The following story was submitted by Nancy Heingartner, the outreach coordinator at the Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia (CREECA). You can view a Photo Gallery of Andrei Codrescu’s visit at the CREECA website.
Andrei Codrescu’s Visit to Madison
On an unseasonably beautiful Monday in early October, I had the pleasure of escorting Andrei Codrescu, a prolific writer and social commentator, to various gatherings at UW-Madison.
Codrescu came to Madison for a full day of media appearances and guest lectures. He arrived on Sunday, October 3 and gave a lecture that evening at local bookstore A Room of One’s Own.
Monday began with an interview with Matthew Rothschild on Progressive Radio. The next stop was an appearance at a UW-Madison History lecture: History/Jewish Studies 219, “The American Jewish Experience” with Professor Tony Michels.
It was a lively back-and-forth discussion. Codrescu told stories about his youth in Romania, the anti-Semitism he’s faced in life, his decision to become a poet and his life in the U.S.
Michels said he has never had a class respond to a guest speaker with so much curiosity and enthusiasm.
Following the lecture, Codrescu visited the studios at Wisconsin Public Radio in Vilas Hall where he was a featured guest on Jean Feraca’s “Here on Earth.” Feraca summarized her experience saying, “He’s such a worldly guy. It was so much fun to just have a real conversation without having in mind beforehand what the plot would be, you know, how it would be shaped, and just flying by the seat of my pants and practicing the real art of conversation with somebody who’s quite the master.”
Codrescu’s next stop was a visit to Chadbourne Residential College (CRC), a joint program of the College of Letters & Science and University Housing committed to interdisciplinary learning and civic engagement.
Over the semester, CRC participants read and discussed several of Codrescu’s works, including essays collected in New Orleans, Mon Amor, as well as radio essays featured on NPR, such as, “Bombing Moon Gives New Meaning to Lunatics” and “Looking to a Post-Human Future.” The largely first-year group of students was eager to meet the author in person. Another lively give-and-take ensued.
After a quick dinner hosted by the Distinguished Lecture Series at Memorial Union, all that remained was the main event, a public lecture, “Swimming between Languages: Learning English by Osmosis & Other Adventures.”
The lecture was kicked off by Professor Tomislav Longinovic, chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature. Codrescu opened with a wide-ranging, funny and unusually intimate conversation with the audience, setting aside his prepared remarks and instead improvising on the theme of swimming between languages. He recalled an earlier visit to Madison, not long after he arrived in the U.S., and also being mentored by a professor of literature at the University of Chicago. Remembering his own multi-lingual childhood and youth in which Hungarian, German, and Romanian coexisted as well as his later exposure to French, Italian, and English, Codrescu urged his audience to learn world languages.
“We live in a world of translations,” he said. “We don’t belong to one language in particular, but we translate many languages to be parts of our everyday lives.”
Codrescu’s visit was sponsored by CREECA with co-sponsorship from Global Studies, the Language Institute, the Center for Jewish Studies, “From Romania!” (a UW-Madison Registered Student Organization focused on Romanian life and culture), the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, the European Union Center of Excellence, the Center for the Humanities, the Division of International Studies, and the Distinguished Lectures Committee of the Wisconsin Union Directorate.
Generous financial support from the Kemper Knapp Bequest Committee and from the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science made this visit possible.