The Man Who Thought He Would Always Be Happy (“Celui qui comptait être heureux longtemps”), by Irina Teodorescu
With her third novel, Irina Teodorescu reveals a family secret and questions the value of life.
A Romanian Writer
Born in Bucharest, Irina Teodorescu did not speak a word of French when she arrived in France at the age of 19. Yet it was in this language that she published her first novel in 2014, The Curse of the Moustachioed Bandit (“La Malédiction du bandit moustachu”). In this work and those that followed, The Foreigners (“Les Étrangères”) in 2016 and The Man Who Thought He Would Always Be Happy in 2018, the author discusses her childhood memories, Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu and the notion of belonging to a country.
Though they are inspired by her own life, Irina Teodorescu chooses never to put herself at the heart of her stories, giving her characters the chance to exist without her.
Inspired by real events
In an undefined era under an unspecified dictatorship, The Man Who Thought He Would Always Be Happy tells the story of Bo, a father facing a terrible choice: watch his son die or agree to become a spy for the regime in exchange for care that could save his child.
Irina Teodorescu was inspired here by a similar tragedy experienced by her father when his son, Irina's brother, was suffering from leukaemia. Nevertheless, the Romanian author wants to distance her life from her fiction, saying: “I chose to be absent from the book because it is not my story”.
Investigation in Bucharest
Only many years after her father’s death did Irina Teodorescu learn the dilemma he faced: serve a hated regime or let his child die.
Winner of a Stendhal Residency in 2016, the author travelled to Romania for a month, hoping to find answers to her questions and discover the truth about this long-kept secret. While she confesses she was afraid of what she would discover, she also says: “When it is possible to know, you have to look for the truth, you have to try to understand and end your ignorance at all costs.”
Between France and Romania
Irina Teodorescu feels everywhere at once foreign and at home. The novelist did not want to choose between Romania, where she was born, and France, where she arrived at the age of 19.
In terms of form, she uses French, a language she finds sensual and airy and which, in her opinion, gives her greater freedom with words. For the content, she draws on her memories of Romania, as if to heal her wounds. With The Man Who Thought He Would Always Be Happy, it is for her father’s decision and her brother’s death that she seeks forgiveness.
Winner of an Institut français Stendhal Residency, Irina Teodorescu was in Bucharest, Romania, in May and June of 2016.
The Stendhal programme allows French authors or authors living in France to travel to a foreign country and work on a writing project related to that country.