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Burying the Typewriter: A Memoir Paperback – July 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


'extraordinary memoir..startling warmth, perception and humanity'-- Quentin Curtis, Telegraph

'a celebration of the power of the written word'-- Janet Christie, Scotland on Sunday

'beautiful, vivid memoir'-- Patrick Barkham, Guardian

'{T}enderly moving memoir... poignant and unsentimental  ..Bugan reminds us of the crushing sacrifices that Eastern European dissidents endured in those years.'--Roger Atwood, Boston Globe

' impressive feat of narrative skill. ... Carmen Bugan has written a moving and truthful first-hand account of a story that cannot fail to absorb; her skill as a writer makes it an exemplary memoir as well.'--Patrick McGuinness, The Times Literary Supplement

'A stunningly powerful piece of writing, a modern classic.' --Bee Wilson, Sunday Times

'A book touched with grace.'--Paul Bailey,  The Independent

[U]ncompromising candor, dignity and grace. [A] heart-wrenching paean to childhood, courage, loss and forgiveness, told poetically by a writer whose voice echoes long after the closing page.[S]supebrly lucid and humane...  --Justina Jase, Freedom Magazine

“In Burying the Typewriter, Carmen Bugan delivers neither a memoir of blame nor a hagiography. What she has drawn, within the story of her own childhood, is a complex portrait of an exasperating father, a man who happens to be a hero in the eyes of Amnesty International and the Western World, a hero in the service of a just cause. But, while he may be the driving force behind her story . . . it is her world that is revealed here, a world she was forced to leave behind and that she looks back on now with sorrow, pride, longing and rage.” ―Lynn Freed, Bakeless Prize judge

About the Author

Carmen Bugan is the author of the collection of poetry Crossing the Carpathians. Her work has been published in Harvard Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and Modern Poetry in Translation.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781555976170
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976170
  • ASIN: 1555976174
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Carmen Bugan whose life story is now featured on BBC with a film, radio program and an on-line piece is the author of the book of poems 'Crossing the Carpathians', the award winning memoir 'Burying the Typewriter', and a monograph, 'Seamus Heaney and East European Poetry in Translation: Poetics of Exile'. Her second collection of poems, 'The House of Straw' came out early this year. Her work has been published in Harvard Review, Times Literary Supplement, PN Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation and she has appeared on radio programs on NPR, BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4. Her poems have been translated into Italian and her memoir into Swedish and Polish. Reviews of her work appear in the Sunday Times, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Financial Times, The Literary Review, The Times Literary Supplement, Scotland on Sunday, Boston Globe, NY Post, Daily Telegraph, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many other places. Bugan was a Hawthornden Fellow, a Creative Arts Fellow in Literature at Wolfson College, Oxford University, a recipient of an Arts Council of England Individual Grant, and has taught Creative Writing at the Poetry School in London and Oxford University, and literature at Oxford and University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She has a doctorate in English literature from Balliol College, Oxford.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P.T. Jennings on January 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
Bugan's descriptions of life in the Romanian countryside not so long ago are priceless. She finds a fine balance between a child's recollections of traditions, farmlife and the sheer beauty of the land and the creeping coldness of fear and uncertainty as Ceasescu's tyrannical regime closes around her family. But the book really picks up when she begins describing the moral dilemma of her father who faces a terrible choice between honoring his principles and risking the security of his family. At that point, I couldn't put it down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patti M. Marxsen on December 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many reasons to read Carmen Bugan's compelling memoir about her family life during the communist regime of Nicolai Ceausescu (1965-1989). Her vivid memories in rural Romania play in the mind like small films streaming from a happy childhood. Fearlessly grounded grandparents and voices from the pages of beloved books remind us that poetic spirits unfold from unexpected sources. The honesty and sensitivity with which she confronts the cost of her father's choices sets an admirable example for how to write about those we love. And the quiet tribute to her mother embedded in these pages enlarges the ways we might think about "women's liberation" in a global context.

These themes could be the "stuff" of any other coming-of-age memoir. There is even a "first love" that helps to universalize Bugan's narrative. What sets this book apart is the context of surveillance, deprivation, and terror imposed by Ceausescu's secret police (the "Securitate"). As the family sleeps together in their clothes, just in case there is some sort of disturbance in the night, Bugan's early years are transformed by this book into a revelation of two "secrets" that even the Securitate could never have discovered, much less understand.

On one hand, the young girls' journey at the heart of the story reveals how loss of innocence feels in beautifully unadorned prose. The deeper secrets are harder to unravel and eventually become a quest of reconciliation with a hidden past. This "book within the book" is an act of bearing witness, of unmasking the masquerade of a brutal totalitarian regime. In comparison to the "coming-of-age journey," this other journey can only begin to find a destination years after the Bugan family emigrates to Michigan in 1989.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau on May 18, 2013
Format: Paperback

Of the many accounts of life under a tyrannical regime, this is one of the very best and one of the most moving.

Carmen was born in 1970 in Ceausescu's Romania; but her first six years are idyllic. Her rather severe parents, Ion and Mioara, ran a grocer's shop, from early morning till late in the evening, in a little town some 15 kilometers from their home village, and during the week her much more indulgent maternal grandparents looked after her and her younger sister Loredana on their small farm. They adored their grandparents, of whom Carmen paints a loving picture, as she also does of her paternal grandmother. Her response to the beauties of nature never desert her even in the hard times to come, and her memories of childhood are full of happy descriptions of what every season had to offer in fauna and flora, in scents and in foods, of religious festivals, of folk myths and of beautiful rituals of charity by which the villagers believe they are storing up blessings for themselves in a heaven which they visualize in very concrete terms - communist propaganda notwithstanding.

There is a charming innocence about these scenes, for at the time the children do not yet know that Ion had already been in prison once, sentenced in 1961 to seven years for protesting against the communist regime. The first hint that the world is grim comes about a third of the way through the book, when Carmen is about eleven and when the children become aware of food-shortages, the corruption associated with it, the government's campaign against hoarders.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MBC on June 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After hearing about this book on NPR, I fed my memoir addiction and am glad I did. Bugan writes beautifully and tells a fascinating story about growing up as the child of a Romanian dissident. I will recommend this to my book club because it should generate good discussions on the relationship between the individual and the government and how political actions influence social relationships.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gerardpeter on January 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
There is much more to this lovely book than “life under Communism” – it deserves to pull in other readers too.


The author was born in 1970 and lived in Romania until 1989 when her family was allowed to emigrate to America. Her father was a committed opponent of the Ceausescu regime and suffered for it – as did his family. However, only long afterwards did she read the files of the Securitate [secret police] that detailed what was happening in her earlier childhood. She was too young herself to even be conscious of, still less understand, this. Consequently, memories of this time are much less troubled. She provides a magical account of life in a small town in a poor country. She tells stories of her grandparents, her neighbours, her pets, nature. She relates folk beliefs and folk practices. She captures childhood fantasies and imaginings.
Then her father goes back to prison in 1983. The author is now her in her teens, her mother has another sickly baby. Carmen has to take on many more family responsibilities. The harassment of the state is relentless. She cannot but be aware of it, as the later chapters make clear. In the end, exile is the only option. Her description of the last few weeks in her homeland is so well written and touching.
Many years later she goes back to Romania. The country has changed, of course, some people she traces, others she cannot find. But it is clear that there is a world she cannot recover, to which she can never return, from which she will forever be an exile – her childhood.
Carmen Bugan writes beautifully. Her memoir is beguiling. I would also recommend this book to those in Europe who are so hostile to Romania and its people. Both are special as a poet such as this shows.
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