what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Death of Ceaucescu's court poet and senator; alternatives


Dawn brings another superb, blue cloudless sky. The next section is from Sara in Romania's blog
Romanian poet Adrian Paunescu died this morning (5th Nov)from a heart attack (the third) at Floreasca Hospital in Bucharest aged sixty-seven. Reading FaceBook, I see friends posting his poems and plentiful comments of "Odihneasca-se in pace". Sorin Oprescu (the Bucharest mayor) has declared that Adrian Paunescu shall be laid to rest in the Aleea Scriitorilor of Bellu Cemetery on Sunday with all the honours befitting a poet of his calibre.
Considered one of the greatest poets of the post-war generation, he had political controversy attached to his name from the communist era, however, and is said to have been Ceausescu's 'court poet'... He did mea culpa, admitted fault in the early 90's and said he had behaved miserably and at some point justified his actions by needing better lodgings. By those who cannot forgive him, he has been labelled an 'opportunist', a boot licker', a man who 'tried to be a politician post-89'praised the deeds of Ceausescu' and 'organised gatherings at the stadium to chant odes to the joys of communism.' There are lots of other comments, too, that would not be fitting to add here today of all days. What to make of all that? It's as if we are discussing two different people - the talented poet who wrote verses such as the tender 'Ruga Pentru Parinti' , so moving it gives you goosebumps or 'Dumnezeul Salvarii', lovely too. This man was a magnificent writer, poet and painter of words. Perhaps then, we should make abstraction of his murky and controversial political past? Many say we should not. Does a man with such literary talent deserve to be forgiven for his wrongs? He has admitted shame at his actions and called himself some pretty offensive names publically.
It is, frankly, impossible to read his poetry and not be moved. Do we put him in the same class as other writers such as Kundera, Sadoveanu, Banus and Gunter Grass who fell along the wayside at some point or another to collaborate, coitoi and generally the lick boots of party leaders to live a little better? They did what so many others did 'to survive' but also for perks - for passports, for houses, the right to shop in the closed-circuit places where the average man could not have access... should we see them as different from the average Joe Bloggs in the street? Are they more difficult to forgive? Literature educates. Words empower and teach. They form and mould moral, social and spiritual thinking. This is a time long before I stepped foot in Roumania and thus my experience is only as witness to stories and the day to day life of others dear to me. I know they cannot and will not forgive. And so, what about the younger generation? Mine, I mean. The generation who is today between 30-40 years old. They are the friends of mine posting the beautiful verses of Adrian Paunescu on Facebook. They are the ones who drew my attention to the great outpouring of grief for this loss to Roumanian literature. My older Romanian friends stay quiet. Perhaps they comment on articles in the papers or simply sit still and remember. Perhaps there is nothing left to say.
Whatever we feel for Adrian Paunescu, one thing cannot be denied: the country has indeed lost another talented poet and shall be missed in the world of prose, verse, rhyme and word for generations to come. He has left an indelibly moving, poetic mark on the bookshelves of libraries, bookshops and sitting-rooms throughout Roumania and beyond with his 50 volumes. Between 1973-1985 when the last 'gathering' (cenaclul Flacara) took place, there were 1,615 shows with an estimated 6 million participants (voluntary or not - most of them were not. Some were caught on the street and dragged there to have a full house).
Here's 'In Love with Bucharest'...


This is a great post - but I would not agree that he was considered one of the greatest post-war Romanian poets. I'm sure, for example, he doesn't figure in the various English-language collections of post-war Romanian poetry - which certainly include Marin Sorescu's poems one of which I reproduced last weekend. Romania's "best-known" poet might be a better way of describing (best known by the Romanian population at large that is). I notice, for example, that Romanian Voice gives him 60 poems as against 28 of Sorescu's- and all in Romanian.

It must look a trifle odd for me to sit in Translyvania and read about China! In fact a large part of yesterday was spent in the pages of one of two 1,000 page books which have just arrived – German Genius, a well-produced book by Peter Watson which attempts to rectify what he (rightly) considers to be a serious ignorance by the English-speaking world of what Germany has contributed to the world in the past 200 years. I’ve previously confessed my Germanophilia – which I owe to my father. I read and speak the language, respect their professionalism and political life and admire the society they have built in the past 60 years. The long introduction of German Genius summarises various recent debates about the distinctiveness of german development (eg the “Historikerstreit” of the 1980s and the later “Sonderweg” thesis) is intellectual history at its best and demonstrate the depth of Watson’s reading and understanding. I found it difficult to get through an earlier book of his – A Terrible Beauty – the people and ideas that shaped the modern mind but find myself turing the pages of this massive book very eagerly. It helps that the chapters are short!
The little lane at the bootom of the garden was very busy yesterday – first a van which turned out to be from the electricity company with a maintenance team who lopped branches from trees which were in danger of fouling the line. This left a few trunks which will be a useful addition to my stock – and I duly trimmed and carried them up to the house. Very useful exercise! And today I will saw them into suitable sizes. Then a tractor towing a trailer full of cut logs for someone’s fire came by. Normally only the cows wander down this track.

In the evening I resumed my reading of the very useful One No, Many yeses by Paul Kingsnorth which contains great descriptions of and conversations with people who are standing up for their rights in places such as Papua New Guinea, Brazil or Boulder, Colorado. Now I’m into the section on the alternatives to the large corporations who poison our bodies and mind and destroy so much of our civilisation. He listens to David Korten at the 2002 Porto Alegre Social Forum and makes me feel guilty about sitting here and doing so little in this struggle. Instead of thinking about a paper for the next NISPAcee Conference (in May just down the road from here at Varna on the Black Sea), I should be attending conferences like the Social Fora!! But first, I have to sort out my mind - and read Olin Wright's Envisioning Real Utopias which I mentioned recently. Or at least, I should be linking up more actively with other sustainable livers in Romania and Bulgaria??

Universities are under the microscope at the moment – both in the UK and in Bulgaria

1 comment:

  1. You're perfectly right. He wasn't a great poet one bit... I was wrong for I didn't read extensively enough. Just the couple I liked. And I was heavily influenced at the time by those around me.

    In the clearer light of day (as subsequent posts of mine will highlight)and as my Romanian has gradually improved, I have to say he was nothing more than a poet of mediocrity - and that's being rather generous. He was far better at being the pupincurist so many loathe him for. The 'flacara' was a kind of brain-washing and he knew full well what he was doing. I must now side with those who cannot forgive him.

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