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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry



My Tired Father

by
Gellu Naum


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase My Tired Father



Title: My Tired Father
Author: Gellu Naum
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1972 (Eng.: 1999)
Length: 74 pages
Original in: Romanian
Availability: My Tired Father - US
My Tired Father - UK
My Tired Father - Canada
  • Pohem
  • Translated by James Brook
  • With an "Interview" of Gellu Naum by James Brook (see our review)
  • Translation of Tatal Meu Obosit
  • "The initial drafts of My Tired Father relied on Sebastian Reichmann's French translation of the book"

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Our Assessment:

B- : interesting, in part, and quite surreal

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       My Tired Father was first published in Romanian in 1972, and is now finally available (in a neat Green Integer pocket-sized volume) in English. James Brook must have translated it years ago (he is already credited with the translation in the 1995 Naum volume, Zenobia (see our review), which he also translated) but it was only published in 1999. Naum is not a household name in America or England, and this is a decidedly unusual "pohem", but it is nice to find at least some of his work available in English. (Naum enjoys a considerably higher reputation in continental Europe.)
       This volume begins dubiously with an "interview" of Naum by Brook. While this sounds promising enough, Brook's method is questionable (to put it mildly). Brook explains that Naum was not readily accessible as the final preparations for publication of this book were being made, remaining in Romania. Therefore (?) Brook had to resort to a more creative interview technique:

(W)ith Naum's telepathic consent, I conducted this interview with my memory of the man last seen here in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983. The ether was highly conductive that day.
       "Telepathic consent" ? An interview with the memory of a man ? Sounds pretty outrageous to us (though we only flung the book to the floor two or three times in disgust at that point). But then, given how many journalists invent their celebrity-interviews, why shouldn't Brook ? Well, actually we could come up with half a dozen good reasons, first and foremost among them that it is unfair to readers. But at least Brook is upfront about his deception, which might be worth something.
       The "interview" isn't half bad, but the point is that it isn't an interview, but rather something else. Still, there's some information about Naum and his avant-garde surrealist Romanian background and his life under Ceausescu and after, and given that there is so little information available readers must take whatever they can get, presented however translators and publishers chose to present it.

       My Tired Father is not your usual poem, or your usual narrative. It is not really written in verse. There are short passages, of one or a few sentences each, the sentences in each strung together. There is no punctuation -- but sentence-beginnings are capitalized.
       There is a story, or several, running through the book. Stuff happens. There is description. It is not easy to follow, though if one goes with the flow there is some enjoyment to be found here.
       The text veers all about, from clear realism to murky pataphysics (a Green Integer favourite). A lot of it is bizarrely captivating. Naum writes:
I impregnated the untreated canvas I toned down the intensities I neutralized the shadows Fortunately the experience of space embarrassed most of us
       Later he writes:
Space was empty and chaotic For this reason I preferred it on a technical level
       Like the reader the narrative voice notes:
A few constant signs warned us of other sometimes accessible meanings
       The fill of often striking images, incongruous expression, unlikely occurrences, all succinctly expressed (in best surreal/dadaist tradition) makes for an interesting reading experience. It is perhaps best enjoyed with an altered state of mind (or perhaps might lead to an altered state of mind). Not everyone will have the patience or be receptive to this type of writing -- some will quickly say, as the narrator does: "I had enough of so much Father" -- but it is worth a look. There is too little such writing out there now, making this volume worthwhile even in translation. Naum is one of the arch-practitioners of this bygone style, a holdover from lost times, and his work is definitely worth knowing. Give it a try.

       Petty complaint du jour: Translator Dr. Albert is, we are told, employed at the Sprachen und Deltmescher Institut of Hamburg (p.38). The word for "interpreter" is Dolmetscher. Why this spectacular misspelling ? Does no one have access to a German dictionary ? Does no one copyedit anymore ? Does no one care ?
       Apparently it was too much of an effort to get this right. But maybe Naum gave his telepathic consent for the misspelling .....

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Links:

My Tired Father: Gellu Naum: Other books by Gellu Naum under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian author Gellu Naum was born 1 August 1915 and died 29 September 2001. He was a leading figure of the Romanian avant-garde before World War II and a prominent Surrealist.

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