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Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flu (Part I of 2)

November 1st, 2016 · Diary, Education, History, OPINION, PEOPLE, quotations, Short Stories & Cameos

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flu (Part I of 2)

 

Black Death

Black Death

Hysteria had gripped the city: it made on wonder what might have been like living in London, centuries ago, at the time of the Black Death?

As always, the blame was left on the doorstep of hapless immigrants, foreign sailors, or refugees fleeing the horrors of persecution on the Continent: Flemish Huguenots, Jewish Estonians coming from Russia, Spaniards who brought the decease with them, decimating good Christians, like us, living in fear of God… Yes, the ‘Spanish Flu’ most certainly came from the Peninsula! What the Spaniards of Armada memory did not succeed, they certainly managed rather well with this pandemic. We were very lucky indeed to avoid it, during the Peninsular War, but what, with the rock of Gibraltar, still being British, the border acted more like a sieve, than a proper filter. We may have won the battle, but surely not the ongoing war: in 1918 one million of our people died of Spanish flu, caused by this mysterious virus, called H1N1. After such massive population cull, do you think, Britain might have become a better place? I doubt it: the flu unleashed the beginning of the end, the very decline of our great British Empire, as both WWI and the Spanish flu had a propensity of killing strapy young men. It caused our genetic pool to be frustrated of the best input: look at the result of these insipid pen pushers in our Civil Service, not to mention greedy parliamentarians, or incompetent financiers!

And then, some sixty years on, in 1977, we were visited, yet again, by another mortal affliction: the ‘Legionnaire’s disease’. This time we were told it came in two different strains – one of which was called ‘Pontiac fever’… Oh, how nice! Now I was expected to die of Pontiac rather than of Legionnaire – it is infinitely more chic! Remember, a few centuries back, bereaved relations, whose dearly departed died of some dreadful illness, which inflicted shame on the family? To avoid social opprobrium, honest folk would

Great London Fire 1066

Great London Fire 1066

bribe the coroner to mark on the death certificate a more respectable cause of death, such as heart failure. Surely, in the end we all died of heart failure, nothing wrong with it, so long as it was less specific. But rumors spread like flames during the Great London Fire, of 1666. Neighbors were no fools and knew too well that it was something fishy when the dead man’s corpse looked ashen, with purple spots on.

Oh, damn those dark memories, those evil spirits torturing my brain. Much better to be, as my friends insisted, ‘positive’:

– Be positive, old boy!

Daughter even went as far as recommending a shrink, suggesting that I was ‘depressed’:

Freud

Freud

                                           – Me, depressed? Never!

Besides, psychologists and sundry therapists, even those with an address in Harley Street, were very strange creatures and odd balls. Often, they took such profession as a result of their own intractable psychological problems, in the first place. Look at Freud, for example, say no more!

I once had a friend whose daughter was completely screwed up, to put it mildly and she became a marriage counselor, inflicting permanent damage to good Christian couples, which were trying to patch up their sexual incompatibilities… How would this daughter manage such little project? Well, quite simply: she was educated in a catholic convent and was very persuasive. No other qualifications were needed to become a therapist, except good looks, combined with a gift of the gab, smooth language and the right accent, nothing more that that: no higher education, or specialist training, nothing at all! As the profession was not scrutinized by the Medical Council my friend’s daughter’s brainwave hit the jackpot. She may have been screwed up mentally, but she was certainly presentable, knew how to look sane and knowledgeable. Well, in the process, she succeeded emasculating all her male patients AND sterilize mentally their wives, all in one! Luckily, she plied her art in a Catholic country, like Ireland, bereft of the usual forms of contraception. Her Dublin practice helped bring the population explosion under control. The effect did not go amiss with a grateful government: universities and learned societies heaped on her honorary degrees, Television channels all over the world queued to ask her appear on talk shows, or even on ‘Britain has Talent’, ‘Have I got News for You’ and more … Her books became best sellers and were made compulsory reading in schools. She got in the ‘Guinness Book of Records’. She became a millionairess and was proposed for a Nobel Prize. But, luckily, by some divine intervention, this final accolade eluded her.

The Catholic Church had a mysterious way in this murky affair: my friend became a convert and a devout Roman Catholic, once she realized that her life was afflicted by an incurable disease. She even confided to me:

– You know, my dear boy, Catholicism is a very good religion to die in, it is the best.

She left her millions to the Vatican, to consecrate her in a gigantic statue in the guise of the Virgin Mary, no less, opposite the gigantic Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro, only, this time, perched on an African mountain peak. In her lifetime she was no saint, to put it mildly, but she was beautiful and many a hopeful bachelor passed between her bed sheets, hoping for a share of the spoils. When they did not succeed to woe her, she offered them an honourable exit, which they could hardly refuse: she made suicide respectable. When she became a reformed rake, only weeks before she died, she was persuaded that she was a reincarnation of Mother Theresa, as she retired to a Convent of Dominican nuns. Her less charitable friends and relations, being frustrated of the spoils of any material windfall, spread the rumor that

                                – she now tried to seduce God….

So much for that, but, surely, my case was rather different, in trying to resort to the services of a shrink. Besides, I was not destined, by some divine providence, to become the focus of attention of my friend’s late daughter: my modest ability of putting away, quite erratically and parsimoniously, a few hormones, did not change the world’s statistics and were most unlikely to affect adversely the population growth of Britain, or any other country.

Back to my own good self, for me, suddenly all changed the day I went to see my GP for some innocuous bother. As I was reputed to be, in our village, ‘the man who lived at the big house’, the doctor had not seen me for ages (as a recluse I am loath of seeing anybody): one thing lead to another, as I heard the quack recommend:

                        – My dear Sir, make love more often!

I was gobsmacked. He noticed my raised eyebrows and he immediately qualified his advice:

­                        – It helps lose some weight, you know? Lose two stones and you’ll  feel more positive. You will feel even on top of     the  world, I assure you!

I was rather skeptical of such advice, and not a little diffident! I had visions of the late Archbishop of Paris, who, in the 1970s, died in flagrante delito, as he was called upon to administer the last rites, at the home of a professional Madam and he died on the job, as it were, to put it mildly…

   At my age, I thought this was a dangerous gamble to take… That evening I took a stiff drink, before retiring to bed, to ponder over the iniquity of losing so many stones, in one go. It made me feel uncomfortable and suspicious of the quack’s motives. Besides, I liked my food and I was not entirely certain that I would find all those willing partners, capable of assisting me with some contortionist Kama Sutra. Rightly, or wrongly, I thought that such act had to be spontaneous, less mechanistic and, perhaps, inspired by true love, rather than prophylactics, or even Charity!

A strange hang over, came haunting me, from my romantic school days, when I was still a virgin and considered the virtue of eternal love being superior to physical love: it had its mystique, almost like the love for the Virgin Mary!

That night I did not sleep well and even the late-night cup did not help allay my discomfort. Eventually, I appeared, somehow, to have fallen asleep, I do not know for how long, as the sunshine lit my bedroom and the church bells across the village green reminded me that it was Sunday.

                   – Ah, what a lovely day! Surely, I could enjoy listening to Baroque music played after mass by the Vicar’s wife:

She was a real gem, trained at the Royal School of Organists, a talented musician, now marooned in the wilds of the shires, withering her life away, with a well-meaning, but dull husband.

                   – Poor shrinking violet, I thought: she was in dire need of tantric prophylaxis!

(End of Part 1 of 2)

 

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Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flue (Part 2 of 2)

October 31st, 2016 · Books, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Short Stories & Cameos

Constantin ROMAN – Love at the time of the Swine Flue (Part 2 of 2)

parish-church_1  I spruced myself up, to look more like a country squire that I was and had to live to the expectations of the man who lived at the Manor House. Moreover, I was painfully aware of what was expected of a man who, by ancient tradition, had his own pew, decorated with flying angels bearing the family coat of arms, bang opposite the Vicar’s pulpit. Let us not forget that even my ancestors had their graves here. Scores of stained glass windows, with their mitered figures, filtered the light in the interior of this Norman church: its Gothic Perpendicular aisles were added much later, also by a forebear of mine, in the 15th century. Yet, by some strange quirk of events, the irony was that I was no Anglican, as my ancestors left England when a great-great grandfather went to Saint Petersburg, at the bequest of Catherine the Great. The empress wanted him to design her English gardens and so we obliged and went native in Russia, where scores of sons and grandsons climbed the greasy social ladder to command imperial favors.

Eventually, we married in the local aristocracy and became ourselves bearded Russian Orthodox: but, no sooner that we espoused our new religion, that the Bolshevik revolution engulfed Russia, family fled the country, across Siberia and the Far East, to become rudderless: they fell between two stools, two civilizations. A schizophrenic crisis of identity took hold of us:

– What were we, really: Russian? or, English? or, maybe Huguenots?

Pushkin

Pushkin

To this day I have not come with a clear-cut answer to this dilemma! We were tall people, with blue eyes, the shade of a faded sky, which could have been both Russian and English. Yet, because of a dark secret in the family, I had dark curly hair, not unlike Lord Byron, or even Pushkin, who, rumor had it, was the great grandson of a black slave, brought to Russia, as a curiosity and survived the harsh winters! Luckily, he was hardier than Napoleon! My hairstyle was definitely very striking, and a head-turner in Society.

One day, when I was old enough for safekeeping family secrets, Mother confessed to me that:

           – Her real name was not Olga Ayvasovskaya, but rather Olga Romanovna!

           – How come?

          – Because she was the result of the secret love affair between Grand Duchess Olga, the Tsar’s youngest daughter by an Ossetian Imperial Guard, posted to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg!

Georgian Princess

Georgian Princess

Ossetians came from the Caucasus and were reputed to be loyal soldiers, like the Swiss Guards at the Vatican and, doubtless, their fiery demeanor caused Olga, the youngest Imperial Princess, to loose her head and in the process become pregnant. Revolution was brewing and times were uncertain, when, in the dead of night, Grandmother was called upon by Empress Alexandra, herself and ordered to take the baby girl away for adoption. Grandmother was too old to have children herself, but she took pity at the bundle of flesh and adopted her as her own, so that the child’s identity should not be discovered. She inquired about the Ossetian officer’s identity, with the Georgian Princess Oberliani, a Lady-in-waiting to the Czarina: only after she was bound to utter secrecy she was told that the putative inseminator was none other than Prince Koussov, son of a rich Caucasian aristocrat… This Prince of Caucasian lineage had all the qualities of quick blood, good looks, flamboyance, excellent shot, and not a little extravagance! crocodileGranny remembered very clearly the dashing Ossetian Commander of the Palace Guards. He used to keep a crocodile as a pet, which he took, on a silver chain, for a walk in the streets of St Petersburg. It caused great alarm among the beautiful ladies.… Those were the days, in the wake of the Bolshevik uprising. Soon after, Lenin’s revolution put paid to this wayward, if colorful society, which disintegrated, either by being slaughtered, or forced into exile.

O, how much I loved grandmother’s tales of old Russia, whether they were true, or fancy! They marked so many milestones in my imagination, which never left me for the rest of my life.

Russian mouzhik

Russian mouzhik

As one would expect, scores of historical characters came to posses my life: Princes and Dukes galore, bearded Patriarchs and Metropolitans, intrepid Cossacks, Tolstoyesque Russian nobility, eccentric revolutionaries and conspirators (Herzen, Kamenev, Zenoviev), ignorant – but loveable mouzhiks, followed by the new children of the Revolution: the destitute Counts dressed in rags, spies, foreign correspondents, diplomats and last but not least, the new contortionists – the communist bureaucracy, not forgetting the NKVD & GRU satraps, interrogators and informers: in fact, all the colours of a riveting Russian panorama, present in my mother’s and my grandmother’s tales, came to life, before my eyes….

Love thy neighbour!

Love thy neighbour!

Suddenly, I stopped reminiscing, as I noticed the Padre coughing, so that I should focus my attention on him: was I nodding, perhaps? No, I was not, just evoking our times in old Russia, in this very English church, in the shires. I managed to put up with the Padre’s sermon, a rubicund fellow, who, at some point, I thought, made an oblique reference to me:

– Love thy neighbour!

he urged the congregation, fixing me, with his bespectacled eyes. How right he was! For a split second my face lit up and I noticed the Padre thinking foolishly that his sermon had some effect on me, as his own face was transfigured, in turn.

Soon, the Bach Fugue saved further embarrassment. The congregation started to shuffle and cough, signalling that service ended. They wanted to make an undignified rush for the exit, but tradition expected that they should wait for the Squire to stand up and leave first. Too bad! I wanted to wait for the last bars of the organ, before I was going to budge: this was my little revenge! At the church door I could not avoid shaking hands with the Vicar and exchange some bland words, as I heard him say:

– Squire, how good to see you! We do not have this privilege very often!

 

Our Viking ancestor

Our Viking ancestor

My dear Vicar, you should not be so surprised: you know that I  am Russian Orthodox, my wife is Roman Catholic and our children are Anglicans: we are a very ecumenical family indeed, but you  are right in expecting us here, more often. This is the church  founded by our ancestors, who were here on Doomsday… well,  even before that, if I were to think of the Vikings… Story goes that our Viking ancestor, Cedric, of the House of Odin, raped all women in this village, and nailed their husbands’ skins to the church door.  One single villager escaped: he was in the woods, herding the swine… he must have been your ancestor!

The Vicar was not going to rise to the occasion: he ignored my provocation, saying instead:

– Squire, you must come to the Vicarage, for tea. We shall have scones, specially baked for you, in the oven!’

vicarage

vicarage

Dreams of the Vicar’s wife’s oven lit my face, as I warmed up to the offer, thinking at the advice given by the village quack, only the day before: “Make love more often, my dear Sir!”

How can I resist, Vicar? It would be churlish of me to say no!  Besides, I live a rather frugal life. So, for me, the offer of scones  with Jersey cream and Vicarage jam is as memorable an experience as listening to a Bach Cantata

 

I suddenly realised that I must have been dreaming: I was in the middle of the road, on this pedestrian crossing, when an impatient driver started tooting, prompting me to jump off my skin and move on:

– These days, people were so impatient with absent-minded, elderly folk:

            – People are so rude… they have no manners… no education, nothing at all!

I thought:

Maybe I am getting too old! Perhaps my children are right complaining that they heard this story before…

  zebra_crossing

                                                            * * * * *

(End of Part 2 of 2)

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Romanian Dictionary of Quotations, Selected & Translated by Constantin ROMAN: Letter ‘I’

October 29th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Famous People, OPINION, PEOPLE, quotations, Translations

Romanian Dictionary of Quotations, Selected & Translated by Constantin ROMAN: Letter ‘I’

letter-i

Lauren Bacall, Movie Star (Lauren's mother was born in Romania and migrated to New York with her parents.

Lauren Bacall, (1924-2014), Movie Star (Lauren’s mother was born in Romania and migrated to New York with her parents)

 

Imagination:
“Imagination is the highest kite that one can fly.”
(Lauren BACALL (1924-2014), “By Myself”, Jonathan Cape, London, 1979)

 

 

 

 

 

Isidore_ISOU (1925-2007)

Isidore_ISOU (1925-2007)

Impulses:
“All impulse escapes stereotyping.”
(Isidore ISOU (1925-2007), Amos (1953), Writer, Founder of Lettrism)

 

 

 

 

Emile CIORAN

Emile CIORAN (1911-1995)

 

 

  Indifference:
“Let man lose his faculty of indifference: he will become a virtual assassin. Let him now make God out of a transformed idea – the consequences are incalculable. ”
(Emil CIORAN (1911-1995), Philosopher, Writer: “Précis de decomposition”)

 

 

Isidore ISOU (1925-2007)

Isidore ISOU (1925-2007)

Intimate:
“An intimate experience maintains curious specifics”.
(Isidore ISOU, (1925-2007): “Amos” (1953), Writer, Founder of Lettrism)

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Asquith, Princess Antoine Bibesco

Elizabeth Asquith, Princess Antoine Bibesco (1897-1945)

Irony:
“Irony is the hygiene of the mind.”
(Elisabeth ASQUITH (1897-1945), Essayist, Poet)

 

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POETRY IN TRANSLATION (403). Hector MCDONNELL (b. 1947), Co. ANTRIM, IRELAND: “ Patrick”

October 19th, 2016 · Books, Famous People, History, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Translations

PATRICK
Hector McDONNELL (b. 1947, N. Belfast, Ulster)

 Patrick, cine eşti Tu?

Te căutam prin versuri latineşti,
Bezmetici, prin noianul de neştiri…

Cuvintele- ţi ne scapă printre mâini,
Iar leagănul nu-ţi este nicăieri.
Erai in Mayo, sau in Slemish Hill?
Şi ce uriaşi te-au strâns la pieptul lor?

Aiurea,
L-ai strigat pe Dumnezeu,
Ce-a coborât adânc, în trupul tău,
Să-ti dea curaj să-nvingi la drumuri noi.

Care-a fost împăratul
Ce te-a-njosit? Unde-ai plecat?
Te căutăm, dar încă nu te ştim
Străjerii tăi se uită-n vârf de munţi şi-aşteaptă
Pasul tău.

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin ROMAN, Londra,

© 2006, Copyright Constantin ROMAN, London

 

*  *  *  *

BIO NOTE:

Hector McDonnell is one of the finest figurative Irish artists of his generation. Best known for his observations of daily life he captures the mundane and ordinary with an extraordinary quality.

Cruce Irlandeza contemporana cu Sf. Patrick

Cruce Irlandeza contemporana cu Sf. Patrick

Born in West Belfast in March 1947, Hector studied at the Munich Art Academy and later moved to Vienna where he spent a year working in a studio of the sculptor and architect Fritz Wotruba (1907-1975). Following the continental experience, about 1967 McDonnell entered Christ Church, Oxford College to study history. On graduating from Oxford, he began to exhibit his paintings regularly in London. Self-confessedly, Hector McDonnell is a loner, a maverick, an unbranded steer. As a completely figurative painter in the early 1970s he was out on a limb. The fashionable contemporary art at that time was abstract, pop or conceptual. His output is prolific. He produces a large quantity of oil paintings, both very large and very small, using dashing thick square brushstrokes, and presumably painted very quickly. His specialty is interiors, usually with a lot of floor in the foreground. These are often pub and cafe interiors, but more particularly shops, especially butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers. He also regularly produces small sets of etchings on the same subject. McDonnell allows himself to be seduced by what he sees: events startle him into perceiving what he calls the ‘magical’ in everyday situations. In his painting each object is imagined with the stout atmospheric density he.

(Biography Note after: The Night Before Larry was Stretched“)

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=17799548441&searchurl=sortby%3D17%26an%3Dhector%2Bmcdonnell%2Billustrator

 

Constantin ROMAN, author of the Romanian version of this poem, is a member of the “Society of Authors”, London

 

 

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Synopsis of “The Blouse Roumaine – An Anthology of Romanian Women” Selected and introduced by Constantin Roman

October 2nd, 2016 · Books, Communist Prisons, Diaspora, Education, Famous People, History, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, Poetry, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations, Reviews, Science, Translations

Synopsis of “The Blouse Roumaine – An Anthology of Romanian Women” Selected and introduced by Constantin Roman

"Blouse Romaine - The Unsung Voices of Romanian Women"

“Blouse Romaine – The Unsung Voices of Romanian Women”

Marqués de Tamarón

Marqués de Tamarón

A Spanish grandee and Ambassador to the Court of St James’s once compared the success of an Anthology to that of a culinary chef d’oeuvre: for Santiago de Mora-Figueroa y Williams, Marqués de Tamarón, a great Anglophile but also a refined European –

the perfect anthology, like the perfect hors d’oeuvre, should turn us into gluttons. The many small dishes add up to a balanced and nourishing meal, but they are so exquisite that they whet one’s appetite for more. And the anthology should also include unexpected delicacies, things that even the literary gourmet had not heard about.

On a deeper reflection, Tamarón’s metaphor encapsulates perfectly well the ethos of the ‘Blouse Roumaine’. Yet, as an Anthology of Romanian women, this corpus was initially conceived to connect with a French painting of Henri Matisse – the eponymous canvas, ‘La Blouse Roumaine’ (1940), which hangs today in the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris: for every and each biography contained in this Women’s Anthology is like a minutely embroidered stitch on an ethnic tapestry, such as we have admired, not so long ago in the Retrospective exhibition of Matisse’s collection of textiles, presented at the Royal Academy in London and later also shown in New York. For those of us who missed this exhibition the analogy to the current book is like a roll call of women presented in a sequence of biographical cameos. These sketches are displayed like a series of miniatures in a virtual National Portrait Gallery: they are all glittering stars from Western galaxies and Eastern nebulae, in all 160 of them…

The manuscript gestation involved a work of love and dedication, spanning over several years, a creation which gradually came to life very much like in the Marqués de Tamarón’s definition – a ‘menu of diverse and delicious hors d’oeuvres, visually appealing’ but at the same time teasing the imagination and stimulating the taste: for such choice not only offers food for thought as well as for the heart, but also food for academic appetite, extending the frontiers of taste beyond the familiar courses of history, politics, literature, music, film, theatre, feminism or science – for ‘Blouse Roumaine’ is at the same time a trans-disciplinary book.

This subjective if somewhat esoteric compilation of impressionistic essays is preceded by a historical, cultural and political

Constantin ROMAN: "Blouse Roumaine - Anthology of Romanian Women"

Constantin ROMAN: “Blouse Roumaine – Anthology of Romanian Women”

overview of Romanian society. This introductory social fresco sets the tone of the narrative which is perceived through a European looking glass, allowing the reader to consider Romania not in its exotic isolation, but as part of a much broader ‘concert of nations’ and therefore evaluate it within a familiar territory. These will be countries such as France, Spain, Italy or Britain which for the last two hundred years were the playground of Romanian aristocrats (Bibesco, Noailles, Ghika, Brancovan, Cantacuzène) and lately the land of exile of many an uprooted artist and writer (Constantin Brancusi, Eugène Ionesco, Emil Cioran, Vintila Horia, Mircea Eliade, Georges Enesco, Dinu Lipatti, Clara Haskil, Nadia Gray, Elvire Popesco, Hélène Vacaresco).

The Anthology is complemented by texts often published for the first time in English and sourced from over 4,000 French,

Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German references. Six hundred quotations convey the narrative an arcane erudition inviting the reader on a joyful pursuit of an abstruse and little-explored subject. This is virgin territory offering sheer delight.
As we turn the pages of this book we are made witness to an exotic cavalcade of female characters who conjure the scent, colour and voices of time past to the present day, from the sunflower fields of the Danube Plains to the darkest forests of Transylvania, from the languid music of the Carpathian panpipes to the uplifting Parisian literary salons and the stages of La Scala, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan operas, or the prestigious Comédie Française and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Further afield some of these intrepid amazons reached the distant shores of the river De La Plata, or, in the 19th century discovered the sources of the White Nile.

Yet, if such momentous revelations were not surprising enough, ‘Blouse Roumaine’ would also evoke associations with scores of famous glitterati and politicians of European and American dimension… For these women of the Orient Express, disembarking in Milan, Paris, Madrid, London, New York or Buenos Aires, women who inspired poets and composers, who created new opera roles, these muses enthralled political eagles and aristocrats alike, caused crown heads to dream and lesser mortals to lose their heads. Some of these women made their lovers’ suicide respectable, before they retired to the seclusion of their convent to pray for the salvation of their soul, where some of them were suspected of “trying to seduce God”!… Through these enchantresses come to life a choice array of foreign suitors, lovers, admirers, patrons and sometimes husbands: King George V, Alfonso XIII of Spain, Carlos I of Portugal, the Earl of Carnarvon, the Earl of Asquith, Lord Thomson of Cardington, Sacheverell Sitwell, Noel Coward, David Farrar, Paul Morand, Marcel Proust, Pierre Lotti, Anatole France, Puvis de Chavannes, Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Twain, Verdi, Puccini, Richard Strauss, Eric Satie and more recently Humphrey Bogart, Lord Lloyd Webber, Roberto Alagna, Michel Foucault, or Jacques Lacan, to name just a few.

But looking at this rich social tapestry, this folk embroidery of multi-coloured and infinite stitches, one is equally absorbed by the darker side of the 20th century history – of women who died in prison for their political beliefs, of Passionarias who, after the Second World War, took the armed struggle to the Carpathian mountains, or simply the faceless yet equally important unknown illustrious peasant women, or middle class housewives, who steeled their obstinate resolve and silent resistance against the leveling steamroller of dictatorship.

Constantin ROMAN

Constantin ROMAN

  Constantin ROMAN evokes these heroines with a melancholy acknowledgment of the brutal destruction of a society and culture. This Romanian society was alive and well and it was so aptly described before WWII by Paul Morand and Marcel Proust, by Marie of Edinburgh and Patrick Leigh Fermor, by Sacheverell Sitwell, Elizabeth and Margot Asquith, by Vineretta Singer de Polignac and Violet Trefusis, Olivia Manning, Panait Istrati or Gregor von Rezzori, Colette, or Virginia Ocampo, by the Princess Hélène Chrissoveloni Soutso, Princess Marthe Bibesco, or Countess Anna de Noailles.

This was the ‘faraway country’ which inspired Dorothy Parker’s classic verse:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea
And love is a thing that can never go wrong
And I am Marie of Romania.

For some of these women also represent the extravagant if exotic Romanian society evoked in the correspondence of Queen Victoria, Napoleon III, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, Don Pedro of Portugal or Ramsey MacDonald, Winston Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle. In the process we also admire portraits left to posterity by artists of world repute such as Rodin, Ignacio Zuloaga, Whistler, Singer Sargent, de Laszlo, Vuillard, Paul César Helleu, Edmond Lapeyre, Puvis de Chavannes. Many other portraits are also immortalised by the London society photographers Walter Barnett, Alexander Bassano, Van Dyke, Lafayette or Russell Westwood, or brought to life by film directors such as Federico Fellini of  ‘La Dolce Vita’ fame, or more recently by opera stage directors Francesca Zamballo, David Pountney and even and, quite oddly, by a young student of Edinburgh University by the name of Gordon Brown…

There is never a dull moment in this gallery of royals and aristocrats but also of ordinary but exuberant women of talent, who fascinated the British society to the point of venting
its wit in the now classic limerick about King Carol II’s mistress, a diabolically seductive and unrepentant divorcee, who kept the English gossip columnists busy for many long years:

Have you heard of Madame Lupescu
Who came to Romania’s rescue?
It’s a wonderful thing
To be under a King:
Is democracy better I ask you?

At the other end of this social spectrum we discover women inspired by loftier ideals: enrolling as fighter pilots during WWII, or breaking world records at parachute jumping, pioneer solo pilots across the Mediterranean, or international sports champions, opera divas, suffragettes shaking the Parisian bastions of male power in the legal profession, in architecture or international diplomacy… women with guts who inspired so many.

These colourful strong-headed and often beautiful ladies, whether of the exile or home-grown variety, had all, without exception, an amazing story to tell and often a memorable quote to impart. For ‘Blouse Roumaine’ is not only a celebration, it is also a memorial to the past, as the stories unfold before our eyes not just as pickings for the literary gourmet and delicacies for the academic palate, but also as an Orthodox liturgy, a Romanian Epiphany, which brings alive in our mind a nearly-forgotten but fascinating history with unexpected DNA links to the Western European psyche.

The lyrical, witty, and often satirical and uncompromisingly critical narrative of the  ‘Blouse Roumaine’ may appear to some readers if not controversial at least thought-provoking, as it offers forays into some of the recesses of time prior to WWII, reflecting a somewhat politically schizophrenic world of contrasts. To complement this period the reader is offered also a close look into the emotional times of modern communist Nemesis. This is the darker world of the vengeful and remorseless Ana Pauker, Elena Ceausescu and their fawning Court poets which explains the legacy of their system in the post-modern Romania.

The synthesis of such bipolar images conjured in the ‘Blouse Roumaine’ remains, (if we were to quote again our Spanish grandee the Marqués de Tamarón), a memorable witness to:

the joy and pain and privilege of a writer to save the memories and thereby the physical beauty of past glories, a task which he sets about to carry out supremely well and with an immense joie de vivre’.

 

NOTE: You can purchase the Anthology “Blouse Roumaine – the unsung Voices of Romanian Women” from:

http://www.blouseroumaine.com/buy-the-book/index.html

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POETRY IN TRANSLATION (402). Constantine P. CAVAFY (1853-1933), GREECE/EGYPT: “ Ora Nouă…”, “Since Nine …”

September 29th, 2016 · Diaspora, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Translations, Uncategorized

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (402). Constantine P. CAVAFY (1853-1933), GREECE/EGYPT:

Ora Nouă…”, “Since Nine …”,

 

Constantine P. CAVAFI

Constantine P. CAVAFI

Ora Nouă

Constantine CAVAFY

(1863-1933)

 

Nouă şi jumătate. Timpu-a trecut repede
dela ora nouă, de când am aprins lampa

şi m-am aşezat aici. Am stat fără să citesc,
fără să vorbesc. Singur în casă,

cu cine-aşi fi putut vorbi?

 

Dela ora nouă, de când am aprins lampa,

umbra trupului meu tânăr

a început să mă bântuie, să-mi amitească
de parfumul încăperilor închise,

de plăceri sensuale din trecut – ce plăceri îndrăzneţe!

Şi iarăşi mi-au reamintit

străzile de nerecunoscut,
cluburile de noapte, cândva în vogă, dar acum închise,

teatre şi cafenele demult dispărute.

Umbra corpului chipeş

mai mi-a adus aminte de momentele

triste din familie, despărţiri,

durerile celor apropiaţi, amintirea

celor trecuţi în veşnicie şi atât de puţin pomeniţi.

 

Douăsprezece şi jumătate. Cât de repede trece timpul!

Douăsprezece şi jumatate. Cât de repede trec anii!

 

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin ROMAN, Londra,
© 2016, Copyright Constantin ROMAN, London

 

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Cavafy Poems

Cavafy Poems

 

Constantine P. CAVAFY (1863-1933), Greece / Egypt:

SINCE nine…

 

Half past twelve.  The time has quickly passed
since nine when I first turned up the lamp
and sat down here.  I’ve been sitting without reading,
without speaking.  With whom ought I to speak,
so utterly alone within this house?The apparition of my youthful body,
since nine when I first turned up the lamp,
has come and found me and reminded me
of shuttered perfumed rooms
and of pleasure spent—what wanton pleasure!
And it also brought before my eyes
streets now made unrecognizable by time,
bustling city centres that are no more,
and theaters and coffeehouses that existed long ago.The apparition of my youthful body
came and also brought me cause for pain:
deaths in the family;…separations…;
the feelings of my loved ones, the feelings of
those long dead which I so little valued.Half past twelve.  How the time has passed.
Half past twelve.  How the years have passed.
Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

 

Alexandria Cavafy House

Alexandria Cavafy House

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POETRY IN TRANSLATION (401). Mahmoud DARWISH (1941, Palestina – 2008, SUA): “I come from there”, “Vin de pe meleaguri îndepărtate”

July 26th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Famous People, PEOPLE, Poetry, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (401). Mahmoud DARWISH (1941, Palestina – 2008, SUA): “I come from there”, “Vin de pe meleaguri îndepărtate”

Mine is the moon .... And the immortal olive tree.

Mine is the moon ….
And the immortal olive tree.

 

Vin de pe meleaguri îndepărtate

Mahmoud DARWISH (1941, Palestina – 2008, SUA)

 

Vin de pe meleaguri îndepărtate, dar am memoria vie

Fiind zămislit, aşa cum sunt muritorii, dintr-o mumă

Într-o casă cu multe ferestre,

Având fraţi, prieteni,

Şi o celulă de închisoare cu o fereastră rece.

Valul îmi aparţine, purtat de albatroşi,

Spre un orizont ce este al meu

Cu un fir de iarbă mai mult.

La sfârşitul cuvintelor Luna îmi aparţine

Ca şi stolul de păsări

Şi măslinul nemuritor.

Am cutreierat pământul acesta înainte ca săbiile

Să facă din trupul viu o masă de ospăţ.

Eu sunt născut aici. Dau ofranda cerului, mumei sale.

Şi plâng ca să mă audă

Norul pribeag.

Am învăţat toate cuvintele supuse justiţiei sângelui

Astfel ca să înving legea.

Am învăţat toate cuvintele care le-am tocat mărunt

Ca să fac din ele un singur cuvânt: Patrie….

 

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin ROMAN, Londra,
© 2016, Copyright Constantin ROMAN

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Poems Mahmoud DARWISH

Poems Mahmoud DARWISH

 

Mahmoud Darwish

(b. 13 March 1941, Palestine – d. 9 August 2008, Houston, Texas, USA)

 

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.
I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland…..

 

* * * * *

Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish

  SHORT BIO NOTE: Poet and author Mahmoud Darwish (Arabic: محمود درويش‎‎, 13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008) was regarded as Palestine’s national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile. He was the man of action through his poetry.

 

 

 

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POETRY IN TRANSLATION (155): Marin SORESCU (1936-1996), ROMANIA – “Passport”

July 9th, 2016 · Books, Diaspora, Education, Famous People, International Media, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Reviews, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (155): Marin SORESCU (1936-1996), ROMANIA – “Passport”

Marin Sorescu - cartoon by Stefan Popa

Marin Sorescu – cartoon by Stefan Popa

Passport
Marin SORESCU (1936-1996)
To cross the border
Between the sunflower
And the moonflower
Between the alphabet
Of handwritten events
And printed events.

To be friend of all atoms
Which form the light
To sing with the atoms which sing
To cry
With the atoms which die
To enter into all the days of one’s life
Without restriction
No matter whether they fall on one side or the other
Of the word
Earth.

This passport
Is written in my bones
On my skull, femur, phalanges and spine
All arranged in a way
To make clear
My right to be man.

 

Translated from the Romanian by:
Constantin Roman (Peterhouse, Cambridge)

 

Published in:
Encounter, London, December 1972 –
“Three Poems by Marin Sorescu

Encounter Magazine

SHORT NOTE: Marin Sorescu (19 February 1936, Bulzești, County Dolj – d. 8 December 1996, Buchareșt, Romania) was a poet, playwright, prose writer, essayist and translator. He published more than 60 books, in 20 twenty different countries. After Ceausescu’s demise he was Minister of Culture from 1993 to 1995. Looking in retrospect, it is clear that under Communism Romanian denizen’s visits abroad, even to other Communist countries, were tightly controlled. The idea of being granted travel documents was a surreal transaction, limited exclusively to “ideologically reliable” members of the Politbureau and the higher echelons of the Communist Party members: in such context, Sorescu’s poem had a particular resonance for its defiant message. In retrospect it is amazing that it even got in print, although, by 1968 and the advent of the “Prague Spring”, Romania chose a degree of political independence from the Warsaw Pact countries and in particular from Soviet Russia.

Encounter was a literary magazine, in the United Kingdom, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender (1909-1995) and journalist Irving Kristol (1920-2009). It was a largely an Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal, originally associated with the anti-Stalinist left and ceased publication in 1991.

Constantin ROMAN, translator of Sorescu’s poems, was a Cambridge Scholar of Peterhouse (1969-1973). Together with Tim Cribb, Ben Knights and a group of students of English Literature, Roman organized an evening of Romanian Poetry in the auditorium of Churchill College Cambridge, an event introduced by professor George Steiner, FBA.

 

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POETRY IN TRANSLATION (CD), Jorge BORGES (1899-1986), ARGENTINA – “Benedict Spinoza”, “Benedict Spinoza”

June 29th, 2016 · Books, Diary, Diaspora, Education, Famous People, International Media, OPINION, PEOPLE, Poetry, quotations, Translations

POETRY IN TRANSLATION (CD), Jorge BORGES (1899-1986), ARGENTINA – “Benedict Spinoza”, “Benedict Spinoza”

 

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

Baruch Spinoza

Bruma de oro, el Occidente alumbra
la ventana. El asiduo manuscrito
aguarda, ya cargado de infinito.
Alguien construye a Dios en la penumbra.
Un hombre engendra a Dios. Es un judío
de tristes ojos y de piel cetrina;
lo lleva el tiempo como lleva el río
una hoja en el agua que declina.
No importa. El hechicero insiste y labra
a Dios con geometría delicada;
desde su enfermedad, desde su nada,
sigue erigiendo a Dios con la palabra.
El más pródigo amor le fue otorgado,
el amor que no espera ser amado.
*  *  *  *  *  *

 

Benedict Spinoza

 

Când raza de-asfinţit e pe vitralii

Pe manuscris culori se înfiripă

În infinite umbre şi detalii

Iar Domnul Sfânt apare-n Sfânta criptă.

Acum este purtat spre infinit

Într-un pocal născând pe Dumnezeu

E zămislit de Duhul Sfânt… el e Iudeu,

Cu ochii trişti şi corpul său căznit.

Timpul îl duce, ca pe o frunză ce-a pălit

În valul ce îl poartă, tot mereu,

Ne mai putând să se fi-mpotrivit –

Ceopleşte chipul chiar lui Dumnezeu…

Din neputinţă, din nimic, a reuşit

Să modeleze-n lut pe Domnul Sfânt, cu haruri noi –

Atunci când nimeni n-a primit

O dăruire ce nu-aşteaptă înapoi.

 

Versiune în limba Română de Constantin ROMAN, Londra,
© 2016, Copyright Constantin ROMAN

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Borges book cover

NOTE (from the British Encyclopaedia):

Spinoza, Amsterdam

Spinoza, Amsterdam

  Benedict de Spinoza, Hebrew forename Baruch, Latin forename Benedictus, Portuguese Bento de Espinosa (born November 24, 1632, Amsterdam—died February 21, 1677, The Hague) Dutch Jewish philosopher, one of the foremost exponents of 17th-century Rationalism and one of the early and seminal figures of the Enlightenment.Early life and career:

Spinoza’s Portuguese parents were among many Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity but continued to practice Judaism in secret (see Marranos). After being arrested, tortured, and condemned by the inquisition in Portugal, they escaped to Amsterdam, where Spinoza’s father, Michael, became an important merchant and eventually served as one of the directors of the city’s synagogue. Spinoza’s mother, Hannah, died in 1638, shortly before his sixth birthday.The Jewish community in Amsterdam was unique in its time. It originally comprised people who had been raised in Spain, Portugal, France, or Italy as Christians and who had fled to Amsterdam to escape persecution and to practice their ancestral religion freely. The community was granted toleration by the Dutch authorities on the condition that it not cause scandal or allow any of its members to become public charges. 

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BLOUSE ROUMAINE: Daughters of BESSARABIA – Milita PATRASCU (b. 1883, Nisporeni, MOLDOVA – d. 1976, Bucharest, ROMANIA)

June 26th, 2016 · Art Collections, Art Exhibitions, Books, Communist Prisons, Famous People, History, International Media, PEOPLE, POLITICAL DETENTION / DISSENT, quotations

BLOUSE ROUMAINE: Daughters of BESSARABIA – Milita PATRASCU (b. 1883, Nisporeni, Bessarabia, RUSSIA – d. 1976, Bucharest, ROMANIA)

Milita Petrascu

Milita Petrascu

Milita Pàtrascu (b. 31 December 1883, Nisporeni, Bessarabia, RUSSIA – d. 1 February 1976, Bucharest, ROMANIA):  Sculptor, pupil of Constantin Brâncusi, graphic artist/illustrator, member of the 1930s-1940s Avantgarde Group Arta Nouà Movement.

Arrested in 1959 by Romania’s Communist regime, but was saved by writer and politician Mihail Sadoveanu and kept instead under house arrest.

Symbol of Latin Roots

Symbol of Latin Roots

  Chisinàu, where she grew up was the capital of the Romanian province of Bessarabia, annexed by the Soviets in 1940-1941 and again in 1944. Following the communist take-over, Bessarabian refugees who sought shelter in the old Kingdom of Romania were subjected to a persistent witch hunt by the Soviet-installed Communist government .

After its Independence, the capital city of the Republic of Moldova, could erect in a public place the Roman she-wolf, symbol of Bessarabia’s Latin identity and at the same time an implicit  rejection of Russian hegemony.

Eileen Lane* on Milita Pàtrascu:

“She was like Snow White, an Irishwoman with the regular features of an ancient beauty, with big enigmatic eyes, dark blue eyes, long lashes, with dark hair styled with a parting ending with a bun at the back and a long neck as white as her face.”

(* Eileen Lane was Brâncusi’s friend whose portrait is in

Eileen Lane & Brancusi

Milita Patrascu & Brancusi in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

 

Constantin Brancusi wih Milita Patrascu (photo left)  and the  sculpture Portrait of Eileen Lane  (photo right), Centre Pompidou, Paris
 

 

BIOGRAPHY:

Milita Pàtrascu was born in Bessarabia. In 1919 she began working in Brâncusi’s atelier in Paris. During the 1930s and 1940s she was linked to Avant-Garde artists such as Marcel Iancu, Maxy and Margareta Sterian. Pàtrascu suggested to the Romanian Prime Minister’s wife, Aretia Tàtàrescu (q.v.), that Brâncusi be commissioned to create the celebrated monumental ensemble of Târgu Jiu.

Under Communism Milita Pàtrascu was completely excluded from  monographs on Romanian Art’ ( see Vasile Florea’s Meridiane Publ. Bucharest, 1984), which may be less a critical snub, than a conspiracy of silence based on political criteria. This is hardly surprising if one considers that Milita Pàtrascu was the victim of a political witch hunt resulting in a resounding trial of 1959, in which some of the best known Romanian intellectuals were summarily tried by a communist kangaroo court and given life sentences. Twenty-five years later, Milita was still treated as a pariah on the Romanian art scene, which was entirely government-controlled.

According to Mr. Victor Cràciun, heir, executor and trustee of Milita Pàtrascu’s memorial atelier and collection, the artist was arrested as part of the Bessarabian Group’ (Lotul Basarabenilor), but she was spared the communist prisons due to the intervention of Mihail Sadoveanu. As a result of Sadoveanu’s influence Pàtrascu was given house arrest instead – a lucky escape considering that her co-accused perished in prisons, slave labour camps, or in the atrocious gulags of the Bàràgan steppes.

Gate of the Kiss, Romania

Gate of the Kiss, Romania

Targu Jiu: Constantin Brancusi’s The Gate of the Kiss, a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the First World War commissioned by Aretia Tattarescu wife of Romania’s PM at the instigation of Milita Pàtrascu. Given her crucial role in bringing about Brâncusi’s works at Târgu Jiu, Romania owes Pàtrascu a debt of gratitude far larger than the latter-day ‘experts’ on Brâncusi, who remained silent when the Column of Infinity was marked for demolition during the early years of Romania’s Stalinism.

Ecaterina Teodoroiu monument by Milita Pàtrascu, Târgu Jiu, Romania

Ecaterina Teodoroiu Monument

Milita Pàtrascu as the little-known creator of the monumental mosaic which decorates the famed Mioritza Fountain opposite the Minovici Museum in Bucharest, on the road to the airport. This mosaic was recently restored after many years of neglect.

Milita PATRASCU - Fantana-Miorita

Milita PATRASCU – Fantana-Miorita

In 2001, Milita’s bust of Constantin Brancusi was placed in the Constantin Brancusi memorial Park, Piata Dorobanti, in Bucharest.

Brancusi by Milita-Patrascu - Bucharest

Brancusi by Milita-Patrascu – Bucharest

Romanian Museums displaying Milita Patrascu’s works :

  •   Romanian National Art Museum, Bucharest
  •   Tulcea Art Museum
  •   Liviu and Fanny Rebreanu Memorial Museum, Cotroceni, Bucharest
  •   Zambaccian Museum, Bucharest

Milita Patrascu inter-bellum Romanian group Exhibitions:

1924 – The “Contimporanul Group” Exhibition, Bucharest, with Arp, Klee, Michel Seuphor, Marcel Iancu, Victor Brauner, M. H. Maxy. Monograph Edition in “Revista Contimporanul”

1931? – “Arta Noua”, Group Exhibiton with Margareta Sterian, Marcel Iancu, M.H. Maxy

 

Book Illustrations:

Janco, Costin, Jacques G., Exercitii Pentru Mîna Dreaptà si Don Quichotte. Cu un portret al autorului si 5 desene de Marcel Iancu, 1 desen de Milita Pàtrascu,

Editura Nationalà, S. Ciornei, Bucharest, 1931

 

Various works commissioned:

  • Bust of actor Constantin Nottara, (1859-1933), Nottara Memorial House and Museum, Bucharest
  •  Bust of poet George Bacovia, Bacovia memorial House and Museum
  • Busts of Ion Vinea, Mihail Jora, Liviu Rebreanu
  • Bust of George Cosbuc, Cismigiu Gardens, Bucharest
  • Bust of Alexandru Odobescu, Cismigiu Gardens, Bucharest
  • Bust of Constantin Brancusi, The Brancusi Memorial Park, Piata Dorobanti, Bucharest
  • Mosaic on the ‘Mioritza Fountain’, architect Octav Doicescu, 1936, Bucharest
  • Sarcophagus-monument of Ecaterina Teodoroiu, Târgu Jiu, 1935
  • Funeral Monument of Victor Eftimiu, Bellu Orthodox Cemetery, (Fig. 34bis), Bucharest
  • Funeral Monument of Panait Istrati, Bellu Orthodox Cemetery, (Fig. 37), Bucharest
  • Funeral Monument of Misu Fotino, Bellu Orthodox Cemetery, (Fig. 59), Bucharest
  • Funeral Monument of Liviu Rebreanu, Bellu Orthodox Cemetery, (Fig. 8), Bucharest
  • Funeral Monument of Eliad, Bellu Orthodox Cemetery, (Fig. 103/9), Bucharest

Secondary Sources:

Victor Cràciun, Private Communication, October 2003

Georgeta Adam, Private Communication, October 2003

Robert Adam, Private Communication, October 2003

Ioana Vlasiu, Doamnele artelor frumoase românesti, Observatorul Cultural, Bucharest

The Poets’s Corner in Bucharest’s Cismigiu Gardens has two of Milita Pàtrascu’s busts displayed – George Cosbuc and Alexandru Odobescu

 URLs:

The wonderful story of the Endless Columns:

http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Gallery/4106/endless.html

Luna Bucurestilor:

http://www.arcub.ro/about-lb.htm

Romanian Modern Art Gallery:

http://www.ici.ro/romania/en/cultura/mz_garm.html

Primaria sectorului 1 nu reuseste de peste un an sa restaureze Fantana Miorita:

http://www.gardianul.ro/index.php?a=investigatii2004102603.xml

fantana Miorita:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:F%C3%A2nt%C3%A2na_Miori%C5%A3a%3B_oct_2oo7.jpg

Fantana Miorita:

http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%A2nt%C3%A2na_Miori%C5%A3a

 

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