ultimul nud launch (Image source) The launching of Ultimul Nud (The Last Nude) by Ellis Avery, translated into Romanian by translator and journalist (ex-Reuters) Roxana Dascalu at Libraria Humanitas near Cismigiu on April 1st at 19h promises to be full of surprises. A translator of prose and poetry for Lettre Internationale, the Romanian Writers' Union and Cultura magazine, this is Roxana's literary 'book' debut.

Hosted by Denisa Comănescu (poet and director of Humanitas Fiction since 2007), the evening will include an eight minute reading by promising young actress Ada Condeescu, a presentation by the head of the book's translation editors, another speaker yet to be divulged and a speech by Roxana herself on the 'pangs' of translation. If I know anything at all about Roxana, it'll be full of wit and honesty, so don't miss it! Also invited: Ioana Avădani, director of the Centre for Independent Journalism in Romania; journalist for AP Alison Mutler and Pavel Șușară, journalist, author, critic and art historian.

In what is still considered a pretty homophobic country, this is a brave debut for Roxana. As is the case in a number of other Eastern European countries, Romania remains socially conservative with regard to the rights of its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. In June last year, an amendment to Romania's new constitution backed by MPs and the Orthodox Church defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman uniquely, and only last week, the bill on same sex civil partnerships was unanimously ruled against by a parliamentary committee. Proposed by Green MP Remus Cernea, it met with staunch opposition from all parties in the Senate with just 2 votes in favour and 105 against, before being overwhelmingly rejected by the judicial Commission of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies. Cernea hopes to reintroduce the bill at a later date, although given the stiff resistence, it is unlikely to fare much better for some time yet.

Despite that, Romania has made progress in LGBT rights legislation since 2000. Over the last ten years, it has fully decriminalised homosexuality, introduced and enforced wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws (though how much they are upheld, I cannot say), equalised the age of consent and introduced laws against homophobic hate crimes. Furthermore, LGBT communities have become more visible in recent years, as a result of events such as Bucharest's annual GayFest Pride Parade and Cluj-Napoca's Gay Film Nights festival. In 2006, Romania was named by Human Rights Watch as one of five countries in the world that had made "exemplary progress in combating rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

Having said that, The National Council for Combating Discrimination released a report, "Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Discrimination in Romania" in April 2012. The results were pretty shocking and show there is still a long way to go:

  • 18% felt that homosexuals were discriminated very little.
  • 17% believed sexual minorities were badly discriminated.
  • 31% responded that they would not feel comfortable at all around a homosexual person and 30% would feel only slightly comfortable.
  • 63% stated they would be very much bothered if a same-sex person would try to make advances toward them.
  • 54% stated they would never have a meal with a homosexual.
  • 48% stated they would be very disturbed if they found out that a family member was gay.
  • 40% would be equally disturbed if their children had a gay teacher.

On 7 November 2012, the Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy released a three part study. In part II, the study notes the following level of tolerance toward homosexuals:

  • 79.7% of those questioned would not want a homosexual neighbor
  • 53% preferred that homosexuality be outlawed (compared to 62% in 2006)

last nude (Photo source) Books by known gay and lesbian authors have been selling in Romania for years - Anais Nin, Edith Wharton, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou spring to mind. I won't even bother to mention Oscar Wilde, DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf (whose works don't come under the LGBT flag, but were either gay or bisexual in any case). Carturesti bookstores have had LGBT book sections since last summer. The arrival of Ultimul Nud in Romanian will, I hope, lead to a little more understanding, an opening of minds and an increase in tolerance that was so lacking in the 2012 reports. Either that, or it'll go completely the other way and cause an utter scandal... Whichever way it goes, it will hit the press, get people talking, lead to debate and that can only be for the greater good, right? The days of taboo, single-minded ignorance and the refusal to accept those different from oneself when it comes to sexuality should be well and truly over at this point in time, as countries all over the world and various states in the US (excluding the bible-bashing belt) welcome same sex unions.

But back to the book, winner of the 2013 American Library Association, Stonewall Book and Barbara Gittings Literature Awards, and an excellent review from The Historical Novel Society:

In this stunningly intimate reimagining of an important year in the life of Tamara de Lempicka, we follow the young woman who was her muse for several famous paintings, in particular La Belle Rafaela. On her way from the United States to Italy, Rafaela Fano stole away to France to escape an arranged marriage. Destitute and nearing desperation, a chance meeting with Tamara turned into a lucrative job, and eventually a relationship between the two women.

Once La Belle Rafaela was finished and set to appear at the Salon, selling even before the event, two mysterious art enthusiasts begin to vie for Tamara’s remaining works – especially the ones featuring Rafaela. Mostly told through Rafaela’s perspective, we find in her an honest protagonist, sympathetically portrayed and easily liked. Tamara’s character, however, is an intriguing mix of credulous wonder and grudging admiration that has the reader questioning her motives.

Free April 1st at 19h? Then get thee to Humanitas near Cismigiu!


For more on this event, please see Adevarul, Ziarul de duminica, DiaCaf, Bookuria, Catchy, Hotnews and Herald.