Travel, love and politics: the naive book I wrote when I was 14 but never published

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”

My mystery is not wrapped in an enigma, it is just lost on a floppy disk – and it’s probably better this way.

It looked a bit like a love story between two brilliant but desperate souls. It was in reality a way for the teenager I was in 1995 to comprehend all the certainties, uncertainties and interrogations that were overwhelming my developing mind at the time.

I finished it, but I didn’t publish it, because it was not ready. My plan was to store it for many years, until I would be old and mature enough to travel to the relevant places and embellish the book with a realistic insight. But I forgot one thing: we cannot travel in time, and I would never be able to travel back to 1995. The places I attempted to describe in my book would be totally different by the time I would reach them.

What was the book about? Two young, intelligent, harsh-reality-facing people, with completely opposite background and ideologies, fall in love.

Tito is from Bucharest in Romania; his communist parents named him after the Yugoslavian partisan they admired so much. But he grew up in Ceausescu’s Romania and soon developed a profound hatred for communism, seeking freedom in the Christian church, in an obsessive dream to live in France, and in resentment against his parents for his first name’s choice.

But his extremist opposition to Romania’s communist leaders, who effectively remain in power even after Ceausescu’s fall, gives him trouble. One day, he decides to give up everything and fulfil his dream to leave the country and go to France.

His journey from Bucharest to France involves bribes, smugglers, hazardous hitch-hiking, but proves to be much easier than expected. In no time, Tito is in Marseille, expecting to be soon in Paris. But that’s not what destiny had in mind. While in Marseille, Tito soon meets a lovely young lady named Sandra and falls in love.

Sandra comes from a totally different background. She lives with her unemployed mother; her Catholic Sicilian father left wife and children long ago to return to his island. Sandra lives in a socio-economically deprived area and is the testimony of growing violence, disastrous unemployment levels and outrageous racism.

Soon after love starts, we find the two protagonists fighting blindly, and increasingly violently, over ideological and materialistic issues. To survive, Tito would have to become a drug dealer and would slowly get caught in the game, to the great displeasure of Sandra who only dreams about revolution. Sandra’s extremist opinions would only be reinforced by Tito’s attempt to appease and make her reconnect with her father in the name of faith.

The book could have been good, I guess, if it ended there. Unfortunately, as a teenager I had more to dump in my one and only piece. The role of football as a social cement (we were in Marseille after all). The long-term destructive nature of racism in France. The question of post-communism transition in Romania. The cleavage between Western and Eastern aspirations after the fall of the Block. The disillusion that immigrants experience when they reach the idealised West.

Even the question of sexual orientation was in there, as Tito and his best friend Adrian kissed goodbye in Romania in such a way that Tito would always wonder if there was more than friendship after all.

I grew up in the late twentieth century, in a world full of hope were Blocks collapsed and borders disappeared, but also in a world full of despair where minorities were desperately seeking respect and recognition from the dictatorial majorities. Obviously this all preoccupied me and influenced my writing deeply.

No, I don’t think it would have been a really good book and it’s probably for the best that I have no clue where the floppy disk is, if it still exists, and if I could still read it even if I found it. Maybe the pitch was not too bad, but the execution clearly lacked focus and experience to be truly good.

But it is funny to see how, even so young, my sempiternal topics were there: revolt and disgust towards the direction society was taking; escapism and hope towards an alternative; this indestructible feeling that ideologies destroy the humans (and that religion is one of them) and that, beyond the political differences, we are all the same loving human beings.

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