Special lecturer publishing translated Romanian novella

By Andrew Wernette

Doris Plantus, a special lecturer in the Oakland University Department of English, is publishing her first novella “Sihastrul” this year. The title translates to “The Hermit” from Romanian, as the work was originally written in Romanian by Plantus. She translated the story herself for an English-speaking crowd.

In “Sihastrul”, Plantus tells the tale of a mystic hermit who is around during the Garden of Eden. While it plays with folklore, she said that it is not a religious work. Rather, it is an exploration of the bounds of language and how it is connected to the human experience. Time travel, or timelessness, also plays into the plot to give what Plantus calls an “apocryphal” feel. She uses prose, poetry and even invented forms of written language to tell the story from different angles, making it a complex work.

She said that she does not expect everyone to get her book, but there are those who will.

“This novella has been a dream of mine for a long, long time,” she said.

Plantus grew up in Detroit as the child of two immigrants from Romania. She remembered hearing only Romanian spoken in her household, and it was through neighbors and friends that she gradually learned English. As a result, she has been bilingual for most of her life.

“It’s very hard to think in another language,” Plantus said. But, she added, “I think in two languages.”

However, Plantus said that she never had access to Romanian writing as a child. This sparked a lifelong curiosity toward written work in her cultural tongue, even as she pursued studies in English.

“It was hard for me to make my niche,” Plantus said of the English scholarly scene. “I had to think about where I could be without all the distraction and all the competition.”

Her bilingual mind proved to be her unique contribution. For her doctoral dissertation, she translated a classic Romanian novel into English.

“Sihastrul,” she said, began as a Romanian poem. Since there was not much scholarly interest in Romanian literature in the United States, she decided to send it to a literary journal in Romania, where it was published. After that, Plantus decided to try submitting her story here in English.

“You find many more things in translation,” she said, explaining that words suddenly take on new levels of meaning when they cross languages.

Plantus discovered Lilac Publishing, a fledgling publishing house, in an OU Magazine advertisement. She sent the manuscript to its owner, Rebecka Vigus, who immediately liked it.

“I didn’t change a thing,” said Vigus of the manuscript. “That’s saying a lot.”

Vigus, like Plantus, is an OU alum.

She said she was drawn to the work because of its Romanian folklore roots, which give it a different perspective from other stories.

“We’ll come out with the English version in October,” Vigus said, adding that she also plans on publishing the original Romanian version later on.

For more information on “Sihastrul, visit its webpage at http://sihastrul.bucovinamica.net. To view more of Doris Plantus’s various work, go to her website at http://bucovinamica.net.

For more on Lilac Publishing, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LilacPublishing.