BUCHAREST: Perhaps only our greatest playwright, Eugene Ionesco, could have gotten this story right. Ionesco’s genius was to portray a world in which the absurd is triumphant. Imagine the scene: Bucharest, le petit Paris, a city of three million people with wide boulevards and grand bourgeois villas, stands now a city half in ruins. Poverty runs rampant, orphanages overflow with abandoned children, countless packs of wild dogs roam the streets.
All of this excites little or no interest in the West. Romania’s politicians appear to be equally indifferent; they have wasted the last ten years in endless fights, while our postcommunist neighbors reinvented their societies and made themselves ready for membership in the EU.
Then Bucharest’s mayor, Traian Basescu, proposes a plan to control the dogs: the city government will put to sleep any dog without an owner. Suddenly, the West’s interest is kindled. Not to help us, of course – at least not to help the city that contains armies of feral dogs, making it appear at times like a ghost town in a Sergio Leone cowboy movie. No, Brigitte Bardot – we still anticipate the arrival of Gerard Depardieu any day now – and other celebrities, people unable to shed a tear for our unwanted orphans or for the mass poverty left behind by Ceausecu, fly into Bucharest (undoubtedly by first class) to protect the wild dogs and denounce our mayor.
Our reality, I suspect, would challenge even Ionesco’s sense of the absurd. Middle-aged, greying, Bardot arrived in Bucharest not to remind men, high and low, of her charms but to prevent what she called a “canine genocide.” Yet, despite the harsh rhetoric, when Miss Bardot and Mayor Basescu met, they parted with a kiss. “For 30 years I waited for this,” the Mayor blushed. Unwilling to discriminate between parties, Miss Bardot later kissed our president, Ion Iliescu. Her celebrity recognized, the public’s adoration bestowed, she then departed, leaving the wild dogs, and our broken society, to their fates.