Home > 2000, 21st Century, French Literature, Lazar Liliana, Novel, Romanian Literature, Translation Tragedy > Slobozia by Liliana Lazar – a Romanian tragedy

Slobozia by Liliana Lazar – a Romanian tragedy

Slobozia by Liliana Lazar (2009) Original French title: Terre des Affranchis. Not available in English.

Liliana Lazar is a French writer of Romanian origin. She was born in 1972 in Moldavia and she arrived in France in 1996. She writes in French but her debut novel, Terre des affranchis is set in her native Moldavia, where her father was a forest warden.

The Luca family lives in the village of Slobozia. The village is a small community and life revolves around work and the Sunday mass at the orthodox church run by Părinte Ilie. The village is close to a deep forest that has a malefic lake, named La Fosse aux lions (The Lion’s Den) or La Fosse aux Turcs (The Turk’s Pit). The villagers avoid the lake like the plague as it is known to attack people and it’s haunted by moroï, living dead spirits.

Life isn’t funny in the Luca household. The father Tudor is a brute who beats his wife Ana and his children Victor and Eugenia. Nobody goes too close to the lake but it always protects Victor, even when he becomes a teenage murderer. His mother and sister hide him at the farm.

Meanwhile, Ceausescu comes to power and priests are persecuted. So, when Părinte Ilie discovers that Victor hides at the farm, he doesn’t give him up to the police but he hires him as a copyist to pass on religious texts and feed the resistance against Ceaucescu. Victor is under control during that time.

After Părinte Ilie disappears from Slobozia and is replaced by the fanatic Ion Fătu, Victor goes off track again. Ceausescu falls, another regime replaces him and the country has to atone for its sins.

At some point the novel gets bogged down in the question of good and evil, finding redemption and a terrible vision of criminals turning into heroes in the post-Ceausescu Romania.

The good thing about writing a billet several weeks after finishing the book is that you can see what stayed with you. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Terre des affranchis by Liliana Lazar is “bleak”. I’d even say it’s grim/Grimm because it mixes magic realism, local traditions and superstitions, historical facts and a serial killer. Victor is a really disturbing character and the whole book is creepy. I was engrossed by it anyway and was curious to know how it would end, even if I wasn’t convinced by the ending.

Have a look at the cover of the book as it is visual summary of the atmosphere of the story. It also reminded me of the dreadful Passport by Herta Müller.

For another take on this unusual book, see Bénédicte’s review here. (in French)

  1. October 3, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    Um. Often when you review books which haven’t been translated I express regretm but I’m not so sure I want to read this if it’s so bleak…. 😦


  2. October 3, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    This does sound brutal and I’m not too fond of serial killer plots, but I’d find the political background and philosophical questions more interesting.


    • October 3, 2021 at 8:53 pm

      I’m not too fond of serial killers either and the religious side is usually a put off for me.
      Still it was well written and really atmospheric.

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 4, 2021 at 2:15 pm

        Not being religious myself I still find explorations of it in books, if handled well, quite interesting. Of course it depends on the book and the author, but it can give me a glimpse into a world or viewpoint that is different from my own.


        • October 6, 2021 at 9:04 pm

          That’s a good point.


  3. October 3, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    That image also reminds me of the imagery that accompanied Guillermo del Toro’s film “Pan’s Labyrinth” (a film I love but can’t bring myself to rewatch either). Curious about the even-bleaker story you’ve recently finished reading…will stay tuned! 😉


    • October 3, 2021 at 9:17 pm

      I haven’t seen that film.
      That last one was hard to stomach. *sigh* Now I’m reading Beauty and the Beast, the HEA should be a safe bet.


  4. October 4, 2021 at 4:16 am

    LOL just this weekend I commented in a translation forum that I’d like to read a novel from Romania… but I don’t think this is the one for me!


    • October 6, 2021 at 9:06 pm

      It’s not available in English anyway.

      You’ve got books by Herta Müller but have a look at Marina’s blog, she posted about Romanian books.

      And there’s the Romanian books she translated for Corylus Books.


      • October 7, 2021 at 9:30 am

        You mean Sword, by Bogdan Teodrescu? I’ve bought it for the Kindle, but you know what happens to books I buy for the Kindle… I forget about them!


  5. October 5, 2021 at 12:32 am

    Yes that cover does evoke magical realism. Don’t think this one is for either–even if it were available in English.


    • October 6, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      I can’t imagine you liking this. I’m not fond of magic realism either.


  6. October 5, 2021 at 5:26 am

    I’m not a fan of horror, but that’s probably the most appropriate genre for the Ceausescu era in Romania.


    • October 6, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      Fair enough. Terrible times.


  7. October 7, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    I saw she’s published another book since then, Enfants du diable. Ceaucescu, abortions… it’s probably also very bleak but I’d be curious to see how she handles the topic. Also, it seems less imbued with religion and superstition.


  8. October 11, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    I don’t think this is for me – I definitely can’t do bleak at the moment. The cover is arresting though!

    Liked by 1 person

  1. October 17, 2021 at 7:13 am

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