„The editor doesn’t get along with the writer too well”

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Valentin Nicolau, a president of Nemira Publishing House, is also a noteworthy playwright. This year one of his plays, “Like Snow White and the Two”, participated in the “Camil Petrescu” Playwriting Competition organized by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and it was awarded the first prize. The text is a genuine analysis of the present Romanian society. He talked to us about how he had written the play and the terms, not exactly comfortable, between himself as editor and himself as writer.

In a way, your success is surprising. When did you begin to write plays? Have you got closer to literature because you are an editor?

The story of Valentin Nicolau’s plays began about two years ago. I won this contest and one of my plays was selected for “the best play of the year” by UNITER this year and last year too.  So my success is somehow ampler. I want to tell you that I needed a confirmation that I do a good job, so I addressed the professional mechanism, that is competitions. And there is also the fact that I have always feared that things will mingle and Valentin Nicolau the editor will be mistaken for Valentin Nicolau the writer. This is why I chose a competition. As anonymous, you can get an opinion from a body of experts in the field.

What kind of play is the piece awarded? Is it realistic, is it experimental?

The play is called “Like Snow White and the Two”, after the fairytale, of course. It has a special story. Editor Valentin Nicolau met with one of the writers whose books are published by Nemira and who told him that there were about ten days left foe subscribing texts to the “Camil Petrescu” competition. So I made up his mind at once, I  went home and I took me five nights to write the play. In the sixth I had a small break to get detached. In the seventh I corrected it and then I sent it. This is the story. Now about the play…Theatre is sure to be grounded on the universal topics of humanity, but in the society we live in we can notice some afflictions, but we can’t approach them overtly. So, universal values are veiled under the contemporary world and its features. This play is about the destiny of three people who meet and then part… In a way, it is a realistic piece. In general, what I write is realistic, for the simple and very profound reason that I think realism is more fictitious than fantasy, that it is more convincing than the most daring fiction.

How does the editor get along with the writer? Do they cohabitate harmoniously or do they burden each other? Doesn’t the editor offer advantages to the writer?

One thing is for sure: I don’t want to and I can’t deceit myself. What is good is good, even if it remains unpublished, so I wouldn’t give myself advantages because I am an editor. Now I have the confirmation of my talent and I am very glad that UNITEXT has offered to publish a collection of my plays to represent me. So it’s like I’ve already told you: it is hard to have two people, an editor and a writer, in a single person. You have to be very rigorous during the day, do a good job at the publishing house, and feel inspired at night. Hence the incompatibility between the two selves. The pressure is considerable, but for the time being I can manage to put up with it. Not to say that sometimes the best ideas cross your mind when you have work to do at the publishing house? So what can you do? Well…

Dan Stanca (România liberă, March 21,  2000)

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