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Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania [Kindle Edition]

Mike Ormsby
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $9.79
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  • Length: 316 pages
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Book Description

These ironic but affectionate short stories, about ordinary people in often-extraordinary circumstances, have earned glowing reviews from Romania’s literary critics and general readers. Some dubbed the author ‘our British Caragiale’, after the 19th century playwright and satirist. The collection - funny and bittersweet – has become a cult read among Romaniaphiles, Romanians and the uninitiated, around the world. The book offers tragi-comic glimpses of this irresistible, dynamic and enthralling country, where locals say, "Ca la noi, la nimeni: there’s nobody quite like us.” That’s neither a boast nor a confession, just a fact, and Ormsby’s colourful characters will entertain, educate and enrage. It depends who is reading.

Mike Ormsby is a writer and former BBC journalist/World Service trainer.

Editorial Reviews


"Ormsby insists on writing exactly what he sees in today's colorful Romania. He's likeable, lucid, with a big soul and a lot of humor. The English journalist offers neither a façade, nor caricature, but reality - today's Romania." - Formula AS

"Romania has found itself a British Caragiale. The book makes you die laughing" - Cotidianul

"He does not flatter or indulge, nor play our national sport of turning away, indifferent." - Romania Libera

"Romanian clichés treated with intelligence and a unique, subtle irony. Merits pride of place on any bookshelf." - Foaia Transilvana

"Ormsby recounts the mishaps, muddles and privations that make life hard for Romanians, and even harder for outsiders. It's better than a guide book." - Tribune 

"Ormsby sees Romania very clearly. Sometimes we surprise him, sometimes he challenges us. Nevertheless, he clearly appreciates our charisma, confidence and warmth." - Elle 

"Ormsby is a very good portraitist, who knows how to use contrast, colour, movement, and irony" - Cultural Observer

"The stories are juicy, full of charm, unified by a lot of English humor." - Ziarul de Iasi

"After nearly twenty-five years in-country, he is well attuned to the darkly humorous undercurrent that runs through most casual interactions in Romania. He had me grinning from the first page and even laughing out loud a few times, accompanied by a shake of the head, a shrug, and a resigned acceptance of man's utter fallibility in the face of absurdity. But such is life. And I still loved Romania a little more with every page." -

About the Author

Mike Ormsby was born in Ormskirk, England, 1959. His popular short story collection 'Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania' was first published in 2008 (Editura Compania), and earned him the tag 'the British Caragiale'. Mike is a former BBC journalist and World Service trainer. His illustrated book for children, 'Spinner the Winner', about a brave but squeaky wind turbine, was published in 2012. His screenplay 'Hey Mr DJ' was filmed and released in Kigali in 2007 and topped the bill at Rwanda's first Hillywood Film Festival. His short script 'Enfants Dits Sorciers' was filmed in Kinshasa in 2002. Mike and his wife Angela Nicoara are based in Transylvania, where they have lived for 500 years

Product Details

  • File Size: 422 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Nicoaro Books; 3 edition (June 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008EVCY4W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,427 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Never Mind The Balkans is a comic, absurd, but telling portrait of a country teeming with contradictions. Ormsby is a useful guide. I gather he is married into the country, as it were, but he is also a journalist and uses his skills of observation to sketch out Romania's current state. Ormsby's playful style suits the material as Romania today can only be accepted and loved with a dose of good humour. If you are planning on visiting the country or just want to be an armchair traveler, I recommend it, especially as much else written about the country in English is outdated.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to do with the Balkans November 29, 2013
By John
Format:Kindle Edition
I bought this book based on the title, and the thought that crossed my mind was “What, there will be a civil war in Romania? Will Romania break down like Yugoslavia?” No, it won’t.
I’ll have to say that the book is fascinating, entertaining, and well written. It attracted me back to it to read it all. As an expatriate, at first, I was upset by what he wrote about Romanians’ behavior, but sadly I could not disagree. Some Romanians behave that way, however they have good harts. Also this book is written from the point of view of a Brit, from a Western culture point of view versus a Central European culture tormented by history and ravaged by Communism. And it may be difficult for Westerners to understand how people of a country behave shortly after they were liberated from the Communist concentration camp that Romania used to be. This book does not explain why Romanians may behave that way. Overnight the people experience freedom, no rules, and no police repression. They were deprived of goods under communism, and now the stores are loaded with goods just like in a Western country. An entire population feels as if they are in a free fall. They don’t understand market economy, they don’t understand democracy and how politics work, and they don’t understand that every individual is responsible for their own betterment, not the State. The religious and moral boundaries of the past have been destroyed by communism as well.
Should that be an excuse? No. The individuals who learned fast got ahead and became rich, others are struggling just like in the West. The unscrupulous got in the politics and stole all they could. And it will take at least two generations for Romanians to relearn the old civilized values, and to adapt to a free economy, and democracy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Letter to Mike Ormsby from a Romanian reader July 30, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Dear Mike,

I first read your book three weeks ago, and ever since, I've been asking myself: how would this have been received, if written by a Romanian? You are assertive without being aggressive, witty with a keen appreciation of human nature.

It is flattering to have been 'adopted' by a Brit when he shows our good side, but, since he also - and mostly - shows our bad side, it is not quite so flattering. I guess, you have chosen to live in our slowly evolving country, a wonderland held back by its own stubbornness?

You breathe the same air as we do, travel on our infernal roads - even on holiday - and the sight of our mountains gives you the same intense pleasure as it does us. Are you not the fellow who goes jogging around our Parliament, among the stray dogs, the one with friends among ordinary people?

However, perhaps you are also the person paying his bill at the next counter or walking upstairs in the National Opera, or browsing the galleries at the National Museum of Art, or the one at the next table on the terrace, with the notebook?

Psssst! Watch out, fellow Romanians! Mike is observing us, he is having fun, he is correcting us, but he is never offensive. I wonder when will we learn some good manners: Please, may I? Thank you! I am so sorry...

For all of this, thank you, Mike, and please consider me as a subscriber to your next 100 titles.

Liana Petrescu
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was intrigued by the title, coming from a Balkan country, and somebody compared the writer to Bill Bryson (whose books I love), so I had to read it. And I wasn’t disappointed, I laughed a lot and could place each of the stories in my own country, Bosnia. Particularly amusing are the stories describing old-fashioned services, like in the post office, with which we are all stuck (as long as it’s happening to someone else).
These are not sugar-coated stories, it is how it is, though I’m guessing inexperienced foreigners might suspect some exaggeration.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet, bite-sized truths March 12, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mr. Ormsby's stories speak of a Romania that, as locals, we usually try to hide under the rug. He brings up stealing, corruption, irresponsibility, the exaggerated "laissez-faire" attitude and its cousin "if it ain't broken, don't fix it". What I like is that the book doesn't launch itself into a big philosophical discussion, but rather recounts some moments and lets the reader draw his own conclusion. The style is rather lively and very easy to read, although it gets quite predictable at some points. I do wish there were some stories showing it's not all dark, but nobody asked the author to be a PR specialist for my country.
Definitely check it out, especially if you can't quite understand why Romanians are cynical and defeatist.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in Romania for the expat
If a non-Bucharest/Romania resident wants to get an authentic, vicarious feel for the place as an ex patriot experiences it, this is the book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jimmy the Geek
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest book written with good heart
I loved the book even if it does not always show the “touristic” version of Romania. On the other hand, it does not have the “author from the civilised West” who has decided to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Airlight
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fun read, whether stories are exaggerated or not. Part of my prep for a trip to Romania.
Published 8 months ago by jo elliff
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it. Short evocative snapshots of Romania.
Published 9 months ago by Kathleen M Dan
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice collection of short
Nice collection of short, comic stories that offer glimpses of culture and behavior, not necessarily true or flattering. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Chris
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased writing
Never in my life I have read a book so full of contempt and loath of the subject. What a pity. Because Romania has so many good things to show and to offer. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rudite
3.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes funny
This was a series of shot stories about an ex-pat's experiences in Romania. Most were very short and tried to make a point about the culture. Read more
Published 10 months ago by DC
1.0 out of 5 stars in my opinion, NOT EVEN CLOSE
I have been to Romania 9 or 10 times most of this gentleman's opinions are just that opinions. I have not seen of what this gentleman describes of Romania. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Brian M. Drouillard
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding read
I read Mr. Ormsby's book during a two-week romp through Romania. I was able to see things I might not have otherwise noticed (or understood) thanks to his perspectives and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Kelly Buck
4.0 out of 5 stars adventures in Romania told by an Englishman
At first I thought I wouldn't like this book - it's a book of very short stories about small events in the author's life. At first the stories annoyed me since they have no ending. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Meg
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More About the Author

Mike Ormsby was born in Ormskirk, England, in 1959. He is the author of 'Child Witch Kinshasa' and 'Child Witch London' (2014), a two-part novel set in Congo and the UK. His short story collection, 'Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania' (2008), prompted Romanian critics to dub him 'our British Caragiale', after their beloved Victorian-era satirist.

'Spinner the Winner' (2012), Mike's book for children, has been translated into French, Serbian, Spanish, and Romanian. His screenplay 'Hey, Mr DJ' (2007) was filmed in Kigali and topped the bill at Rwanda's first Hillywood Film Festival. His script 'Enfants dits Sorciers' was filmed in Kinshasa (2002). A former BBC journalist/World Service trainer, Mike is based in a mountain village in Transylvania, where he and his wife Angela Nicoara have lived for five hundred years.

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