The writer & the reader

                                       by Adrian BUZ 


“I write. Who is reading me?” This was the theme of the main meeting on the forth edition of the International Festival of Literature from Neptun - the Black Sea resort Uniunea Scriitorilor din România chose as location for this event. Well, I have to admit that the use of the I & me ego-pack in such a short declaration of confusion stirred some wonder in my mind: is really the writer a very unique creature from Neptune? But despite this exaggeration the question has its meaning, as the writer feels these days the threat of what seems an endless media & electronic revolution; he just looses his readers. Terminator is out there and it looks like he is doing a fine job. On the other side another question waits a fair answer to make a guideline of it: what is the role of the writer in the modern society? Serious matters to think about. No wonder that from a certain moment the writer may look like a creature from a remote planet. I write. Who is reading me? Good selling doesn’t prove to be the right answer, neither bad selling – after all, some appeal to the legend better-wait-till-I-die, a major prize doesn’t always guarantees a better understanding of his literature, and there are critics who are a bit too eager to spoil a marriage that works with effort – novels written by Martin Walser or William Burroughs express the feelings they nurtured for their critics; besides, the Nobel looks like a serious leftist business, though a humanist leftism.


This theoretical endeavor to question something that by its nature remains abstract and unsatisfactory looses the human factor. It’s the secret emotional stash the writer return to for coloring the face of a statistic ghost. I don’t make an exception, that’s why I am able to tell you who is reading my books and not only mine - with unexpected results. Bamba. Bamba is a short and heavy man in his sixty. I met him for the first time many years ago in my father’s painting studio. At that time people - most of them local artists - were gathering every Sunday morning in the large and light room for a chat and a glass of wine. Bamba – as everybody was calling him, nobody or perhaps just a few knew his real name - was always there and what stroke me about him was the contrast between his rough look and the sharp observations he made during discussions. Though an uneducated man, he enjoyed the company of various artsy groups in town, and he finally got contaminated. He was a kind of petty hustler, a small smuggler, a minor black market operator, but a man with a strange fine taste, and a firm respect for arts and artists. On those black times of the old regime, he offered many times his help and support in various matters for people he cared about. He usually did it through his underground connections and every time with a certain style and discretion. He was also the protagonist of an anecdote that traveled around the city. For a while, he worked as a taxi driver, rather a cover for his real fishy occupations. One day, he was sitting in his working office as he was calling his cab, on a crisscross downtown near some official building, hopelessly caught in the novel he red. An important guy working there picked him up and asked him to take him to an address. But Bamba gave him an amused look and told him: “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see am busy here?” Because the guy became pushy, he started the engine and moved his office to the next corner to finish the book.

I haven’t seen him for a while, but then I met him many years after the regime had changed. He told he had been traveling abroad with some businesses he couldn’t talk about. He knew I’d just published my first book and he asked me to give him one. Then I met him again recently and strangely enough it was at the precise moment my second book was out. He knew about that and he wanted to tell me that he brought it himself from a local books shop. He made few brief comments on some of the short stories that impressed him, and then put me in comparison with some other Romanian or foreign writes, and he did that naturally, in a way I never thought about. Finally he concluded: “Man, gotta tell you… first you got me confused all right with your stile, but then I understood what you meant by that, and finally I enjoyed it. You lingered in my mind for days… I mean you don’t give humans a second chance, do you?” I was stoned, it was a feedback I didn’t expected – not only the observations he made, but his knowledge in contemporary literature was remarkable. In fact, I was so impressed I deposited him in my emotional gallery.