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  • Writer's pictureCristina Mihai

Fragment from "Those things we never say" by Raluca Modreanu

Contemporary romanian writers have managed to constantly bring us strong doses of quality literature. We have very talented writers who manage to put on paper the most common stories, all inspired by everyday life, and turn them into novels.

Their novels can also help us better understand what are we unhappy with in terms of reading and what exactly would we want from it, or even more, from life itself.

If you don't know what novel to choose next, I suggest "The Journal of a German Doctor During the WWII" by Raluca Mihaela Modreanu, a contemporary writer very dear to me. Her debut novel was one of the best novels I've read in 2020.

"Well, maybe you are asking yourself right now who am I, in which bloody communist country I was born, and why am I doing such a big fuss about capitalist concepts and negotiation. And you are right. I should have started by introducing myself: My name is Andrei Bogdan Dorobantu, and I was born in Bucharest, Romania."

Because us, her readers, are eager to find out what happens in her next novel "Those things we never say", Raluca has taken us by surprise and released two fragments from the book which is currently being written. It will be a new experience, as the novel resembles Agatha Christie's stories, a mix of mystery & thriller and crime novels with many delicious and funny character dialogs.

Synopsis: "Every year, 10 colleagues of different nationalities, who work together at one of the largest car companies in Europe, participate, for a week, in a teambuilding. It takes place around Christmas, in an isolated lodge in the Swiss Alps. This year, the 10 remain isolated in the lodge after an avalanche. After the first night, they find one of them dead. Those who are left alive have to decipher the mystery, whether it is murder, suicide or if their superiors simply wanted to put them in a difficult situation, to see how well they are able to work in a team."

"Chapter 1 Me ‘Teambuilding’ was one of those new capitalist concepts I learnt about after the fall of communism in 1989. As well as ‘meritocracy’, ‘profit’, ‘negotiation’ and ‘deal’. Even though no one could imagine how capitalism would work without negotiators and negotiations, well, during communism, we had absolutely no idea about what that means. I guess for a child born in the western countries, learning how to negotiate is like learning your mother-tongue: it’s a smooth process which has evolved in time, and when you’ve reached adulthood, it’s already part of you, of your behavior, of your psychology. You can do it naturally, as naturally as you speak your mother-tongue, comparing with someone who has learnt it as an adult. After all, if you were a child born in a western country, you’ve already seen your parents doing it, for example, when they sold that antique set of cup of teas, which no one in your family has used anymore since years. Or when your dad sold his ten-years-old car. Or maybe when your parents sold your old toys, the ones you used to play with as a toddler. Or perhaps you’ve heard your mom and dad talking about a raise of salary your dad is about to ask to his boss, after five years of loyal work at the same company. But this wasn’t my case. My parents worked at the same institution since they finished university, in 1976, until they retired; my father never asked for a raise of salary, not even after decades of loyal work at the company, and my toys must be hidden somewhere in an old cupboard from the 1980’, in my parents’ flat. I must add, that my father kept working for the same institution after the fall of communism, which became, of course, a private company after 1989’. That means twenty additional years of loyal work, until he retired. Though, it has never occurred to him that he should ask for a raise of salary, not even when the conditions at the enterprise got worse, and the responsibility and the amount of work, his new bosses demand from him to carry out further, grew significantly. Now you understand what I mean? To negotiate is a skill that someone has learnt since childhood, in the same natural way they have learnt their mother-tongue. It’s definitely not just a concept in a dictionary. If you didn’t learn it as a child, you will probably never be good at it. Let’s put it even clearer, using an idiom I’ve learnt from those American movies, after 1989: you will probably always suck on it. Well, maybe you are asking yourself right now who am I, in which bloody communist country I was born, and why am I doing such a big fuss about capitalist concepts and negotiation. And you are right. I should have started by introducing myself: My name is Andrei Bogdan Dorobantu, and I was born in Bucharest, Romania, two days after the big earthquake in 1977. While I’m telling you all this I’m in the middle of a teambuilding, actually in the middle of nowhere in the Swiss Alps, stuck by the avalanche in a little hut, together with my other nine bureau- colleagues, short before Christmas, without connectivity on our mobile phones, listening to George Michael and drinking Glühwein. If you’re already suspecting that I miss my childhood, from what I’ve told you before, well, I must make it very clear to you: what I miss right now is my family, my wife and my three children, who are waiting for me to come home, after this phony teambuilding is over. “Driving home for Christmas”, Chris Rea’s song, has always been my wife’s favorite one. In the last years she has started to play the CD from the beginning of November already, as she was in tune with the salesmen who begin to sell Christmas stuff two months before Christmas. Since we’ve had children, our Christmas habits have obviously changed, and with every child we’ve become, our home has transformed in a Christmas wonderland in December. My home is a Christmas wonderland in this very moment, while I’m here, drinking my Glühwein with my colleagues, trying to make jokes and to laugh at their jokes, trying to hide my foreign accent as much as possible, and to be sure that I start laughing at their jokes at the right moment, hoping that no one will ask me again if I’ve got their joke, giving that I’m a foreigner, and that’s not my mother tongue. Believe me, after living in three different countries until now, I can tell you something of my experience: humor is universal, if it’s good humor. Everyone gets it, so you mustn’t be worried about. It’s just that my mind skips away sometimes, while I’m listening to you, and maybe that’s why I missed your joke.

Like in this very moment… My wife is probably baking cookies right now, and my children are playing in front of our already decorated Christmas tree. Can you imagine that picture? Just think of one of those books about fairytales set around Christmas time. Yeah, that’s the picture. Therefore I think, of course, why should I spend even more time with my colleagues, after all? Aren’t we together most of our time, though? Haven’t I already seen Dimitri eating, heard Monica coughing, peed together with Peter, or smoked with Nina and Michael? Of course I would never say this loud, because I would be labeled as someone who doesn’t’ have team spirit, which probably genuinely lacks me. I guess because of the fact that I was an only child, a sort of strong feeling of individuality has grown in me, so that wherever I go, I’ve always had the feeling of being the black sheep. I simply don’t fit anywhere. But at least I could do the effort to pretend that I’m fitting, as my wife advised me. After all, if I want to keep the life-standard we’ve reached in these last years, I should try at least to be more flexible and to adapt myself to the environment. Has anyone forced me to come here? Has anyone forced me to accept this job? Wasn’t my own decision? So why should I behave so absurd? It was my free choice; after all, nobody is responsible for my decisions. If only I hadn’t been an only child…"


"Chapter 10 Nina ‘What are we going to do with Michael's body?’, asked Boris. ‘We can't let him here, he has already begun to stink!’ ‘With all the respect for Michael, maybe we should take him outside. Not even he is going to stink even more if he lays here, but it's also not hygienic to live with a body under the same roof!’ suggested Paul. ‘We can't take him out. We all can be suspected of crime. We don't know why he died, and until the police doesn't assess the cause of his death, we can't touch him.’, I said. ‘But he wasn't murdered, he committed suicide!’, said Paul. ‘How can you know for sure, Paul? Anyway, even if he committed suicide, we can't remove his body. The police must find him exactly in the same position as he was when he died.’, said Peter. ‘But this is an emergency situation. We're stuck in here! It's nobody's fault that Michael is dead, so nobody can ask us “just to live with the situation”! Why should I accept to sleep with a dead body in the same room?’, cried Boris. ‘You don't have to sleep with him, Boris. You shall come and sleep with me and Dimitri. We'll help you to bring your bed in our bedroom.’, I said.

‘But this would mean to break one of the teambuilding's rules! Everybody should sleep in the same room with that colleague who was assigned to them at the beginning. We even signed a consent that we agree with this term, didn't we? In this case, Boris should sleep with Michael. Period. Maybe this is a test, too. Who knows?’, said Dimitri, and then he continued: ‘I have nothing against sleeping with Boris in the same room, don't get me wrong, but shouldn't we follow their rules? Just to see what happens next? Don't you think so, guys? Maybe he's not even dead, he's just playing dead. Or maybe they replaced Michael with a mannequin who looks exactly like him and stinks. To see how we manage the situation. Nowadays the technology can do a lot of things… even mannequins who look and smell like dead people. Maybe they just want to convince us that Michael is dead, to check our creativity and our ability to work in team, when dealing with dead people. We’ve done a pretty goid job until now, so maybe they decided to challenge us even harder this year. This must be the next level. I think we should stick to their rules and see what happens next.’

‘But he's dead! I won't sleep in the same room with a dead guy, Dimitri! Screw their rules!’, cried Boris.

‘Be careful with what you are saying, Boris, because they are capable of blaming you for discrimination against dead people, and sue you! I know these social justice warriors, they always complain about discrimination, but if I said that I feel myself discriminated against, too, they would call me nut! A white male alive has no right to complain about discrimination! Even the whales are more protected nowadays, than we are!’

‘But I bet he's not actually dead! Giving that we couldn't find any logical explanation for his death, it means that he's probably not!’, insisted Dimitri.


‘If we had a lot of alcohol, we could soak him in alcohol. It helps to preserve a dead body.’, said suddenly Nina.

‘How do you know that? Have you ever preserved a dead body with alcohol before, Nina?’ asked Dimitri, half curious, half concerned.

Nina laughed. ‘No, silly, of course not. But my grandfather had been a mortician. He worked for the staff of the communist party in the Soviet Union, for more than forty years. His “clients” had to look very well by their funerals, so he knew a lot of tricks to conserve them as well as possible, until they were buried. Sometimes even for several weeks! He taught me some of his tricks.’

‘He soaked his “clients” in alcohol?’ asked Dimitri, astonished.

Nina burst into laugh again. ‘He only tried once, with one of them. The result was amazing, my grandfather told me. That comrade looked even better dead than alive, but of course he reeked so much like vodka at his funeral, that my grandfather was about to be fired because of it. With “fired” I mean dismissed from his job. My grandfather even wanted to do more research about his method and patent it for the Soviet Union, of course. But unluckily he found no family willing to provide him “material” for his research.’"

Just sit back and enjoy! :)


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