If you’re curious to discover more about Romanian authors and their books, you have enough good reads for years to come. With more titles translated every year, Romanian writers are no longer a mysterious group from the post-communist East. You will discover on our list names more famous or relevant for readers abroad as literature was crossing boundaries long before globalization became reality.
Major historical events and the oppressive regime uprooted from Romania two of the writers from our list. Most of the others had their own brutal or unwanted encounters with the communist state. But don’t expect to read only about the drama of the past days. Fiction, biographies, fascinating life stories complete the puzzle.
We focused only on prose and on those authors whose books you are likely to find in bookshops in Romania or, in their translated version, in online stores.
Let’s start with five contemporary and inspiring female Romanian authors.
It’s almost impossible to step inside a bookshop in Romania and not find at least one of Aurora Liiceanu’s books. A psychologist whose life was changed by the paranoia of the communist state, Aurora Liiceanu’s writing inspires. It creates nostalgia, makes you smile, daydream, hope, laugh, cry, and finally helps you understand yourself and others better. You can find a complete list of her books on polirom.ro
Gabriela Adamesteanu is one of the best-known contemporary authors from Romania. She started her literary career in 1961, working as a journalist and translator. Dimineata pierduta, Provizorat, Intalnirea, Drumul egal al fiecarei zile are our favorites, and we still have Fontana di Trevi on our wishlist. Her novels are perfect for a trip back on the memory lane of how life intimately changed during communism.
The author’s debut book Spovedanie la Tanacu (2006) is the story of a tragic death. It’s so so surreal that it seems to recreate the dawn of the Inquisition in an isolated monastery from the poorest area of the European Union.
Her latest books offer a well-detailed and objective view on historical figures from Romania’s 20th century: Regina Maria. Ultima dorința, Mihai I, ultimul rege al romanilor, Mistica rugaciunii si a revolverului, Viata lui Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, Ei ma considera facator de minuni. Viata lui Arsenie Boca, Regele și Duduia. Carol II si Elena Lupescu dincolo de barfe si clisee.
The first German ethnic author from our list, Herta Muller, became more visible to the Romanian public after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. Born in Timisoara, she excels in presenting ‘the landscape of the dispossessed’, the painful reality of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Her personal experience and the persecution suffered by the German minority is the departing point of most of her stories.
The author moved to then West Germany in 1987 where she published most of her books. Her best-known titles include The Land of Green Plums, The Hunger Angel, The Passport.
The winner of the EU Prize for Literature, Ioana Parvulescu dives deep into 19th-century life. She recreates a universe of nostalgic details for her readers and goes back to the present without disappointment. We just love reading Intoarcere in Bucurestiul interbelic, In intimitatea secolului 19, Viata incepe vineri, Viitorul incepe luni.
Decades after his first volume was published, Mircea Eliade remains one of the most acclaimed Romanian writers abroad. His books are translated and available worldwide even today. A complex and brilliant author, he wrote fiction, philosophy while researching the history of religions.
Whether you prefer his early work – Romanul adolescentului miop and Maitreyi – or volumes like Noaptea de Sanziene and 19 trandafiri, his books always leave you wanting to read more.
Mircea Cartarescu is one of the most important contemporary Romanian authors. The crowded book launches and the long list of prestigious awards he received paint a better image of his popularity. Probably any enthusiast Romanian reader has at least one of his volumes, whether it’s Solenoid, Frumoasele straine, Orbitor, or De ce iubim femeile.
Eginald Schlattner is the author of one of the most beautiful, yet dramatic books about the tragic impact of the Soviet occupation on the lives of German ethnics from Romania. His own life story follows the course of the drama and political prisons, finding his way to the priesthood when he was 45.
Now the Lutheran priest from Rosia, a small village close to Sibiu, Eginald Schlattner published in German his first and most famous book Dergekopfte Hahn (Cocosul decapitat) when he was 65. Instant success for German-language readers, the volume was followed by Rote Handschuhe (Manusi rosii).
Probably the most famous member of the Jewish community from Romania, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his activism against repression, violence, and racism. Elie Wiesel survived the Holocaust but lost his family in the extermination camps.
His experience at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where he was deported from his natal Sighetu Marmatiei, was the subject of his best-known volume The Night. He published mainly Holocaust literature and received prestigious awards for his prose and political activism. Other titles to consider are The Jews of Silence, The Trial of God, A Beggar in Jerusalem.
For anyone remotely familiar with Romania’s politicians, one of Radu Paraschivescu’s books – Orice om ii este teama (2018) – is an accurate representation of its tragicomic reality. Well-known for his past TV shows, Radu Paraschivescu’s writing is painfully accurate in describing so many illnesses of the Romanian society.
Eugen Chirovici is a contemporary Romanian author whose worldwide success inspires. His Book of Mirrors (2017), written in English and translated into over 30 languages, was a major editorial success. Over 400.000 copies were sold worldwide.
If that isn’t intriguing enough for you to read it, maybe the words of the authors will:
‘I think that the story of the book is as interesting as the story the book tells. I wrote the first draft between February and June 2014. I polished the manuscript four or five times before sending it to a dozen literary agents. Seven of them asked for the full manuscript but finally rejected it, without telling me why. I polished it again two more times and decided to sell it to a small press, so my manuscript landed in a couple of slush piles’.
Who are your favorite Romanian authors? Who would you add to our list?