Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police by Carmen Bugan – Published by Picador, 2012
Carmen Bugan’s memoir of her childhood in 1980s Rumania shares some of the elements of life as portrayed in ‘The Lives of Others’, but it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi which made me really care about the latter’s fictional characters (even the ‘baddy’) rather than the former’s real life ones.
This is a book of contrasts: on the one hand, Ms Bugan writes of her political activist father’s imprisonment and the family’s life under 24 hour surveillance, realising their neighbours were reporting on their every move.
On the other hand, there are the lengthy passages about building a house for the family, running a successful business (albeit owned by the State) and, most frequent of all, the detailed lists of food and meals. It’s the latter which, for me, made it difficult to feel a real sense of empathy or get a grip on the desolation which I imagine she was trying to portray.
The book ends with the statement that “I was able to remember the joy I truly experienced, a joy that has sustained me until now”. Sadly that joy doesn’t really shine through and this reader was left with a feeling of emptiness, not entirely the result of the actions of the Ceausescu regime.