Nina Cassian with Geraldine DeLuca and Roni Natov (interview date 1986)
SOURCE: "Writing Children's Literature in Romania: An Interview with Nina Cassian," in The Lion and the Unicorn, Vol. 10, 1986, pp. 108-11.
[In the following interview, Cassian discusses her work in children's literature and her work's reception in Romania.]
[DeLuca]: Would you like to talk about the children's books you have written and about why you wrote them?
[Cassian]: I don't have children. If I write for them, I write for the child inside adults too. I am sure the way children react to my books—very warmly indeed—is due, especially, to the fact that I tried, and perhaps succeeded, in keeping intact the feelings of my own childhood and adolescence, the candor, the capacity for continually discovering the world. It is a cruelty anyway to divide our lives, which are so short, into periods. We have approximately seventy to eighty years to live and we insist on cutting them into childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, maturity, senility, and so forth. It's not only cruel, it's not real. I see life as a unique gesture from beginning to end. I think we can live our lives like those chess players playing several games of chess simultaneously, but we are expected to be excellent chess players! I don't give up what I have already lived, and if I am a real artist I live also in times I haven't reached yet. So being still a child, I address myself to myself and, of course, to those who are more entitled to call themselves children than I am.
The first children's book I wrote was not really written by choice but from necessity. It was in 1950, during the dogmatic period in Romania. Socialist realism was, unfortunately, characterized by the restraining of structures and styles and vocabulary. During that period I lost my appetite for writing poetry. I did write some poems in the politically approved manner because I tried to be a "faithful child of the party." I had become a member of the Communist Party in 1940 when I was 15 years old. There was fascism and war in my country and I wanted to sacrifice myself for the happiness of humanity! So when I was asked to write in a rigid and simplified manner, I tried to do my best, but after awhile, I switched to literature for children because it was the only field where metaphors were still allowed, where imagination was tolerated and assonance was permitted. (It sounds crazy: what has assonance to do with the communist catechism?!)
[Natov]: Do you always write in verse?
If I were very proud—and I'm not—I could quote Ovid who said: "Quidquid tentabam dicere versus erat," which means, "Everything I tried to say became verse." No, I wrote two books of short stories but I mainly write and translate poetry. I also think that children are attracted by poetry with its rhyme and rhythm, especially in the early years: it's like playing and it's easy to memorize. That...
(The entire section is 1209 words.)