excerpts From Winter to Summer Two seasons, rather than four, by all means. Late fall, with powerful stags calling. After the horse races in Moldavia and the first fires in the remotest houses of Bukovina, winter comes. The only flowers left are those in the carpet wool and on painted chests. The sky will turn yellow before re-becoming blue. The Bucharest dweller who eats too much meat and cannot make it to Vittel for therapy, suffers from rheumatism and gout. Snow comes down and raises as high as half of the Carpathian Mountains height, wild ducks, forming triangles, hurry toward the Delta, and wolves come out of the woods. Over the hurdle-free plains, the winter wind arrives from Russia, which Romanians only expect bad news from: it is the crivăţ, a north wind, and people say he has teeth. The thermometer suddenly drops to minus 30 Celsius. The cold polishes the street like wax, and on sidewalks, soles make noise as if they were wooden shoes. Rich people take their furs out, common people take out their short coats with vertical pockets at stomach height, and Gypsies dress up in newspapers. They all strongly pull down their lamb or Bessarabian Astrakhan fur hats, over their violet ears. At crossroads, Romanian statesmen, sculpted by French sculptors who were members of the Institute, get running noses in their bronze coats. Horses tremble under some old potato bag and smoke comes out of their nostrils. And out of the people's mouths, and out of houses. Everywhere you can feel the ugly, modern smell of fuel oil or the good old scent of burned wood. In antechambers, like in mosques, there are piles of rubber shoes and boots. Snow. From yellow, the sky has turned black. In the morning, all noises in the city have disappeared, and you could believe you are at the bottom of some lake. A new toll: the sled bells. In yards, the quiet blows of the housekeeper, splitting a log into little pieces with an ax. This is absolute white, filling all surfaces with cotton wool, lighting up people's faces as if they were on stage, and hiding any wrinkle they might have. Apart from boulevards, nobody touches the snow; here, the snow is a noble, friendly element: not like the mud Parisians throw away by the shovel. Just trams push it aside, with a strange wood tool. Carriages break their axles crossing snowballs. The trees, reduced to a few faint lines, look like the trail of a worm. In parks, photographers blow into their hands and process their films over a heater with wood embers. Cars, which are made for temperate climate areas, cough weirdly. Children have taken out their sleds and slide on, up to the cemetery: the finish line is right among graves. Gypsy girls sell flowers, but these are actually paper flowers, red roses and white and golden daisies, New Year's Eve sorcovas: then, they will cast grains on you and wish you, all in singing, "live long, get old, like an apple-tree, like a pear-tree, like a rose." Masked Gypsy children pull a Christmas tree on a two-wheel cart, they shake bells, and they come to your gate to get something from you, filled with snow up to their knees. Trains reach the city whenever luck has it. The ice has made boilers blow up, the chains that linked the train cars are now broken; the railways, where the manganese was not in the adequate amount, have broken, and, left in the field, the passengers had no other solution but to gather in a single car, so as not to freeze to death. After three days, the storm has quieted down, the sun comes up again, and the city will be merrier than in any other season. No foam of any beach, no flower of any plum-tree will trigger such an unstoppable joy, this dilation of lungs, and these tears of happiness brought about by snow. Apart from the huge avenues, in streets with small private hotels the lone passerby hears his own steps and turns around, troubled. Never will Bucharest get us so emotional again, with its aged, Versailles-like air, badly paved, not like in this prolonged twilight in the snow white; Bucharest will never look so provincial, again, just like a first chapter of Gogol. And at night, when car lights come on, catching in passing the desperate silhouette of a poor woman wrapped up in a shawl, followed by a crawling dog, the pleasure of being away and the wish to live a mysterious life are more alive than ever. You irresistibly feel like going and joining the waltz on the silver mirror of the Cişmigiu Lake, deeply frozen all the way down, where the snow gathered on branches falls with the slightest wind on the shoulders of skaters. Healthy cold, which awakens the need for solitude near the stove, a strongly heated stove, whose terra-cotta smells of rancid butter, a cold that makes you want to sit down at rich tables with fat foods, oily fish, jams hiding the goods of summer in their sugar, and alcohol heated on reddened embers. And if the moon comes out- Words cannot be translated, because they do not awake the same images. Our spring is the shyest season of the year, which begins with snow and ends with rain; slow like our youth, it needs four months to be fulfilled. The Romanian spring is a sudden stir from the winter slumber, something that cracks like a cheek. In Bucharest, you get out of the house on the first sunny day, you see the buds, and in the evening, when you come back, they have already turned into leaves. All animals carry cubs, stray bitches go to deserted houses to have their puppies, and heavy sturgeons can barely swim upstream the Danube. Shop owners cut their fish egg prices by a third. The bear comes out of its lair dizzy, and the first mountain slopes under plum trees begin to look pinkish. Thawing. The Bucharest outskirts have to do with traditional, uncleared swamps. But often a last freeze toughens them up unexpectedly; then, under sparkling stars, the ice makes the night walker not be able to hold on. The snow heaps finally melt for good, and a mud tested by all known passers-by bathes the neighborhoods, and it even seems to dissolve the pavement, thrown on sideways by buses, it sweeps the sidewalks, and it splashes the houses up to their roofs. When cars pass by, pedestrians run away as if they were under a cream rain. Steps no longer protect cars, which, with the first sunshine, get filled up with dried mud. Everything melts down, everything flows, and small canals let out a lukewarm, ugly stench. Spring is nothing but the announcement, short like a rooster call, of the summer, of wheat harvested as early as June, of the flowers in the Cişmigiu and Carol gardens, those invincible Romanian flowers climbing everywhere and surviving both under suffocating dust and under the burning sun. Windows are widely opened. As early as the military parade on May 10th, Bucharest becomes irresistible. Pleasure and green are its matchless beauty. Nobody goes to sleep anymore in such clear nights. You get drunk on the noise, the dust, the perfumes. You hardly wake up from the dizziness of the lily, when the acacia tree scent – this very Romanian tree – jumps right into your nose. Tulips, irises, peonies, and roses follow each other in parks like dynasties. Red-faced gentlemen, who come to spend 48 hours in Romania when they go to some Board meeting, send telegrams to London that they are not going back just yet, they want to spend some more time in the AthénéePalace bar. Chickens pick under carriage wheels, and trams raise up pigeons. Clerks demand one more advance pay for next month, students have their fur coats fixed, children spend money in parks on water games or ice juices, young ladies borrow from governesses, lawyers hide behind files, because the divorce rate goes up, soaring. You do not know whether you whisk because of the dizziness you get from your refreshed blood, or whether sap-full roots really raise up the sidewalk. Pleasant evenings, with movie theaters outside. Every 10 meters a cabaret opens, and couples sit down at tables, under the leafy shadow, like in private offices. From the great Viennese-style restaurants in the Kisseleff road, with Gypsy bands, to the most modest saloons, with wooden plates, paper table cloths, and two violins, everything becomes charmed. People chew sunflower seeds and drink wine with soda. During the hottest hours, houses get their blinds down, and they fall down sleepy. Bucharest – A Merry City Is it a beautiful city? No way; when he gets out of the train station, the face of the traveler who is new in town gets a little tense with disappointment. Is this an ancient city? Even less; the King of France and his 12 pairs already lived at the small Louvre castle when the legendary peasant Bucur was just erecting the walls of his abode. Is Bucharest one of those vital international cores, where the destinies of empires are decided? No, because it turns its back on angles, and, this way, to Western Europe, it places the Danube between it and the Bulgarians, which means it stays away from southern Europe, and it opposes to Moscow plains that do not stop the wind or the people, and which are a real corridor for invasions. Does Bucharest have at least, like Vienna or Istanbul, geographical privileges, which will impose it to history? No way; its princes tried three other seats before they established the capital city here; Bucharest could have, should have been born somewhere else. Is Bucharest one of those great capital cities that sum up and express and entire nation? Romanians will tell you Bucharest does not mean Romania. Bucharest means cars and radios, movie theaters and sky-scrapers; you can find Romania in embroidered flowers, in old pottery, in the wild nature, and in the wonderful costumes of peasants, which the railway is ready to destroy, as train-engine sparks burn the grass. Bucharest means pipe tobacco, fads, style; Romania means the deeps woods and the most precious human wealth – time – the father of the ancient faith and of ancient crafts; it means the country where nothing is a deceiving appearance, where the fur is worn on the inside rather than on the outside, where the cult of the god Mithra, kept alive for a very long time, has always wetted the ground with bull blood, letting women have their admirable, complicated way of tying their head scarves, still covering the heads of men with those astrakhan tiaras, those miters the church has inherited, and which the priests of the god Mithra used to wear; it means a pagan land, remembering its Thracian past; the new moon is celebrated here by people who look like Voodoo wizards of the Antilles; for Christmas, men dress up as animals, making you think about the Altamira frescos or the drums of Niger; according to the ritual, girls bury mud dolls in summer, thus perpetuating the cult of Adonis; the dead are buried with coins in their hands; the hunting season, the magic dances of imitation – the bear dance, the raven dance – evoke those in British Columbia or Mexico; during drought periods, naked Gypsy women dress in leaves, run up and down village roads, and householders leave their houses and get out to wet this rain-thirsty human tree (Sir James Frazer would add one more wonderful branch to his Golden Bough, if he wrote a monograph of the Danube peasants). Bucharest and Romania have lagged behind for a very long time, both historically and culturally. When Louis XVI had dinner with Molière, the princes of the Romanian lands still looked like those old kings on playing cards, living their deeds in poems. The Renaissance only reached Bucharest catching its breath, by the end of the 17th century; the encyclopedists only began to influence people here in 1830; the Louis Philippe style appeared just before 1900. But today, civilization no longer finds its way through Dalmatia or Serbia; the Danube no longer stops it; it comes airborne, drops on Bucharest, brings in something neo-Byzantine, American, Soviet, or collective; it suddenly makes up for the lost time, but only in Bucharest; it has not touched the folklore art; it has nothing collective, it is individual, and it remains for ever anonymous (sometimes, here and there, a name, a date on some carpet, like in Spain); it reflects the serenity of the isolated soul, of simple shepherds, who contemplate the stars. This art has always created objects that can die, but forms that endure. Adorable peasant houses in Oltenia or Bukovina, white as snow. Can we say they are 5,000 years old? In fact, they only last as long as a man's life; for lack of stone, they are made of mud and chopped straws; but they are cast over and over in the ancient framework, the framework of a faith and a tradition, they stand up to the centuries, enduring longer than palaces in Bucharest. Bucharest does not mean Romania, the way Romanians who research it say. They find the unique source of the Moldavian-Wallachian genius in rural life and folklore art. However, Bucharest is a wonderful display of races, faces, customs, and adventures. You can see top heads and Scythian astrakhan fur hats, American cars, and Ostrogothic carriages passing on merrily. Thousands of times devastated, robbed, burned, shaken by earthquakes, by plague and by armies, rebuilt thousands of times, its history has been a relentless battle; neighbors would smell out the Romanian prey at the edge of the forest; they wounded it, but they never destroyed it. This nation of 20 million souls is hard to destroy, and the reader has been able to see that the numberless misfortunes God gave it, from Atilla to Lenin, have not been able to defeat it. Its vital élan is what made, out of an almost destroyed, barely aware of itself country, a perfectly utilitarian, prosperous, and peaceful nation in less than a quarter of a century – a nation Europe had the pleasure of offering as an example to Balkan nations. In the bosom of a generous nature, the Romanian has learned to have nothing, because everything was taken away from him, over and over again. Rebuild? He was never able to build more than one floor to his house, without some invasion or geological catastrophe making it mandatory for him to start over. Some time ago, a Greek offered this advice to his son: "Never build anything in the Participates;" "Wallachia – a misfortunate country," Paul of Aleppo wrote. Of all princes who ruled this country, there is only one whose tomb was not violated. The Romanian has dedicated so many churches to God only to thank Him that He let him have his skin over his bones. But "the Romanian endures." He falls without being injured. If he is stricken, he gets up again and smiles, with that natural politeness springing out of a good soul, rather than sophisticated education. He is the last representative of what is called the "gentilezza." Bucharest, which is no longer a city of pleasure, has kept its merry disposition and never ceased to mean joy. When the world crisis is at its highest, you see ruined people laughing, each making his peace with his trouble, so he can live appropriately from now on. A Westerner, with my forehead carved by concerns, I learned here that trouble can smile. This is what this nation teaches us – a nation conquerors have given worst treatments to; an elastic nation, having to the highest degree the experience of the evanescent and the fatalism of the transitional, a good, swimming nation, allowing itself to be carried up and down by the whim of waters, slightly moaning, without too much concern, because it knows one day it will come back to the surface; a realistic nation, which fate has placed at the Asian frontier, like a sentinel of common sense, this junior brother of fair reason. The Romanians are not just content to speak our Latin language, they understand our French language, the language of irony, that irony which stops at the Dniester River (going east, we will have to reach China to find it again). The Romanian, especially the Moldavian, has many common traits with the Russians; like the Russians, he is not bourgeois, neither is he petty. He is audacious, purely sincere, filled with emotional élans; however, he never becomes a beast out of the blue; could that be why Keyserling said he is a Russian without an inner life? Indeed, you will not see him often kneeling before prostitutes or chasing debauchery as the shortest way to paradise; however, you will always see him making excuses for theft, which is an easily forgivable sin: corruption, embezzlement, robbery, forcible entry, game debts, pressing debts, con jobs, all these are not so serious in a country where parasitism is traditional, where houses are not very well locked, where "mine" and "yours" are not so rigorously separated and strictly guarded as they are with us. People say sighing: "He needed money, poor man, so he stole it." They say "the Romanian is not bourgeois, he is of the people." First, all Latinos are like that, and sometimes even more, and then the Romanian, if he is classy, does not look so good; his greatest charm is his naturalness, this sincerity you could consider cynical, if it was not so simple, so naïve, and so spontaneous. As nations get older, they lose their Eden innocence that used to increase the brilliance of their virtues and wipe out all the acid of its drawbacks. Romania is not a toxic country; its wounds are looked upon by the sun; rain, full light, and the dust of the roads are their best bandages; their healing is entrusted to the Lord's mercy and the devil's leniency. The Romanian has seen it all, so he no longer fears things so much. Sometimes he is surprised, but he is never flabbergasted. Trajan's prefects gave him sermons that if the empire was invaded by the Barbarians, that would spell the end of the world; Trajan is dead, the Barbarians came and went, and the empire is still here. A few years ago, the entire nation lived off cereal exports, and this is what provided it with its livelihood; today that export is halted, but Romania is still alive, and hunger is even less serious here than in other parts of the world. When the son of the Danube and of the Carpathian Mountains can no longer put up with his needs, he reduces or suppresses them. He can wait boldly for taxation or revolution: he is not avidly and desperately attached to things, the way we are. (From this point of view it is fun to compare them with the Saxons of Transylvania, or even with the Romanians who are influenced by those Saxons; the Saxons are Swiss who have wandered into the Carpathian Mountains: bourgeois life, flowers in the windows, German stoves, plates with flowers on walls, closets, villas meticulously adorned, full of beautiful lingerie). The typical Romanian is a nomad; like the Russian peasant, he jumps into any train getting ready to leave, happy to go anywhere, to obey his instinct to run away from the invasion; he knows property attracts robbery and that the only furniture without danger is the suitcase, which is as light as a sarcophagus. This reminds you of the last journey – those small trunks peasant women take care of all their lives, as they weigh their savings coin by coin, filling the trunks up with the accessories of their future funeral. Still, subjected to a basic contradiction like all humans, the Romanian aspires most of all to own the land he farms; however, he is not as much a slave of his land as our peasant, as our aristocrat is the slave of his mansion in the countryside. The Romanian's fundamental nature is some kind of a fatalism, which makes it possible for him to control with humor so many human misfortunes: the military draft, tuberculosis, war, syphilis, ruin, always paying a heavy tribute to them. So, we go to Bucharest to get, at the twilight of our capitalist civilization, an indifference cure. We learn to ascribe to things but a evanescent value and a relative price, which represents, in our world that is fed up with financial and economic preoccupations, the only aristocratic school. There we will see contempt bordering on irresponsibility, for the solid bases of our mercantile civilization. The Romanian has always entrusted other people with his business. Greeks, Germans, Belgians, French, and British people build for him sewage systems, roads, factories – and this is their business (in fact, they will often toil in vain). He is not a slave of comfort, he can give machines up, and he knows the art of living in an evanescent opulence, hiding his permanent poverty. Great fortunes have passed through his hands, but he was left with nothing. Of the first aristocratic families that ruled Bucharest in the 16th and 17th centuries, none has kept the smallest land plot. One of their descendants told me: "There are three categories of Romanians: poor, very poor, and unspeakably poor." Bucharest is a dating place rather than a capital. It is a public market where you come to do business, protest, or beg, knock on the bedroom door yesterday and on the state's door today. Here you empty your wallet and get filled up with ideas and customs of the West. The most beautiful mansions of the capital have been for a long time temporary residences of people from villages. You have searched in vain for Mount Athos' mosaics, the vaults of Saint Sophia, the gold of Kiev, or the green copper roofs of Vienna. You have not found here our French urbanism, straight boulevards, our markets that look just like salons filled up with aristocrats, those salons where monuments are like family furniture – centuries have not changed its place. Near imposing buildings, you find here the ruined misfortune of the East. These sons of Rome have not inherited the Roman rigidity; here nothing is straight, everything goes crazy – both politics and the streets, clothes and cars; sidewalks bow, avenues rise like the tombstones of Judgment Day; buildings and ruins come one after another in inert of very lively neighborhoods. Bucharest never had the spirit of a grand city, with guild freedoms and traditions that would be well defended inside and out; in order to get a belt of fortification, it had to wait for the arrival of some German king. The Western trepidation, the tense faces of stock exchange brokers are absent: there are only two businessmen in Bucharest, and both are foreign. The speed of the stock exchange, which has penetrated all of us up to our blood, has not reached this place, and the Bucharest dweller only screens fast the financial page of the newspaper, in order to complain for a moment about the anemia of exchange and the collapse of oil market. Here people do not live in any continuous nervous tension. The Boulevard light up all its signs, and for a second, it looks a little like the 42nd street, but this is just a joke: for a hundred meters, it just wanted to play at New York. In Bucharest, yesterday is forgotten fast, today has no value, and tomorrow is the only word you get, and which the American and the Swede, who have wandered from one ministry to another, hoping to get a concession or a sale, have learned in anger. The lesson Bucharest is offering to us is not a lesson in art, but a lesson in life: it teaches you to adjust to anything, even to the impossible. Here it incarnates the spirit of a nation whose patience is limitless, sublime like that of animals, and whose indulgent optimism has come up with that saying: "The good Lord's garden is so big!" The capital city of a tragic land, where often everything ends in a comic way, Bucharest has allowed itself to be driven to events without rigidity, starting out without the fragility anger creates. This is why, through the crooked curve of a picaresque destiny, Bucharest has stayed merry. Bucharest, December 1934Versailles, June 1935

by Paul Morand