Meeting with the new director of the Kyralina bookshop, Elena Diaconu

Our editors paid a visit today to the new director of the Kyralina bookstore, the only French bookstore in Romania. The French-speaking Romanian Elena Diaconu was once a bookseller in Kyralina, where a passion for the bookshop arose that never really left her.

My teacher one day decided it was time for me to read my first book in French and lent me Bonjour triste by Françoise Sagan, in an old paperback edition. I didn’t understand everything, I remember my frustration of having to look up words in the dictionary, without it clarifying me enough. But even better I remember a fascination, the impression that this text radiated a music, a rhythm, an atmosphere. I think it was the first time that the idea of ​​a writing style came to me and it was precisely French, this foreign language that is a little bit more mine these days, that allowed me to discover this.

Grégory Rateau: You are the new director of Kyralina after years of being a bookseller in the same bookshop. Can you introduce yourself to our readers, tell us about your attachment to this bookstore and the French language?

Elena Diaconuc: To make it short, I am a French speaking Romanian with a passion for literature. I studied in Romania and then in France, where I then worked on two major cultural projects. When I returned to Romania, I wanted to find a small project in which I could invest myself in a more personal way. Coincidentally, we were looking for booksellers in Kyralina at the same time. I went to the team and they took me! We were still in our old building on George Enescu Street, I immediately fell in love with the place, the colleagues and… the customers. In addition, I continued to work in French while in Bucharest, it was a happy arrangement. Today my attachment to the bookshop takes a more active form and I even go into the capital! I want to help this place to live and take root more and more in the cultural life of Bucharest, Kyralina really has its place here.

Where does this passion for the book trade come from? What was your biggest literary shock in childhood/adolescence?

Before Kyralina I didn’t know the book world. I learned everything here, on the job, like many French-speaking booksellers abroad. It is a very diverse job, where logistics and administration take up a lot of space, despite what you might imagine. But also with the enormous pleasure of an intellectual and sensitive work, because the texts remain central to our activity.

I have many memorable reading memories from my childhood and adolescence, but I want to mention one that changed my relationship with French. I was in 3rd grade taking private French lessons. My teacher one day decided it was time for me to read my first book in French and lent me Bonjour triste by Françoise Sagan, in an old paperback edition. I didn’t understand everything, I remember my frustration of having to look up words in the dictionary, without it clarifying me enough. But even better I remember a fascination, the impression that this text radiated a music, a rhythm, an atmosphere. I think it was the first time that the idea of ​​a writing style came to me and it was precisely French, this foreign language that is a little bit more mine these days, that allowed me to discover this.

The French language is losing ground in Romania, what do you think is the role of a French bookshop here in Bucharest?

The library shows in a very practical and direct way that French is a living language. If you live in Bucharest or are traveling through the capital, it’s simple: push Kyralina’s door and a hello greets you right away! Many of our Romanian customers like to talk to us in French. Not to mention the events we organize, almost exclusively in French.

And then, of course, our role is to show that French gives access to a variety of cultural content. There is French culture, of course, but at Kyralina we love French literature in the broadest sense, we defend authors who write in French, be it Caribbean, African, Romanian, etc.

We also work closely with the French Institute and its branches to bring French books to life throughout Romania. We are also working on a project of French-language corners in other bookstores in the country, the first of which is in preparation with our friends from the bookstore La două bufnițe in Timişoara!

Tell us about the impact of the pandemic on your business. Has this forced you to rethink your organization?

The pandemic has hit the book trade hard. After the months of forced closure, there was a significant drop in visitor numbers and sales, forcing us to reduce our offer for some time.

For my part, I returned to Kyralina in April 2021, when it resumed again. My strategy was to expand and stabilize the bookstore team, reconnect with our partners, organize meetings, online when otherwise not possible, then order, order and order. We had to fill the shelves and bring life back to this place and it worked!

I was able to do this thanks to the involvement of the kyralinettes (our great team), the support of the Center national du livre de France, which has been with us since the beginning of the adventure, and state support. valuable.

And we will be investing in a trading site soon, despite our lack of technical skills (laughs).

Your 3 literary favorites of 2022?

Clarice Lispector, An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures – cerebral and sensual, it makes me want to keep exploring the multifaceted work of this Brazilian writer.

Marguerite Duras, The Lover of Northern China – an ever renewed pleasure, reading Duras is one of my most important authors, her books reconcile me with life.

Pauline-Delabroy Allard, Who knows – a family inquiry that becomes a search for identity. With this second novel, the author, whom we had received from Kyralina, confirms the power and precision of her writing.

I realize that these three books have a lot in common, it says something about the phase of reading and living I’m going through (laughs).

You resume face-to-face meetings/signatures/debates. Can you tell us the program for this fall?

In the first place, it concerns the back-to-school and literary side and the organization of the Ecole des loisirs and Bayard subscription campaign. Then we resume the youth workshops and “Book seller of the month”, this event close to our heart, where we highlight our customers and their literary choices. And we have already scheduled a number of meetings with Romanian and French authors for September and October. To follow our programming, subscribe to our newsletter (http://www.kyralina.ro/contact/) or follow us on social networks (https://www.facebook.com/kyralina.ro and https:// www.instagram.com/librairie_kyralina/).

And in November, big program for the bookshop’s tenth anniversary! The first three weekends of the month will be so many opportunities to come together: initiations, meetings, workshops, concerts, a theatrical performance, we’ll keep it a secret for now, but our audience will not be disappointed. It is a matter of thanking them all for their support, for their loyalty, for their friendship. Ten years of Kyralina would not have been possible without our customers!

An idea to revive the reading appetite of the youngest who spend more and more time in front of screens?

We also notice: the children, even heavy readers, who we see in the shops every week, no longer graduate from high school. In this new school year we are investing in a manga department. It’s the kind that is a hit in France, let’s see if it can work in Romania too. In addition, we want to design events especially for teenagers. In October we are organizing a rap workshop – a text work in the bookshop space, it is already a step towards literature.

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