In the spring of 2005 an exorcism took place in a small, unfinished monastery in Vaslui County in northwestern Romania. Casting out demons is more common in Romania than in the West, but there was nothing typical about this rite. A single priest officiated, whereas Church policy requires three. The person undergoing the ritual is generally a willing, quiet participant, accompanied by family. On this occasion, the hallucinating and unwilling victim lay restrained on an improvised stretcher of planks and boards that witnesses would later see as a recumbent cross. The young woman being exorcised seems to have been suffering from end-stage leukemia at the time, and she was probably psychotic—for reasons that may or may not have been related to her infection. After two days of exorcism, Irina Cornici gave signs of returning to her right mind and died. Whether she expired at the monastery or in an ambulance on the way to hospital will never be known. She was twenty-three years old. She was born in 1982, seven years before Romania’s anti-communist revolution. She was an orphan and unsure of her sexual identity. She was attracted to women and protected herself against men.

Was the religious community at the Tanacu monastery guilty of a crime that seemed to have been ripped from the pages of Matthew Gregory Lewis’s lurid gothic, The Monk, or was Cornici the victim of real-world, Dickensian social injustices and prejudices that dated back to the Ceausescu period? Then-head of the BBC World Service’s Bucharest bureau, Tatiana Niculescu Bran investigated. Her efforts materialized in Romania’s first nonfiction novels: The Confession and The Book of Judges. These strongly imply that Irina Cornici died the victim of malefic corruption, an overburdened, inadequate hospital system and benighted but benign ignorance.

Cristian Mungiu’s 2012 film, Beyond the Hills, was “inspired by” and at times clearly based on Niculescu Bran’s books. The excerpt printed here is a reconstruction that follows Niculescu Bran’s interviews with Irina’s friend Chiţa. The Guide to Confession is a manual for Orthodox nuns and monks. Nevertheless, this passage is a work of reconstructive fiction that attempts to recreate Cornici’s frame of mind before the final madness that led to her exorcism and death.—Jean Harris

The Guide to Confession was a small pamphlet with well-thumbed pages. You could see it had been used a lot. It contained a list of some 200 sins with brief descriptions and useful instructions for the person preparing to confess. Having this list of sins before us, we may examine our conscience in detail, and in this way, we may particularly discover the hidden sins we have committed which we did not know were sins or which we committed without realizing that we were sinning, it said on the first page. Several pieces of practical advice followed.

The surest and simplest method is to provide yourself with a piece of paper. Proceed with pen or pencil in hand, and note the sins you have committed as you go on reading. The Guide then explained that the sins need not be presented to the priest in detail but rather as briefly as possible without insisting on the circumstances in which they occurred.

I despaired of God’s help and pity,” mother Anastasia began with sin number 1. The church porch held a wooden bench where the two women had now settled. Anastasia had already explained what preparing for confession meant, and she had offered to tick off the sins on a piece of paper so that Irina could better concentrate on her answers.

“I despaired . . .” Irina repeated. She had never thought despair was a major sin.

Anastasia looked at Irina to see if she understood what this was all about. She seemed to understand. Anastasia traced a dash ahead of sin number 1.

I declared that God will never forgive me, that I’m too full of sin and that I’m going to hell anyway,” the nun carried on with the second sin.

Irina grew thoughtful: so it was a sin to think you’d go to hell! She even believed that she had been in hell. Or, at least, that’s what her friend Chița, who was preparing to become a nun, had explained to her. Chița said that you can’t mix prayer with the tireless lusts of the body and that you needed to bridle your thoughts too because you could commit great sins in thought as well. The two of them and Bianca used to listen to the songs recorded by Enigma when they were at the orphanage, and they imagined that they were inspired by the lives of medieval monks who imagined, while chanting in their stalls, that they were kneading the burning bodies of women. Then they flayed themselves till they bled. As they wearied, the whips would fall from their hands. They would feel the deep wounds with which they had punished themselves on their backs, and they would wake from their reverie. Then they would proceed again to prayer.

Time after time when she had listened to “Sadeness,” Irina felt that a vibration of pleasure gushed somewhere beneath her ribs. It would set off in concentric circles through her whole body, and it seemed to produce electric shocks from the top of her head to the soles of her feet—with a bittersweet warmth, like those times when she made love to Bianca. But now she understood that it was a sin to not believe in God’s forgiveness. She looked at Anastasia and nodded her head. Yes, she had doubted God’s forgiveness. The nun drew a dash ahead of sin number 2.

Irina brightened up. So, God forgives you. She was beginning to like this review of sins. It was like a game where the one with most dashes wins. On the other hand, hearing how many sins were left, she reckoned she hadn’t committed many of them and that was a kind of relief too. I oppressed servants, the poor, orphans, widows, the powerless. I mocked them. No, she had never committed sin number 13, nor number 24: I injured my fellow man, spiritually and physically.

Nor had she committed sin number 35: I believed that after it leaves the body, the soul migrates into the bodies of various animals. Nor had she committed the sin of witchcraft. She had not moved boundary lines to take property from her neighbor, hadn’t harbored contraband in her house, damaged anyone’s property, swindled the state, taken contraceptive pills, used the coil, had an abortion, committed adultery with a relative, a godchild, a godparent, a cousin, a brother, a son, a daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew, lived with someone out of wedlock, eaten unclean things, joked about holy matters, taken communion when she was having her period, read sectarian books, killed willingly or unwillingly, set foot in the Holy Altar, put sanctified bread on the ground, married a Jew, a Turk, a Catholic, a sectarian . . ., denounced anyone with intent to do harm, hauled anyone into court.

At sins 82, 83, and 84 she had to acknowledge: she had not prayed every morning, evening, and before every meal, she had not fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, and she had not kept the four yearly fasts in their entirety. When she had worked in Germany, it was different. They abstained from meat, but you could eat eggs, milk, and cheese. After that, Mama Neli and “the old guy,” her “stepparents” in the village of Cuptoare, slaughtered five or six pigs a year, plus calves and fowl, and they spread big feast tables at the holidays, but they didn’t worry themselves too much over fasting.

And yes, she had committed other sins on top of that: she had used double entendres, had lied, had a tendency to embellish, had looked at trashy movies and pictures, told people to go to hell, worked on Sundays and holidays, worn slacks, had fits of rage, had been unforgiving, thought of other things during prayers, had been greedy about food, been proud of herself, stubborn, had struck and beaten, had enjoyed being praised, had put her hands on other bodies to feel and provoke the pleasures of licentious dissipation. Yes, maybe that’s what it was called when she grabbed Chiţa by the cheeks, felt her up or hit her or when she was torturing Bianca. Only, she wasn’t tormenting her, in fact. She was very attached to that girl: she had caressed her, knew many of her secret places, and she had hit her too with passion. Bianca would become fearful, pant, go on crying . . . Irina recalled her fingers. With her she had first felt the throb she imagined the boys from the dorm felt when they would take a younger girl and bring her into a side room where they would turn the music up to the max. She had heard loads of things about what went on there. It hurt the girls. Some of them vomited. But she had prepared herself: she had learned to fight so well that not one boy would dare get close to her.

I committed the sin of onanism (which is what happens when a person provokes his own pleasure through masturbation). This sin is known as fornication with the devil,” Anastasia read, parenthesis and all, to be sure that Irina understood.

She had thus reached sin number 108. Without stopping, Anastasia went on to read the following sin since they were joined:

I committed the sin of onanism with another person, one acting on the other. I with the other, the other with me, with the opposite sex, man with man, woman with woman, with children,” Anastasia concluded and raised her eyes to Irina’s face, waiting for a sign, to know whether she should tick off 108–9 or not.

Irina began to reminisce silently about Manix. On one of their vacations, a good many children from Children’s Home Number 2 had gone to the camp at Tălăşmani, which, like the Home, was located in Vaslui county. That would have been the summer of 1995. Irina was fourteen years old. Among the “educators” was a boy of around twenty. It had been arranged with the directors that he not be taken off the orphanage’s rolls at the age of eighteen, and the management went on using him as a monitor and to receive goods transported from Germany by the Schindler charitable association.

Manix was short and thickset with a broad chest, an agile mind, wide, ravenous jaws. He looked like the Roma singer Adrian the Wonder Kid. He knew more-or-less all the management’s tricks: how they distributed the goods-in-aid sent by the Schindler Family Association, who took what, what was deposited in the warehouse and what was taken to the consignment store . . . he knew a whole lot.

The directors often used him for more delicate affairs . . . "I’m the lock and key to a whole lot of things,” he would say when they had put him in prison. After his first condemnation, he had come back and contributed to exposing Pfaff, that German with the photographs, the ones with the orphanage girls—Pfaff, who had so many important friends in the city.

Manix had been given the responsibilities of an “educator” in the camp. He had his own room, separate from the rest of the kids. Every evening he’d call one of the girls to his room. He’d threaten to beat or kill her if she didn’t do certain things for him. In the home, the older boys knew that forcing oral sex and masturbation would protect them from eventual accusations of rape. They were hard to prove, so to speak: “I made this agreement with a girl that we’d do some stuff . . . More out of curiosity, and it wound up the way it did . . .” Manix would recount years later. In prison at the Vaslui Penitenciary, he killed time studying the legal terms used in his file.

Manix had been accused of submitting eight girls from the Children’s Home to sexual perversions, Irina among them, but he had maintained that the whole thing had been a setup so he’d be silent. He bragged that he had often protested against the starvation and beating to which the children were submitted and that he had accused one of the psychologists from the Children’s Home, a former dorm mate, of homosexuality. At that time, homosexuality was grounds for prison: Article 200 of the penal code. Manix knew a great deal, indeed, but it was not clear on which side of the barricade he stood.         

”They took my first declarations about the business with the girls right there at Tălăşmani,” he would recall, tilting his head back and looking at the ceiling while searching for the exact date of those events. “The psychologist stood there with a rubber hose in his hand and dictated what I should write. Meanwhile, I’d been framed too for doing it with a person of the same sex. In fact, I was followed by some guys that took care of things like that.” For that reason, they had begun to call him “the faggot” at the home.

The girls had been warned not to make too big a deal about what happened in the camp, but they kept whispering in corners, giggling, and giving all kinds of details, one juicier than the next. And the educators said that they deserved what they got. Good you did it, Manix!

“Your honor, don’t strike too hard with the whip of the law—take into consideration the environment in which the accused grew up,” said the then director of the Children’s Home, Mr Dumitiru, in an effort to defend the boy who knew so much. But, at bottom, they weren’t condemning Manix for what he knew, so the management of the home reconciled itself to the situation relatively soon.

In 1995, Manix was twice condemned (to two and three years in prison) on the basis of Article 200 with regard to homosexual relations. In 2001 he did another nine months for theft, and in 2003 he was sentenced to seven years for sexual corruption and deprivation of liberty. On this occasion he had molested a twelve-year-old girl. He died of a heart attack in 2006.

Irina had been asked about the events at Tălăşmani, too. They had asked her, as Mother Anastasia now seemed to be asking, if she had done those things with Manix. She had said, “Yes.” After that, things went on happening . . . So yes, dash before 108–9. Dash at “fornication with the devil.”

The sins of shame continued, sodomy, Gomorrahy, adultery with animals . . . It was getting to be evening and Mother Anastasia was barely able to make anything out, but the business had to end before it got dark for good. She could see that Irina had gotten tired and was staring into space.

“Come on, there’s not much left,” she encouraged the girl while sketching a dash ahead of sin number 149: I came late to church. I left before the end of mass without good reason. They had 44 sins to go and that was it.

Irina felt surer of herself the next day with her list of sins prepared. Father Daniel was waiting for her to confess. The girl was already over the threshold. She had lost a lot of flesh at the hospital and the black clothing seemed to make her even thinner and paler. She knelt. As was customary, he draped his clerical stole over her head. He made the sign of the cross over that and began to hear her confession.

For the sin of onanism, one hundred kneeling genuflections with head bowed to the ground were generally given per day, together with eighty days of bread and water. Irina could barely stand on her legs. Nor was it clear how guilty she was of the events life had dragged her into. But still, he couldn’t look the other way when it was a matter of such sins. God would smite him!

“Irina, I’m giving you as penance, together with prayers, fasting with bread and water and one thousand genuflections before you take communion. Can you do them?”

“I’ll do them, Daddy,” Irina had answered.

“Very well. Cross yourself so I can give you absolution for your sins.” Then he sent her with Anastasia to the font of holy water located in a small building, like a small summer house covered with glass. On the eastern wall hung a blackened icon portraying the Mother of God and, under her, a poster with devils burning in the fires of hell. The poster read: Women who have abortions will face frightful torments without end in hell.

“Look here. This is the icon of the Mother of God,” Anastasia explained, “plus ballpoint and paper. You bow to the Mother of God, do a hundred genuflections, draw a line . . . and here’s a rosary for counting.”

Accompanied by Anastasia, Irina remained before the icon until late in the evening. She would cross herself occasionally, look up at the icon of the Mother of God, then bow and touch the floor with the top of her head, raise herself again, cross herself once more, look at the Mother of God, and bow and touch the floor again. Using her fingers, she would count off a rosary bead every time she raised her head: one, two, three . . . ten, twenty-eight...when she reached one hundred she would draw a line on the piece of paper.

”How’s it going, Irina? Can you do anymore?” When you get tired, you should stop,” said Mother Neonila, who knew about the penance and who had come in now to see how Irina was getting on.

”OK. Never mind,” Irina answered glancing at the poster of burning devils. ”I don’t want to upset the evil one.” She hadn’t had an abortion, but she’d fornicated with the devil. She didn’t go to bed until she had done her thousand genuflections.

On Easter Sunday she took communion. 

© 2012 by Editura POLIROM. Translation © 2013 by Jean Harris. All rights reserved.

Îndreptarul pentru spovedanie era o cărţulie mică şi cu paginile roase pe la margini. Se vedea că fusese folosită mult. Conţinea, de fapt, o listă cu vreo 200 de păcate descrise pe scurt şi instrucţiuni utile pentru cel care se pregătea de spovedanie. Având în faţă această listă de păcate, ne putem face un amănunţit examen de conştiinţă. Astfel putem descoperi mai ales păcatele ascunse pe care le-am făcut şi nu ştiam că sunt păcate sau nu ne-am dat seama că păcătuim, scria pe prima pagină, după care urmau câteva sfaturi practice.

Cel mai simplu şi mai sigur este să luaţi ceva de scris şi o hârtie şi, pe măsură ce citiţi păcatele, notaţi pe hârtie pe cele pe care le-aţi făcut. Apoi, i se explica cititorului că păcatele nu trebuie prezentate preotului pe larg, ci cât mai scurt, fără să se insiste asupra împrejurărilor în care s-au petrecut.

-  Am deznădăjduit în ajutorul şi mila lui Dumnezeu, începu maica

Anastasia, cu păcatul numărul 1.

Îi explicase Irinei în ce consta pregătirea pentru spovedanie. Stăteau amândouă în pridvorul bisericii, pe o băncuţă de lemn, şi Anastasia se oferise să bifeze ea păcatele pe o foaie de hârtie, pentru ca Irina să se poată concentra cât mai bine asupra răspunsurilor.

-   Am deznădăjduit…repetă Irina.

     Nu se gândise niciodată că era mare păcat să deznădăjduieşti.

            Anastasia o privi ca să-şi dea seama dacă înţelegea despre ce era vorba. Părea să înţeleagă. Puse o liniuţă în dreptul păcatului numărul 1.

-     Am zis că nu mă mai iartă Dumnezeu, că sunt prea păcătoasă

şi tot în iad voi merge, continuă călugăriţa, cu păcatul al doilea.

Irina rămase pe gânduri: deci era păcat să crezi că vei merge în iad!

Ea chiar crezuse că fusese în iad. Sau, cel puțin, așa îi explicase prietena ei Chița, care se pregătea sa devină călugăriță. Chița zicea că nu poți să amesteci rugăciunea cu poftele cele neadormite ale trupului și că trebuie să-ți strunești și gândul fiindcă şi cu gândul poţi să faci păcate mari. La orfelinat, ele două și Bianca ascultau cântecele formației Enigma și își închipuiau că erau inspirate din viața unor călugări medievali care, în timp ce cântau la strană, frământau în suflet trupuri încinse de femei şi le loveau apoi cu bicele lor de flagelare, până le dădea sângele. Când osteneau, le cădea biciul din mână, simţeau pe spate rănile adânci cu care-şi pedepsiseră pofta şi se trezeau din reverie. Atunci treceau iar la rugăciune.

          Ori de câte ori ascultase Sadeness, Irina simţise că, undeva, în coşul pieptului, i se revărsase o vibraţie de plăcere, pornea în cercuri concentrice în tot trupul şi parcă o electrocuta din creştet până în tălpi cu o căldură dulce-amară. Ca atunci când o iubise pe Bianca. Dar acum înțelegea că era păcat să nu crezi în iertarea lui Dumnezeu. O privi pe Anastasia şi dădu din cap. Da, se îndoise de iertarea lui Dumnezeu. Călugăriţa trase o liniuţă în dreptul păcatului cu numărul 2.

         Irina se mai învioră. Deci Dumnezeu te iartă. Începea să-i placă trecerea asta în revistă a păcatelor. Parcă era un joc la care câştiga cine făcea mai multe liniuţe. Pe de altă parte, auzind ce păcate mai erau, îşi dădea seama că pe multe ea nu le făcuse şi asta era aşa, un fel de uşurare. Am asuprit pe slugi, pe săraci, pe orfani, pe văduve, pe neputincioşi. I-am batjocorit. Nu, nu făcuse niciodată păcatul cu numărul 13. Şi nici pe numărul 24: Am păgubit sufleteşte şi trupeşte pe aproapele meu. Nu făcuse nici păcatul cu numărul 35: Am crezut că sufletul, după ce iese din om, trece în diferite animale. Şi nici păcatul vrăjitoriei. Nu mutase hotarul ca să ia din terenul vecinului, nu ascunsese în casa ei lucruri străine, nu stricase averea nimănui, nu înşelase statul, nu luase pastile anticoncepţionale, nu folosise sterilet, nu făcuse avort, nu preacurvise cu rudă, fin, naş, văr, frate, fiu, fiică, nepot, nu trăise necununată, nu mâncase spurcăciuni, nu făcuse glume despre cele sfinte, nu se împărtăşise cînd fusese la ciclu, nu citise cărţi sectare, nu ucisese, cu voie sau fără voie, nu intrase în Sfântul altar, nu dăduse anafură pe jos, nu se căsătorise cu evreu, turc, catolic, sectant..., nu pârâse pe cineva cu scopul de a-i face rău, nu trăsese pe nimeni la judecată.

            La păcatele 82, 83 şi 84 trebui să recunoască: nu se rugase în fiecare dimineaţă şi seară şi la fiecare masă, mai mâncase de dulce miercurea şi vinerea şi nu ţinuse cele patru posturi de peste an în întregime. În Germania, era altfel, se ţinea doar post de carne, dar ouă, lapte şi brânză aveai voie. Pe urmă, mama Neli şi „moşu”, de la Cuptoare, tăiau cinci-şase porci pe an, viţei, păsări, şi întindeau mese mari de sărbători, dar nu se omorau prea tare să postească.

În plus, da, mai făcuse şi alte păcate: vorbise cu mai multe înţelesuri, minţise, mai înflorise lucrurile, se uitase la filme şi poze cu prostii, drăcuise, muncise în duminici şi sărbători, purtase pantaloni, se mâniase, nu iertase, se gândise la altceva în timpul rugăciunii, se lăcomise la mâncare, se mândrise, fusese încăpăţânată, lovise, bătuse, îi plăcuse să fie lăudată, pipăise alt trup pentru a simţi şi provoca plăceri de desfrâu. Da, poate aşa se chema când o apuca de obraji pe Chiţa, o mai pipăia ori o lovea sau când o chinuia pe Bianca. De fapt, n-o chinuia. Ținuse mult la fata aia, o mângâiase, îi ştiuse multe ascunzişuri şi o şi lovise cu patimă. Bianca se temea, gâfâia, mai plângea…Irina îşi amintea de degetele ei. Cu ea simţise prima dată zvâcnetul pe care bănuia că-l simţeau băieţii de la cămin când luau câte o fată mai mică şi o duceau într-o cameră lăturalnică, unde dădeau muzica la maximum. Auzise multe despre ce se petrecea acolo, pe fete le durea, unele vomitau, dar ea se pregătise: învăţase să se bată aşa de bine, încât niciun băiat nu mai îndrăznea să se apropie.

- Am făcut păcatul malahiei singură (adică atunci când o persoană îşi provoacă plăcere singură, masturbare). Acest păcat se numeşte curvia cu diavolul, citi Anastasia, cu paranteză cu tot, ca să fie sigură că Irina înțelege.

Ajunsese astfel la păcatul cu numărul 108. Nu se opri şi îl citi şi pe următorul, căci erau legate:

- Am făcut păcatul malahiei cu altă persoană, unul la altul. Eu cu altul, altul cu mine, cu femeie, bărbat cu bărbat, femeie cu femeie, cu copii, încheie Anastasia şi ridică ochii spre Irina, aşteptând un semn, ca să ştie dacă bifează sau nu 108-109.

Irina îşi aminti de Manix. Într-o vacanţă, mai mulţi copii de la

Căminul numărul 2 plecaseră în tabără la Tălăşmani, tot în judeţul Vaslui. Era în vara lui 1995. Irina avea 14 ani. Printre educatori era şi un băiat de vreo 20 de ani. Se aranjase cu directorii să nu i se facă lichidarea la 18 ani şi-l mai foloseau pe post de supraveghetor şi la transporturile sosite din Germania. Manix era scund şi îndesat, cu pieptul lat, ager la minte, cu fălci sănătoase şi negricios la faţă. Semăna cu cântăreţul de manele, Adrian, copilul Minune. Ştia cam toate șiretlicurile conducerii: cum se distribuiau ajutoarele trimise de asociaţia familiei Schindler, cine ce lua, ce se depozita în magazie şi ce se ducea la consignaţii….ştia multe. Adesea, directorii îl foloseau la treburile mai delicate…„Eu sunt cheia şi lacătul la foarte multe lucruri”, avea să spună când îl băgaseră la închisoare. După prima condamnare, se întorsese la Bârlad şi participase la demascarea lui Pfaff, neamţul ăla cu fotografiile, care avea mulţi prieteni prin oraş….

        În tabăra de la Tălăşmani, Manix primise responsabilităţi de educator. Avea camera lui, separată de restul copiilor. În fiecare seară, chema la el câte o fată, o ameninţa că o bate, o omoară, dacă nu-i făcea lui unele lucruri… La cămin, băieţii mai mari ştiau că sexul oral şi masturbarea îi fereau de eventuale acuzaţii de viol. Erau greu de probat, la o adică. „Am căzut de acord cu o fată să facem nişte chestii…Mai mult de curiozitate, şi s-a ajuns la ce s-a ajuns…”, povestea Manix, peste ani. În închisoare, la Penitenciarul Vaslui de pe strada Avicola nr 2, îşi omora timpul studiind termenii juridici folosiţi în dosarul lui.

        Fusese acuzat că ar fi supus la perversiuni sexuale opt fete de la Casa de copii, printre care s-ar fi aflat şi Irina, dar el susţinea că totul fusese o înscenare, ca să fie redus la tăcere. Se lăuda că protestase adesea împotriva înfometării şi a bătăilor la care erau supuşi copiii şi că îl acuzase de homosexualitate pe unul dintre psihologii Casei de copii, un fost coleg de cămin. Pe vremea aceea, homosexualitatea era condamnată penal. Articolul 200. Manix ştia, într-adevăr, multe, dar nu era clar de care parte a baricadei se afla.

        „Primele declaraţii despre povestea cu fetele mi le-au luat chiar acolo, la Tălăşmani”, îşi amintea, dând capul pe spate şi privind spre tavan în căutarea datei exacte a întâmplării. „Psihologul stătea cu un furtun de cauciuc în mână şi dicta ce să scriu. Între timp, mi s-a înscenat şi că am făcut cu o persoană de acelaşi sex. De fapt, eram urmărit de nişte băieţi care se ocupau cu aşa ceva.”  De aia, la cămin, începuseră să-i zică „poponaru”.        

        Fetelor li se pusese în vedere să nu facă prea mare caz de întâmplarea din tabără, dar ele şuşoteau pe la colţuri, chicoteau şi dădeau tot felul de detalii, care mai de care. Iar educatorii ziceau că aşa meritau, bine le făcuse Manix!

      „Domnule judecător, să nu loviţi aşa de tare cu biciul legii şi să ţineţi cont de mediul în care a crescut acuzatul”, spusese, la proces, directorul de atunci al Casei de copii, domnul Dumitriu, încercând să-l apere pe băiatul care ştia multe. Dar, în fond, nu pentru ce ştia îl condamnau, aşa că direcţia se împăcase repede cu situaţia.

        În 1995, Manix a fost condamnat de două ori în baza articolului 200, privitor la relaţiile homosexuale, la 2 şi 3 ani de închisoare. În 2001, a mai făcut 9 luni pentru furt, iar în 2003, a fost condamnat la 7 ani de închisoare, pentru corupere sexuală şi lipsire de libertate. De data asta, era vorba de o fetiţă de 12 ani. A murit de infarct, în 2006.

        Irina fusese şi ea întrebată despre întâmplarea de la Tălăşmani. O întrebaseră ca acum, maica Anastasia, dacă făcuse cu Manix treburile alea. Spusese că da. Pe urmă, se mai întâmplase…Deci da, liniuţă la 108-109. Liniuţă la „curvie cu diavolul”.

         Păcatele de ruşine continuau: sodomie, gomorie, preacurvie cu animale… Se înserase şi maica Anastasia abia le mai desluşea, dar trebuia să termine până se întuneca de tot. Vedea că Irina obosise şi se uita în gol.

         - Hai că nu mai e mult, îi zise, trăgând o liniuţă în dreptul păcatului cu  numărul 149: Am venit târziu la biserică. Am plecat înainte de sfârşitul slujbei fără motive întemeiate. Mai aveau încă 44 de păcate şi

gata.       

         A doua zi, cu lista de păcate pregătită, Irina se simţea mai sigură pe ea. Părintele Daniel o aştepta la spovedit. Fata era deja în prag. Slăbise mult la spital şi hainele negre o făceau parcă şi mai slabă şi mai palidă. Îngenunche, el îi puse pe cap epitrahilul, făcu semnul crucii deasupra şi începu s-o spovedească.

         Pentru păcatul de malahie se dădeau drept canon o sută de mătănii pe zi şi 80 de zile cu apă şi pâine. Irina abia se mai pusese pe picioare. Şi nici nu era clar cât de vinovată era de întâmplările prin care o dusese viaţa. Dar nici el nu putea să treacă cu vederea asemenea păcate. L-ar fi bătut Dumnezeu!

            -  Irina, îţi dau canon, pe lângă rugăciuni, post cu apă şi pâine şi o mie de mătănii până când te împărtăşeşti. Poţi să le faci?

            -  Le fac, „tati”, răspunse Irina.

            - Bine, închină-te să-ţi dau dezlegarea de păcate.

Apoi o trimise cu Anastasia în agheasmatar, un foişor de vară acoperit cu sticlă. Pe peretele dinspre răsărit era atîrnată o icoană înnegrită cu Maica Domnului şi, sub ea, un afiş cu draci care ardeau în focul iadului. Pe afiş scria: chinuri groaznice şi fără sfârşit în Iad vor avea femeile care fac avorturi.

        - Uite aici, icoana Maicii Domnului, îi spuse Anastasia. Pix, hârtie, te închini la Maica Domnului, faci o sută de mătănii, tragi o liniuţă… Uite şi un metanier.

        Irina rămase acolo până seara, târziu, cu Anastasia. Îşi făcea cruce rar, se uita în sus, la icoana Maicii Domnului, apoi se apleca şi atingea podeaua cu creştetul, iar se ridica, iar îşi făcea cruce şi se uita la Maica Domnului, iar se apleca şi atingea podeaua… Număra boabele metanierului cu degetele, la fiecare ridicare: una, două, trei….zece….douăzeci şi opt…..când ajungea la o sută se oprea şi trăgea o liniuţă pe hârtie.

        - Cum e, Irina, mai poţi? Când oboseşti, să te opreşti, îi zise maica Neonila care ştia de canon şi venise să vadă cum se descurcă Irina.

        - Da. Lasă, că-l supăr pe-ăla rău! îi răspunse Irina între două mătănii, privind la afişul cu dracii arzând. Ea nu făcuse avort, dar curvise cu diavolul. Nu se culcă până nu făcu cele o mie de metanii.

        De Paşti, s-a împărtăşit.




Tatiana Niculescu BranTatiana Niculescu Bran

Tatiana Niculescu Bran was born in Bucharest, Romania. She holds degrees from the faculty of letters at the University of Bucharest and the European Institute of Journalism in Brussels. She worked as an editor for the Romanian Section of the BBC World Service (London) between 1995 and 2004 and headed the World Service’s Bucharest Bureau between 2004 and 2008. In 2006, she published Romania’s first nonfiction novel, Spovedanie la Tanacu (The Confession), which was followed in 2007, by Cartea Judecatorilor (The Book of Judges). Cristian Mungiu’s film, Beyond the Hills, which won the best screenplay award at Cannes in 2012, was closely inspired by Niculescu Bran’s pair of nonfiction novels. Niculescu Bran’s other titles include In tara lui Dumnezeu (In the Land of God), a novel published in 2012, and two plays. Deadly Confession (directly inspired by the events recounted in The Confession and The Book of Judges) was directed by Andrei Serban and premiered in New York at La Mama in 2007. Brancusi contra SUA (Brancusi vs. the United States) looks at a case the Romanian sculptor Brancusi brought against the United States in 1926. In 2011 Polirom published her political novel The Nights of the Patriarch. On December 22, 2014, Bran will become spokesperson for Romania's newly elected president, Klaus Johannis.

Translated from RomanianRomanian by Jean HarrisJean Harris

Jean Harris is a novelist and essayist now living in Bucharest, Romania. She has been the 2007-2008 winner of the University of California, Irvine's International Center for Writing and Translation's translation grant for her translation of Ştefan Bănulescu's Mistreţii erau blazi. Director of The Observer Translation Project 2008-2009, she has been guest editor of Absinthe 13: Spotlight on Romania (2010). Her translations have recently appeared in the Guardian, Habitus: a Diaspora Journal (2012) and in The Fifth Impossibility , a collection of essays by Norman Manea in Yale's Margellos World Republic of Letters series (2012). She is currently translating Norman Manea's Captives for New Directions. She holds a PhD in British and American literature from Rutgers and has published fiction, literary criticism, and psychoanalytic studies including The Roots of Artifice: A Study in Literary Creativity with Jay Harris (Human Sciences Press, 1981) and The One-Eyed Doctor: Psychological Origins of Freud's Works with Jay Harris (Jason Aronson, 1984).