Press Release

In the Most Beautiful Life
Photographs by Virginia Joffe
Poems by Carmen Firan


This lovely collection of poetry and photography binds together several worlds: those of two artists, two women, two languages, two media. All gain in the process: the poet’s images become more visual, the photographer’s captures more mysterious, the English language more affective, the Romanian more specific—and the two women make one art. May all our fusion’s work like this!
—Andrei Codrescu


A beautiful and poetic celebration and collaboration in words and photographs of contemporary Romania and its people by noted New York photographer Virginia Joffe and Romanian poet Carmen Firan memorializing a time when the old world collapses and a new one has not yet appeared.

Carmen Firan’s words are filled with the magical realism of a place that seems, occasionally, harshly ultra-real, and at others, like pure fairy-tale while Virginia Joffe’s memorable photographs portray unique hybrid creatures that have emerged in Romania from the cracks between millennia. Firan’s prose and Joffe’s images record the turning over of the wheel of time, the changing of once seemingly immutable orders, the anguish of people struggling to escape history and to understand themselves.

Biographies

Carmen Firan, born in Romania, is a poet and fiction writer. She has published ten books of poetry, novels, essays and short stories, as well as several plays and film scripts. Her writings appear in translation in many literary magazines and in various anthologies in France, Israel, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Virginia Joffe, a photographer and writer studied at the International Center of Photography. She is a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work and a former president of the New York Women’s Foundation. She has traveled to Romania four times and her exhibition, "Romania–Sites of Its Memory," was held in 2000 at the Romanian Cultural Center in New York City. Joffe’s work has been shown in numerous venues in New York and Massachusetts and is in many private collections.

In interviews with Romanian poet Carmen Firan and American photographer Virginia Joffe, they can discuss:

• Western stereotypes of Romania (stray dogs, orphans, Gypsies, AIDS victims) juxtaposed with a Romania that also exists--one rich in history, archaeological treasures, Roman and Greek ruins, medieval cities, some of the oldest painted monasteries in the world, and a culture that gave birth to surrealism and the father of modern sculpture (Brancusi).

• The geopolitical importance of Romania since September 11th (a pro-American country in the Black Sea–zone) and plans for Romania to join NATO this Fall.

• The co-existence (and cultural gap) between two disparate populations: one Latin (Roman Catholic) and one Slavic (Greek Orthodox).

• Romania before communism -- when Bucharest was nicknamed "the little Paris" -- and the traumas the Romanian people then suffered during 50 years of totalitarian rule.

• How Romanians sought refuge from the totalitarian regime in arts and culture.

• The status of women in Romania (During the communist regime, there was no contraception and many women died from home abortions; the secret police also jailed women who had illegal abortions. Women’s status was frustrated by a national policy: Mrs. Elena Ceausescu, the wife of dictator Ceausescu, didn`t allow any woman to have an important social, professional or political position).

• The controversy over commercialization, such as "Dracula Land" in Transylvania. A project about a Western myth more than a Romanian one, "Dracula Land" was to be a sort of "Disney Land" built in the middle of the medieval city of Sighisoara. It was stopped mostly by the efforts of Prince Charles, who traveled several times to meet with the president of Romania and convinced him to abandon a project that would destroy such precious architectural and historical treasures.

• What it was like for a "blank slate" (an American with no real knowledge of the country) to be mesmerized by Romania’s beauty, people and paradoxes.

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