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Interview about my novels The Seducer and Velvet Totalitarianism with Ziare.com (in English)

photo credit Romani Celebri

photo credit Romani Celebri

I’ve translated below parts of my interview with Diana Robu, which was originally published in Romanian in Ziare.com (Newspapers.com).

1. Tell us a little bit about when and under what circumstances you left Romania.

1. I left Romania in 1981, at the age of 11. I haven’t returned until 2011, for the launch of my first novel Velvet Totalitarianism in Romanian translation, Intre Doua Lumi (Editura Curtea Veche). My father defected from the country two years before my mother and I legally immigrated to the U.S. He was a world-class mathematician and his boss was Zoia Ceausescu. She had let it be known that he wouldn’t be able to travel abroad to mathematical conferences anymore (because Nicolae Ceausescu was tightening the Iron Curtain). So he decided to take his chances, as several mathematicians had before him, and defect to the U.S. in the hopes that we would rejoin him soon. I filter aspects of our struggles to unite our family in my first novel, Intre Doua Lumi, as well as describing aspects of the adaptation to the U.S. (even though I fictionalize everything, of course, since I wrote a novel not a memoir).

2. What was your reaction when you returned to Romania, so many years later?

2. When I returned to Romania for my book launch decades later, in 2011, I was shocked and impressed to see how much the country has changed in its physical aspects, in its modernization, and in the standard of living. Of course, I only caught a privileged glimpse of Bucharest, from the perspective of an author on a book tour. So I didn’t get an inside glimpse, nor a global view of the country. It was a very brief and limited, but also very positive experience.

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3. Tell us about your professional life and impression of the American academia.

3. In the academia, I taught in several departments–philosophy, art and comparative literature–since I love all of these fields. I emphasized love of art, love of literature, and clarity of expression. Personally, I subscribe to Albert Einstein‘s wise saying: “If you can’t explain something clearly, then you don’t understand it well enough.”

4. What would you advise Romanians who might be interested in moving to the U.S.?

4. I’d advise any Romanian who is thinking about immigrating to the U.S. to visit the country for a considerable period first and find out about professional opportunities and day to day life. Just as it was easy for me to idealize Romania when I was a tourist there in 2011, it’s easy for anyone visiting the U.S. as a tourist to do the same. You never know how you’ll feel in a country until you actually live there, and find a place to work and a place to live. There are some professions, like medicine, where the degrees from one country don’t automatically get accepted in another. Many doctors from Romania have had to start from square one (medical school) or do something else related to medicine. It’s always more prudent to know exactly what you’re getting into before you make any drastic move.

Cover of Romanticism and Postromanticism

5. Do you wish to visit Romania again?

5. Yes, I hope to return to Romania for the book launches of my art criticism book, Romanticism and Postromanticism, translated by the writer Dumitru Radu Popa, and for the launch of my second novel, The Seducer, which hasn’t been translated yet. During this period I hope to get to see more of the country outside of Bucharest, such as Drobeta Turnu Severin and Timisoara, where some of my family lives.

Cover Intre Doua Lumi

6. Is your first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, autobiographical? If so, in what ways?

6. Velvet Totalitarianism, translated into Romanian by Mihnea Gafita under the title of Intre Doua Lumi, does incorporate some of our family’s struggles with the Romanian Securitate and the challenges of immigrating to the U.S. However, I fictionalized the entire plot, included a fictional spy thriller element (the Radu/Ioana plot line) and changed everything structurally to make the story work as a novel. Reality was only a point of departure (and research). But the novel is, after all, fiction.

Cover of The Seducer

7. You write books in several different domains. What leads you to do so? 

7. Since I was young, I loved several fields: art, literature and philosophy. The arts are, in fact, conceptually very closely related. They’re separated only by institutions and how they’re taught. But it’s natural to look at them, and appreciate them, together, which is exactly what I do. I write about the international art I appreciate on my art blog http://fineartebooks.wordpress.com. In 2002, I founded an international art movement, called postromanticism, devoted to celebrating verisimilitude, sensuality, and beauty in art. It was intended as an alternative, not a replacement, to more abstract and conceptual traditions in art. I believe in pluralism, not dogmatism, in the art world, particularly since matters of taste and definitions of art are more or less subjective. I also spend part of each week working on my new book, Holocaust Memory. Finally, I write literary reviews from time to time about books I really like. I also enjoy learning about and writing about different fields related to my areas of specialization. My ideal is of the salonnieres and philosophes of the eighteenth century, who could write and converse about all aspects of the arts and humanities, often even mathematics, physics and natural science. I’ve lost any hope, however, in being able to know much about science or math. My parents, Henri and Elvira Moscovici, are both mathematicians, and I saw how different (and difficult) these fields are from the arts and humanities. But even in this day and age, of focused specialization, we can still do our best to expand our horizons.

8. How do you see Romania’s future?

8. I see Romania’s future as being increasingly open to international collaborations and the country as being more visible internationally. Of course, success stories like Herta Muller and Cristian Mungiu add to the country’s visibility. I predict that there will be more success stories like this. In the field of journalism and literature, Romania already has collaborations with Conde Nast Publishing, Forbes Magazine and others. I think such international collaborations in journalism will expand. Culturally, in every country groups and individuals create worthy art and literature and compete for limited consecration and power. The content of the art or literature are often inseparable from the institutions competing for influence. This is part of human nature and won’t change. The politics in Romania is the wild card. I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of politics in the country to make any predictions about it. It would be best for the country and its people, needless to say, if the infrastructure and laws of a democratic nation are taken seriously.

Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon

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Filed under book review, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, Diana Robu, fiction, Henri Moscovici, Intre Doua Lumi Curtea Veche Publishing, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Velvet Totalitarianism, Ziare.com, Ziare.com Claudia Moscovici

Saving Culture: On the Importance of “Culture” to Contemporary Cultures

 

Paradoxically, it is cultural theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu (author of Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste), Jean Baudrillard (author of Simulacra and Simulation) and Jean-Francois Lyotard (author of The Postmodern Condition) that demolished the concept of “culture” during the twentieth century. Writing mostly for an elite audience, they argued in various ways that high “culture” is an artificial, dated and elitist social institution. The greatest irony is that it’s not these elite cultural theorists, but the general public (in its indifference) that is finishing off the destruction of “culture”: not just on paper or in a discourse, but in reality.

What is culture? Culture can mean 1) the practices, values, beliefs and mores of a given society or a “way of life” and 2) various fields in the arts and humanities, including literature, art, cinema, music, poetry, theater, philosophy, dance, literary and art criticism, among others. I’d like to argue that “culture” in the second sense of the term is essential to our “cultures” in the first sense of the term.   I’d like to broach the following questions in this essay: 1) Aside from the institution of the academia and education in general, how do these cultural domains survive and why are they suffering today? My main focus, however, is: 2) Why is culture important to contemporary societies?

1.How does “culture” survive (outside of the academia and educational institutions) and why is it suffering today?

a) Book Clubs. In the U.S. at least, one can’t underestimate the importance of book clubs: both grassroots, neighborhood book clubs that make a difference collectively and those with an enormous impact and readership, such as Oprah’s Book Club. OBC started on the very popular Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996. Each month Oprah and her team of editors selected a new novel to read and discuss on the show, introducing a total of 70 books in 15 years. In June 2012, Oprah started a new book club as a partnership between O: The Oprah Magazine and the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Oprah’s Book Club brought into the limelight the “high culture” genre that usually has the least readership: literary fiction. Some of the most notable examples are: The Corrections in September 2001 and Freedom in September 2010, both novels by Jonathan Franzen, and Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides’s incredible comic epic in June 2007. Since these happen to be some of my favorite novels, I reviewed them on my own blog, Literature Salon:

Review of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom:

https://literaturesalon.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/jonathan-franzens-freedom-the-wow-factor-in-contemporary-fiction/

Review of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex:

https://literaturesalon.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/an-engaging-comic-epic-book-review-of-eugenides-middlesex/

What is so special about literary fiction? And why does it tend to be read much less than mainstream and genre fiction? Actually, I’d have to qualify that the literary fiction that makes it into the canon of literature tends to be more read than most mainstream fiction because it’s often taught in schools. However, that is the exception, not the rule. Most works of literary fiction have a very limited audience, which is why mainstream publishers tend to avoid it unless the author is already very well known or very promising. What sells most, and what readers tend to prefer reading, is genre fiction such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series (fantasy), or novels by Steven King (horror).

Although the distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction is not cut-and-dry, I’d say that genre fiction places emphasis upon a fast-paced and engaging plot, while literary fiction privileges psychologically nuanced characterizations and a unique, sometimes experimental, style. Genre fiction lends itself to a quick read for a public that has increasingly less leisure time to spend on books and so much audio-visual stimulation to choose from, given the number of cultural shows available on the Internet, TV and radio nowadays. Yet it is the less popular literary and experimental fiction that has greater chances of transforming the field of literature and making us see life—and art—in radically new ways. Unfortunately, the chances for a new novel in this category to gain public visibility by making it on Oprah’s Book Club are probably fewer than winning the lottery. So how is new literature shared with a general audience? This brings me to my next point: public radio and television stations.

b) Culture also makes it to a general audience largely through public television and radio programs that depend upon a combination of government funding and public donations. Unfortunately, during the past few years,  television stations such as the British Broad Casting Corporation (BBC) the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the U.S., Arte (Association Relative à la Européene (a Franco-German TV network) and one of my personal favorites, the Romanian station TVR Cultural are all struggling with the interrelated problems of low or nonexistent profits and decreased funding and viewership. Some of these television and radio stations have adapted to the needs of a modern audience; others have floundered and even gone under. Arte TV, for instance, which began transmission in 1992 in France and Germany, has done relatively well, expanding its programs to Belgium, Austria, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland. Some of the French language shows are available in Canada as well. Adapting to changes in technology, Arte TV now has 24-hour broadcasts available in HDTV, via satellite.  On the other hand, TVR Cultural, the Romanian public television station founded in 2002 and modeled after Arte TV is scheduled to close in September 2012. Some of its shows will move to TVR 2 and TVR 3. Generally speaking, public educational television—the stations that promote “culture”—are not only non-profit, but also a money losing venture, as was the case in Romania. I’ve read several interesting analyses of the subject and I’m including, for those interested, two relevant article links below.

http://www.gandul.info/news/doua-posturi-ale-tvr-isi-vor-inceta-emisia-9938597

http://atelier.liternet.ro/articol/12165/Bogdan-Ghiu/TVR-1-ar-trebui-desfiintat-TVR-Cultural-redefinit-consolidat-multiplicat.html

2) Why is culture important to contemporary societies? To my mind, this dwindling support for “culture” is a very unfortunate phenomenon. I’d like to list some of the reasons why I think so by using as my point of departure a few poignant citations by some of my favorite Romanian authors.

a)   “Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds”. ELIE WIESEL

During the most repressive epochs in human history, authors of literary fiction, memoirs and critical essays have been some of the most courageous and outspoken voices of protest. Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Natalia Ginsburg’s Journey into the Whirlwind, Lena Constante’s The Silent Escape and, of course, Elie Wiesel’s Night took readers into the horrors, the Kafkaesque show trials, the physical and psychological torture and the general hopelessness that characterized life in totalitarian regimes. Their powerful words of protest reached not only millions of readers, but also entire generations. They echo to this day.  Wiesel also famously stated, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”. It is more difficult to remain indifferent to human suffering when one reads such powerful writing.

 b)  “Literature is a reflexive art”. ION LUCA CARAGIALE

Caragiale was way ahead of his time in so many ways. He’s quoted often, to this day, in Romanian newspapers because  his witty, cynical and poignant remarks about politics apply as much to our contemporary context as they did to his own times. Perhaps Caragiale also foreshadowed the schools of thought—formalism and poststructuralism—that maintain that art and literature are important in and of themselves. This is, of course, not a new conception of art and literature. During the nineteenth-century, Théophile Gautier is credited with coining the notion of “art for art’s sake” (l’art pour l’art). Although art, literature, criticism and philosophy often have moral and social implications, they don’t have to in order to be considered significant. They have an intrinsic value: the expression of human creativity in itself.

c)   “Culture kills naïveté and knowledge chases away ignorance”. GEORGE COSBUC

Philosophy, art, criticism and literature don’t simply  mirror reality. They transform it, along with our assumptions about it. They change our political and social conventions; they make us question others and ourselves more deeply; they help build the foundations of a new reality. Not reducible to mere ideology or polemics, art, philosophy and literature help us interrogate our assumptions about the world and sometimes lead us to arrive at deeper truths.

d)  “The meaning of existence, and every person’s duty, is creation”. MIRCEA ELIADE

This ontological assumption reminds me of an observation that is common sense and repeated often: humankind is the only being on earth that distinguishes himself  (or herself) through the powers of thought (and creation), not merely procreation. Our intellectual and artistic capacities are a large part of what makes us human. We should prize these capacities, express them and maximize them.

e)  “Criticism is a misconception: We must read not to understand others but to understand ourselves”. EMIL CIORAN

Cioran expresses here a fundamental truth about human creativity: Reading–be it poetry, philosophy or literature–is a largely introspective activity. In books we learn so much about human history, about the motivations for human behavior and most of all, as Cioran eloquently states, about ourselves.

In short, we should preserve “culture” because it helps us question our social conventions and transform them; it stimulates to the maximum our creativity; it’s often the first and last recourse to freedom in repressive social and political circumstances; it’s one of the key elements that make us human; and because human creativity needs to be preserved and respected for its own sake.  To conclude with one final quote, as Kenneth Kaunda, the first Zambian president said, “A country without culture is a body without a head”. This basic truth about “culture” applies internationally, to all cultures.

Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon

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Forces of Culture: Oprah’s Book Club and The Huffington Post

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey and Oprah’s Book Club

Oprah Winfrey‘s life story reads like the classic American dream, a tale from rags to riches. Born into poverty in Mississippi, Oprah became the most successful talk show host as well as one of the richest and most influential women in the world. She’s also known for being a philantropist, a producer, and now the owner of her own T.V. network. I think, however, that one of her biggest contributions to culture was starting Oprah’s Book Club in 1996  on her already very popular talk show, the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Each month Oprah and her team of editors selected a new novel to read and discuss on the show, introducing a total of 70 books in 15 years. In June 2012, Oprah started a new book club called Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 as a partnership between O: The Oprah Magazine and the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). You can see it on this link:

We live in an era multimedia sensory overload; an era in which reality T.V. has overtaken the networks and there’s little room–or time–for quality fiction. Oprah’s Book Club has been a force of culture, bringing into the limelight the “high culture” genre that usually has the least readership: literary fiction, including two of Jonathan Franzen‘s novels, The Corrections and Freedom and Jeffrey EugenidesMiddlesex. It has also stimulated an entire grass-roots culture of neighborhood book clubs, where friends and neighbors meet regularly, face to face, to discuss literature, socialize and catch up on their lives. I’m including below a link to Oprah’s Complete Book Club List:

Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington‘s life isn’t a classic immigrant tale from rags to riches, since she comes from a well-off family with powerful connections. Her life is nevertheless the very inspiring success story of a woman who made the most out of the opportunities she had in life.  Named by Forbes Magazine in 2009 as one of the most influential women in media, Arianna Huffington was a very popular political commentator and syndicated columnist during the 1990’s. But her crowning achievement is founding The Huffington Post in 2005. The online media blog has thrived and expanded internationally, to include Le Huffington Post in France, Huffington Post UK, Huffington Post Canada and Huffington Post Quebec. Just as Conde Nast Publishing  and Hachette Publishing  have expanded with several magazines in Eastern Europe, including my native country Romania, I’m hoping that The Huffington Post will as well.

Discussing all aspects of art, entertainment, politics, crime and culture, the highly successful online blog was recently acquired by AOL in February 2011 for a whopping 315 million dollars. Part of The Huffington Post‘s enormous success stems from Arianna Huffington’s pull and connections with wealthy investors. To offer just one notable example, in August 2006, SoftBank Capital invested 5 milliion dollars in the company. However, its success can also be attributed to the high quality of its articles and the popularity of its over 9000 contributors. Without question, The Huffington Post gathered some of the best bloggers in every field it features. Moreover, the blog has not merely adapted, but also stayed one step ahead of the curve in its use of technology, recently introducing “vlogging“–or video blogging–which is taking off and making journalism even more multimedia and interactive.

It is remarkable, yet not surprising, that The Huffington Post is faring better than more traditional newspapers, such as The New York Times, which has been experiencing a steady decline in advertising revenue and was obliged starting March 2011 to start charging for online subscriptions (via instituting a “paywall,” which began paying off by the spring of 2012). The Huffington Post’s quality of journalism is excellent, selected from a very large pool of contributors who are some of the best and most popular in their domains. Because of the variety and quantity of its articles, The Huffington Post also avoids cliquishness (as much as possible in a networking-driven domain). Its guest contributors are often selected because they’re already successful bloggers with mass appeal. However, whether you regard the popularity of blogs over more traditional print journalism as a positive development or not, it’s clear that it’s the wave of the present and maybe also the future. Blogging has changed the publishing industry, particularly journalism, just as the travel industry has been changed as a result of people booking their flights online. Arianna Huffington saw into the future of mass media communication and made it our present. In terms of content, The Huffington Post treads perfectly the balance between reaching a general audience and engaging, well-written pieces. It offers culture with a mainstream appeal: the only kind, I believe, likely to make a big impact in our times.

Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon

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Review of Radu Ulmeanu’s Chermeza Sinucigasilor

Chermeza Sinucigasilor, a novel by Radu Ulmeanu

Radu Ulmeanu’s novel, Chermeza Sinucigasilor (Editura Pleiade, 2009) could be called an epopée of (anti)heroism that depicts the period immediately following the 1989 anti-communist revolution in Romania. The title itself, at least in Romanian, captures the mixture of lyrical abandon and cynical historicism that we find expressed in the novel through an intoxicatingly sensual and poetic style. The word “chermeza” is borrowed from the Dutch kermesse—whose roots are kermis or kerk (church) and mis (mass)– and refers to the mass that celebrates the foundation of a church or parish. Historically, the term also has a sinister connotation, as one of the first kermesse was the medieval parade in Brussels that occurred around 1370, when the town’s Jewish population was burned alive.

Ulmeanu’s novel shows with accuracy and depth the chaotic atmosphere around the Romanian revolution, with its mixture of idealism, hope and the cynical lust for power that kept many of the former Secret Police (Securitate) members and informants  in influential political and cultural positions even after the revolution. The most odious representative of this group is the sociopathic character Dragnea, who takes advantage of his political power to satisfy his perverse desire for hunting and raping young women.

Monica, a high school student who tries to resist the hedonist leanings of her mother and friends, falls victim to Dragnea’s predatory inclinations. Can the romance that develops between her and the main character, the hopelessly idealistic teacher, Grigore, save her? Or will she be another incarnation of Grigore’s first obsessive love—one that borders on idolatry—for the formerly untouchable Marta who has also been profaned by another?

There is, after all, a strong resemblance between the two young women. Both of them lose their virginity in painful and senseless ways to men who take advantage of them. Grigore’s love for both of them takes the form of a Platonic idealism that finds its literary echoes in the Abélard/Héloïse love story: a love that in its exalted form expresses a poetic and emotional ideal; while in its stereotyped form borders on the Madonna/Whore complex that feminists have criticized during the past few decades.

Without a doubt, there’s a strong idealist undercurrent in this novel, similar to the Hegelian dialectic traced by Julien Gracq in Au Chåteau d’Argol (1938). Only for Ulmeanu these philosophical echoes go back to the Platonic roots of idealism, in its dual depiction of love. Plato famously delineated two largely contradictory models of love: in The Symposium, he depicts eros as an abandoned, sensual, daemonic source of inspiration; while in The Republic and most of his other dialogues he depicts agape as a rational  mirror of the perfect, ideal Forms (of beauty, humanity, virtue, etc). In Chermeza Sinucigasilor we find the main character, Grigore, oscillating between these two largely antithetical forms of love. The young teacher is torn between his desincarnated Platonic love for the (formerly) untouchable Marta and his carnal desire for other young women, including Monica.

With psychological subtlety and stylistic finesse, Ulmeanu depicts Monica’s predicament. Harassed by the sociopath who raped her and desperate to find justice and respite; literally still haunted by Doru, her deceased boyfriend and first love who comes  back to her in nightmares and visions; embarrassed by insinuations of her mother’s affairs with her schoolmates; tempted by the libertine sensuality of her girlfriends, Monica seeks a way out of the tangled web which has become her life. In Grigore she hopes to find her salvation: a father-figure and a friend; a mentor and a lover; a kindred spirit and a savior, all in the same man.

In some respects, through her characterization, Ulmeanu picks up the themes from Nabokov’s legendary novel Lolita (1955), not only in subject matter but also in an exquisite literary style.  Last but not least, there are elements of magical realism in Ulmeanu’s complex and beautifully written novel. Discussing the works of Nobel-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose novels One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) play with myth and fantasy to offer a deeper representation of reality, the critic Matthew Strecher defines magical realism as “what happens wheen a highly detaild, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

That something, in Ulmeanu’s novel, is the figure of the vampire. Only in Chermeza Sinucigasilor we don’t encounter the crude vampires of genre fiction, but more subtle, liminal figures, neither dead nor alive, which haunt the characters’ conscience and consciousness. Interweaving historical fiction, magical realism and love story that explores and transgresses the limits of both carnal love and the aspirations to a philosophical and political idealism, Radu Ulmeanu’s novel, Chermeza Sinucigasilor, is a contemporary masterpiece.

Excerpt from the novel:

“He reproached Martha something. And, of course, he reproached her exactly what he allowed any other woman. The fact that Marta had slept with another drove him crazy, electrified him, even paralyzing him for a period of time. Afterwards, he distanced himself from her and began to look at their past with an increasingly cold condescendence. More precisely, the cataclysm lingered within, in his subconscious, remaining active underneath, which precluded any overture towards her. He longed to return to her, but Marta no longer offered the demon—or maybe the angel—before which lay prostrate in the past. Any other woman became superior to Marta solely in her latent capacity to re-electrify him; to stir in him a horrible deception; to propell him once more—as he now desired–to the limits of despair.” (Chermeza Sinucigasilor, 18)

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

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My Interview about Velvet Totalitarianism and The Seducer in Celebrity Dialogue

Claudia Moscovici: Novelist, Non-Fiction Author & Art Critic PDF Print E-mail
March 11th, 2012
Interview of Claudia Moscovici on CelebrityDialgoue.com
Claudia Moscovici is an American Romanian Novelist, non-fiction author and art critic. Her latest novel “The Seducer” is a psychological story of a married woman trapped in the love of an unassuming psychopath. Claudia is the author of “Velvet Totalitarianism,” a critically acclaimed novel about a Romanian family’s survival in an oppressive communist regime due to the strength of their love.

CelebrityDialogue: What is the basic plot of your latest novel “The Seducer”?Claudia: “The Seducer,” my new psychological thriller, shows both the hypnotic appeal and the deadly danger of psychopathic seduction. This novel traces the downfall of a married woman, Ana, who, feeling trapped in a lackluster marriage, has a torrid affair with Michael, a man who initially seems to be her soul mate and her dream come true. Although initially torn between love for her family and her passion for Michael, Ana eventually gives in to her lover’s pressure and asks her husband for divorce. That’s when Michael’s “mask of sanity” unpeels to reveal the monstrously selfish psychopath underneath. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” my novel shows that true love can be found in our ordinary lives and relationships rather than in flimsy fantasies masquerading as great passions.
CelebrityDialogue: What inspired you to write this novel?

Claudia: I have always been a big fan of nineteenth-century fiction that focuses on the theme of seduction: I’m thinking of classic novels like Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”. I also read with great interest the libertine novel tradition of the eighteenth-century: my favorite in this genre being Laclos’ epistolary novel, “Dangerous Liaisons”. I think in his depiction of Valmont, Laclos gets the seducer profile exactly right: he is a dangerous psychopath—essentially a social predator who plays games with the lives of others, having malicious fun at their expense– rather than a libertine maverick (as in Casanova) or a tragic romantic hero (as in Tolstoy). I did four years of psychology research of the most dangerous personality disorders—psychopathy and narcissism—to create a realistic and up-to-date psychological profile of the seducer in my new novel by the same name.
CelebrityDialogue: Would you like to introduce our readers to a non-fiction book, “Dangerous Liaisons”, that you wrote in 2011?

Claudia: Although the theme of psychopathy comes up mostly when we hear about (psychopathic) serial killers, it is actually much more commonplace and pervasive, in both fact and fiction. What do O. J. Simpson, Scott Peterson and the timeless seducers of literature epitomized by the figures of Don Juan and Casanova have in common? They are charismatic, glib and seductive men who also embody the most dangerous human qualities: a breathtaking callousness, shallowness of emotion and the incapacity to love. In other words, these men are psychopaths. Unfortunately, most psychopaths don’t advertise themselves as heartless social predators. They come across as charming, intelligent, friendly, generous, romantic and kind. Through their believable “mask of sanity,” they lure many of us into their dangerous nets. My nonfiction book, “Dangerous Liaisons,” explains clearly, for a general audience, what psychopaths are, why they act the way they do, how they attract us and whom they tend to target. Above all, this book helps victims find the strength to end their toxic relationships with psychopaths and move on, stronger and wiser, with the rest of their lives.

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CelebrityDialogue: What exactly is psychopathic seduction?

Claudia: Psychopathic seduction happens when someone is seduced (targeted, lured with false promises or under false premises, deceived, manipulated, isolated and brainwashed) by a psychopathic social predator. Psychopaths are far more common than one thinks. Experts estimate that between 1 and 4 percent of the population is psychopathic. This means that there are millions of psychopaths in the United States alone. The influence of these very dangerous individuals extends far beyond this percentage however. Psychopaths are generally very sociable, highly promiscuous and con countless people: sexually, emotionally and/or financially. They poison tens of millions of lives in this country and far more, of course, internationally.

Claudia Moscovici The Seducer

CelebrityDialogue: Your novel “Velvet Totalitarianism” is about a Romanian family’s survival against communist regime. Since you have Romanian roots, did any true life events prompt you to write this novel?

Claudia: “Velvet Totalitarianism”, which was recently launched in Romanian translation (“Intre Doua Lumi,” Curtea Veche Publishing, 2011), is inspired in part by events in Romanian history as well as by elements from my life and my parents’ lives: including my father’s defection to the U.S., our dealings with the Securitate and our immigration. Nevertheless, I fictionalized both the historical and the biographical elements to give the novel a tighter and more dramatic structure.
CelebrityDialogue: You must have felt proud when this novel was published in Romanian language?

Claudia: I was delighted that “Velvet Totalitarianism” was published in Romania, both because it was written about the history and struggles of the Romanian people and because I have a sentimental attachment and cultural ties to my native country. I was especially happy to see how well-received the novel in translation (“Intre Doua Lumi”) was by the mainstream media in Romania, where it was featured not only in literary and culture magazines such as Scrisul Romanesc and Viata Romaneasca, but also in Forbes.ro, women’s glossy magazines (such as Revista Avantaje), and general interest blogs like Catchy.ro and VIP.net. Since I aspire to being a public writer and intellectual, I wish to reach a wide community of readers, internationally.
CelebrityDialogue: Which are your other major published works?

Claudia: I have published several scholarly books, but I’d consider “major” works only those books that I wrote for a general audience. These include my art criticism book “Romanticism and Postromanticism”, on the Romantic tradition in art and literature and its postromantic survival; my novels “Velvet Totalitarianism” and “The Seducer”, and my psychology book about psychopaths and dangerous relationships, “Dangerous Liaisons”.
CelebrityDialogue: You are the co-founder of” Postromanticism”. For those who may not know, please shed some light on this movement.

Claudia: I believe that art movements are not only diachronic, emerging one after the other, as they tend to be taught in art history, but also synchronic, in that each new art movement borrows from many aesthetic traditions of the past. Postromanticism, the international art movement I co-launched in 2002 with the Mexican sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto, is no exception. It is inspired by several traditions in art history, including Neoclassicism, Romanticism and art nouveau. Postromanticism places emphasis upon beauty, sensuality and passion in contemporary art. You can see samples of postromantic art on my website, http://postromanticism.com.
CelebrityDialogue: Since you write about love, beauty and passion, what does love mean to you in real life? Were you able to find love in your life?

Claudia: Being a novelist and art/literary critic, for many years I looked mostly at fantasy—since, after all, that’s what art and fiction are–to describe love as a romantic ideal rather than as a daily lived reality. But for the past few years, particularly after studying personality disorders, I have come to appreciate much more the pragmatic and ethical dimensions of real love. To me, love implies mutual commitment, supporting one another through thick and thin, fidelity and caring about one another: everything that the wedding vows promise and that my wonderful and supportive husband, Dan Troyka, has offered me in real life for over 20 years, since we met and fell in love in college.
CelebrityDialogue: What are you working on these days?

Claudia: Since my interests are in several fields—fiction, art and psychology—I always work at several projects simultaneously. This “multitasking” keeps me from becoming bored with any one subject or stuck in a rut creatively. Right now I’m researching the psychology of cults, which will be the subject of my third novel, “The Cult”. Since cult leaders are often charismatic psychopaths, this novel will incorporate a lot of the research I’ve already done to write “The Seducer” and “Dangerous Liaisons”. In addition, I have just finished writing the preface for an exciting new science fiction novel called “The Cube”, written in the tradition of Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Orwell’s “1984”, which will be published by my publisher in a few months. At the same time, I’m working closely with the Romanian-born movie producer Bernard Salzman, whom you’ve already interviewed in Celebrity Dialogue, on the screenplay for my first novel, “Velvet Totalitarianism”. Hopefully this will be an American-Romanian production, since a large part of the plot takes place in Romania. I also continue with my art criticism and am preparing for the launch of “Romanticism and Postromanticism”, translated by the writer and critic Dumitru Radu Popa, in Romania next fall. It’s a Latin country so I’m hoping for a warm reception of postromanticism, the art of passion!
CelebrityDialogue: Thank you so much Claudia. It was a pleasure.

Claudia: Thank you for this interview, the pleasure was mine.

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Filed under book review, Claudia Moscovici, communist Romania, contemporary fiction, Dan Troyka Claudia Moscovici, fiction, Intre Doua Lumi, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Nat Karody The Cube

The Spectacle of Feminine Beauty

The Spectacle of Feminine Beauty

He looked at her body as she was walking down the street. Before he saw her face, he was amazed by that slim, tall female body, lightly wrapped in a flowing black dress. That youthful body which was approaching him, as if moved by the focused attraction generated by his own desire. He saw the evocative curves of her breasts, slightly exposed by the low neckline of her dress. He saw her narrow, undulating waist as she seemed to be gliding toward him, into his arms. He saw the slight sway of her hips and the gentle outline of her long legs rhythmically extending the fabric of her garment in an easy, fluid motion. He grasped this approaching feminine figure in an instant.

The next instant his eyes were already transfixed by the beauty of her face. By those large brown eyes, those full lips, that flowing red hair parted in the middle caressing her fragile shoulders. She was stunning. This beauty, matched by so many girls he had seen walking down the city streets during the course of the week, never ceased to enthrall him. Every time he followed it with his eyes, entranced. Every time he felt that momentary sensation of distanced, almost abstract reverence for feminine beauty. For each one of its manifestations, each one of its accentuated features. He indiscriminately paid this silent homage to every pretty woman he saw.

Quite often, he felt as if his body spoke a different language from his mind. Or at least, different imagistic patterns of thought invaded his body, moving it closer to its potential pleasures. While his intellect kept its distance from the woman he appreciated almost like a work of art, his body moved toward her with anticipation and excitement, on the verge of betraying its focused, pleasurable needs. Then, acting with a partly conscious coordination of body and mind, he would walk closer to the pretty woman to see her better, to catch her fragrance, and perhaps even to brush her dress lightly with his leg, as if unintentionally, while moving past her through the crowd.

Once they had passed each other, he would quickly spin around and look at her, careful not to miss a single moment of seeing her departing body from behind, defenseless without eyes before his gaze. Once the danger of her own potential glance diminished, his mind and body could act as one. He would no longer revere her, he would want her. He would want to ravish her, to visually consume her right then and there, before she disappeared from his potent sight.

Fortunately–for him, for her–he would be aware of the physical barriers separating his bodily thoughts from their possible actions. Other people would circulate within the space forever distancing him from her, thoughtlessly eclipsing the movements of her departing form. Then he would turn around full of vague regrets and tangible yearnings, without making a spectacle of his desire. Withdrawn into himself, he would attempt to take her with him: by thinking about her, by memorizing her features and the sensations caused by her fleeting presence, by unfolding the drama of his desire within the more permissive theater of fantasies and dreams.

One time he saw a beautiful young woman with very short black hair. When he looked at her, instead of continuing to look straight ahead proud of the admiration she excited, she returned his gaze. She appeared to be as transfixed by his body as he was by hers. He felt slightly embarrassed by her boldness, caught as he was in his habitual voyeurism by the mirror of her reciprocating gaze. His desire momentarily withdrew when hers advanced.

He was surprised. Women whom he didn’t know rarely came to life under his gaze. Most often, when he looked at them he felt protected from any real interaction, as if he were watching a movie. So when this short-haired woman, a stranger, looked at him in the same way that he looked at her, he felt as if his spectator cushion was jolted from under his seat. Momentarily, he lost his balance. He looked away from her with slight confusion. She walked passed him. Feeling more secure, he reoccupied his spectator position. Out of force of habit, he turned around to watch her disappear into the crowd like the hundreds of other beautiful women before her. Then the curtain of life would be drawn, and the encore would be played, with poignant differences, in his imagination.

But this time his look froze as soon as it found her. She had also turned around and was looking back at him. He didn’t know how to react. He felt like he could no longer continue to pretend that he was a spectator watching her, the spectacle. The distinction between them, a man and a woman, had become more complex in this interplay of glances.

Like him, she seemed confused by their situation. Perhaps she felt that she had been too bold but didn’t know how to withdraw herself from the slightly awkward situation she created. Or perhaps she did not wish to retract her steps. He couldn’t tell. It was possible that she was only considering how she could advance further. Toward him. These considerations filled him with a mixture of excitement and intimidation. He decided to ease the tension with a friendly gesture.

He smiled at her. As if with some relief, she smiled back. He marveled: she was even prettier now, when she smiled. Her formerly inexpressive features came to life. They became bright and accessible, inviting closer contact; calling for the meeting of their two separate worlds: his and hers. Perhaps another world would eventually emerge. A world which was theirs.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

http://www.amazon.com/Seducer-Novel-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0761858075/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326297451&sr=1-1

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Filed under Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, coup de foudre, desire, fiction, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, sensuality

The Seducer


The Seducer, my new novel about psychopathic seduction, is now in print, available for purchase on amazon.com and other bookstores.

http://www.amazon.com/Seducer-Novel-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/0761858075/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326297451&sr=1-1

Advance Praise for The Seducer:

Like the best, most delicious novels, Claudia Moscovici’s psychological thriller, The Seducer, grips you in its opening pages and holds you in its addictive clutches straight through to its dramatic, remarkable conclusion. This is a fascinating novel, on every page of which Moscovici’s intimate understanding of the psychology of psychopaths and their victims gleams with a laser’s concentrated brilliance. The result is a narrative that builds with a patient, yet propulsive, force; a narrative whose intensity and suspense, in tandem, leave the reader eager to know, at every step of the way, what happens next? I encourage the reader to start this novel with a full set of nails, because it’s a nail biter in the most literal sense.

Steve Becker, MSW, LCSW LoveFraud.com feature columnist, Expert/Consultant on Narcissism and Psychopathy

What is love in this seductive new novel? Hypnotic attraction or deadly trap? A dream come true or a world filled with obsessions in the absence of genuine feelings? The Seducer probes the chilling depths of alienation and selfishness as the heroine, Ana, is caught in the spider’s web of her narcissistic lover, Michael. No magic, just cruelty. Claudia Moscovici wrote a powerful novel about an unfortunate reality many women face: the unraveling of their romantic dreams as love turns into a cold and calculated game of chess.

Carmen Firan, author of Words and Flesh

The Seducer offers a thrilling look at the most dangerous men out there, that every woman is warned about and many encounter: the psychopathic predator. We’ve seen these men featured in the news for their gruesome crimes. But few would expect them to be the charming, debonair, romantic seducers that love stories are made of. When the heroine of the novel, Ana, met Michael, she was in for the roller-coaster ride of her life. In her exciting second novel, The Seducer, Claudia Moscovici depicts with talent and psychological accuracy the spellbinding power of these charming yet dangerous Don Juans.

D. R. Popa, author of Lady V and Other Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007)

Claudia Moscovici’s new psychological thriller, The Seducer, reminds us of classics like Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but with a  contemporary twist. The new seducer is a psychopath, a dangerous predator without genuine emotion. And yet, we remain fascinated as he charms two women: one of them utterly dependent, the other seduced but autonomous. The reader’s outrage toward the reprehensible Michael may feel neutralized by the author’s meticulous studies of the psychopath in action and by what I call “ethical irony,” an often hidden moral perspective. Moscovici’s epic of betrayal and self-deception draws the reader into the convoluted mind of sexual predators and their victims. The narrative is bold, vivid and lucid.

Edward K. Kaplan, Brandeis University




 

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Filed under book review, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, fiction, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, psychological fiction, psychopathy