Corneliu, you’re an English-language Romanian-born author living in Paris. How did that came about?
I seem to change countries every twenty years. I grew up in Romania during communism. My first dream was to fly planes. After a thorough medical examination, I was admitted to the only aviation school in the country, which trained pilots for both military and civil aviation. Even though I was fond of flying, I quit aviation two years later, then escaped Ceausescu’s oppressive regime by swimming across the Danube. A year later, I immigrated to America. After getting my private pilot license in a community college with a flight program, I went to Western Washington University, from which I graduated with a BA in theater. With three plays in my suitcase, I moved to New York. If you can make it in New York, the song goes…
Did the song work for you?
Kind of. In New York I met some talented thespians, and they chose to stage the play I least expected to be produced: Waiting for Godex (original title, Godex Has Come). In writing this play I had no intention of measuring my dramatic chops against Beckett's. Back then I was high on Nietzsche, and Godex was my funny philosophical homage to Nietzsche’s misunderstood “eternal recurrence.”
How was the play received?
Like an UFO crash-landing in mid-Manhattan. The Village Voice sent its “investigation team” and determined that Godex was a “post-modernist manifesto.”
Two years later Godex landed at The Attic Theatre in Los Angeles. The LA Weekly hailed it as “thought provoking and funny as hell.” Los Angeles Times also dropped by: “[Waiting for Godex] marks what may become a healthy wave of Beckettian revisionism.” Some time after, Godex was welcomed in my university town north of Seattle. We were interviewed by the local radio station. Years passed, and I take the blame for not sending Godex out for future productions or publication.
When did you move to Paris?
January, 2000. In addition to the plays, my laptop contained a first novel, Crossing the Styx, based on my Romanian past. While in Paris, a Russian belle married to a French aristocrat inspired me to write A Marquise of our Time. I sent the English manuscript to Denöel/Gallimard, and they accepted it. Alas, a new literary director had just come on board, and my sexy marquise thriving in the sin-city of Paris didn’t turn him on. A couple of writers in the reading committee fought on my behalf, but to no avail. While this publishing drama was going on, I revised my first novel and sent it to the reluctant chief editor. He called me the next day. So Crossing the Danube was published in 2005 instead of A Marquise of our Time. The novel caught the attention of the press, blogs and online magazines. Le Monde was supposed to publish a favorable review, but they canceled its publication when they found out that I didn’t belong to the group of Romanian writers participating at Les Belles Etrangères, an annual literary event. That particular year Romania happened to be the guest of honor. In 2007 I made a theatrical adaptation of my published novel, which ran for three months in a small Parisian theatre called ARTicle.
What happened to A Marquise of our Time?
I tried to get it published in the States, but all I got from literary agents were nice rejections. The curious reader can find it on Kindle or in hard copy on Amazon.
Have you written other novels since?
From Death Row with Love, a modern rendition of Oedipus complex told from Jocasta’s point of view. Also on Amazon. Let’s get back to Waiting for Godex.
Who is producing it this summer?
The company is called Insieme Carpe Diem headed by Giovanni Savoia. Giovanni has directed dozens of plays from classical to avant-garde, including Waiting for Godot. He’s also an accomplished actor and teacher.
If I’m not mistaken Godex already played in Paris.
Exactly. It had its European premiere at Théâtre de l’Orme, where it ran for two months. How was it received? Much better than UFO. Evelyne Tran, who blogs for lemonde.fr, gave us a review which surpassed our expectations. ( http://theatreauvent.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/11/ )
When and where will Godex be playing at Avignon?
From July 7th to 28th, 2012 at Théâtre de l’Esperluette, a centrally located theatre near Place des Carmes.
But those with no Avignon in their upcoming travel plans can see Waiting for Godex at Théâtre de Belville from June 23rd to 26th. Four shows only.
Any plays on the back burner for future productions?
When the dust settles (or not) on Godex, I look forward to the world premiere of Flush Game, a funny absurdist play about two deities in charge of the Reincarnation Department. The reincarnated characters are Henry Miller and his wife, June. It is the favorite play of Mary Duncan, the author of Henry Miller Is under my Bed, who runs the Paris Writers’ Group.
WAITING FOR GODEX (in French) Directed by Giovanni Savoia and assisted by Renato Ribeiro. With Sandra Everro, Renato Ribeiro, Stephan Ropert, Giovanni Savoia and Floriane Vincent. Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 at 3 pm. Sunday 24th to Tuesday 26th, 2012 at 9 pm. Theatre de Belleville, 94 rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75011 PARIS. Metro: Goncourt or Belville.