Nemes Zsolt – Procrustes in Moldova

It’s awfully nice to do the unthinkable to yourself. Being a very adaptive personality I ventured to spend the spring semester in the Republic of Moldova.

In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a bandit, who offered shelter to travelers and, once they accepted, took them to his bed, in which they had to fit. If the traveler was too short Procrustes would stretch him, if too tall, he would amputate some of the victim’s leg. He became the archetypal character, who can only perceive and accept the world through his own personal frame, and if necessary everything can be fitted to his bed.

This series of posts will be about comics and newspaper strips published in Moldova. Similarly to Procrustes, I am forced to describe and analyze the local comics-phenomenon in a frame limited by western comics-theory, hence the title. In Moldavian folk literature there’s an unusual mixture of caricatures, panels, speech bubbles and narrative sequences. I aim to demonstrate that this blending in fact contains all primordial traits of comics. Make no mistake; I focus not on genres (Superhero-comics, Thrillers, Funnies, etc.), but on the medium all comics share: narration based on reciprocity between image and text, panels and speech bubbles.

Prior to my arrival, I could only detect one periodical, Chipăruş de la Moldova  Chipăruş is a regionalism for chilly pepper,  so a rough translation of the title is Chlili of Moldova. The title refelcts the periodical’s orientation towards political satire expressed by extensive use of caricatures. Under the layers of over-politicized propaganda Chipăruş employs most visual and narrative techniques (long sections of panels, speech bubbles, onomatopoeic words, inscriptions, etc.) of mainstream comics. A more detailed analysis will be provided in my later posts.

To remedy the procrustean limitations of my research, occasionally I will share some unexpected personal experience, hoping to give some cultural/socio-economic insight into this strange world. For now, take two bits of advice: first, buy Euros in Hungary, because you won’t be able to exchange Forints, as it’s an unknown currency here in Moldova, second, never exchange more of your currency than necessary, because the inflation rate is extremely high. I exchanged two banknotes of fifty Euros on two consecutive days and the difference was 54 MDL, which is almost one thousand Forints, i.e. more than a nice weekday lunch in Hungary.

Sources: 1.  2.

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