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Coming from an
Off-Key Time

  miruna, a tale

by Bogdan Suceavă

translated from the Romanian by Alistair Ian Blyth

A village in the Carpathian Mountains, one of the last outposts of pre-modernity, an elderly man, sensing his time is short, tells his young grandchildren tales that weave a family saga covering the real history from the 1870s to the time of the telling. One of the children, now grown, is the re-teller of these tales, while the other, Miruna, perhaps has the gift of second sight. Incorporating elements of fantasy common to the storytelling traditions of the Balkans, historical characters mix with imaginary beings in a landscape that recreates the world of an isolated village bearing an unusual name : Evil Vale. Ancestors are talked about as if ancient heroes, and the novel shifts focus between telling about their lives and the storyteller’s own experiences through the prism of the village during both world wars. As past tragedies are presented in a way that the grandchildren might picture and remember them, the novel has been called a kind of meta-fairy tale, a story about the lost tradition of oral storytelling itself, the conveyance of a family history from one generation to the next via the spoken word. With the death of the grandfather, the children realize that confronted with the ubiquitous hand of modernity, which the village has managed to frustrate over a succession of regimes, a whole world of stories and the entire memory of a family and of its idiosyncratic way of life in the village might have been irrevocably lost.

Blending the autobiographical and historical with the marvelous, Miruna, a Tale is a novel whose core is the exploration of the imaginary themes and motives that informed traditional society in the mountainous regions of Romania, a world that was radically transformed into virtual extinction over the course of the 20th century.

Described by one critic as a “literary jewel whose strange and singular spell holds the reader in its thrall,” Miruna, a Tale received the Bucharest Writers Association Fiction Award in 2007.


Bogdan Suceavă’s Miruna, a Tale begins with this message: fantastical, impossible narratives bring insight to, and extract truth from, the facts of everyday life.

— Courtney Coppage, Slavic & East European Journal

This book is a bewitching tribute to the Balkan tradition of oral storytelling and to Suceavă’s loyalty to the traditional culture of his grandparent’s small town in the Carpathians. Paired with Blyth’s vivid translation, this is work that hopefully will be passed on as many times as the stories within.

— Monica Carter, Three Percent

Bogdan Suceavă (and his translator) have given us something else here. It is not only a tale of magic, but it is also comes with a magical language, one that, I claim, is very rare. ... The words, the very sentences themselves grow with and through necromancy.


Anyone raised even in the vestigial remnants of an oral culture will respond at some level to the tales in this eloquently told and moving novel ...

— Robert Murray Davis, World Literature Today

Miruna, A Tale, a novel small in size but rich and dense in content, a singular amalgamation of folklore and history, fantasy, absurdity, and stark realism that urges us as readers to consider the careful balancing of fact and fiction in the stories we tell.

— Leonore Myka, Colorado Review

Miruna is one of the most charming books of fiction that have come out in English (for which we have to thank the translator, Alistair Ian Blyth) from Eastern Europe in recent years.

— Alta Ifland, Three Percent

Suceavă can’t resist a good story, any more than his characters can resist the thrall of superstition or ideology. […] Storytelling is a spiritual balm against the inexorable march of time, the book demonstrates, and a necessary one because, even in this fairytale landscape of Europe’s “last virgin” place, nothing stays the same forever.

— Paul Mandelbaum, Los Angeles Review of Books

Once the reader starts to pay attention to these intricacies of structure, the book opens up and becomes manifold and tremendous. […] At the center of Suceavă’s series of concentric circles is a first teller of the story of the human race on Earth, so diminished by time as to be invisible, and the outermost circle is Suceavă’s novel, the retelling that contains all other retellings. Once this secret of the novel is revealed, it becomes obvious that the subtitle A Tale is an ironic one. For Bogdan Suceavă, there is only one tale, and to attempt to tell another is only to get lost in its ever-expanding orbit.

— Stephen Piccarella, Necessary Fiction

The most basic description of the book would be that it is a collection of autobiographical and folk tales told by a grandparent to two young children (a brother and the titular sister), but the layering of the stories, of the different chronologies and histories involved and of the effects that story-telling and stories have on people and society is so beautifully and subtly executed that any such bare outline would be an injustice.


If you loved the books of Sjon this is one I’m sure you will love.


Novel and non-novel, Miruna, a Tale is a sort of folklore fantasy with elements of meta-fairy tale, a full return to one’s origins, to childhood in the Carpathians.

— Paul Cernat, Observatorul cultural

Miruna, a Tale takes the reader on a journey through a deep rural-fantastic Romania, with political echoes and heroic figures. The narrative from a child’s perspective is a challenge for many writers, but Bogdan Suceavă has managed this effortlessly. A unique book that one could fall in love with.

— Luminița Marcu, Noua literatură

Miruna, a Tale has at least one quality common to great works of fiction (the connoisseur will find others): it invites the reader to turn the page quickly, and when one has come to the end, to retrace your steps, to carefully reread to discover how the spell was cast.

— Andrei Simuț, Cuvântul

In the context of Romanian literature over the past decade and its fondness for demystification, I was certainly charmed by Bogdan Suceavă’s Miruna, a Tale. And I'm far from the only one as the book has enjoyed a more than enthusiastic reception.

— Emilian Galaicu-Păun, Jurnal de Chișinău / Radio Free Europe


ISBN 9788086264448
141 pp., 140 x 200 mm
stamped softcover
smyth-sewn with flaps
fiction • novel

cover by Dan Mayer

UK/Europe : January 2014
US : September 2014

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