Interviews — 5 Min Read

“Amber” and a conversation with Cătălin Pavel

Interviews — 5 Min Read

“Amber” and a conversation with Cătălin Pavel

Amber is the last book written by Cătălin Pavel. I have been reading Catalin Pavel for some time on the Dilema Veche (a.n. Cultural newspaper in Romania) but without making the mental connection (to my shame) between the writer and the signer of the articles.

He came to present his last book at Book Corner Librarium Cluj on October 15th. The occasion ended with the reading of Amber and a short interview with the writer.

Amber is a novel that you can’t find easily in Romanian literature; it’s a “rara avis”. It has action, situations, humour and parody, and watermarking stories.

Some call the Timeless Tabernacle, others the metaphor of literature, or Western Dobrogean. How do you see it: parody, unofficial biography, or all of the above?

I see it as a memory stick because that’s how I used it for two very different things. First of all, to save everything that’s important to me. If anything happens, I have in this novel the phones I have to call and the addresses I have to go to. Secondly, I’ve put in this novel everything you transfer around without ever having time to evaluate or the bustle of unpleasant surprises that come from all sorts of paper bites. Years of transferring old files from one side to the other, until at last they are compassionate for the computer to crack without backup, or until they accept a novel. In fact, I think that nothing important in a book can reach the reader if it does not navigate well-organized clutches.

Poet, novelist, and archaeologist. How do these situations fit together? Are they filling one another?

Literature and archaeology alternate with leadership as liberals and conservatives in the rotation of Carol I. I, of course, are all, but when I occupy one of them, I’m dealing exclusively with it. There are transferable procedures and values ​​between the two, but there are also lots of things specific to each one’s craft. It’s like turning a double bit on a screwdriver.

What do you read now and can you recommend us?

I read the excellent monograph of Alexander Rubel about Ernst Jünger. But I think more and more that the main recommendation to be made to the Romanian public is the book of the popularization of sciences, and especially of the exact sciences. I’d say something else here. A good habit when you go to a large library with a list of titles is that at the end of the book you are going to take another book entirely and accidentally, take it with you whatever it is and browse it for a few minutes . It’s amazing how many ideas can give you such a book. It is impossible that all our contact with the world is planned, the faces efficiently, by ourselves. Sometimes it’s good just to be exposed to the world.

Do you have any favourite book to report almost magic, like a talisman?

Favourite books are books where you can live. These are the books you are returning, regardless of their value of truth or their stylistic thirst. Two great books for me are the Manual of Athanasios’s Stephen Agopian and Deipnosophistai. But I have a weakness for minor books, such as Orwell’s Vagabond through Paris and London.

Off-topic: What is Baltic Amber? What stories does he hide?

The amber is a fossil resin, some of the trees never passed on (the pine forests have waited for tens of millions of years – and what a disappointment it was all about). If the stories are just people, then the amber does not hide any stories, because it comes by definition outside of history. On the other hand, when you discover on an archaeological site amber ornaments, see how life in it is suddenly recovered.

How long has your book been written/documented?

We never know how much we work on a book because we only give it our best time, of which we do not know how much we have. Maybe in sixty years, you have only one year of this time, if you put together all the moments of real lucidity, and then it means you have worked half of your life on a book you’ve been working for six months.

Did the Ludic and Amber references in Amber have been “searched” or “came” naturally?

For now, I do not have enough versatility to invent narrator voices with various personalities. I use the same voice and write about the same things. (I do not even want to say to myself that I repeat, it’s like you would not like to laugh at a new bench because you laughed at other jokes.) If there is any mention of historical characters in this novel or to other books, it’s because those books are just as alive as me and you. If literature itself is something natural, it’s hard to say. I would, however, bet that since the Palaeolithic, people have made their own style after 7-8 in the evening.

You said in an interview: “All my ambitions have remained Romanian.” This phrase takes me to the remark of Attila Bartis, who said there are places you can not really leave even if you leave. He referred to Transylvania. Do you have this kind of relationship with a place in the country or elsewhere?

I have this relationship with Dobrogea. But the worst place you can not leave, even if you leave, usually has a personal numerical code.

Would you want me to ask you something specific that I haven’t?

If you had asked me how this novel came to appear, I would have replied that I owe the publication of Ms Madalina Ghiu, coordinator of Romanian literary collections at Polirom. The launches were excellently organized by Claudia Fitcoschi from the publisher promotion department. Towards critics who wrote about Amber, I am thankful in a barbaric way. And for the readers who bought it, I wish I could have discounted the price for all of them.