Romania Life: On Bucharest Architecture


It’s said that Bucharest, the city where I live, is one of the most architecturally important cities in Europe. In the 1920s and 1930s waves of young Romanians studied architecture in France and came back to fill the city with modernist gems. When people visit these days they tend to have their eyes caught only by the communist-era concrete Brutalist edifices. This is partly because the surviving modernist pieces are often tucked away in areas visitors tend not to go. It’s also because age – along with the enormous increase in car ownership over recent years – has obscured the simple angular beauty of those inter-war architects’ vision for a new Bucharest. When you look at old postcards or photos of the city like the one above, though, you sometimes catch a glimpse of what they once had in mind for the city.

On Writing: Books Take Time!

Well, books take a while. Write a proposal (September 2013 – January 2014), write first draft (June 2014 –  January 2015), have draft returned with twenty page list of suggested changes (April 2015), make revisions to the text (April 2015 – June 2015), first glimpse of book cover proposals (June 2015). Not that I’ve been spending all my time on any of these things (I have a job, moved across a continent and had a new baby in that time). Apparently we’re looking at a likely February 2016 publication date. The upside is that the book – and those who read it – benefit from this very thorough development process and the outcome is something of higher quality than would otherwise be the case. That’s the theory anyway!

Cultural Nuggets: A Penetrating Quotation

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian dissident who spent years in Soviet prison camps.

On Writing: How I Signed My Book Contract

Celebratory music plays loudly. Flamenco dancers move in unison behind me. Coloured paper and balloons drop from the ceiling. Fireworks explode all around me.
I am stood in a significant literary location. Perhaps The Eagle and Child pub where CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to share their compositions over beer and pipes. Maybe in a hand-stitched tent near Wordsworth’s grave.
Somebody shakes my hand and passes me a quill made from a dodo’s tail feather. It is only taken out of its vault in the British Library for occasions such as this. I dip the quill in the ancient crystal inkwell. Lean forward and sign my name. Light bulbs flash.
That’s how I should have signed the contract for my first book. Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way. I am writing for a publisher based in Chicago so they sent me the documents in the post. I signed them in my car (below), sat outside the school gates after dropping my son off at school, and his childminder acted as a witness.
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It’s maybe not as dramatic a scenario as it could have been… but still pretty fun to have signed them. That would have been the highlight for me even in my fantasy scenario; not the quill, nor the inkwell, nor the music and dancers. Just the cool fact that I get to write a book for my favourite (and first-choice) publisher and that other people will be able to read it.