Livia Otal

Bagajele abandonului

This is the last picture before the war. I remember it was a beautiful and peaceful late winter day, almost like spring. I went out for a walk in the city (Sofia) with a friend. We stopped at a coffee shop and improvised a table on the front stump. The owners approved our sketchy arrangement with a smile, a green tea and a chocolate cake that we shared. We enjoyed the sunshine, sniffing the fragrant tea and the chocolate melting in our mouths.

As a pinnacle of the senses, I opened the poetry book I had just received by mail from Bucharest, and I translated for her a poem from Romanian into English. I translated it the way it naturally came to me, without literary pretensions, feeling that the sun and the chocolate had already created the atmosphere, and all I wanted to convey from the poem was the message of a gentle and beautiful world belonging to women, where no man would be allowed, at least not the undeconstructed, the rough and aggressive ones. Throughout the poem, men make all sorts of plans on how to penetrate this fragrant and delicate universe and that’s how they plan to disguise themselves as gay just to be allowed in.

That’s all I remember, and then I know that the news of the invasion, the guns, the casualties flooded me. I left for Bucharest in a hurry, trying to see what I could do to help the thousands of refugees. I met sleepless people who hoped that by their sleeplessness they could stop the slaughter or help as many victims as possible. I saw chaos and fear, everything had become monstrously unclear.

From that day on, I could not find any more the poetry volume from which I had read under the sun. I have made a ritual out of looking for it that I repeat and invoke regularly, calling out to it, sniffing it, begging it to come back, but it never shows any sign to me. It’s as if, against the male invasion, poetry stepped down, hid, melted away.

Last Day of Peace, First Night of War is an interactive digital installation, part of the Museum of Abandonment, a digital wall of images showing the last days of peace collected from mobile phones.