Tuesday, 25 September 2007

2. Home

My home town, Marosvasarhely... A medieval city in Transylvania, comfortably resting in the valley of river Maros, in just one of the many valleys which spread themselves on the map like half-open protecting hands... Valleys that so often were not protective enough, but at least were able to soften the sounds of thunderstorms and too numerous battles into a gentle rumble that used to reverberate along the many rivers of that bruised land... A town that in peacetime used to gaze down on lively markets unfolding their tents on the plains outside its old walls... hence its name, ‘marketplace on river Maros’...

It had seen very turbulent and often blood-red waters flow from the mountains, pass under its walls... and when not enjoying its occasional, well-deserved contemplative rest by the river, it was busy withstanding many unpredictable howling storms brought to that valley by Nature and Man over the centuries...

The old city walls are still standing, layers of the more recent past expanding around it in all directions. Old graveyards on the high hills, villas of old and new aristocracy... The multi-coloured mixture of stone and bricks and inevitable concrete had flown from those heights, like some artificial lava flow spanning and changing over many centuries and many miles. Some parts of it coagulated into a glorious historical city centre... and, having left there most of its colours to decorate it, the remaining grey concrete flow continued further down, following the river Maros, gradually aged and sedimented into monochrome deserts of communist blockflats... Then, just before it completely settled, expired, its edges finally solidified into the shape of a monstrous chemical plant on the edge of the city... beyond which the untouched green land lies next to the river, the two of them reminiscing over the more distant centuries certainly only they can remember.

My home... on the edge of the historic city centre, enduring without complaints since the 1840s the regimes and changes history brought around it, comfortably rests its back against the hill which suddenly rises steeply, stopping for short rests allowing other layers of houses on higher ground to be built. Acacia trees and lilacs grew on the slope of the hill, a perfect place for sitting and smelling the dizzying aroma rolling gently downhill into the courtyard.

There was also the river, just a few minutes walk away, beyond some green parks, a place where suddenly the multicoloured noise of the city changes to green stillness, the all-muscle river, rushing down from the mountains, being lulled and hushed by the great water lock that protects the city.

All this sits pretty much right in the middle of Transylvania where eminently non-fictional creatures have been spilling and consuming blood for too many centuries. They did this in broad daylight, totally immune to garlic, casting onto those hills and plains of ever-changing colour very long and dense shadows which persist to this day in political life, in the ethnic tensions arising from the echoes of annexing the former Hungarian territory to Romania... These shadows are also present in the collective psyche that only in the last few years was freed from the most recent non-fictional, demented, but so calculated Evil.

I grew up there, during Ceausescu’s ‘Golden Era’... and can’t recall whether there was a certain moment when I realised that everything surrounding me was a tragicomic absurd play, set in a theatre made to seem considerably smaller than the world entire.

I still find it difficult to reconcile those two sides of me... One, the small kid opening his eyes and ears tentatively and initially very fearfully, a happy kid enjoying to the max a very minimalist childhood, accepting the food rationing and powercuts, propaganda and fake celebrations as the normal and, above all, the only possible reality. Then there is the other person, the grown-up looking back and finding that weird reality filled with funny and sad absurdities, contradictions still tying the mind into a confusing identity-warping knot.

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