One of my main goals as a writer and critic is to share some of the best contributions of Romanian culture with an international audience..
says Mrs. Claudia Moscovici, a very resourceful “cultural ambassador”, known to the Romanian public mainly through her fascinating novel “Velvet Totalitarism” (published in 2011 with the title “Intre doua lumi”)
We discover from the very beginning the natural, the ease, the beauty an extraordinary person carries along. We expected her to be very interesting. She also proved complex and resourceful. The experiences she was confronted with – all the more tough since she is a sensible person and, certainly, vulnerable as a child, have influenced her personality. Instead of weakening her, they shaped a wonderful woman and artist, you’re invited to meet in the interview she offered us. Even though it was the first time we interacted, it felt like we were old friends, talking over a cup of coffee..
How is it to grow for two years knowing that your father is in another country? What helped you stay strong?
It wasn’t easy. The separation and uncertainty–of whether or not we’d be allowed to emigrate by the Romanian communist government– was particularly difficult and draining for my mother. She was subjected to intimidation and threats by the Securitate, in interrogation sessions which I describe in my novel Velvet Totalitarianism (Intre Doua Lumi, Editura Curtea Veche, 2011). They tried to persuade her to stay in Romania and leave my father. As I was only 9 years old when my father defected to the United States, I missed him a lot, but wasn’t fully aware of the challenges of emigration. My grandparents moved in with me and my mother in Bucharest and they were the main reasons we stayed strong. They were a very loving and stable couple, who gave us a lot of emotional support. In fact, it was extremely painful for my mother and I to leave them behind once we did get the permission to immigrate. We were happy and sad at the same time: glad to finally get a chance to join my father and sad to leave the rest of our family and friends behind.
What do you remember about the first years of staying in USA? Which were the main differences that you perceived? What can you tell us about the adapting stages?
The adaptation was, initially, a rather brutal culture shock. I didn’t speak a word of English and knew nobody, yet wanted to make good friends and get excellent grades, as I had in Romania. I tried very hard to adapt to the U.S. and, partly because I was still young (eleven years old) when we immigrated, I learned to speak English in three to four months. It was the immersion technique of learning a language, in the most brutal sense of the term. Sink or swim. But adapting culturally and overcoming the pain of missing my family and friends in Romania took a lot longer. In fact, I’d say that I’m still not over it, as the title of my first novel (Intre Doua Lumi) indicates. I feel both Romanian and American, yet also neither fully.
How was your life changed by the fact that you could study and develop a career in USA? How was your talent helped and encouraged by the educational and social tools that the American system offers? What would you bring from America and implement in Romania from this point of view?
I would say that professionally I was a writer at heart from the start. I wanted to write my novel about Romania ever since college. However, few people can earn a stable living by being fiction writers. So, as a concession to the “real world,” as well as because I genuinely love world literature, art and philosophy, I became a critic and scholar first. However, as soon as I got the opportunity, in 2009, to become a full-time writer I took it with great eagerness. Overall, I’m much happier and more fulfilled in this role.
What do we have to do to heal from communism and the marks it left in our mentality? Do you see these marks on the Romanian communities abroad?
To heal I think one has to remember the past–totalitarianism in general, be it it its Nazi or Communist configurations–and do whatever is possible to avoid it in the present and future. This can only happen when democratic institutions are taken seriously. Corruption is still a big danger for any previously communist country. So is a form of capitalism based on favors, semi-legal activities, nepotism and plutocracy, which we can see at work in parts of the former Soviet Union, for instance. Without a healthy economic life and a form of government which the people can take seriously, the conditions may be ripe for autocratic regimes even in newly democratic societies like Romania. Having said this, there’s no question that Romania has come very far, as have most of the countries in Eastern Europe, since the dark communist era.
In 2002, you co-founded with Mexican sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto the international aesthetic movement called “Postromanticism”, devoted to celebrating beauty, passion and sensuality in contemporary art. How are these traits reflected in the contemporary art and what is the role of art in speaking about them? How important are they in our society, how do you see their role?
In aesthetic philosophy I’m pluralist and believe in writing about all kinds of art, from traditional to postmodern, on my art blog, http://fineartebooks.wordpress.com. However, in aesthetic taste I prefer art that is realist in technique and romantic in mood. I found that though I may be pluralist, most museums of contemporary art are not. They tend to favor modern and postmodern types of art and exclude contemporary realism and romanticism. So do prominent art critics that focus on contemporary art. In 2002, when I co-founded the postromantic art movement with the sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto, I made a conscious decision to highlight the value–to the general public, to museums and to galleries–of contemporary art that is inspired by the realist and romantic traditions of the nineteenth century. I recruited, or selected, some of the best artists world-wide that create in this tradition. Together we formed an art movement that we called postromanticism. The “post” indicates not just that it came after the Romantic movement but also that it incorporates modern traditions and techniques. We are not a reactionary movement–and thus do not reject innovation and modern influences in art–even though we also show the value and continuing influence of traditional art. You can see some of the artists that participate in the postromantic movement on our website, http://postromanticism.com.
How was it to come back in Romania after 30 years?
It was literally unbelievable. I couldn’t recognize the country I had left in 1981. Bucharest, which is the only place I got to see again on the book tour in 2011, was an energetic, gorgeous and modern city.
You seem to have connected quickly with the Romanian artistic life. How can a professional enter a new social circle quickly and even find opportunities to develop projects?
You’re right, partly thanks to having published my novel in translation with Editura Curtea Veche (and the book launch in Romania in 2011), partly thanks to social media and networking, I feel very connected with artistic and cultural life in Romania. The motivation for such a connection comes from a cultural and emotional bond I felt for my native country all my life. I think for such a small country with a unique language, Romania has many internationally renowned cultural stars and achievements, from Brancusi to Mungiu. I’m proud to be a Romanian-American.
Which are the most important values to you as an artist? As a woman?
One of my main goals as a writer and critic is to share some of the best contributions of Romanian culture with an international audience, as much as I can and using all the possibilities of the social media. But I don’t see myself only as a “cultural ambassador,” so to speak. Rather, I choose to focus on artistic and literary values that mean a lot to me emotionally and at the same time have a historical weight or density: a kind of universality. That’s why I’d say the first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, wasn’t just about Romania in particular but reflected the hardships of life human beings endure in any totalitarian society. The postromantic movement tries to resuscitate aesthetic values that I feel are neglected by the contemporary artistic establishment (mainly museums of contemporary art and today’s art critics). And my next two books, which focus on the Holocaust–one will be nonfiction, the other a novel–will attempt to remember and pay homage to the victims of the worst genocide in human history. My roles as a woman and as an artist are inseparable: whatever I value and portray in my writing and criticism reflects some of the experiences, tastes and sensibilities I have acquired as a woman, as a Romanian immigrant and as a Jewish person too.