Reviews

‘A collection of short stories and poems, The Wooden Tongue Speaks uncannily distills the very essence of Romanians, from the small joys and beauty to familiar warts-and-all everyday domestic blights. There are many simple delights such as friendships that span a lifetime and survive regardless of the evolving behaviour that the children who become adults demonstrate (in ‘The Killer’), and the wonder of desolation of a small boy who falls into a rubbish skip to retrieve a football during an earth tremor, and emerges to find that his friends have vanished (in ‘The Fourth Floor’). Tiganov is particularly strong on describing urban domestic scenes, and the anger, frustration and hopelessness generated by them; in ‘The Meal’ (already reprinted in Vivid), the reader almost suffocates in the ‘boiler-like’ ‘unbearable’ kitchen atmosphere when the protagonist’s wife switches on the cooker. Violence in the home is, if not a feature, then implicit in several of Tiganov’s stories. In ‘The Heart of a Woman’ the descriptions of wife-beating are particularly brutal, with even the eldest child egging on his father, thinking him ‘a real man’ and ‘in control of his life’.’

Read the full review by Andrew Begg at Vivid

‘This volume of short stories and poems deserves its place in any library. Bogdan Tiganov distills emotion and offers frank descriptions to illuminate our vision. His composites of people, joys, scars, and of the ordinary are almost too lovely, too painful, and too eternal in their pure timelessness. With tranquil urgency Tiganov allows us to be with him in two places simultaneously as he captures images processed with blunt reality, composed of simple truths. We are shown glimpses into a heartless time that should not have been but was. These intriguing, profound, and significant portrayals are offered like a cool cup of water, they are not forced upon us. Be thirsty, swallow without gulping, and do not allow the sound of a car backfiring or a neighbor’s barking dog to distract you. 

Tiganov reminds us to remember what should not be forgotten in our own lives. His pen is specifically aimed at the hearts of readers who are still brave and still awake enough to feel. His vibrant hope contrasts the bleakness of life, his, mine, and yours. We all have stumbled in darkness. We all need a bridge across the senselessly raging river of lost freedom.

These pages weave remnants of the past into the fabric of today. The glitter of sun and stars of tomorrow are threaded in as well. This young talented, exiled Romanian writer is committed to exposing injustices, and he does so with stories and poems drenched in light. Do not pass the opportunity to own this book. It is more than a book. You will want to drink every word.’

Book Review by D.B. Pacini
American Writer and Youth Mentor/Advocate
November 16, 2008 California, USA
www.astarrynightproductions.com

‘These moving memories, stories and poems explore the mind-warping paranoia created by Romania’s notorious dictatorship, and are a brutally honest insight into the bleakness of its post-communist disillusion.’

Helena Drysdale (author of Looking for George)

A mature book from a young author, whose writing already carries the fingerprints of a personal style with powerful lyrical accents, that decants in a language crossed by a rough, uncensored sensibility contrasting images from a disintegrated universe recomposed in words from the substance of nostalgia. The Wooden Tongue Speaks is a collection of short stories and poems gathered in an organic composite through which Bogdan is trying to reconstitute the map of some inner guide-marks and cardinal points meant to put him back in contact with the world of his roots that he lost a long time ago. His memories related to the land that he had to quit while being a child depicts a time-stained chart, not entirely accurate… Some layouts got faded, unreadable or blurred, but these gray zones, shadowy, make the image of a Romania haunted by the poltergeists of communism to appear in a mysterious light that incites, not to political reflections, but rather to introversion and meditation over the way in which time and the cultural origins are shaping and coining the souls. The whole book is crossed by a humanist breeze, closer to the spirit of the so-called classical literature than to post-modern writing. While on a journey that follows the way to his roots, Bogdan reveals his characters, making them speak their minds in their inner language and he substitutes his fictional ego almost entirely to their voices. Unusually, his own avatar doesn’t appear to play the main part, but integrated among the others as in a group picture. His narrative style has a remarkable capacity of synthesis. Throughout some condensed descriptive lines, we are guided towards nucleons of meaning coagulated around some strong images that overpass the borders of the contextual background of the stories: “Poverty has a way of making you believe”, “They are born with an ingrown taste for survival”, “She’d forgiven them, and if she could forgive then God could too” etc.

Bogdan speaks in the “wooden tongue” about the burdens of a nation crushed by a “heavy history” and about its power of moral survival. Not accidentally the prologue of this suite of short stories and lyrics is a confession that immortalizes, in a twilight atmosphere, the image of a happy childhood that he spent in the cityscape of a Romanian Danubian harbour or port. Despite the necessity of subsistence in a sick society, the people found some secret escape valves and a particular type of freedom.’

In Romanian:

‘O carte matura a unui autor tânar, al carui scris poarta deja amprenta unui stil propriu cu puternice accente lirice, ce decanteaza într-un limbaj de o sensibiliate frusta, necenzurata, imagini contrastante ale unui univers dezintegrat si recompus apoi din substanta nostalgiei. The Wooden Tongue Speaks este o colectie de proze scurte si poeme asamblate într-un compus organic, prin care Bogdan încearca sa reconstituie harta unor repere interioare care sa-l repuna în contact cu lumea din care a fost dezradacinat si înstrainat. Amintirile sale legate de tara parasita în copilarie descriu o harta îngalbenita de vreme, din care anumite trasee s-au sters sau au devenit indescifrabile, însa aceste zone cenusii, umbroase fac ca imaginea unei Românii bântuie de stigoii dictaturii sa apara într-o lumina misterioasa care incita, nu spre reflectii politice ci, mai degraba spre introvertire si meditatie asupra felului în care timpul si originile culturale modeleaza suflete. Întreaga carte este strabatuta de un suflu umanist, specific mai degraba literaturii considerate clasice .. celei postmoderne. Pornit în cautarea radacinilor sale, Bogdan îsi dezvaluie personajele într-o limba a lor interioara, substituindu-se lor, aproape integral. Inedit este faptul ca propriul sau avatar nu apare în postura de personaj principal ci integrat printre ceilalti, ca într-o fotografie de grup. Stilul sau narativ are un har sintetic remarcabil. Prin câteva tuse descriptive, concetrate, suntem condusi spre nuclee de sens coagulate în imagini puternice care depasesc traiectoria contextuala a lecturii : « Saracia are puterea de a inocula credinta », « De vreme ce ea putea ierta, ar fi trebuit ca si Dumnezeu sa poata ierta » etc.

Bogdan vorbeste despre poverile unui neam strivit de o istorie grea, careia îi supravietuieste moral. Nu întâmplator prologul acestei suite de nuvele este o confesiune care imortalizeza într-o lumina crepusculara amintirea unei copilarii fericite. În povida subzistentei într-o societate bolnava, oamenii si-au gasit supape de evadare si o forma a lor, particulara, de libertate.’

Ilinca Bernea (author of Iubiri in Camasa de Forta)

‘The wonderful prose pictures that the exiled Romanian writer Bogdan Tiganov paints of everyday life under a oppressive regime are both vivid and revealing. The dialogues and arguments which punctuate many of his stories unmask the tensions and the feelings, both of profound love and intense hate, that arise within families and friendships. His short stories capture the poverty, the violence and the burden of survival that ordinary people have to endure. Conditions which many people throughout the world can identify with. A poem, says Tiganov, ‘should be written in loneliness and suffering and done wholeheartedly’. This is evident from the poems which are included in this book and also applies to the stories. The ‘Wooden Tongue Speaks’ is a worthwhile and impressive addition to the literature of Romanian exiles.’

Exiled Writers INK (Esther Lipton)