'The Man Who Brings Happiness' is the latest novel by Romanian-born writer Catalin Dorian Florescu
'I see my novel
as not only a story about finding your place in the world, but also how you can
find your way to another by way of narration', says Catalin Dorian Florescu
about his most recent novel, 'The Man Who Brings Happiness', published by the
Humanitas Publishing House, translated by Mariana Barbulescu.
The writer, a
psychologist by trade, was born in Timisoara, and left Romania at fifteen years
of age, during communism. Right now he lives in Zurich and is a freelance
writer. He wrote a number of novels, such as Time of wonders, in 2001, The
Short Way Home, 2002, and The Blind Masseur, 2006. C.H. Beck publishers printed
his novels Zaira, in 2008, and Jacob Decided to Love, in 2011.
He won many
awards, such as the Anna Seghers Award and the Swiss Book Prize for best book
in Switzerland. In 2012 he won the Josef von Eichendorf Lifetime Achievement
Award. Elke Heidenreich from Stern magazine wrote about his most recent book
that it is 'a brilliant novel about a century of obliviousness, escape, search
for fortune, a novel rich in fantasy, beauty, and imaginative imagery. It is
the pinnacle of his creation. Florescu has time and again proven that he is a
talented storyteller. Now he proves he is at the peak of his creation.'
crosses three generations, blending two narratives between the Atlantic, the
East River, the Danube, the town of Sulina, Coney Island, Broadway, and a leper
colony. In the background you have the turmoil of early 20th century
America, the Danube Delta's wild environment, the tragedy of the fall of the
Twin Towers, and memories from Romania of yesterday.
characters are Ray, an East Coast vaudeville artist, and Elena, a worker in a
textile factory raised in an orphanage and in foster families. Catalin
Florescu's novels are deeply rooted in reality. The central character of the
novel 'Zaira' is based on a famous actress from Timisoara who passed away two
Research is a
major part of his writing. In order to write 'The Man Who Brought Happiness',
he spent three years between Europe and America, between New York and the
Danube Delta. He told us that he used to wake up at four o'clock in the morning
with the fishers in the Delta, in order to build the character Elena. Here he
is talking about it:
Florescu: "I've been in Bucharest for two months now, just like last year, in
an attempt to understand this city, because I was born in Timisoara. I tried to
understand as much as I could of this city, I saw its nicer parts, and its
uglier parts, in order to write a novel happening here. It helps a lot with
research, I throw myself in research, I go and talk to people, I get involved.
This comes from my job as a psychologist, which is my other passion. It is a
humanist education that involves very important things that I cultivate in my
day to day life, such as the way I relate to people, the way to present myself
to people, the dialog, curiosity, the courage to know yourself. I take into
view all these aspects when I research a topic. Then, when I write my books, I
try to forget it all, to use only common sense, like many other writers. I
focus on watching how people behave, because some choose to be humane in spite
of how much trouble they have in life, while others don't. I am deeply
interested in this great story of existence. It is a story I reiterate in every
novel I write, and I enrich it with every one of them. My protagonists, who are
in fact small people, try to go through life without fear, without starving,
managing to feel like people."
We asked the
writer how he reaches out to the reader:
Florescu: "In this novel, on the night of September 11th to the 12th,
Elena and Ray hide in a small basement theater on 13th Street in
Manhattan, and start telling each other their life stories. Elena goes back a
century in her story about her grandfather in Romania, while Ray goes back a
century to the early 20th century New York, filled with immigrants.
In the end, this is a novel about the need to tell stories, maybe in order to
create a love story between the two in such a dramatic moment. It is a story
about the need for storytelling. We don't ever get away from storytelling, we
keep telling each other stories. What is important is to tell an authentic
story, the story that shows us the way we are, taking a risk, but putting
ourselves on display. Each story is in fact built with a Ray and an Elena, who
come from very different worlds and have very different goals and dreams. To
get back to the book, Ray believes in the American dream, that he would become
a star, but he never does. Elena, however, comes from a world without an
American dream, a very tough world, but maybe she has to learn that she should
be more confident."
Romanian born writer Catalin Dorian Florescu, whose novel "The Man Who Brings
Happiness" is now available in Romanian translation.