looks to be ending. Although the cost of living is still reasonable here in Romania, I am a bit isolated - with few friends but 3 daughters in the UK who are keen for me to return. Despite the huge problems of the NHS, I would prefer to put my (eventual) trust in it rather than the non-existent Romanian health system. I've set January as the provisional date for my return.