Bob Dylan. Complete vinyl collection
For Nelu Stratone, as for all of his generation, born under communism and coming to maturity in the 1960s, Bob Dylan was an idol. A Bob Dylan single was among the five records that challenged and inspired Nelu Stratone to collect rock, folk, and jazz records. Before 1989, in the years of glory of the collection, he was proud to be the owner of the complete discography of Bob Dylan. “Bob Dylan was a sort of cult for me. I hunted out all his discography and I had at home, in the form of records, about everything that passed through Romania in that period,” he confesses. Bob Dylan is also the subject of a book that Nelu Stratone has set himself to write, and for which he has done part of the research, although it is not (yet) written. His passion for listening to Bob Dylan, as he himself confesses, is still intact today.
The reception of Bob Dylan in Romania deserves a more extended discussion, however, due to the evident differences between the perception of his music among young people in this country in comparison not only with their contemporaries in the West, but also with those in other countries of the Soviet bloc. While on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Bob Dylan was a symbol of leftist anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-racial-segregation movements, in communist Europe he was in general a symbol of freedom of expression against dictatorships of the left. At the same time, Bob Dylan was received in an ambiguous manner in Romania, in contrast to other states dominated by communist regimes. For all that, his influence among young people, starting from the late 1960s, was significant, albeit ambivalent. In this connection it is illustrative that his famous song “Blowing in the Wind” was translated for the first time in 1973, into easily singable lines but under the less than inspired title ”Vânare de vânt” (literally “Hunting/chasing the wind”), by the poet Adrian Păunescu, recently returned from a scholarship at the University of Iowa. On the one hand, the translation allowed the wide dissemination of this song in the performance of Florian Pittiş, an incontestable leader of the alternative culture of the younger generation. On the other hand, the music of Bob Dylan and the spirit of social rebellion associated with it were totally corrupted in Romania precisely through the intermediary of the translator Adrian Păunescu, who in 1973, under the umbrella of the Cenaclu Flacăra (Flame cenacle), began an ample campaign to divert the rebelliousness of the younger generation, with the aim of emptying it of any potential of revolt against the Ceauşescu regime (D. Petrescu 2010, 306–307). Thus the anti-war message of American folk became in Romania a musical current that, in its most nonconformist variant, limited itself to promoting a supposed romanticized medieval past, as was attempted by groups that were very popular among young people, like Phoenix or Sfinx (T. Ionescu 2016). Due to the Flame Cenacle, however, the anti-war message of American folk became associated with the campaign for world peace orchestrated by the Ceauşescu regime in the hope of obtaining a Nobel Peace Prize for the General Secratary of the Romanian Communist Party. Mircea Vintilă, who in his turn interpreted Bob Dylan for the Romanian public in the Păunescu’s translation, comments on the distorsion of the message of this sort of music: “Folk protested in Romania too, only not against the regime, but against light music, which had become something facile, with absolutely awful lyrics.” (D. Ionescu 2017, 175).
Confiscated ideologically by the Ceauşescu regime, the verses of Bob Dylan were only recuperated in the post-communist period through the translation of the talented writer Mircea Cărtărescu. A review of his volume of a hundred poems by Bob Dylan translated into Romanian underlines: “Where Păunescu used Dylan as a librettist, Cărtărescu reinvents a poet. But this only adds to ideological liberation a poetic liberation. Rewritten by Cărtărescu, Bob Dylan acquires vision, just as he has in the original” (Ursa 2016). To understand the difference between the two translations, the second stanza of ”Blowing in the wind” provides a good illustration. Here is the English original:
"Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist/ Before it is washed to the sea?/ Yes, and how many years can some people exist/Before they're allowed to be free?/ Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head/ And pretend that he just doesn't see?/ The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind/The answer is blowing in the wind."
In Adrian Păunescu’s translation of 1973, which renders the lines literally but eludes the general message of the poem, it goes:
"Câți ani poate-un munte în lume trăi/ Până marea să-l spele-ntr-o zi?/ Si câți ani oamenii pot viețui/ Până liberi permis le va fi?/ De câte ori omul vede un rău/ Şi tace întorcând capul său?/ Răspunsul prieteni e vânare de vânt/ Răspunsu-i vânare de vânt."
[How many years can a mountain live in the world / Until the sea washes it [away] one day? / And how many years can people live / Until being free is permitted to them? / How many times does a person see an evil / And keeps silent, turning his head? / The answer, friends, is chasing the wind / The answer is chasing the wind.]
Mircea Cărtărescu’s translation under the title ”Suflare în vânt” (Breath/blowing in the wind) has significantly modified lines 3 and 4, which now talk about the liberation of a people, and lines 5 and 6, which refer to the “great light” that many claim not to see, pretending to be blind. Thus Bob Dylan’s poem takes on a meaning that is more militant, more politicized, and more faithful to the author than in the previous translation.
"Câţi ani pe pământ poate-un pisc să existe/ Până ce spălat e de mare?/ Şi câţi ani poate un popor să reziste/ Până la visata eliberare?/ De câte ori te prefaci că eşti orb/ Ca să nu vezi lumina cea mare?/ Răspunsul, prietene, e suflare în vânt/ Răspunsu-i suflare în vânt."
[How many years on earth can a peak exist / Until it is washed by the sea? / And how many years can a people resist / Until the dreamed-of liberation? / How many times do you pretend you are blind / So as not to see the great light? / The answer, friend, is blowing in the wind / The answer is blowing in the wind.]
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Nelu Stratone Private Musical Records Collection
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- Petrescu, Cristina
- Pătrăşconiu, Cristian Valeriu
Dylan, Bob. 2012. Suflare în vânt: 100 de poeme traduse de Mircea Cărtărescu (Blowing in the wind: 100 poems translated by Mircea Cărtărescu). Bucharest: Humanitas.
Ionescu, Doru. 2017. Timpul chitarelor – Florian Pittiş, Dorin Liviu Zaharia şi epoca Folk (Time of guitars – Florian Pittiş, Dorin Liviu Zaharia, and the Folk era). Cluj: Eikon.
Ionescu, Teodora. 2016. Folk pur și simplu (Folk pure and simple). Bucharest: EDITREX.
Petrescu, Dragoș. 2010. Explaining the Romanian Revolution of 1989: Culture, Structure, and Contingency. Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică.
Stratone, Nelu. 2016. Rock sub seceră și ciocan (Rock under sickle and hammer). Timișoara: Hyperliteratura.
Ursa, Mihaela. 2016. ”Suflare în vânt.” PressOne Blog, October 16. https://pressone.ro/contributori/suflare-in-vant/ (accessed June 2, 2018).
Stratone, Nelu, interview by Pătrăşconiu, Cristian Valeriu , May 03, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection