Translated from Romanian by Marina Sofia
He was neither a detective, nor an editor, nor a spy, nor a journalist, but a little bit of each.
Neither one thing nor the other, yet Stelian Munteanu is known to all: the police force, the secret service, even the shady businessman whose daughter’s body is found on the sea shore in South Shields. The British police force do not suspect foul play, and yet Pavel Coman fears otherwise, so he hires Stelian to investigate. Complications arise when Pavel Coman himself is butchered, and a number of his daughter’s female acquaintances – including Stelian’s wife, Sofia – are shot and wounded in Britain.
In the meantime, political conspiracies threaten to destabilise the state. The idea of a Greater Moldova, reuniting territories that were split after WWII, is resurgent and an ambitious Polish politician is spearheading a campaign. His backers are generous and he is splashing the cash, setting up a slick internet operation, to spread misinformation, dissent, and stoke up the masses in Romania to insurrection and rebellion.
Somehow Stelian gets involved in this investigation too. Resilience is the 6th in the series, so there is a lot of back history that the reader is not privy to here. Best to just ride with it, because there’s enough to keep track of. Structured in short bursts, the action frequently jumps time and location, signposted through subtitles. Readers must pay close attention to these because without them, there is no chance of keeping up. I would also advise using the helpful cast of characters to keep tabs on the various roles that they play. Let’s just say that Stelian Munteanu isn’t the only multitasker!
To summarise, there is intrigue and contemporary relevance in the political strand for thriller fans, plus a shoal of red herrings and a satisfactory bodycount for crime aficionados. There is one element in the denouement that I found unfeasible. Would two seasoned operatives really lose it so badly? Despite this Resilience is a thoroughly enjoyable read provided you keep your wits about you.
Even more intrigue me in the author acknowledgements and his comment that the translator had “managed to rein in the Romanian discursiveness and introduce some English rigour and precision”. I decided to ask her what he meant by that.
Marina Sofia : We Romanians love a bit of discursiveness over a good meal, or engaging in small talk before we get to the point – in real life, and often in our fiction too. I thought that the patience of the English language reader might be tested by too many earnest discussions about the quality of the coffee, for example, although I did leave some in – otherwise it wouldn’t be a Romanian novel. So, yes, the original version was considerably longer, but I left out certain elements that were not essential to the investigation (in discussion and agreement with the author, I hasten to add). However, you need not fear that you are missing out on any of the story.
Lizzy Siddal: That suggests much creativity on your part. I assume not only with “rigour and precision”, but also with linguistic idiom. Comments please. (Please include “a spade is a spade” – as a Lancastrian I would pick up on that! – I’m assuming the Romanian equivalent is quite different.)
Marina Sofia: Bogdan Hrib has a very clear, pleasant style, so there was no problem translating that. One of the key challenges in translating dialogue, however, is the level of formality. In Romanian we have the polite you form ‘Dumneavoastră’, followed by more formal verb forms for past tense, for example. You can instantly tell if someone is being rude if they address you with the informal you ‘tu’ and the simple past. Ionescu, the Romanian spy, tends to use that with all the people he meets – and it’s indicative of his character and huge ego. You would normally only use that with close family and friends. Tony and Stelian use it with each other, but often with a bit of humour, teasingly, plus they are good friends. With Ionescu it sounds rather unwelcome and sinister. But how to convey those nuances into the translated dialogue?
The sentence you picked up on is Ionescu’s interior monologue and for once the Romanian version was less colloquial:
Translation: That was the kind of terminology they used – influence or impact – as if they couldn’t call a spade a spade!
Literally: That was the kind of terminology they used… as if they couldn’t write down exactly what they thought.
That was my small attempt to create a marker for Ionescu’s more abrupt, impatient, informal style, which is plentiful elsewhere but not always translatable.
Lizzy Siddal: An illuminating answer and an effective strategy, if I may say so. Your characters weren’t the only ones uncomfortable around that man!
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