'Burying the Typewriter' tells the story of life in Ceausescu's Romania and the relentless penetration of the Securitate into the lives of the family of a political dissident, the authors father.
Written in the historical present, the text is beautifully simple, possessing a child-like innocence, but opens a very personal window into the author's childhood and the lives of her immediate family. The story it tells is of the unending oppression of a man twice imprisoned for daring to speak out against the Communist regime, and the pressures that this and being under 'permanent observation' by the Securitate brought to bear on his family. But gloomy and fatalistic it is not, for it comes from the ever-optimistic mind of the author as a child; a book of defiance, resilience and extraordinary warmth, not one of defeat.
The final chapter and afterword jump into the twenty-first century, giving the author's reflections on her experience with the benefit of hindsight and having had access to the 1,500 pages of the Securitate files held on her family. As the author explains, she had access to these files only after the completion of the bulk of the manuscript, and that reading the files was in many ways the most difficult part of her journey, not only because of the deep injustice they revealed, but also the breadth of time they covered, extending back into the authors earliest childhood memories - at which age she naturally could not have acknowledged or understood what was happening, but that nevertheless coloured much of her early childhood.
Politically, this books is a damning indictment of Ceausescu's regime and the repeated crimes of the Securitate, pursuant to the maintenance of Romanian Communism with Ceausescu at its helm - it is the first thing I've read on the subject, and I'm now eager to read further into it. In literary terms, it is a masterpiece - perfectly pitched and positioned.
The final sentence of the endorsement from William Fiennes (which appears on the back of the book) says it all:
'It's a song of childhood rendered with such love and vividness and life-zest it actually seems to be warm-blooded in your hands.'
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