Alice Voinescu And Her Universe

Today's reader will be disclosed a universe, in this diary, for the reenactment of which one may only draw back on occasional reference points; these, in their turn, might prove incomplete or improper, possibly misleading, directly correspondent with the historical and milieu. Naturally, the pages are peopled with native and foreign celebrities – more or less illustrious characters, some of them merely noteworthy in the epochal context, that have faded in significance at the outset of that era, as well as with countless private persons of great distinction and human value, that have paid their mite to the glory of that time. There are existing testimonials, in diaries and memoirs, which, for their most part, have come off the presses in recent times. A number of these are quite remarkable; nevertheless, they evoke barely interacting in-groups and separately viewed milieus. Alice Voinescu's Diary is written in a preeminently emotional key – a reality which does not in the least impair upon its absolute critical awareness. Additionally, the work is comprehensive under both aspects, i.e. it elicits an extraordinary apprehensive power and an immense scope of the concrete. Under the witnessing eye of Alice Voinescu, prominent figures cease to be pedestaled – they sink into the mundane and unceremonious, are caught inter-relating with friends and foes, in their concern over issues that are more or less major, blissful or mournful, visiting the social canvas in an incognito state, whereas "the others" are more than once depicted as the more interesting or as more reasonable. Over the course of the record we witness generations of destinies, affectionately and carefully observed by the author. As for Alice Voinescu herself, she had a unique gift for communication , which was of a dashing unaffectedness and grace. A grand lecturer in the History of Drama at The Academy of Music, alike to Nae Ionescu, Ion Petrovici or Pârvan, attracting a huge audience into the auditorium. Her audience brought together the wits and spirits of all social walks and age categories, not only her students. Over all these she had made an indelible impression.She exerted her authority in an irresistible manner, as there was nothing peremptory or priggish-professorial in her nature. She was an exceptional creature and perceived as such by the rest. Nonetheless, I find it hard to attach to her the attribute of "extraordinary", which she actually was, beyond any doubt, This – on account of her unaffected-spontaneous nature and on account of a certain candor that spared her of the pitfalls of pedantry. She was constantly audience-focused, keen to understand, spirited by hope and self-abandonment. Her presence had a quieting, disinhibiting effect upon the spirits; just by looking at somebody, she healed that person of a pre-judged reluctance that might have been triggered by her fame and prestige. In lectures, given in private or in public, on Shakespeare, Sophocles, Goethe, she spoke as if of facts of everyday life, role models and eye-opening landmarks. She wasn't in the least a femme savante, a bas-bleu. No, not in the least – she was the absolute opposite of all that. She was a "cultured" creature, but not in the unconsciously derogatory acceptation masked by an encomiastic intent. She was a creature for which there was no life without culture and no culture without life. She didn't deem herself omniscient. She wasn't embarrassed to confess her ignorance on occasions, and, when her cognitive candor happened to surface, she blushed like a young girl. Those who had the immense privilege to know her in person, in her private sphere, as well as in what we have referred to "her universe", are a handful of people at present, all of us having reached an age where the future is but a present granted to us by Divinity. Then, there are her former students at The Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, now actors and actresses, who have been more or less fortunate in their career, who have received from her, along with the taste for culture and the knowledge of it, lessons in good manners and good taste, in other words, the polish required by somebody pursuing an artistic career and a humanly accomplished lifestyle. Her ex-students have kept her alive in their memory, and rightfully deem themselves fortunate to have enjoyed a most privileged education. But even those who are still alive among them, are contemporaries to the past.Alice Voinescu also had a rare bent for being a confidant. She was listening to anybody, with great care and attentiveness and with such abnegation and concern I cannot recall seeing in other people. There were many who, in their moments of intimate confusion, or for pure pleasure, or out of mere vanity, confiscated her time and patience. It was preponderantly the girls at The Music Academy and the young actresses with troubles of the heart that sought her up in pilgrimage as if she were a miracle-making spring, importuning her with their puny turpitudes or their deep sorrows. She treated them as peeresses, empathizing with their troubles, advising or scolding them, and managed to always find the words that were most comforting to their hearts. I know of these things, not because I would have witnessed them, and, of course – Alice was of perfect discreetness and female solidarity. (Although her private life was of the outmost purity and fidelity, she had her share of critical and, later on, dramatic moments, which she embraced with a brave understanding.) I also have, all my life, abused her kind concern and good-willingness, and in doing so, managed to profitably compensate for the time wasted on diversions and, should we say, the licentiousness of youth. It is fair to say she was the oldest and dearest friend of my father's, I'd known her ever since I can remember, and our relation was that of a next-to-kin nature. Her role in my early upbringing and, later, in my scholarly and spiritual education, matched my father's contribution in importance. Her conversation was not compellingly intellectual, we could discuss anything: films, various happenings, even the latest gossip, why ever not? There was, nevertheless, a subtle border , the consistency of a suave scent, never to be crossed, emanated by the compelling delicacy of her nature.Her most outstanding and vivid wit has never had a note of condescension, or dominance; she never would have wished it to be construed as such; she'd never even consciously think of her as superior or act accordingly. Prevalent in her being was her benevolence, as an effect of an irresistible kindness. This good-naturedness, eclipsing a great cleverness, was mothered by her soul, fathered by an immense power of comprehension (which is irrefutable). Her natural drive was always to tend to other needs, to yield in the face of reality and truth. Especially in the face of God.

by Alexandru Paleologu