It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Ruști. Translated from the Romanian language by James Christian Brown.
About the Author
Doina Ruști is one of Romania’s most successful writers of historical and speculative fiction. Known for the originality of her novels, Ruști is the recipient of many major Romanian awards, and her books have been translated into multiple languages, including Chinese and German to date. Ruști is known for exploring aspects of fantasy and the supernatural, as well as tackling darker themes such as political corruption.
She says, “I live in Bucharest, the happiest city in the world, even its name says it (The City of Joy). In all my novels I write about Bucharest. If this city didn’t exist, maybe I wouldn’t be a writer.”
About the Translator – James Christian Brown
‘I am originally from Scotland but have lived in Romania since 1993. I teach in the English Department of the University of Bucharest and translate Romanian books into English. My first book-length translation from Romanian to English was The Păltiniş Diary by Gabriel Liiceanu (2000). More recently I have translated Răzvan Petrescu’s collection of short stories Small Changes in Attitude (2011), the play Mihaela, The Tiger of Our Town by Gianina Cărbunariu (2016), the volume of philosophical talks About the World We Live In by Alexandru Dragomir (2017), and Doina Ruști’s novel The Book of Perilous Dishes (Neem Tree Press, 2022)’
About the book
Bucharest, 1798. – A slave-cook lives in Bucharest, sought after by everyone. His sublime cooking satisfies even the sophisticated tastes of the Prince, who lays claim to him, whisking him off to the Palace. However, no one knows that the cook has in his possession a witch’s recipe book, the Book of Perilous Dishes.
His food can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. And the rightful owner of this book is fourteen-year-old Pâtca, an adolescent initiated in the occult arts. Pâtca comes to Bucharest, to her uncle Cuviosu Zăval, to recover this book, but she finds him dead, murdered, and the Book of Perilous Dishes has disappeared without a trace. All that Zăval has left her is a strange map…
I am eternally grateful for translators who are at the top of their game and able to recreate a foreign language book, so readers from other countries can enjoy brilliant stories that would otherwise remain just beyond our grasp. In this case the translator has in-depth knowledge of language, history and the geographical areas, which absolutely helps to do this story by Ruști justice.
The book starts with an introduction by the translator, which includes the historical context and also why he made certain choices when it came to translating or not translating certain words. At the end of the book there is also the added bonus of a glossary and pronunciation guide.
Pâtca has been preparing for the day when she has to run to save her life – that day has come, it’s time to become who she was always intended to be. She is trained to evoke powers, she is a staunch proud carrier of a special bloodline. A bloodline that determines paths of power, time, space and air.
Her escape and story becomes linked with a man who has become a myth in itself, a cook who creates dishes with intent. Pâtca seeks out her uncle in search of the book containing these dishes, but the book is gone and she is drawn into the rings reverberating from the use of recipes that call upon more than just aptitude and taste.
It’s an intriguing combination of historical fiction and magical realism. It’s on of those books that keeps on giving, worth more than one read – and I don’t say that often. An incredibly intricate read narrated by the young Pâtca, who always seems to be in the midst of confusion, whilst simultaneously being convinced and driven by her birthright. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to read more by Ruști.