In this Romanian only episode (English translation of the transcript below) we talk with Carolina Vozian, writer and feminist activist, about feminist literature in the Romanian space, and about the LitFem project.
We discuss with Caro about the state of literature in present day Romania and about the absence of women authors from the school curricula, about the projects developed within LitFem and about the political potential of femnist literature.
- Literature and Feminism
- Video literary comentary
- The art of revendication. Feminist poetry anthology
- Artwork by Alis Balogh
- Sloth metal riffs by Zomfy
- Intro/Outro song: Lasă spațiu by Sofia Zadar
ioni: [00:00:00] Hey, hello. How are you doing? Before we start with today's episode, we wanted to let you know that from now on we will try to answer your questions or suggestions as much as possible. So if you want to send us a message, a joke, a suggestion, if you want to swear at us or if you want advice or have a question that bothers you, send us to leneșxradio@protonmail.com or on facebook or on Twitter or Instagram. Whatever is more convenient for you. And don't worry, don't bother with deadlines. We'll try to make this a kind of regular thing, so if you won’t find the answer to your question in the first mailbox episode, we will answer it sooner or later. And now back to our lazy programme.
lori: [00:01:06] Welcome to a new episode of Leneșx Radio. I am Lori and I am here with Robi and we are glad that today and from now on we will have with us a new lazy comrade, Adina, who will be the co-host of this episode.
adina: [00:01:24] Hi, I'm Adina and today we're going to talk to Carolina Vozian, an activist and writer, a member of the Macaz Autonomous Collective and the Dysnomia reading group. In the first two parts we will talk about the status of literature in Romania. What it means and why we need feminist literature. And in the third part we turn to the subject of political literature. That is, we are talking about the role of literature in feminist activism and of activism in literature. Hope you enjoy!
adina: [00:02:38] Caro, do you want to say a few words about yourself?
caro: [00:02:41] Yes. My name is Carolina and I am a writer. I would say a feminist writer. Yes, and I am part of several activist groups and somehow the two parts - well, there are many parts in my life, but these two parts - are linked in the meeting between literature and politics. I mean, it's a field where I'm still searching for in this period and somehow from this location I'm talking with you today.
caro: [00:03:13] I am part of an intersectional feminist group, which is based on a group of feminist readings, called Dysnomia. I am part of the Macaz Autonomous Collective, which before was a cooperative in which I worked for three years. And of the project Literature and Feminism that I will talk about.
adina: [00:03:35] I would suggest starting with a little context and I'm referring here for example to the news of recent years that keep stigmatizing us as the uneducated of Europe.
adina: [00:03:45] There is a lot of talk about functional illiteracy. That is, how most young people do not understand what they read or how we are always in the bottom end reading-related statistics.
adina: [00:03:56] Why do you think we have a lower appetite for reading. Are Romanians really an exception?
caro: [00:04:01] By no means do I think we have a reduced appetite for reading, we Romanians or we people in Eastern Europe. I think it's a preconception. Don’t you think? A stereotype. There are a number of somewhat structural problems which explain why young people read only little. And about functional illiteracy. We can start from the basics: how education is done in schools and how modest the way you read is and who has access to what kind of education. What resources are there, what is to be read in the school curriculum, how interesting, current, true is what there is to read in the school curriculum for today's young people. So if we start from there we somehow come to the idea that you don't really want to read after you leave school.
caro: [00:04:57] But otherwise I think everyone reads the same everywhere. I don't think there are geographical or geopolitical spaces where people read a lot more than others.
caro: [00:05:10] Generally not many people read so seriously, in a systematic fashion, because reading is a passion like any other and it's like asking why more people don't swim or why they don't run
caro: [00:05:37] In itself this starts from the presumption that everyone should read, or everyone in a given space should be cultured -- whatever it is means to be cultured -- and that means that you have to read, which is a bit elitist. Or a little more elitist.
caro: [00:05:55] There are many ways to know things about the world and to have knowledge and to share knowledge that are not necessarily related to the accumulation of information, as we have seen in Western European culture.
adina: [00:06:10] Let's talk then about how we see literature or what society understands today through literature and how this contributes to what is called this disinterest in or the lack of desire of people to read. That is, what about today's literature makes it a kind of turn-off.
caro: [00:06:33] First of all there is a very big rift between the two dimensions. Canonical literature or that which is taught in schools, is literature that is almost certainly not current and in most cases is written 100 years ago or 50 years, whatever. If you are lucky it’s 30 years ago, but less often. That is, it is a literature very disconnected from the current social problems faced by the student who reads it in the tenth, eleventh, twelfth grade.
caro: [00:07:04] Besides the fact that there are many texts that have a dusty air about them and you as 16-year-old student have no desire to read them. And this chain doesn't even reflect the things you face or the things that happen in the world around you in particular. Unless you do such a great mental exercise to project them there, but you really have to be passionate to do that.
caro: [00:07:29] And this literature from the school curriculum, that I'm talking about, is something radically different from the literature that is now published in Romania. So these are two areas that don't really intersect. The literature that is being written and published now in Romania also has its problems, quite similar to the problems of Camil Petrescu. Not much has changed in 100 years. But I think I can easily say that unlike other arts in today's Romania, in which some more current, more alternative areas have developed, that are more engaged in some kind of social issues, more up to date with what is happening in the world, literature has remained ... I would not say in the past, because they are writing about the present, but it has remained in a very conservative rather cynical-masculine, misogynistic area. It stays in a very closed place.
caro: [00:08:22] For me personally when I look now, it's not an area that attracts, for example, young girls with great curiosity. And an alternative literary area has not really developed, that is said to be really connected to what is happening and reflects today's world. So that you as a high school student can read and say, 'yes it's about my life'. And I think this rupture between our lives and literature is so big that it demotivates reading.
caro: [00:08:54] Even though reading can be used as an escapism from life, at the same time you need to feel that what you live at a certain level is represented in it. And you, as a young reader, for example -- I'm talking about this feminine subjectivity --, I don't know exactly how it helps you to see how Camil Petrescu in Procust's Bed writes some horrible misogynistic things in which he objectifies in an absolutely sinister way some women's bodies, and he treats them like pieces of meat at the market ... I mean, how can you read that and say, ‘how nice, I like it’. Then, most of the literature that is actual, remains -- unfortunately -- the one from translations. There are quite a lot of translations and there are more and more -- and I’m really happy about it -- books that are more in tune with our times, more progressive, which focus less on the masculine subject that has always been the great literary subject.
adina: [00:09:57] Can you say that these newer readings end up in school, in the school curriculum?
caro : [00:10:03] Not at all. I'm not seeing any. The school curriculum has been the same since ... the dawn of time. I mean, not much has changed. They don't really make it there. I think only among the individual readings of students that are passionate about reading. I think that only in the Liberal Arts, only there do you get to read something a little different. And only one course, maybe.
robi: [00:10:28] Related to the curriculum and this discussion, how would you see changes here. For example, would you rather see more established things - like, I don't know, Lord of the Rings, or maybe …, Camus may be more interesting to read - to introduce things like more established literature, or do you see a place for literature that is more pop or consumer, something like know Harry Potter, or Twilight, Stephen King, stuff like that. How do you see the actualization of the curriculum. These are not necessarily topics that interest us, but they are books that are read widely in any case even now.
caro: [00:11:06] First of all, these are noy books written in Romania, in Romanian. As far as I know, only in the humanities profile do you get to read universal literature. Otherwise, only Romanian literature is taught. So nothing you said would be included. Probably some consumer literature could ... I don't like this separation between consumer and non-consumer. That again takes me to a rather elitist area, although it makes some sense, in the sense that many things that we see as consumer literature actually reproduce in some way all the nasty things of today's society.
robi: [00:11:45] It's interesting. I went to Hungarian highschool and the curriculum - I think it was part of the curriculum, our teacher did it clandestinely, I don't know exactly -, we did ... Practically, the course should have better been called the history of ideas or something like that. It combined Hungarian literature with universal literature and even a little philosophy, at least some basic things like Rousseau, I don't know, a little Kierkegaard I remember.
caro: [00:12:09] Cool.
robi: [00:12:12] Yeah, it was cool. It's just that I wasn't so interested in high school. I think because of this very authoritarian and classical format of school and class.
caro : [00:12:21] Yes.
robi: [00:12:22] And that was very off-putting for me, I wasn't interested at all. But it's such a funny thing, later in college at one point I was on a philosophy trip and I took a Coursera course, which was called something like Modernism and postmodernism. And the curriculum there was almost identical to that from highschool. I got to read things I had to read in high school as class readings. It also says something about the fact that something didn't work there.
caro: [00:12:53] Yes, that's clear. I mean, that's exactly what I was thinking when you said about the authoritarian and obligatory context of the class, that it takes all your pleasure out of doing something. Even if absolutely cool things are taught, I think you have to reform the whole way things are done in school so that you could be interested in something that is taught at school, even if you are taught cool things.
caro: [00:13:15] I mean, I think that if we just change the curriculum - which is a dream anyway - if this miraculously would happen, even then I don't know how interested people would be unfortunately. Even if it was much more current and related to their lives. Precisely because they are taught that way, and they have to learn for the BAC [exam at the end of highschool, similar to GRA] and stress for months with the BAC.
adina: [00:13:39 ] So basically what you're saying is that the problem is not with the readers and with the claim that they have no interest in reading, but rather that the way literature is taught in school, they fail to stimulate and connect with people's lives and interests.
caro : [00:13:59] Clearly, clearly.
adina: [00:14:02] Regarding the school curriculum, let's talk a little bit about the absence of women authors. Let's move on to the topic we are talking about today. I would like to ask you about what feminist literature means to you and why you think it is important to have women author represented both in the school curriculum and in public space.
caro: [00:14:28] I am looking at it, right now I've opened the list of BAC [i.e. End of Highschool exam] works and every time I open them, I'm shocked again that they're just male writers.
adina: [00:14:40] Aren’t there any women authors? I know that Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu was at one point, at least in my time.
caro: [00:14:45] Yes. At the moment there is just one in a collective novel, Adriana Babeți. Only at the humanities profile. But no Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu.
caro: [00:14:58] First we have to make a little difference between feminine literature and feminist literature. What I see, and the group of writers and artists I belong to, as feminist literature is something that somehow recenters the subject being written about. That is, it is something that breaks this universalism of the masculine gaze that we have in canonical literature. It is something that comes with the lived subjectivity, of women and other people, and affirms it as legitimate. And it doesn't try to write based on the universalism of the male vision, somehow it deconstructs it. And I see that as feminist literature. And the distinction is that feminine literature is generally a very pejorative term, as used in Romania. Whenever you hear in the literary circles about feminine literature, there is something that is said to inferiorise an author. I mean, they say OK, she writes well, but it's kind of feminine literature.
adina: [00:16:03] A minimization.
caro: [00:16:05] Yeah. Somehow a minimization, a reduction to affect, to the fact that the writing is too sensitive, it is too little detached, it is too visceral, it is too ... too many toos. Which are directly opposed to the equidistance and omniscience and omnipotence of the male author. Or not necessarily, but the idea is that anything that is characterized as feminine in writing automatically means inferior.
caro: [00:16:34] To write well means not to write feminine in the literary environment in which I also moved for some time. Most writers who want to stay there, to try very hard not to be told ... It’s kind of like they swear at you if they say how feminine your writing is. It's a compliment to be told that you write like a man.
adina: [00:17:02] An anecdote about this, is the one about Rebreanu. Who told Cella Serghi, you're a [male] writer. Which happens even today. It's the ultimate compliment, you write like a man.
caro: [00:17:17] Yes yes yes, unfortunately yes. Unfortunately it is the supreme compliment and unfortunately sometimes it even implies, being the supreme compliment, in this key of universality, of the masculine view of the world, it presupposes the renunciation of oneself, in fact, for a [female] writer.
caro: [00:17:35] Many times for you to end up writing like a man, in quotes, means to you have to completely give up your own subjectivity and lived experience - which is automatically considered inferior - and to write about things in the language and the way it might be considered as writing as a man. To be maybe just as cynical, maybe just as misogynistic, maybe just as objectifying, just as detached from yourself or from other women and to say that you are an exception, and so on.
adina: [00:18:03] I think this is a reflection of patriarchy. Of a patriarchal society. It's not just specific to literature. It is a hegemony of the vision of the masculine or patriarchal world as the only correct one. Of the more rationalist view as always having priority over emotions, intuition or other forms of knowledge.
caro: [00:18:31] Exactly, yes. Now that you've said that, turning to literature, it occurred to me a few days ago as I was reading an essay by Ursula K. le Guin, in which she said that there was a claim in American literature, related to this area of feminine literature. I mean, a lot of women writers said OK, you made us visceral, emotional, intuitive, and we have nothing to do with the rational world. OK. We claim that and here we are super strong and you have no idea.
caro: [00:19:03] She tried to distance herself from that. She said it was kind of okay, you told me to stay in the kitchen. I now say it's super cool and I'm claiming my kitchen, but I want to stay also in the living room and in the bedroom. I want to stay in all the rooms. And let the [male] writer also sit in the children's room or in the kitchen. She made the parallel that this claim on the emotional, affective area that is always relegated to women, that they are good at that and Ok. She said she wants to overcome that too. That, no! The traditional is as strong as the emotional intelligence. It's an amalgam of these two, and it's actually a superpower that I have here, by using them both. And I don't want to remain in any of them.
adina: [00:19:49] Very cool.
lori: [00:19:53] And Ursula le Guin said in an interview of hers that she had written the first three books as classical high fantasy. Because she liked the genre. And basically she started writing the fourth book, which was for the first time from the perspective of a [female] protagonist, it was the case that she first had to learn to write from a woman's perspective, and that's why it took her 18 years to write the fourth book.
caro: [00:20:24] That's right, you as a writer if want to write and if you're a girl / woman .... I mean, it's great classical literature and there are a lot of valuable things, but you stay with that way of writing. Because we write what we learn. I mean, our writing comes from what we learned about how to write. And if you constantly read about a male protagonist talking about you with masculine pronouns, we are somehow talking through a lens that is, as Adina said, patriarchal, -- even if it’s not extremely patriarchal, but still - it is very difficult to unlearn. I mean, in fact, getting to write feminist literature involves such a process of unlearning everything you have learned all your life. And to start from scratch, and write from the location where you really are.
adina: [00:21:10] If you think about the women authors from Romania, who do you say would be recoverable? That is, if we were to think about a school program in which women authors would also have a place. Even if there are too few, maybe none, who have declared themselves feminist in the past. Which ones would you consider valuable?
caro: [00:21:37] You don't even have to be a feminist. Only to focus on your own experience in what you write, without being contaminated or perhaps less contaminated in other cases by this patriarchal view of the self.
caro: [00:21:53] Well, there are a lot of them who are recoverables. First of all, even Cella Serghi, whom you mentioned earlier, who wrote The Spider’s Web. This being a great modernist novel completely lost to history. Somehow Camil Petrescu is seen as the inventor of modernism in Romanian literature. And he is praised for this synchronism, that he has finally synchronized our culture to the West. She was writing The Spider’s Web at the same time, which is a novel that is at least as modernist, if not more so. As far as techniques and everything she uses there, she brings a lot of novelty and breaks with the way of writing from earlier times.
caro: [00:22:36] Given that Procust's Bed is there, I don't understand why the Spider’s Web isn't included in the school curriculum. Or the Book of Miruna, also by Cella Serghi. Then there are writers recoverable from the interwar period who were somehow later renounced because they were associated with proletarian literature during the communist period. And because of that we gave up on them, in a way that didn't happen to men who did the same thing. Like Marin Preda or many others. There would be Veronica Porumbacu, a very cool writer. Nina Cassian. It would be essential for Nina Cassian to return to the school curriculum. Maria Banuș.
caro: [00:23:21] From the more recent one, there would obviously be Gabriela Adameșteanu who can be somehow recovered in a feminist way, although she is completely distanced from the term. In what she says at least. But her writing. For example, The Equal Road of Each Day, is a novel about becoming a woman writer who I think has all the merit to exist in the program. And then there are male authors also. They don't have to be women. There are also authors like Panait Istrati, for example, who wrote quite revolutionary things, considering the landscape of the time.
caro: [00:23:57] He had very cool female characters and he was writing about literary topics that were completely taboo during the period, or even now. Homoerotic topics, or about sex work or about many women who give up the traditional expectations of them and live their lives. Panait Istrati would be mandatory in my school curriculum.
adina: [00:24:21] About which Iorga says that it can be seen that he is a porter from the port of Brăila. Criticism of this super conservative and super classist kind.
caro: [00:24:33] Exactly. That's the way to criticise literature that doesn't actually fit into the canon or mainstream through its content, you attack it in a different way. You take content through other methods, by attacking the author. A very recent example is this novel by Lavinia Braniște, Interior zero, which I saw was reviewed by conservative literary critics - because there is no other literary criticism in our country – in a similar way. That she is uneducated. How is it possible for the character - the woman who was the character in the book -- to read National Geographic. Who still reads ... She was attacked that no one writes book novels anymore. About things that are a little more current or maybe a little more marginal, that depart from the status quo and address some social problems, there are always ways to attack them. Especially directly the authors, by saying that they are uneducated, unread or of an ethnic group that is not the one that has supremacy and so on.
adina: [00:25:39] Yeah, I find it interesting – as you said earlier about Cella Serghi - that women writers are much less visible, for example, compared to male writers. Even if they write at least as well as them, and I was thinking about a scandal, a recent controversy, the one about Gabriela Melinescu. And how similarly Cella Serghi was presented through the eyes of her relationship with Camil Petrescu.
adina: [00:26:13] That seems to stand out to me. There is a huge disproportion between the notoriety of their writing versus that of male writers, and when they write or when they manage to become visible, they often become more visible because they are associated in a very cliché way with other men or male writers.
caro: [00:26:37] Unfortunately, that's what happens. I want to say now in response that it is something that does not seem that is will stop too soon, because a few days ago -- I do not know if you saw, I will say a little about it – there was this little other scandal in the small literary world in which a writer from the Republic of Moldova, Dumitru Crudu, was rejected by the publishing house FRACTALIA, because he had published countless extremely misogynistic and homophobic things, and was associated with the coalition for the family and so on. From his position as a public person in the culture of the Romanian language space.
caro: [00:27:22] Yes, and the publishing house refused his manuscript, saying that they practically have an editorial policy in which he does not fit in and that his public discourse is completely opposite to that of the publishing house. Which is a feminist, intersectional one, publicly assumed as leftist. And so on. This huge scandal erupted.
adina: [00:27:43] If you go a little outside of the norms set by whoever has the power and the hegemony, whether we are talking about literature or we are talking more broadly at the level of society, there is automatically a strong reaction, you are told that this is not literature or whatever... What did Crudu call them? Stalinists, or what.
caro: [00:28:10] Yes, of course. He accused them of asserting an editorial policy that was contrary to his public discourse. A speech that many publishers have. That is, the hegemony of publishing houses has that conservative, nationalist, homophobic discourse. It's nothing new. The publishing house that said it didn't have it, and it's against it’s policy, is a small niche publishing house. A rarity, an exception. It is the first publishing house to do this in the literary space. And the reactions of Dumitru Crudu and the rest of the writers who showed solidarity with him were completely the opposite. As if this was the national censor - the only one that exists - and that banned his book. And that censorship is back.
caro: [00:28:52] It was a kind of a thing that is completely out of proportions, which wouldn't exist if a left-wing writer publishes a novel at Humanitas, and he is refused because he wrote an article in which he said that, I don't know, communism wasn't so bad. If you did that, you would have been refused. There will be no scandal. That's the editorial policy, that's what happened. And it will be silenced. So, clearly, anyone who comes with a slightly different view from the status quo, the common sense that is practically hegemonic – in both the literary and social spheres --, will instantly be screwed.
caro: [00:29:31] Why did I remember this scandal with Dumitru Crudu? Radu Vancu, who is the president of PEN Romania, of this literary practice organization that also has a branch in Romania, who in this scandal tried to reconcile both sides.
caro: [00:29:51] And to say that the mixture of ideology with literature is strange, but at the same time we want women to be promoted and to exist. And then the next day he posted a picture of himself and two other writers, and a woman. And he wrote The poets and the muse. Something that seemed very much from another century. This thing made it completely obvious why the woman writer exists only through relation with the male writer and only next to him, and in fact the world will only remember her when you remember that she had a relationship with Camil Petrescu. Or with Radu Vancu, in this situation.
adina: [00:30:34] Speaking of all these scandals, it seems to me that it's also a very strong reaction from many of the writers in this more canonical area. Against political literature or the political assumption of literature. And with this kind of art-for-art discourse and rejection of the idea that literature and art would be political. This is in fact often a mechanism by which they protect their status quo. Or when the feminist critique of classical literature is rejected, it is in fact a protection of the canonical literature and at the same time a protection of the ideology of the status quo.
caro: [00:31:31] Yeah, it is just as you say it. You're right . All the claims that they are in fact apolitical and that there is nothing ideologically contaminated in their texts is BS. Because if you take any contemporary novel by a writer who says he is apolitical, you in fact get 1580 confirmations of the current political system in which we live. In that book- - whatever you take -- you find a hundred thousand signals. You find the way women are described, treated. It's political. If they are seen, treated, as objects, you reproduce a political system in which women will continue to be seen, described, treated as objects. If you reproduce and normalize rape, you reproduce and normalize the culture of rape. And so on.
caro: [00:32:21] That's just talking from a feminist angle. Otherwise, you reproduce, for example, through statements ...Something that happens a lot here, you reproduce a very virulent anti-communism, which practically ends up being so blind, to be against any possibility of a world a little more equal for more people than three.
caro: [00:32:43] I just read an interview two days ago with Cărtărescu, in which he is saying that equality is boring. He somehow said that people are prone to hierarchies and that they like hierarchies. That it's something you do anywhere. I mean, if you put some people, just on a desert island, they'll make their hierarchy, because that's human nature.
robi: [00:33:04] He read too much Jordan Peterson.
caro: [00:33:07] Yeah, he read a little bit too much. Yes, the idea is that you reproduce all the toxic social-political mechanisms, the status quo, you reproduce all the inequality and somehow all the injustice. You reproduce all the homophobia, all the sexism - everything - under the pretext that it describes reality.
adina: [00:33:32] Yes, it's clear that this critique, this tendency to depoliticize literature, actually serves to propagate certain interests or values. Which are dominant in society anyway.
adina: [00:33:47] From my point of view, that's why I think this assumption is important, which we are starting to see, for example, in feminist literature and beyond. And in this area on the left. An explicit political assumption. It seems to me that this is also what your Literature and Feminism project does. The multi-year program, as I saw you call it. I would suggest that we turn to this subject, after taking a short break.
intermezzo: [00:34:14] Ioana Chițu. The character Irina from the play Negreșita by Carolina Vozian. You know how long it takes for a safe space to turn into an insecure space. A few seconds. It takes a few seconds and depends on the body.
intermezzo: [00:34:53] For some bodies it's always safe to walk around the city in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Even at midnight. There are bodies that feel and think they are normal. Bodies blessed by social norms. Integrated bodies. Young, beautiful and thin bodies, eating at Starbucks, and going to jobs. And most often they happen to be mostly ... male bodies. With white skin, nicely dressed, as it should be. And these bodies can walk anytime, anywhere, like they are at home.
intermezzo: [00:35:27] But there are also other bodies in this city. Bodies that are not allowed in the center, bodies that are not allowed in the neighborhood, bodies that are not allowed at night. Bodies that you only see at five in the morning when they sweep the streets and the rest of the time are sent to the edge as much as possible. Stay there! There are bodies that are not allowed on the tram. That they are not white enough, clean enough, civilized enough, proper enough. Male enough. … Female enough.
intermezzo: [00:35:52] There are bodies you only see in the taxi. Taxis to which they give all their money meant for food. These are bodies that are not allowed day or night. Because the street is the worst place in the world. And there are other bodies in this city that you never see.
intermezzo: [00: 36:13] I had to learn the fear of rape. I have known the fear of rape since I was a child. It's something I've lived with for a long time. There's something wrong with my body. There's something wrong that attracts the gaze of lecherous men. There is something wrong, which attracts them to break, to use, to wipe their feet in... Something is wrong in my body.
intermezzo: [00:36:29] I've known that since I was little. I've always lived with this. So there is no room for my body here in Bucharest. There is no air for my lungs in Bucharest. But many of us learn this already with our mothers milk.
intermezzo: [00:36:55] This is a message from feminist groups to you abusers and rapists around us. To you who claim to be a feminist, an intellectual, a revolutionary, a leftist. Who think of themselves as reasonable and cultured and smart and readable, which you show up to protest. Who swells himself in feathers with status and authority, with your secure position in the university, or just from the alternative artistic group through which you revolve. To you who says "Did you hear it too? Alas, it can't be. Him also?"
intermezzo: [00:37:25] We know what you did. We know you beat and raped. We know you manipulated. We know there are women you've pushed to doubt their own thinking. We know you brought them to the brink of despair and then told them it was their fault and that no one would believe them. We know you held them by force somewhere they didn't want to be. We know you dragged them after you to places they didn't want to go. We know you hit them. We know you swore at them.
intermezzo: [00:37:48] We know you eroded the root of their self-esteem. From now on we are besides them. We are the effect. We call ourselves that. The evil you have done is upon you. The shit that came out of your mouth covers you. The force you used immobilizes you. The lies you told bring you down. The poison you scattered poisons you. We know who the rapist is. We know your name, we see you. From now on we are everywhere. At college, at the library, at the theater. In the books you browse and at concerts, at protests. From now on, every time you meet, every time you happen to talk to a woman, every time you see a woman or a group of women at college, at the library, at the bar or at a protest, I will ask you if they too have signed this message. Every time you rapist, a woman will look at you, ask yourself if she knows and if we are not behind her.
intermezzo: [00:38:47] You've been warned. We are feminists. We are many. We never forget and never forgive. We are here.
intermezzo: [00:38:59] Host or prison. Is your city a host or a prison for your body? Or both? For your body, this city was once a home. Have you ever felt at home?
intermezzo: [00:39:12] For how many bodies do you think the city is home? Do you have room, do you feel you have room? Can you feel free on the streets at any time? On which streets, at what time? Has it ever been hard for you to go to the store in the middle of the day? How many times? Was it hard for you? Were you lazy or scared? Do you know what it's like to be afraid to go to the store in the middle of the day? Have you ever felt in danger on the street? How much? Once in five years? Once a year? Every few months? A few times a month? Daily? But 24/7?
adina: [00:39:44] You listened to Mădălina Brândușe and Ioana Chițu reciting excerpts from the queer-feminist play Negreșită, by Carolina Vozian, which premiered in October 2014 at Macaz Bar Teatru Coop and in which they also played.
adina: [00:40:03] And in the second part they recited A vengeful feminist poem, fueled by a collective anger against gender violence, whose author is part of an intersectional feminist group and who wished to remain anonymous.
adina: [00:40:28] Let's talk a little bit about the Literature and Feminism programme, or LitFem, as you abbreviate it. From what I've read about it, the stake is one of publishing and promoting feminist literature, and you're talking specifically about intersectional, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist feminism. Maybe first of all it would be better to better understand what exactly it means. What is intersectional feminism and how is this connected to literature?
caro: [00:41:02] Yes, that's right. It's very good that you say that. I'll talk about LitFem, but I'll start with why it's intersectional. It is not enough just to have several female authors represented. But in fact the need is for more authors from various social backgrounds to have access to resources.
caro: [00:41:25] If we're just on the idea of representation and this idea of liberal feminism, for there to be 50% female authors, or directors, or whatever. In fact, it is still a select group of women who have had access to resources, are privileged and end up writing and being recognized in the literary world. The question that comes to mind is how many contemporary authors, women, Roma, published and recognized we know in Romania.
caro: [00:41:56] Here zero answers come back and somehow the clear problem is not that there are no writers, that there are no Roma artists, that they don't write well or that they don't write valuable things, and so on. The problem is directly related to access to resources.
caro: [00:42:15] So basically, the fact that we want to be represented by three other women who are already successful and to be just as well-known as their male colleagues, is not enough. Because that doesn't create resources for a lot of potential writers and writers from more marginal, poorer backgrounds, from social classes where they have to fight for survival and they don't get access to producing art and cultural discourse.
caro: [00:42:46] The intersectional feminism from which we start in literature is that a greater reform is actually needed. Not only cultural but also social, in which many more people have access to the basic resources of life, to allow you to have a place to stay and what to eat, so that you can afford to think about art.
caro: [00:43:08] When you have to fight for basic resources, you can't do literature. There are several intersecting systems that oppress you from different directions. The fact that you are born a woman, then you are oppressed by the fact that you are part of an ethnic group against which there is a lot of structural racism in the society in which you are born. The economic situation of your family in which you are born, which does not depend at all on you, not even on your family most of the time. Because 50% of Romania's population lives in extreme poverty. I don't remember exactly what those statistics look like, but it was almost 50 percent. Then it is very difficult at such a percentage to say that it depends on the individual person. It is clear that this is a systemic problem.
caro: [00:43:53] After that, if you're part of another minority group, if you're queer or if you have all sorts of other things. There are many of these oppressive pillars that reduce the possibility of creating and ever being recognized, published, read, seen in a literary environment that is completely against your existence in this world. Discursively, I mean. I think that's where not only feminism starts, but intersectional feminism. Because it is all these vectors that are similarly important.
adina: [00:44:32] Yes, we also have proof in the school curriculum, that is, we don't even have women authors in the curriculum, much less ...
caro: [00:44:41] Roma women.
adina : [00:44:42] Exactly. Or queer or ...
caro: [00:44:45] Of course. And that is why it does not seem to us enough to just have more women represented in the status quo. It seems to me that it changes absolutely nothing. It's the same story with white and liberal feminism, which works for some women in the dominant culture. But the women who have access to them will always be the three most privileged women. The rest will be left out. This is where the redistribution of resources begins. Because you can produce literature and any kind of art when you have access to resources.
adina: [00:45:23] That reminds me a little bit of the criticism that bell hooks brings, about how women can actually reinforce patriarchy and capitalism. Exactly through this kind of rather restrictive thinking, in which we do not want to change the system, but rather we just want to be – “we” meaninig some of the white women of the middle class -, to have access to status, resources and so on.
adina: [00:46:02] Which is actually the same systemic logic, and it doesn't change anything at all.
caro: [00:46:08] Exactly. And the whole story of contemporary liberal feminism in Western Europe, we don't have to go that far. Many successful women in Western Europe are successful because they have domestic workers from Eastern Europe. Maids from Romania, Romanian caregivers for the elderly and so on. Basically, liberal feminism builds the success of some women and the social achievement of some women, behind the work of other less culturally and economically privileged women.
adina: [00:46:44] I find these remarks very important. And I wanted to ask you -- to bridge with your project again -- obviously it's not your specific responsibility to address this, but I was curious how you manage or try to address these issues and practice an intersectional feminism within your project.
caro: [00:47:11] I'll start to say a little bit about the project, and then I'll get there. Literature and feminism is a multi-year project. It is currently two years, we hope to continue after. It was initiated by two writers, Laura Sandu and Mihaela Mihailov. It appeared in a context in which several of us were already for several years in a circle of feminist readings in which we read feminist literature and theory and we really needed a space for that. We started from the idea that there are many of us who write but we do not feel that we have spaces in which to analyze and publish literature, to the extent of our feminist ideas, projects.
caro: [00:47:56] The project started from the need for ideas of analysis, creation and publication, in which to develop an alternative literary environment to what exists in the mainstream and in which we do not feel represented at all.
adina: [00:48:10] When was it released. Last year in 2019 or when?
caro: [00:48:14] Yes, in 2019. 2019-2020. And practically starting from the need for these spaces, the project started with workshops with teenagers and then with feminist girls and women interested in writing. There will soon be more prose and poetry workshops. We started a lot from the need to create spaces in which feminist literature can appear. Because in order for anything to appear, there must be a space for it to appear.
caro: [00:48:42] There is this formula of the literary circle that is common in literature and through which many of us, being writers, have gone through. Which for many of us was a pretty violent and hard experience. Which works by the same logic. To standardise the way you write to the status quo, not the other way around.
adina: [00:49:09] I went to a workshop of yours too, and that's when I first heard about this world of literary circles. I mean, I had no idea, it's a foreign world to me. I found it very interesting to hear that many of you had this experience. And that it was pretty nasty, because obviously there were these male writers, who were the fathers of literature. Could you tell us a few things about your experience with the circles?
caro: [00:49:44] Yes. It's actually something very nuanced and ambivalent. With the literary circles. At least the ones I went to. On the one hand you need to interact with the world. It's a way to communicate with the world what you write. You don't want to sit there with your writing in the apartment, and never go out. Literary circles are a place of professionalization for writers, in which their writing practically interacts with other people who do the same things. That doesn't sound bad.
caro: [00:50:20] The problem is ... It ends up sounding bad in the conditions of these writers that you say, upper class patriarchs. Most of the time they are male writers, but there are also female writers who reproduce the same system. I want to specify this. It's really not an ideological thing at all that they have to be just men. No. It's a system of thinking that is reproduced just as well by women writers.
caro: [00:50:46] Yes, and you basically have these gurus, who guard the circles and as a young writer who goes there, you're a very impressionable and you really need to be guided. Basically you are something malleable in the hands of someone who is already trained. And being in this situation, absolutely anything can happen. That is, to direct your writing in terms of content and style, in the direction in which it is said that this is in fact literature.
caro: [00:51:15] You end up internalizing some very rigid concepts about literature. Which I did then. For example, anything that had a vaguely political semblance or anything that was seen as having any political value — like, it departed from the topics that were being written about — was said to be something declarative. It was said that this is not literature, it is a slogan. And so on.
caro: [00:51:36] There are a lot of ways to practically reject and cut to the bone what is literature. And then the reproduction of a very strong hierarchy, a sinister game of power that I saw. And I played with it because that's what happens. I was young anyway. It was close to bullying of people who wrote badly. So this bad writing ... they were just laughing. I don't know how else to say it.
caro : [00:52:03] Simply when people came who had more romantic texts, who had not come into contact with contemporary literature... Everyone laughed out loud. It's very random, this writing ... well writing poorly. That there is no good writing and bad writing in itself. Your writing is shaped by the things you read. For each type of writing there is its own audience. So also for the poems of contemporary literature that is read by 2,000 people in Romania. And for bad poems there are readers who don't think they are bad. And why wouldn't they be valid.
caro: [00:52:43] This separation between good writing and bad writing is again something very elitist and a constant reconfirmation of a small group in which we are here, what we do is good, and otherwise everyone is uneducated. I was most marked, from the literary circle, by the very strong hierarchy and the way it was simply a bully attitude towards people who wrote badly. If you were writing and going and getting all those reactions to a supposedly bad text, I don't think you ever wanted to write again.
caro: [00:53:16] I didn't write for a long time after the literary circle. Several years. This is a personal experience.
adina: [00:53:23] I think bullying is still practiced in literary circles. Maybe not at this level, let's laugh at ...
caro: [00:53:33] Yeah. Maybe not like that, but it's definitely practiced. It is a system that is in a constant mode of self-reconfirmation . And maintaining, practically, some mechanisms, some styles, some ways of writing. Of an acceptable type of content that is called literary, that must be maintained. How do you keep it there if not if you don't cut everything that doesn't fit your notion of literature.
adina: [00:53:57] I'm curious if you've ever been told you're writing is feminine or ...
caro: [00:54:01] I was told I was writing like a man. Unfortunately. I was told, and it was not fortunate at all. Although I took it as a compliment and felt very good about myself. Nah, how old he was, straight. When I went to the upper room. But it's actually something that affected me deeply. I started writing, as I was told, as a man, because I saw that this was read and appreciated in that environment. And as a teenager, what do you need the most from people you like? Validation. So you're going to write exactly what they want. Some texts that I would not identify with now. That weren't about me. I mean, they were extremely violent, extremely cynical texts. Extremely cynical, ironic, in a nasty way, out of self-hatred. And this is something very appreciated. For example, if you as a woman write from a place of self-hatred, it's something valuable. This is what I have seen in many literary circles.
caro: [00:55:01] It was just a very big rift between me, my life, my person and that kind of text. To be appreciated, to tell me I'm writing like a man. From here I say that you actually need to renounce yourself as a writer, to receive this great compliment. To be there with them.
adina: [00:55:21] I'd like to go back to LitFem a little bit. What projects do you do in the program and how do you create spaces for marginal authors.
caro: [00:55:31] OK. I'm talking about several projects in the big project. One of them is the feminist analysis of literary works for the BAC. What is the part of the project that rose the greatest interest.
caro: [00:55:45] Basically we make multimedia comments on the vlog model, in which we also put what high school students need for exams. That is, we put everything according to the BAC scale. We comment on the works from BAC. We put elements of history, literary theory, everything that is required at the exam. But we also have a social and feminist analysis.
caro: [00:56:03] So far we've done Patul lui Procust, Enigma Otiliei and Moromeții . We are currently working on Moara cu Noroc and Ultima noapte de dragoste, întâia noapte de război. It's a very big and diverse team in the project of the videos. It involves many people, writers, feminist activists, graphic designers and actresses. It is a collaborative work in which we try to find a balance between the emancipatory, revolutionary content we bring and the standard educational content, which is required by the school.
caro: [00:56:38] Looks like it's something that was really wanted. That is, many people are frustrated with the works that were studied at BAC. And now it comes as a breath of fresh air for someone to analyze. As a result of this project, it would be wonderful to rewrite the Romanian textbooks, from an intersectional feminist point of view.
caro: [00:57:00] That's one. Then there were some workshops with high school teenagers. For writing. Then there were feminist women writers and women. Soon there will be some prose and poetry workshops in this area of feminist literature.
caro: [00:57:15] The workshops were held, they were held by the initiators of the project. By Laura Sandu and Mihalea Mihailow. Writers already known and confirmed in contemporary literature were also invited, such as Medeea Iancu, Ileana Lungu, Elena Vlădăreanu, Iulia Militaru.
caro: [00:57:33] This is regarding the creation of spaces. And then for publication we founded the Digital Publishing House for Feminist Literature. Where we conceived some anthologies and volumes. This type of book - the anthology - is just so cool that it can somehow bring several voices together on the same subject, the same theme, or the same area. Without the pressure of an individual work. That is, practically more people can have access to writing, according to time, energy, resources. To write, I don't know, a story or a poem. And to appear in the anthology. Until she gets at some point to write the book.
caro: [00:58:12] Two anthologies have appeared at a digital publishing house. On the Literature and Feminism blog. They will also be published in print. The art of demanding, the poetry anthology coordinated by Medeea Iancu, will appear next month at Fractalia. And the other, of speculative feminist prose and coordinated by me, will appear in Hecate, at some point.
adina: [00:58:36] About which we'll talk about ...
caro: [00:58:36] Which we'll talk about in another episode, just about it. They are all edited by Laura Sandu. There will be more anthologies this year. An intersectional feminist theater anthology will appear. Anthology with texts from all workshops. So it's basically a way to bring all the writers who participated in the workshops together. An anthology of feminist literary commentaries.
caro: [00:59:03] Another work will appear, Ileana Sânziana by Petre Ispirescu. Which is rewritten from a feminist and queer perspective, and illustrated. Then in September we will have the Feminist Literature Festival, where there will be performances, shows, readings and debates. We still don't know, with the coronavirus, if it will be online or offline. Depending on what else is going on. All these efforts together are to create an alternative literary space and slowly build an audience for it. In which to make space for writers who do not want to reach the mainstream literary scene, or do not represent them in any way.
caro: [00:59:42] The project did not intend at all to enter into debate with the mainstream literary scene in Romania, but to create an independent, alternative scene of assumed political, feminist, intersectional literature. In the same way that, for example, political theater has developed in the last ten years. Likewise, it started from non-existence -- there was only the dominant conservative theater that reconfirmed the same status quo, and did not bring any new breath -- and appeared, there began to be political theater and it is currently flourishing.
caro: [01:00:14] I'm curious what reactions you've received so far from the mainstream literary scene on the one hand and from readers and from interested people. I mean, on the one hand I would be curious to know about video comments. And on the other hand, so to the activities of the project in general, about what reactions you received.
caro: [01:00:37] The video comments were enthusiastically received from different areas. From feminist and artistic areas. Even some writers from the more mainstream literary environment. What interests me the most, as I said. They also received negative reactions, but fewer. They received, I don't know, from two contemporary writers. I don't know what they said anymore, my memory apparently deleted this information. I do not know. They said the structure, something like that, wasn't rigorous enough to take on one comment or another. It's out of touch. The same tropes.
caro: [01:01:14] Then there's something very interesting about the anthologies. They are online and have been downloaded by thousands of people, on individual IP downloads. That is surprising for contemporary literature, especially poetry. That is, poetry is read by very few people. I mean, contemporary poetry. And to be downloaded by thousands of people, it is clear that there has been a great interest -- and still is -- for them. We only received reactions, not from the confirmed literary areas, but from readers who were very excited. Many very excited readers. But somehow the literary establishment ignored these appearances. Maybe it's the fact that they are not in print yet, because it's like it's not real. Although they are. And had launches and so on.
caro: [01:02:06] It’s encouraging. There seems to be a demand and thirst and interest for this area of feminist literature.
caro: [01:02:17] Yes, it clearly exists. Or at least for feminist critique of already existing literature, or canonical literature. Looks like someone really needed to do it at some point. Because for contemporary feminist literature that is produced locally, we still don't necessarily know.
caro: [01:02:33] I think it's an audience that's being built now. With all the alternative appearances that will be all the events, which will be all the Fractalia events. An online festival is also organized. There are several other authors who have published feminist books, such as Medeea Iancu or Ileana Lungu. Yes, and I think it's something that's being built right now, the public for this kind of literature.
intermezzo: [01:03:09] I believe in one, Mother Almighty. Maker of heaven and earth. To all the seen and unseen. I believe in a mother's daughter. Which of the mother was born first of all. Light from light. Release from abuse. Solidary word from authoritarian word. Collective force from punitive guilt. Elevation from oppression. Hug from damnation. I believe in one. The one crucified on the cover of the history of violence. The one too often silenced. Hunted. Harassed. Hit. Punished. Defiant. Evicted. Raped. I believe in one. The one who rose and cried. One falls we all fall. One falls we may fall. For everything is in a liberating breath, we will rise. And winning over abuse we will shout. Let's make the church a shelter day and night. Let's make the church the place of the history of the abused. Let's make the church the confession of those affected. And from violence we are reborn in rebellion.
intermezzo: [01:05:12] And let's pray. No slap. No punch. No offense. Let there be no more accusations. On our behalf. Of those who believe. In one, in all. In one, in all. Solidarity. Solidarity. Solidarity.
adina: [01: 05:48] We listened to the Feminist Creed, written by Mihaela Mihailov and recited the feminist collective Thank you for the flowers, organizers of the Fall One, Fall All, during the March 8 protest this year, which took place in front of the Cathedral of the Salvation of the Nation in Bucharest. Feminist liturgy, as the demonstration was called, was a sign of revolt against the discrimination promoted by BOR and against the allocation of funds from public budgets to the church at the expense of funding social assistance and protection services, which is so much needed.
adina: [01:06:42] This construction of a public for feminist literature and feminist criticism, I think, is evolving at the same time as the feminist movement, which has become more and more visible in recent years. And it seems to me that both your project and other texts or initiatives in the local literature scene, make a bridge between activism and literature. And -- you kept talking about Medeea Iancu and, for example, Mihaela Mihailov -- I know that in the last years, feminist texts written by assumed feminist authors, such as Medeea and Mihaela, have been used a lot in feminist protests.
adina: [01:07:33] You talked about feminist reading circles, which take place in several cities. Besides Bucharest, there is also Cluj-Napoca, and as far as I know, Timișoara. And these reading circles played a pretty important role in bringing together feminist collectives and the introduction of assumed feminist literature. And here I am thinking, for example, of zines like Dysnomia, or Zine Fem from Cluj.
caro: [01:08:01] Yes, or Cutra.
adina: [01:08:03] Yes, and people in these groups have often been involved in feminist actions. Somehow I wonder if we can see literature as an instrument of political education and emancipation.
caro: [01:08:23] Yes, of course. For sure. Literature shapes us in quite fundamental ways, so politically, without realizing it. Because there is no way to not be influenced by a subject that is taught to you for the 12 years. It is impossible. It's one of the few things we hear over and over again that shapes our worldview in one way or another. Basically these words are the things the world is made of. And then it is clearly a political tool.
caro: [01:08:54] The canonical literature in the school curriculum is a political tool to convey some ideas, just like the poem read at the feminist protest. Another political tool to convey some ideas. They are both the same political tool. I don't think there's any difference between them. It's just the question, what kind of politics it is the instrument for.
caro : [01:09:18] But, yes. Most of our groups have been involved in one way or another in reading circles, in these spaces of discussion of ideas. Both literature and theory. It is a bridge between activism and art, or literature.
caro: [01:09:34] And I think the result between them ... The result of their clash is the protest at which the feminist poem is read. Or get some other action out of this policy. Speech in front of a mass, etc. All are political, are they not?
adina: [01:09:53] Yes. It also seems to me that feminist activism and literature have a very close relationship. And it seems to me that it matters a lot to what you said at the beginning. It is difficult to learn to write differently than this canonical writing, which is deeply masculine. And then somehow, it seems to me, we need to find our voice. A voice that is not dependent on the validation of these patriarchal authorities. This is a collective struggle, and it seems to me that feminist reading circles and the literature produced within them are very good at this. Or outside of them, in this area. It helps us to deconstruct this deeply patriarchal vision we are used to and to find our own voice based on personal and collective experiences.
caro: [ 01:11:01 ] Yes . You're super right. These environments -- exactly the feminist circles, at least in my experience - make you very aware of the subject you are actually acting out of. If you act, you are from the political subject in which you are actually, how the world sees you and how they framed you, and how it oppresses you. Or if you act out of a false conscience, in which you dream of yourself as a [male] writer, and speak from the [male] writer's voice. And somehow from a place where you really want to have that power, of the dominant man. Wanting very much to have that power, you speak from that place, but which is actually completely contradictory to your life.
caro: [01:11:39] Basically what these circles do is make you aware of the political subject that you really are, as the rest of the world sees you. And focus on that and talk from that place. Not to fantasize that you are Nicolae Iorga, when in fact you are not. And, in fact, you have more valuable things to bring by writing from the location that you inhabit. Because very rarely does anyone bring them. They are not written, they are not spoken, they are taboo. It's a whole list, why they're not visible.
robi: [01:12:12] Now that we're nearing the end. I think it would be important to talk a little about ... Can you tell us about how you can live from literature, and from activities and projects adjacent to literature. Maybe among our listeners there are also young writers and maybe it would be important information. And one question, that appears in any activity that is manifestly political, is what types of funding you are trying to access. And if there is a tension between maintaining a critical position, but at the same time when you have funding from somewhere, it comes with some strings attached, some requirements. And if this tension exists for you.
caro: [01:12:48] Regarding the first question, the answer is very simple. Literature is not something you can live from in Romania. No way. I think that the only person who lives from writing literature in Romania is Mircea Cărtărescu. Who seems to be living from it. It is possible that a few people in the literature still live off it, from what you said as consumer literature earlier. Which somehow falls there. Which is very popular. There are some writers, from what I've seen, who are bestsellers. But I don't know if they live from only these revenues. I mean, not really.
caro: [ 01:13:20] In connection with contemporary literature - especially if you're a writer, if you're a feminist - it's impossible to make a living just writing books. Writing prose, poetry, and what we recognize as literature. But you can do all sorts of adjacent work. People work in connected fields to writing. You write articles, reviews and so on. From journalism rather, but also there very precariously. From reviews as well.
caro: [01:13:47] Maybe, I don't know, from the theater. But still, from project to project. From financing to financing. From AFCN funding, and what other small cultural projects you can get. But to live like that, he argued, and to live from it alone, is impossible.
caro: [01:14:06] And that's why it's very difficult, in fact, to finish a book, for example. Because you never have a few completely free months in a year that you could spend to finish a book. You don't have them, because you have to work on many other things to pay your rent.
caro: [01:14:21] Yes. And from translations, then ... The next thing many do is translations. But the translations are also very poorly paid. You receive the money for the translation one year after you have translated. They are rarely paid on time. So you have to have some alternative plan to support yourself. I mean, you can't pay rent every month from translations. Or maybe if you translate non-stop, but then you can never write anything.
adina: [01:14:48] Very strange when we think that from mainstream literature or from literature that becomes very visible , very popular, very celebrated and awarded, and even translated abroad, the authors as far as I know win, I think, only up to 10 percent of ... It's almost impossible to make a living from this. Even if, again, you are a super well-known author. For example, Lavinia Braniște, whose book Interior Zero has been translated and is an award-winning and super-famous book, and fails to make a living from it, from writing. Not nearly.
caro: [01:15:33] No. No one. Not nearly, of course. That is, if you come from a poor economic place and you don't have a family to support you, you can't live with almost any art. Not being supported by anyone from outside, it's super difficult. And I think it only happens to people who end up, I don't know, being very recognized - after decades - in the West. And be invited as residents and receive money from there, and so on. It is a process of gathering for years a social capital and an image capital, which lasts and has all the related problems that can be discussed for hours.
caro: [01:16:13] It's my dilemma all the time. How to pay my rent and keep writing. It's the daily question. There are all kinds of alternatives that people reach, so that they don't take jobs at corporations, so that they don't destroy their minds and souls. They move to the country, they move back to their parents, to their grandparents. In order not to pay for life in Bucharest, or in Cluj or in the big expensive cities. So they can do whatever they like. I keep hearing of such examples.
adina: [01:16:41] And this, as you have with LitFem, may be a solution, but it is still a very precarious and very unstable one. And anyway, for which you need some knowledge, you need a team of people to work with. You need quite a few things, which is not something that is very handy. And I don't even think it's something that will bring you a lot of funds. Because in this area of culture, obviously there are the remnants of funds left at the bottom of the bag, as it should be.
caro: [01:17:14] Exactly, exactly. That's about it. So not really. It's pretty depressing, like that. The possibility of living from writing does not really exist.
adina: [01:17:29] What funds do you accept? AFCNs ... LitFem is from EA Grants, or ...
caro : [01:17:35] AFCN. It is a multi-annual program funded by AFCN. Yeah, well, I think they are… That is, they are the few cultural funds that you can access from here. The AFCNs and now there are also Norwegian ones that you can access culturally from the Ministry of Culture Ro. I mean, I wouldn't apply to any funds offered directly by a corporation - like CSR - or a bank. In order to make that choice, I really shouldn't be able to support myself in any other way. But I'd rather take a job in services than do that, for example. Which I did, actually. I think the tension is actually in what you accept. I mean, I don't know how possible it is to make a project with an assumed anti-capitalist discourse, with such a critique of the capitalist economy and the neoliberal system, with money from a bank. Or a corporation.
caro: [01:18:35] I mean, maybe you can do something on some topics that are easier to leftwash for them. But when it comes to criticizing the distribution of resources in today's world, I think the grants and funds you can access are very limited.
robi: [01:18:51] At these funds, the AFCNs , you are not penalized for the theme or anything like that, right? I mean, something taboo or too ... communist, or whatever.
caro: [01:19:05] It depends a lot on the project, on the evaluators. It's always a lottery. You realize that individuals are also on committees, and their opinions about the world affect what projects are chosen and what are not. Even if not so much. It often boils down to luck.
adina: [01:19:22] It's interesting that this is happening elsewhere. For example, in research. Where, it’s the same. This year, for example, evaluations were all over the place. That is, some of the evaluators gave good scores - in the same team, I mean - and others gave a very low score.
adina: [01:19:44] Yeah, just a small digression. And I applied for some Post-doc at the ministry. And it's such a lottery with the evaluators. So I caught one that ... So the project I submitted is good. And I have a good resume. And two gave me a decent score and the last one, the third one, it seems that he's not even on the subject, in the field, and he scored something like half of the maximum. I mean it's ... I think after the CV and after that, the project itself is. They are very good, that is. So that's such a lottery. Now I'm waiting to see what comes after the final evaluation. But there's a lottery in this with all the funding. Which sucks.
adina: [01:20:26] Yes. At the same time, it seems to me that there is also ... Na. We see Cutra, we see LitFem, we see the Political Theater. That is, this scene has developed quite a lot in recent years, from these funds for cultural projects.
caro: [01:20:45] Through AFCN funds. This is what I wanted to say. I mean, I wouldn't want to say that it's a completely ideologically contaminated institution, that doesn't accept any... Because, no. State funds have been accessed on more progressive and feminist topics, intersectional and queer, and on political theater in recent years. So somehow it developed with the help of these funds.
adina: [01:21:08] Let's get ready for the end. I would ask you what literature inspires you. And then I would be curious to know what you would like to see more in this literary area, if we think about it in a utopian perspective.
caro: [01:21:26] Ah, what literature inspires me? I could write lists. It's hard. But I'll just name a few. And quite recent one. So we don't spend the rest of our lives here. And maybe I say things that are translated into Romanian. Because it's actually a problem. I don't want to recommend things that are only in English. I want them to be accessible.
caro: [01:21:48] There are some very good translations of queer literature in Romanian. Which I read in the last few years and they changed my way of seeing literature quite a bit. And they showed me the possibilities of literature, in fact, and how queerness can intersect with literature. I read the last book On Earth we’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese-American writer. They write about migration and queerness. It's translated. I highly recommend it.
caro: [01:22:18] Then I recommend Why be happy, when you can be normal?, from Hecate publishing house, by Jeanette Winterson. It's a very good sample of queer literature . And there's another translation that I really liked, but read some time ago, which is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. They are all found in Romanian. And what I read again, also from the area of intersectional queer literature, was The Argonauts -- translated at Black Button -- by Maggie Nelson. Which is a combination of literature and queer theory. A very strong literary experiment.
caro: [01:22:57] And at Black Button, they also translated several books by James Baldwin, who is this great African-American thinker, who examines and dissects a lot of social issues, especially racism and homophobia, in all his books. So I highly recommend Baldwin, all his Black Button books.
caro: [01:23:17] I would say, super significant translations like that on feminist literature are all Elena Ferrante's books. Which, I would also recommend to any reader who wants to read women. Women writers. I would definitely say to read Neapolitan Novels. Maybe, Arundhati Roy, who's an Indian writer. She writes a lot at the intersection of feminism and class. She has her first book, which is translated, The God of small things. I highly recommend it.
caro: [01:23:49] Maybe from SF. Some very cool feminist SFs are translated at Hecate. Octavia Butler, a volume, is translated. The Parable of the Sower. Ammonite is also translated by Nicola Griffith. I'd say buy them if you find him. Any Ursula K. Le Guin. Absolutely anything. The Left Hand of Darkness is translated, and other books. Rocanon's world from Nemira. The Dispossessed is also translated, but I recommend you read in English, because the translation is quite ... crude.
caro: [01:24:26] And maybe, locally, if you've never read Cella Serghi, this is the time. And Panait Istrati as well, anything. And from the contemporaries, I would always read Medeea Iancu in poetry. And her last two volumes, declared feminist, but also the debut volume, which is a very cool poetic analysis on trauma. It was one of my favorite books of poetry when I read it. Irina Vlădăreanu, as well. Ileana Lungu. Perhaps I would say at the intersection between poetry and theater would be the texts of Nicoleta Esinencu, which are also published by Ideea Publishing House and are worth reading.
caro: [01:25:11] Yes. So I'm going to stop because I can go on indefinitely. The anthologies, necessarily! The last, but not the last thing to read would be the anthologies. Which can be downloaded from the Literature and Feminism blog. They gather a number of writers - some already confirmed, in contemporary literature, and some debuting. These are the first collections of assumed feminist and queer literature. That is, anthologies from this space and in Romanian. If you want to read them.
adina: [01:25:46] Let's end on a nice, imaginative note. If you could tell us what your literary, feminist utopia would look like.
caro: [01:25:57] I think it would be very similar to the utopia in The Dispossessed. I don't know if you read it. But ...
robi: [01:26:06] Twice.
caro: [01:26:06] Twice. Me too.
lori: [01:26:06] Infinitely many times.
caro: [01:26:06] Yes . Somehow, first of all, a literary utopia begins with a social utopia. So it would practically start from a place where everyone has equal access to means and resources, and practically no one has to fight for food or housing. And somehow that would be the context in which anyone could make literature and any other type of art.
caro: [01:26:35] And from there, it would be a place that would finally renounce -- because the time for it has come -- this masculine, western universalism. And there would be practically many more topics to write about. A variety of experiences and feelings and life stories and visions of the world, from which it is written. And they are equally legitimate. And there would be no hierarchies between the types of good, bad, literary, non-literary, cult, consumer, and all these dichotomies that really don't help us at all.
caro: [01:27:16] It would be a place that would dismantle all these dichotomies that are toxic to the world we live in. And, yes, everyone would write what they like, read what they like, and no one would be forced to read anything. And then I think there would be many more readers. If no one was forced to read anything, I think reading out of passion among people would actually return.
adina: [01:27:43] Sounds good, sounds really awesome.
robi: [01:27:43] Yes, we want in on this utopia too.
caro: [01:27:45] What are your utopias?
adina: [01:27:50] A lazy utopia.
robi: [01:27:55] Let everyone have access to laziness.
adina: [01:27:58] Exactly. Let everyone have access to laziness. Laziness meaninig, in fact, a process in which you are not obliged to do things, you do not have to read some things. That is, laziness is the space we need to be able to access and explore our interests and passions, without any external obligation.
caro : [01:28:29] Yes!
adina: [01:28:31] A society of radical laziness.
caro: [01:28:34] A society where no one has to work for money, and constantly produce things for deadlines in order to receive some money. And in which to have time and mental and physical space, to explore their passions. That would be wonderful.
adina: [01:28:57] Super. Well, on this utopian note. I think we can finish.
caro: [01:29:03] Thanks for the invitation. I enjoyed talking to you.
robi: [01:29:11] Thank you, thank you.
lori: [01:29:11] Thank you very much, Caro.
robi: [01:29:15] So much for today. We hope you enjoyed this episode. A shout out to all the people who contributed in one way or another to the episode. The Intro/outro song is Lasa Spatiu by Sofia Zadar. It is imperative that you look her up on social media, if you have not done so before.
robi: [01:29:34] Sloth-metal riffs are by Zomfy. The art of the episode and the logo and a significant part of the podcast art is done by Alis Balogh. And we use various soundbites by Kevin McLeod.
lori: [01:29:49] And don't forget. You can listen to these episodes on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts, respectively. You can find us by the name Leneșx Radio. And on social media you can find us with the lenesxradio handle, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. At some point on Tic-Toc. And please don't forget our website, leneșxradio.ro. Where you will always find the complete descriptions of each episode. And any other relevant details about us. I guess.
robi: [01:30:32] And for the long breaks between our episodes, we recommend the animated series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Until next time, stay safe companeros and companeras!