Dia RaduFrom: Bucharest Born on: Occupation: Journalist
She looks at me from heights. She is neither arrogant nor taller than me. Our chairs are simply out of phase. She sits for a few minutes, tries on the way different body positions, from fallen shoulders to elbows propped up on her knees. Her face expression suggest discrete: “It’s not good!” Then she stands up, apologizes, and walks to another part of the restaurant. She comes back with a chair in her arms and replaces the current one. When she sits back in front of me, our eyes are now at the same level. She smiles! Dia Radu smiles, but it will be confirmed later that her laughter is as alive as the one past heard on radio, a laugh that leaves no indifferent even a reference sad human. A laugh that appears in case of light jokes, in irony, but also in sarcasm.
She has been writing since ever, and the diary was one of the first approaches she remembers with humor. It happened in the 4th grade at Crângași school, when as part of the children’s group, she was going behind the grocery store to take rotten tomatoes. The boys, not the girls, and especially not she, have discovered the enthusiasm of the naughtiness to use these fruits on the tram rails that came with speed and crushed them. The peak of the story started when the teacher discovered them, surprising Dia with the tomatoes in her hand, guilty according to the “investigation”. The news came to her mother ears, and after a coffee drunk with the teacher of her little girl, the punishment was also decided: she expose the facts to my father, and then she came to me with a notebook, writing the date and the following words: “Today I threw tomatoes in cars.” “And further you will write every day,” she told me. The child never wrote in that notebook, she did not have it anymore, it was lost, but the mimic of her mother’s, amused, but apparently serious, comes back to Dia’s eyes when she remember those days of the past.
The journal worked as a reference, helped her not to lose touch with herself, not to forget what she wants or how she is. If the rows of high school were puerile, the present ones are different, deeper, ironic sometimes and dramatic at other times, are also dangerous, being mouthy, but in the same time also sympathetic somehow. She does not know why, but when she has to criticize or dissolve something she has a much higher verbal eloquence. I think I would have been a good literary critic.
Otherwise she is more relaxed.
MS: Dia, your roots are drawn from Maramureș and Brașov. How did these two essences mingled in your childhood bottle?
Just as two different density fluids, poured into a vessel, far from being perfectly blended, it prefer to lay in layers one above the other. Like my mother, born in Marmureș, on the edge of the forest, I wore in my way of being the wilderness of the north, and the loneliness, but also the warmth and the inner fire of the strong women from there. As from father’s side, born at the base of Piatra Craiului mountain, I have inherited a form of courage, the boldness of telling what I believe and the curiosity to discover alone what is on the other part of the mountain. I was born in Bucharest, in Brâncovenesc Hospital, in a birthplace with marble on the ground and one meter high beds, a historic monument, which Ceaușescu, three years later, had the”inspired” idea to demolish it. For many years, I have been shifting between these worlds, between the seasons spent at school, in Bucharest, in a dusty working-class neighborhood, and those spent at my grandparents, in freedom, through forests, mushrooms, at sheepfold, at picking raspberries, bathing in the fast mountain rivers in the summer, carolling and fighting with snow in winter. Most and all, my roots taught me to cherish freedom. But they also taught me what it means to enjoy yourself as you are, unmixed, sometimes contradictory, just as stubborn to uniformize as the fluids in the bottle I was talking about.
MS: You have grown to grandparents, but you were born in the capital. What do you remember in your history with the city of Bucharest?
My connection to Bucharest started in a courtyard shaded by vineyard, where the spring had an overwhelming perfume of lily of the valley and where in the summer you could hide from the sun at the base of a cherry tree. It was the house where my parents lived in rent by those years, the house of Trocan widow, who filled her free time by cooking, taking care of the roses and inviting other ladies to tea. It was a glamorous edge of Bucharest that still wore a little bit of the aura of good old times, but which also gradually embraced the shabby coat of eighth-century poverty. Sure, I did not care about that. Besides, my memories there stop at the age of three and a half when we all moved in a flat. But if I close my eyes, there are still very alive: the whistle of the train passing at exact hours somewhere behind the backyard, the sound of the birds in the spring, the blue flowers that invaded the fence, the fountain painted in green, the dusty street where I met with our neighbor, the doctor, a woman always greeting in French. A few years ago, when I crossed the city from one side to the other by car, I woke up in a neighborhood that astonishing looked as the neighborhood of my first childhood. I pulled on the right and looked at Waze, searching how far is the street where I was born. Hallucinating, I stopped the car exactly in front of it! What was left of the childhood street? An amazing narrow street, like a passage between two houses. A one-lane street, which, if I entered with the car, could only go out through the other side. Just to prove to me, if it is still the case, that time can only flow in one sense. I knocked at the gate then, and I went into the yard and even wept when I saw the column at the entrance of the house and the yellow stone staircase. The child in me knew them all.
MS: Do memories help a person who writes?
Imagination is born out of memory, and I do not think it could be otherwise. Even when you invent, you do it by resuscitating, swallowing or luring your own memories. Sometimes you write to recover a state. Sometimes you write to heal something you’ve lived. I wrote too little prose (and that is meant to stay in the drawer) to give verdicts now. When I write a reportage, what I have lived, but ALL of what I have lived is suddenly present. It helps me to line up with the human in front of me, to understand the things that moves he or she and the inner world, to rebuild a whole atmosphere. When I interview, memories do not help me, but rather empathy and curiosity. And when I write for myself, I do it because I miss myself. I miss that totally and totally special state, the part of myself that I have known very, very long ago. A kind of “memory,” but I cannot say from when.
MS: You worked as a documentarist for TF1, Radio France Culture and Le Monde, and your reports, chronicles and interviews appeared in Esquire, Dilemma or Elle. However, for us, for most of us, you are Dia Radu, the cultural editor of Formula As. What does it mean for you Formula As?
“Formula As” is like an old love on which you cannot give up, no matter how many new loves would appear in front of you. That’s because “Formula As” was the place where I learned to do journalism, where I felt myself for the first time belonging to a team, where I felt for the first time the joy of reporting. This year I celebrate 20 years since I started to be part of the history of this magazine. 20 years in which we grew up together, where we, both the humans and the magazine, changed, and even our audience changed. What does “Formula As” mean for me? First, a faithful witness to my ages. It’s enough to look at the magazine’s archive, to remember what I felt, what I loved, what I enjoyed, and what crisis I was going through.
MS: You have nearly two decades of journalistic experience. How do you give confidence to the interlocutor for the confession the interview implies?
I wish I could have an answer to this question, a secret that I would be generously delivering to the youngest. The truth, however, is that there is not just one answer. You deliver confidence through everything you are, through the way you have built yourself, through everything you have done until present: the education you have had, the books you have read, the experience you are showing, the sensitivity, the essential values, common sense, and so much more. In the end, we evaluate each other in every moment of life, not just in an interview. Anyway, I know for sure, nothing is more disconcerting than to feel that the journalist in front of you does not know what he wants. As nothing helps you more to open yourself up than a journalist who knows his subject well, leads the discussion, knows from where he’s leaving and where he wants to go. I’ve done all this intuitively. I do not think I spent too much time thinking about how I should be. But it has happened to me a few times to be in the reverse position, to be invited on the radio and TV and to find that some journalists only ask questions that inhibit you, and others simply have the magic wand. They are so sure of what they do, that you let your testimonies flow out of you without fear. A good journalist is like a lifeline, like a safety belt. You expose yourself with confidence, knowing he will not let you sink, no matter how deep you choose to sail.
MS: What do you think makes immortal an interview?
I have a few interviews in my mind, which I read, which inspired me and which I then wore with myself for years. But I would not know what made them memorable. Was it the emotion they transmitted? Was it that the journalist and the interviewee both opened a door to a world I would not otherwise have access to? There are interviews that I have not forgot because they gave a voice to things I felt for a long time, but I could not say them, are interviews I have not forgotten because they have given me answers in moments of indecision. There are interviews that simply disconnected me from the moment I was living, made a jump over the times, and took me with them in another space and another time. If I were to think of recipes when I was interviewing myself, I think I would not be able to ask anything. Because I love the most to enjoy everything I can find. It’s a paradox. To make a good interview you need to know a lot, to master the subject, the direction, the interlocutor, to know what you are looking for, what you want. But at the same time, you have to be able to forget everything, to remain present and allow yourself to be emotional.
MS: Your professional past includes fragments from the past of so many other people. Have these interactions somehow increased the ability to understand the meaning of life?
Well, the meaning of life is no longer what it was. (laughs) They do what they do and they change it all the time. As for the important meetings, I do not know if I’ve been looking myself after them, as we all are looking, without realizing, for the books we need at certain ages to find out who we are. Yes, there are meetings that have given me answers, and these are the ones that have clarified the big picture and have transformed me into a person tempted first of all to look inside. What I know is that the sky is in us, deep and infinite. My curiosities are constantly renewed, and questions can be endless.
More about Dia Radu’s texts can be found on the web-site of Formula As magazine.