Profusion Publishers - Independent British Publishing House, based in London


Interview with Ramona Mitrica for

Interview with Ramona Mitrică by Cristina Niculescu for (23 April 2021)

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Romanian version, here:   

1) You moved to the UK in 1999, as cultural attaché of the Embassy of Romania in London. Then, there followed a period of ten years (2002-2012) during which you were the director of the Ratiu Foundation, a foundation giving grants to Romanian students in UK. What was the first strong impression after you moved to London? What is the first memory that stayed with you?

The first London memories are very picturesque: small, cobbled streets, full of flowers. This kind of streets is called “mews”. Beautiful, romantic, secret. The buildings in these mews are former stables which were built discreetly near the big mansions, back in the Georgian and Victorian times. The horse stables have become today, after two hundred years, highly sought-after luxury homes or elegant design boutiques. They are minuscule buildings, almost cut out from storybooks. I often walk there, even nowadays. It is like going back in time. In the summer, around evening time, after a short rain, you can see steam rising from the warm stones. It is very atmospheric, like in a Turner landscape.

2) There are more than 20 years since you started promoting Romanian culture in the UK, in various ways. In all frankness, what is the image of Romania in the eyes of the British public? Did this image change in any way during these 22 years?

First of all, the image is made by us. Every one of us. In the way we adapt to the community we live in, by our own contribution. By empathy, civic spirit, respect. 

Back in 1999, there were a maximum of fifty thousand Romanians in the whole of the UK, most of them based in the capital.

The image has changed a lot since. The context changed a lot, as well. In the meantime, Romania entered the European Union, and the UK exited.

Nowadays, the Romanian community in the UK is very numerous, probably around a million people: nurses, construction and hospitality workers, doctors, business people, financiers, architects, IT-people, artists, etc. The Romanian community grew and expanded to bigger or smaller towns in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The visibility of the Romanians – and implicitly of Romanian culture – is much greater now.

It was especially during the course of the 2000 to 2015 period that numerous young Romanians came to the UK for their BA studies, for Masters and PhDs, for research programmes, and to progress their professional career. More than a thousand of them benefitted from study grants from The Ratiu Foundation in London, especially for studies in politics, economics, international relations, history, anthropology, biometrics, biochemistry, as well as art education.

Successive waves of economic migration were also recorded after Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007 and, especially so, after 1st of January 2014, when Romanians gained free access to the UK labour market. Things will change radically, however, starting with this year, as a consequence of Brexit, of restrictions to rights of residence, employment, and free movement.

There are more than fifty exceptional Romanian musicians who have established themselves in the UK. I will mention just a few here: the soprano, Nelly Miricioiu-Kirk, the pianists, Anda Anastasescu, Alexandra Dariescu, and Florian Mitrea, the violinists Alexander Bălănescu, Eugen Sârbu, Corina Belcea, and Remus Azoiței. I applauded them at Covent Garden, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, and Wigmore Hall, and I also had the honour to work with some of them a few times.

In addition, there are important figures to remember, the sculptor Paul Neagu, the theatre designer Maria Bjornson (Prodan), Princess Marina Sturdza – a journalist and humanitarian activist, the architect Șerban Cantacuzino, the art historian Sanda Miller; all left this world much too soon, but their impact on British cultural life continues to be visible.

3) Is there a cultural field where you thought that Romanians are particularly appreciated in the UK? Music, film, literature, theatre, dance?

It is film, certainly. Especially in the past ten years. 

Distributors such as Artificial Eye/Curzon, Dogwoof, AntiWorlds, Sovereign Film Distribution, New Wave Films, Trinity, and Soda Pictures are launching films from the Romanian New Wave on the British market – some of them being interested in Romanian films for more than fifteen-twenty years now.

During last year, two films by Corneliu Porumboiu were launched in the UK: the fiction feature The Whistlers (La Gomera) and the documentary Infinite Football (Fotbal infinit).

This year saw the launch of the documentary Collective (Colectiv), directed by Alexander Nanau (recently also broadcasted by the BBC4 TV station), as well as the fiction feature Malmkrog by Cristi Puiu.

4) In 2003 you created The Romanian Film Festival in London (RFF). How was this idea born?

The festival started in an arthouse cinema in central London, and grew constantly, having a programme with a large spectrum of Romanian language films, subtitled in English: indisputable successes, most recent productions, as well as retrospectives.

The Festival was born in 2003. The New Wave of Romanian cinema appeared roughly at the same time, bringing to light remarkable directors, actors, and producers. Supported and inspired by these talents, the Festival grew increasingly stronger. 

For the first editions, young directors such as Cristian Mungiu and Corneliu Porumboiu, now with awards in Cannes, presented their student films. Romanian film was not benefitting, as yet, from distribution in UK cinemas, and the interest of the audience was just starting to grow. The directors stayed close to the Festival during the years, and we are still screening their films. 

Little by little, helped by the international recognition shown to Romanian film, as well as by the fact that the great successes in Cannes and Berlin had been bought by UK film distribution houses, the public became more and more interested in the Romanian film directors and their films. 

Although there are quite a few Romanian films with UK distribution nowadays, there are still many other valuable films which are not yet distributed here, but which deserve to be shown to the UK public. This is where the Romanian Film Festival comes in. 

We organise, within the Festival, screenings of feature films, of documentaries, series of short films, as well as connected events: master-classes, Q&A sessions with the audience, receptions and networking events. For the meetings with the British public and film specialists, we invite Romanian film specialists: directors, actors, screenwriters, film critics, producers. 

The Romanian Film Festival in London ( is an annual event organised by the British company Profusion International, in partnership with Curzon Cinemas of London. It is a not-for-profit event which is run on grants, donations, and sponsorships. To promote this important cultural product, we enjoy both the support of the Romanian community and businesses in London, and that of Romanian authorities as well. 

We are a small team of experts in art promotion, people with a good knowledge of the British cultural life. We started together this extraordinarily beautiful work eighteen years ago and we continue together. 

We hope the audience will join us, return to the cinemas and enjoy the films.

5) Which is the event you organised within the Festival, to date, which enjoyed the greatest success with the London public?

I recall immediately the impressive meetings with the fabulous actor Victor Rebengiuc. I met him first as the rector of the Academy of Theatre and Film in Bucharest, when I was a student there. We enjoyed the support of this wonderful friend from the very beginning of the Festival. Films such as Forest of the Hanged (Pădurea spânzuraților), The Moromete Family 1 (Moromeții 1), Niki and Flo (Niki Ardelean Colonel în rezervă), The Medal of Honour (Medalia de onoare), The Japanese Dog (Câinele japonez) and Sand Dunes (Faleze de nisip) were screened with a full house, and then they’ve been followed by fascinating and intense discussions, which then continued until very late in the Festival’s club. 

We were very glad, as well, to have director Stere Gulea as our special guest in the Festival. He came over for screenings in London and Edinburgh, with his films Moromete Family 1 & 2 and I am an Old Communist Hag (Sunt o babă comunistă). His discussions with the audience are always delicious, full of humour. We profit immensely from the time spent together, every time, and we learn a great lot. I would have liked to have him as a teacher. 

The Lucian Pintilie Retrospective, in the presence of the director, was an impressive event. Pintilie was returned to London after thirty-five years. It was 2004, in Soho. There have been ten unforgettable screenings, hosted by Alex Leo Șerban, with the films shown in chronological order, from 35 mm film: Sunday at Six (Duminică la ora şase), The Reconstruction (Reconstituirea), Carnival Scenes (De ce trag clopotele, Mitică?), The Oak (Balanţa), An Unforgettable Summer (O vară de neuitat), Too Late (Prea târziu), Terminus Paradis, The Afternoon of a Torturer (După-amiaza unui torționar), Niki and Flo (Niki Ardelean Colonel în rezervă) and Tertium non datur. A real schooling in cinema. Running with full house.

6) In 2008 you founded Profusion together with Mike Phillips (an author, historian, and cultural consultant) and you started to publish the Profusion Books series, within which you have already published a number of novels signed by Romanian authors, such as Augustin Buzura, George Arion, Stejărel Olaru, Liviu Antonesei. How were the first such Romanian novels received in the UK? What was the recognition?

Profusion Books ( is a British independent publishing house supporting Romanian literature in translation. We have printed so far a number of novels, a volume of short stories, a document-book, women’s literature, debut, noir literature. The translations are made by a team: there is myself, with Mike Phillips and Mihai Rîșnoveanu. 

Our books are available both as printed books and in Kindle format, for accessible prices. We are also thinking of audio versions for the volumes: Report on the State of Loneliness (Raport asupra singurătății) by Augustin Buzura, Attack in the Library (Atac în bibliotecă) by George Arion, Rîmaru – Butcher of Bucharest (Rîmaru – măcelarul Bucureștiului) by Mike Phillips and Stejărel Olaru, The Innocent and Collateral Victims of a Bloody War with Russia (Victimele inocente și colaterale ale unui sângeros război cu Rusia) by Liviu Antonesei. 

We support the importance of increasing the number of translations, in the context where translations account for only approximately 4.5% of the books published in the UK annually. According to the reports of Nielsen, the book market specialists, crime literature, Sci-Fi/Fantasy literature, and books that have won important literary awards are among the most read translations. 

So that a small, independent publishing house like ours may grow, we need to create a wave of wider interest, a larger context for literature in translation, for European literature, and especially for Romanian literature, a kind of New Wave of Romanian literature in translation. Maybe even following the model of Nordic Noir – the huge wave of Scandinavian literature, of the noir and crime variety. Noir Nordic literature took off with the Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson, and the success of its hero, Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. This was a winning bet of Quercus Publishing House, which started a true wave of interest in the UK – leading to great successes for other authors, but also for TV series. 

Profusion Books, Aurora Metro Books, Istros Books, Seagull Books, Bloodaxe, Dalkey Archive Press are a few of the publishing houses – smaller or bigger – which have published Romanian titles in the past twenty years. Bloodaxe translated poetry by Ana Blandiana, Mircea Dinescu, and Marin Sorescu. Aurora Metro Books translated some theatre plays by Alina Nelega, Andreea Vălean, Matei Vișniec, and Mihail Sebastian. 

Around ten years ago, there was a collaboration project between the Romanian Cultural Institute (RCI) in Bucharest and a UK university publishing house – the University of Plymouth Press – where thirteen Romanian titles were published, in printed format. However, the volumes are inaccessible because of high prices and the slow-moving distribution system. 

In London, there is a new prize for literature in translation, the EBRD Literature Prize, awarded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This year, the competition also features a translation from Romanian: Mr K Released (Domnul K. Eliberat) by Matei Vișniec, translated by Jozefina Komporaly. 

There also was a prize for translations of European poetry, granted by the British Poetry Society for a number of years: Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize. The prize had been given the name of Corneliu M. Popescu, the young man who had translated care Eminescu in English in the 1970s. This 19-year old died in the earthquake of 1977. In his honour, the prize was initiated in 1983 by the poet Alan Brownjohn, together with Corneliu M. Popescu’s father, and with the support of Ion Rațiu and the British Council. The Rațiu Foundation supported this prize between 2003 and 2011; it was granted every two years during that period of time. In 2005, for the first time in the history of the prize, the winner was a translation from Romanian. Adam Sorkin and Lidia Vianu were awarded the prize for their translation of the volume The Bridge (Puntea) by Marin Sorescu. The most recent Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize was granted in 2015 by the Poetry Society, with the support of the British Council. We hope this award will attract new sponsors and it may be restarted at some point.

7) How do you choose a novel for translation and publication?

We choose good books which describe the Romanian society and could be interesting to British readers. 

For example, we chose Report on the State of Loneliness by Augustin Buzura because it is a good book, which I know closely, and it’s written by an author I appreciate. It is a book which says a lot about our culture. 

Buzura is still one of the most important novelists in the contemporary Romanian literary landscape. During the years, he was involved in several difficult confrontations with the authorities. Confrontations with official opinion continued well after 1989, until the author’s death in 2017. The novel, Report on the State of Loneliness (Raport asupra singurătății) shows a series of stories about the last hundred years in the history of Transylvania, together with Buzura’s meditations on identity and the approaching moment of death. Comprising, in equal measure, of fine political satire, meditation on life, and a deep exploration of the history of the Balkans region, this book is a fascinating read, and it is full of revelations.

8) How hard was it for you to convince UK bookstores to distribute the volumes you publish?

Rather hard. We need to create a larger interest in Romanian literature in translation. Our project is a private one, niche, run exclusively on our own private funds. Besides Profusion Books, there are a few other British publishing houses – bigger or smaller – publishing Romanian titles. Around five-six titles each, for the past ten years. For the moment, it is too little to create a larger wave of interest. We still have to build on this chapter.

9) There have probably been two aspects to impact your activity lately: the pandemic and Brexit. Which was the impact of the two “phenomena” on your cultural work in London? How somber-looking or optimistic are things like now?

The effects of the pandemic are already seen. The effects coming from Brexit will not be far behind. The entire cultural context in which we all work is gravely impacted by the pandemic. Some British cultural institutions – theatres and concert halls, for example – have been closed for more than a year now. The London Book Fair was cancelled both last year, and this year.

A few London art cinemas – from the Curzon network – have been temporarily open during last summer, in conditions of maximum safety. I took advantage of this situation and I went every day to the cinema. I saw more than sixty absolutely extraordinary films, from all over the world, and I learned a great deal. A truly unforgettable summer.

For the moment, we need a lot of patience, and faith. We have stopped running, but we haven't lost our interest, enthusiasm, or our passion. I dare to believe we shall come back with even more spirit. Now, we just talk, we make plans, we think. We are all on standby.

10) What events are you planning at the moment?

The Romanian Film Festival in London, at the end of October. The sixteenth edition. We’ll see how things have evolved by then. For the moment, the plan is for cultural institutions in England to reopen at the end of June. There is a staggered relaxation of lockdown conditions, as we progress with the vaccination of the population. The speedy reopening of cultural institutions, in safe conditions, depends a lot on the vaccination rate. Up to now, more than 60% of the UK population has received the first shot, and the situation has improved very much in the past three months.

11) What about any new publications you are currently planning?

We are working on the translation and publication of a new novel, The Road of Ashes (Drumul cenușii) by Augustin Buzura, in collaboration with the Augustin Buzura Cultural Foundation.

We would like to read more literature written by women (from Romania and the diaspora), in Romanian and English, to get a clearer perspective, and then to choose a few titles for publication. I have recently finished reading two excellent novels by Ioana Drăgan, a former colleague at the Faculty of Letters: The Flu. A Christmas Story (Gripa. O poveste de Crăciun) and Mafalda. I re-read Saviana Stănescu, Ioana Băețică, Felicia Mihali, Carmen-Francesca Banciu, Domnica Rădulescu, Carmen Firan, Elena Ștefoi, Daniela Zeca Buzura, Ana Maria Sandu, Alina Nelega, Gianina Cărbunariu, and Andreea Vălean.

We are also thinking of George Arion and his already classic character, the likeable journalist, Andrei Mladin – a detective in spite of himself. We have already published the first novel in the Mladin series, Attack in the Library (Atac în bibliotecă). I have read, as well, eight other novels in the same series. The most recent one was devoured towards the end of last year: The Hand that Closes the Eyes (Mâna care închide ochii). It is the first Romanian novel about the pandemic. It is superbly written, and magisterially composed. Fabulous stories with spies, kidnappings, chases, serial killers, presidents, conspiracies, and mad people – les malades more or less imaginaires (the more or less imaginary invalids). And an Attack in the antiques shop, this time around.

12) If the sun rose tomorrow over an ideal world, where our great issues – such as those to do with the pandemic – have completely disappeared, what would be the first event you’d dream of organising?

A grand tour of ten cities in Great Britain. With Romanian writers. With book presentations, conferences, meetings with the public, and reading shows. All this backed up by a film caravan, running at the same time.

13) If you’d become the minister for culture in Romania, or you occupied another important position in the field of culture back in Romania, what would be the main change/changes you’d suggest in order to improve the image of our culture abroad?

I would put a stress – strongly and immediately – on the education side, in the country and in the diaspora. Also digitalisation, supported by a well-organised discourse. Finally, the identifying and stopping of fake news, along with an emphasis on correct information.

I would support Romanian cinema, especially because it is already visible and already has a very good start. More resources would allow film makers to experiment more, and produce more, while their productions should be promoted internationally in a consistent and professional manner.

I would encourage Romanian literature translations with a wide and long-term strategy. I would pay increased attention to training translators, and especially to the distribution of books in translation.

In any case, I would build a long-term strategy through which things might be produced and delivered in a regular and professional manner.

Cultural diplomacy is important, and the ways in which you implement strategies must be reconsidered according to the current international context and our long-term priorities. Aim high. Be strategic. Sign partnerships with prestigious and popular local institutions. Identify and lobby cultural figures in key positions, who have decision making power in the cultural life of the respective country. Small national cultural institutes in the great capitals of the world cannot have a major and long-term impact – by the nature of their work and capacity, no matter how professional and friendly their staff might be. At this moment, we are merely applying patches here and there. As soon as there may be a chance for it, I propose that we fashion a new coat, whose style and patterns would be visible to all.

14) Is there anything you miss, or you missed, from Romania?

My parents, the family, dear friends. My library back home. My grandparents’ graves. Holiday customs. Theatre plays in Romanian, acted on a stage. The sound of church bells ringing on Sunday mornings.

15) What do you particularly appreciate about life in the UK?

The cultural life. Its variety, openness and accessibility.

There are two English expressions that show very well, in short, what I like best over here: 'Gentleman’s agreement' (trusting a commitment once taken) and 'Minding your own business' (everybody goes on about their own business without being distracted by the activities of others).

There are other qualities which I find important. Balance. Fairness. Constancy. Civic spirit. Care for community. Politeness.

16) If a British person who hasn’t heard much about Romania asked you to make a short presentation, just a few words, about things which are the most beautiful and most special in our culture, what would you say?

I think I would first ask my partner in dialogue what are they interested in, what do they like, and what they find most inspiring, what are their passions and hobbies: music, theatre, dance, trips, sport, culinary delights, photographing, etc. 

I would then tell them about what I hold most dear, about what brings me joy and what inspires me: about ritual and spirituality, about the Romanian language, about the music of Maria Tănase, about the verticality, masterfulness and warmth of Victor Rebengiuc, about the humour and depths of the cinema's New Wave, about the Brancusi’s Măiastra, Mademoiselle Pogany, and about Endlessness. I would also tell them about the Anemones of Ștefan Luchian, about Horia Bernea, Marcel Chirnoagă, and Ștefan Câlția, about Adrian Ghenie and Dan Perjovschi. I would also tell them about Augustin Buzura and his Requiem for Fools and Beasts (Recviem pentru nebuni și bestii). And, of course, I would tell them the stories of my childhood, and about my parents, and grandparents, about the Sânziene mysterious summer fairies, about spells and incantations and rites of passage.

And, at the end, I would help them build a bridge of their own towards the Romanian culture, I would open the gates widely and I would let them explore freely.

The Romanian Film Festival in London (
Profusion Books (

The photos in the article are taken by Laura Lazar, Adrian Cherciu, Christian Havrincea, Michael Crişan and Mihai Adrian Buzura.
 Ramona Mitrică Ramona Mitrică and Augustin Buzura, in his library in Bucharest. 22.09.2016 Ramona Mitrică and Dr Mike Phillips OBE in Bucharest, in 2019, when he was awarded the Trophy of Excellence of the Augustin Buzura Cultural Foundation
Profusion books - Romanian literature in translation Ramona Mitrică and Victor Rebengiuc at the Romanian Film Festival in London, 2012 Mariana Mihuț, Victor Rebengiuc and the team of the Romanian Film Festival in London - Curzon Soho Cinema, 2014
Ramona Mitrică together with Mihaela Sîrbu, Rodica Lazăr and Ana Ularu at the Romanian Film Festival in London - Renoir Cinema, 2012  Ramona Mitrică  



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