Incisive Alta Ifland at European Literature Night 2021
Time & Location
About The Event
Romanian-American author Alta Ifland joins fellow writers, translators and performers from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain for the much-awaited, in-person edition of European Literature Night, the long-running program of readings and conversations with some of the Old World’s most en vogue authors. Alta will present fragments from her latest novel, The Wife Who Wasn’t, a thrilling social satire published in spring 2021 with New Europe Books. This year, apart from the usual string of readings, the event will feature a discussion about Europe’s literary regions moderated by Trafika Europe Radio’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Singer.
European Literature Night is produced by Czech Center in New York together with EUNIC – New York, the association of European cultural institutes in NYC, and takes place at the Bohemian National Hall on November 22, 2021.
The event will be recoderd and will be broadcasted at a later date.
Alta Ifland was born and grew up in Communist Romania. She came to the US as a political refugee in 1991 and, after a PhD in French language and literature, she taught for a brief period in academia, then started to work as book reviewer, a writer in her third language (English) and an occasional literary translator from/into Romanian, French and English. She is the author of two collections of prose poems (Voix de glace/Voice of ice, bilingual, self-translated from French, 2008 Louis Guillaume Prize—a French prize awarded for the best collection of prose poems; and The Snail’s Song) and two books of short stories (Elegy for a Fabulous World, 2010 finalist, Northern California Book Award, and Death-in-a-Box, 2010 Subito Press Fiction Prize). Ifland’s novel, The Wife Who Wasn’t (New Europe Books)—a satirical comedy about Moldovans versus Californians in a post-Communist world – and her translation (with Eireene Nealand) of Le Camion by Marguerite Duras (The Darkroom, Contra Mundum Press), were released in spring 2021. At present, she is working on a novel inspired by the life of the first two of Romania’s queens, Elisabeta and Marie.
An exhilaratingly comical, cross-cultural novel, The Wife Who Wasn't brings together an eccentric community from the hills of Santa Barbara, California, and a family of Russians from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The novel starts in the late 1990s, after the fall of communism, and has at its center the mail-order marriage between a California man (Sammy) and a Russian woman (Tania), who comes to America and causes a series of hilarious cultural misunderstandings. The novel's four parts take place alternately in California and Moldova, and comprise short chapters whose point of view moves seamlessly between that of an objective insider (the omniscient narrator) and that of a subjective outsider (various characters). This shift allows the reader to perceive both realities—late 90s bohemian California and post-communist Moldova—from opposite points of view. A rollicking satire of both suburban America and urban Eastern Europe, The Wife Who Wasn't is a comedy of manners that depicts the cultural and personality clash between Tania and Sammy, Anna (Sammy's teenage daughter) and Irina, and Bill (Sammy's neighbor) and Serioja (Tania's brother). It is also a comedy of errors in the tradition of playful, multiple love triangles. The novel reaches a shocking climax involving a stolen Egon Schiele painting and alluding to the real history of East Mountain Drive, whose bohemian community was destroyed in the 2008 "Tea Fire."
“This comedy of errors is a page-turner, where a mail-order bride service, enough love triangles to boggle the mind, a stolen Egon Schiele painting, and a devastating fire lead the worlds of Santa Barbara and Chișinău to collide.” - Los Angeles Review of Books