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Tatiana Țîbuleac, writer: “The world thinks that if someone leaves, they must have a place to call home. In my mind it wasn’t like that.”

photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă


Tatiana Țîbuleac was born in Moldova, she’s a Romanian, the wife of a British-Swiss citizen and she lives in Paris for 13 years. Through her books she has shown more than any passport could, that she is a complex writer, who can bring to live characters from different parts of Europe.

In 2019, her writing career, completely unplanned, took a surprising turn, even for herself. She won the European Union Literature Award for her novel The glass garden, her second book, and next to her name, they put “Romania.”

“I’m Romanian. I introduce myself as a Romanian writer. I’m from Moldova, but everywhere I went with my books, I introduced myself as a Romanian writer. I find it normal. I don’t believe in this separation. Writers from Moldova have always wanted to be a part of Romanian literature.”

And Tatiana Țîbuleac has managed that without even trying. She has never lived in Romania, but she writes in Romanian and is trying to teach the language to her children, born and raised in the French capital.

“My children speak 4 languages – English, French, Romanian and Russian. I like that they discovered reading in Romanian and I think that already is a good way.

I set my ambition not to get any other citizenship, I could have gotten a British or a Swiss citizenship, my husband being British-Swiss. But in the end, I’m still a Romanian in Paris.

Many Romanians try to cut all their ties. To me it wasn’t the case. Probably my desire to go to Romania from Moldova was so strong, that I say proudly that I’m a Romanian.

It’s my small love declaration, I think.”

Tatiana Țîbuleac at the Brâncuși Workshop, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

Tatiana was born in 1978 in Chișinău. Both her parents worked in press, her father as a journalist, her mother as a corrector at a newspaper. And their daughter walked in their footsteps, even though her n’t father would have wanted a more secure path for her, such as medical school or law school.

“I used to love what my father was doing, but back then, journalism was harder to do that what I did. He used to tell me that I will freeze in the cold, that I will be sleeping in attics. In those days, you would sleep in someone’s attic, and do the story at the farm, the school, the kindergarten.

And I chose journalism, eventually. Those were some good years, I liked it a lot. The only issue I had was when I transferred to TV and I had to be a news anchor, I didn’t like that.”

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

She worked in written press for three years, then she joined Pro TV Chișinău, the first commercial and independent station in Moldova. There she was a reporter, an editor, but also a news anchor.

“I did the first stories of migrants from Moldova in Italy. I remember meeting people who had slept for a half of year tied up in trees, because they couldn’t sleep on the ground, so the police wouldn’t catch them.

There were touching moments for me and I think that is where I learned to listen to people.”

“I learned a lot from journalism and I have never regretted those years. I think that I would still be practicing it, if I hadn’t come to another country.”

After working in press, she collaborated with UNICEF and discovered people from different countries, who have broadened her horizons. She met her husband and moved with him to Paris.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“I’ve always felt like an outsider in Paris. It’s a difficult relationship with Paris and I don’t know why, because it’s a lovely city.

But there are places where you can’t or you won’t fit in. On the other hand, this is what made me feel good in Paris. I’ve never had an issue whether the French will see me as their own or not.”

“Today I’m here, tomorrow I won’t be, I take the best from today. Right now I fell very good in France.”

She didn’t know that her walks on the small Paris roads would open her path to literature.

“I had never felt the need to write literature. You can’t feel the need to write when you’re already writing all day long. My work day used to start at 6 a.m. and would end at 11 o’clock in the evening. All day long I would write or edit, I don’t see how I could have started to write a book at home, when I came home to sleep, or watch a movie, rest, do anything but write.

Writing began on this street.”

Tatiana Țîbuleac and Alexandra Tănăsescu, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

On Rue Montorgueil, right in the heart of Paris, the first arrondissement, her first writings that were different that her experience in press were being born.

It was in a vivid area, full of cafe’s and boutiques specific to Paris, a few steps from the out-of-the-box Centre Pompidou and Brâncuși Workshop.

“I stardet speaking to a florist at a flower shop here and she had a great story. And I thought of doing something with her story.

And I started writing some short things on Facebook. I wrote about 10 lines there and called it a modern-day fable. It was like child’s play.

And so many people read that thing, that I continued writing these modern-day fables. Then a website created a permanent column with “modern-day fables”, and somebody from that website said that we should put them in a book. And that is how I actually started writing.

That is when this shift occurred, from journalism to literature, although it was not literature yet. I called them fables because they had a moral in the end.

I wrote about a lot of people in this neighborhood. Things have changed now.”

Tatiana Țîbuleac and Alexandra Tănăsescu, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

The flower shop closed down, and Tatiana became an internationally appreciated author.

“With “Modern-day Fables” I started to get thousands of messages, more than I’m getting now, with two published books. People identified with the theme and would send me stories, they wanted to be in Modern-day Fables.

I felt somewhat like an impostor, because everyone would say to me “you’re such a kind, gentle, good woman”, and I’m neither kind, nor gentle, nor good. It was the wrong picture.

There was too much kindness around me and I couldn’t handle it. I felt like telling them that I’m not like that, stop writing to me, you’re pissing me off.

And I believe that that is exactly how “Summer”, my first book, came to be. Because “Summer” is exactly the opposite. I think I wanted to show that I am different, in fact. The writing in “Summer” represents me. I am “The Summer”. I am the woman in there. I am the boy, that is how I am.

Tatiana Țîbuleac at the cafe where she used to write, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“Summer” came to be after a summer I spent with my parents. They came to France, the children were small, and we showed them the country.

We went to the exact places that I’ve described in that book. And I, having a complicated relation ship with my father, I felt for the first time that I have somehow forgotten him, seeing him playing with my daughter. My father seemed a beautiful man, interesting, something I had never noticed, because we would always argue.

I had started writing these stories on my blog around that time and I got home and wrote a story that was the basis for the character of the mother in the book. It was a Jewish mother whom I had met at a hotel and she was dying. We spent a few days together, we chatted. We spent some time at the hotel, where she had came with her children, her head was shaved.

When I got home, I started writing her story. But I noticed that there wasn’t an ending to what I was writing, it wasn’t just a post or a story anymore.

I started writing every day, this masculine voice was in my head and I didn’t know what to do with it and I carried on. I wrote it in less than two months. The editor from Moldova Gheorghe Erizanu was visiting then and asked me if I’m writing anything.

And I said “I’m writing a thing, but it’s bizarre, I don’t know who might read it. Nothing llike this has ever been written in Moldova, a story where the child doesn’t love his mother, there’s a lot of hatred there.” And he told me to send it to him. I sent it on a Thursday and on Monday he told me that he was getting it ready for print.”

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“The Summer When my Mother’s Eyes Were Green” received in 2018 “The Observatorul Cultural” award for prose and the FILIT award. She then became known throughout Europe after the first translation, in Spanish.

“I had a complicated relation ship with this book. I hated it. I thought that nobody wanted to see it. But we made our peace and now I somewhat miss a little kindness.

Everything is too cynical now. Everybody’s asking me about crisis, evil, death, depression. Now I’m on the other end of things.

In “Summer” I was Tatiana from Paris, in a way. In “Summer” I denied all that Moldova meant. In “Summer” I’m the cosmopolitan woman, living in Paris, connected to England, who knows galleries, paintings, because that is who I am.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

I was often asked why I had chosen to write about two Polish and not two Romanians or Moldavians. I also asked myself those questions. And I think that’s how “The Garden” came to be. That’s where I had my revenge, I went back to Chișinău, in the Botanical, in my neighbourhood.”

The novel “The Glass Garden” confirmed and cemented Tatiana Țîbuleac’s success in Romania, as well as the rest of Europe and South America.

It was written, as was “Summer”, in Romanian, language being a character in it’s own, both in the book, and in the life of Tatiana from Chișinău.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“I think that “The Garden” had been in my head forever, it was inside me. With “The Garden” I had this dilemma, whether to write it in Russian or not. Because there were a lot of things coming in my head in Russian, it being the language of my childhood in a way, the language of the city and it was a book about the city, about Chișinău.

But I chose to write it in Romanian and I’m happy that I chose so, because it’s a story about the Romanian language, not the Russian language.

When I wrote this book, I felt that it was a moment of reconciliation between these two languages. Now I would have to re-read it, see how I position myself, because things have changed.

My father was more Rusophobic than I was. That was one of our reasons for arguing. He distanced himself completely from Russian language when we started using the Latin alphabet.

He felt Romanian and dreamt of the unification with Romania. After we started using the Latin alphabet, he didn’t touch Russian literature. He did what many are doing now, during the war.

In my case, it was difficult to separate myself from the Russian language, because I grew up speaking Russian, and he couldn’t understand why I didn’t have this burning hatred towards everything Russian. It sounds bizarre to argue because of language, but there were many cases, we weren’t the only family.”

Meanwhile, her father passed away, and Tatiana left Chișinău a long time ago.

Her family’s history and the region she was born in still follows her, because the war in Ukraine has profound emotional ramifications.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“Our name is Ukrainian, we had relatives in Ukraine. My mother lives in Chișinău. I never thought that I would ever see Russia killing children in Ukraine, given the historical bonds, but it is happening.

In the first month of the war, we were paralised.

For people in Moldova, the war feels different. People are hearing the loud explosions, they have children left for studying, they have vacation homes, they have friends staying with them in Chișinău, because they seek shelter.

To us, this war is much worse. It is the worst. And it is still not over. And it hurts me to see people thinking that it is over or that it’s better now.

I can understand going back to our lives, because you cannot constantly live with someone else’s misfortune, but last week Kiev was bombed again, and the events aren’t even the first ones on the news anymore.

People are vacationing, Europe is in vacation. But the war continues.

I fear tanks going into Chișinău, where my mother lives, but not only that. I fear that we are witnessing a war online and we’re not doing enough. I cannot understand how, in these days, such a war is permitted. Nobody is stopping it.”

When the war began, Tatiana took in her home in Paris some refugees from Ukraine and, for the first time, understood her family’s own past.

“It meant reconnecting to my grandparents past, who were deported, and, more than any trip to Siberia, these months I realized what it actually means to leave your home with a bag, a barefoot child and run. These stories started to take shape for me. My mother was born in a gulag, in Siberia.”

She hasn’t written in this period and she doesn’t believe that art should respond to current themes, but should be an intimate act, which you feel or not.

In fact, she does not necessarily plan on continuing her writing career, but expects things to go on in a natural way, such at it was until now.

“If I’ll write another book, it’s ok, if not, it’s still ok. I don’t want to be tied up by just writing. I want to believe that I can do other things as well.”

She does not live in the center of Paris anymore, but is living a quiet life on the outskirts of the city, where she is gardening and dedicates her time to her children.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

“Home is where your family is, I believe. But I feel that I will change many places.”

She is part of an international community, more than a French one, and has a realistic perspective on the country in which she lives.

“Not all French people live like the wealthy in Paris. There are very poor regions in France.

This myth that everyone eats croissants for breakfast in France is not true.

There are families that make as much as middle class families in Romania.

I have not felt the French adversity towards immigrants, but it exists. This is a more open area, where you barely feel it, but the far-right has been on everyone’s lips during these elections. This scares me. I am an immigrant and am part of a community of immigrants.

Having this British side in the family, we saw what was happening with Brexit, when nobody thought that it will happen. When you talked to people, nobody was voting pro-Brexit, but eventually, Brexit happened.”

When she is not dedicating her time to her family, the Romanian writer travels a lot to promote her books. She closely follows Romanian contemporary literature, but says that “I’m not doing so well at the chapter of relation ships with other writers, it’s like a wall there.”

She would want for Romanians to appreciate more their fellow’s performances, and stop self-sabotaging.

Tatiana Țîbuleac, Paris 2022/ photo: Bogdan Iordache/ Cultura la dubă

She has a skeptical view of the world in which we live, through the prism of the terrible war, but manages to see glimpses of hope in common people.

“I’m not an optimistic person, rather the opposite. But I believe that optimism can be helped through some gestures of solidarity, a warm loaf of bread, a warm coat.”

“I don’t believe that we can live outside of community

I still see the kindness in people. I have seen some good people even in these times. I really don’t like it when someone’s good gestures are being doubted. As long as the gesture es made, for PR or otherwise, it’s a good thing.

I believe that people’s kindness comes out once in a while.”

***This story is part of the “France Week” series, a Cultura la Dubă project supported by BNP Paribas.

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1 thought on “Tatiana Țîbuleac, writer: “The world thinks that if someone leaves, they must have a place to call home. In my mind it wasn’t like that.””

  1. Pingback: Tatiana Țîbuleac, scriitoare: "Lumea crede că dacă cineva pleacă, trebuie să aibă un loc pe care să îl numească acasă. În capul meu nu a fost niciodată așa." - Cultura la dubă

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