Critics About Mateiu Caragiale

"He was more of a unsociable person, a loner, he seemed sullen and morose. Only among his friends he would become again the father of eloquence and paradox." Eugen LOVINESCU "There was no one in the house of the great loner but me. From time to time, an old lady with big eyes, looking rather scared would walk through the hall which led to his room, she walked silent and quickly as a shadow. I assumed that she was his wife Marica, but I've never been introduced to her. Sometimes, when I came to call on him, I saw in his room some odd looking creature. Old people, strange looking as if they have descended from ancient paintings – my stirred imagination might have contributed to this impression, under the influence of a repeated reading of Craii de Curtea-veche (Old-Court Philanderers) – still I remember this tall man, with a Roman nose, a peculiar mixture of humility and stateliness. When he was introducing people, their names didn't tell me anything, they were not at all resonant. I have never met more than a single guest at him." "The evenings were sometimes painfully short for me. On the contrary on other occasions, he was in a good mood with a twinkling light in his eyes – the only thing that betrayed this cheerfulness – and then he would lay before me a little carafe containing a carefully chosen drink and a glass of chiselled metal. He never drank anything, he just watched me sipping my drink, with a calm light bathing his entire face, with inquisitive eyes, without any severity still with that lucid depth characteristic to all connoisseurs of the human soul… Those were the richest nights. His good disposition was flowing in long monologues, without grandiloquence, but full of warmth and profound human simplicity, which contradicted everything, I have ever heard about his personality, considered being among the strangest. Those were the confessions of a kind and timid loner, whom life had badly hurt and who had found the ultimate refuge and the supreme comfort in his art."Ovidiu PAPADIMA, 1932 "What genre do Mateiu I. Caragiale and his prose belong to? More to the surrealist group. His affinity with Edgar Poe, his care for the authentic which brushed any fancy aside, the colour of his sky turned red, the dream-like bustle, his reaching down to the ineffable ancestral element, liken the writer to Ion Vinea, to Ion Barbu, generally to poets of the obscure backdrop."G. CĂLINESCU, 1941 "The elaboration and publication of Old-Court Philanderers underwent a long and complicated process. The first draft of the novel is as old as 1910. The first part of the novel, 'Welcoming the Old-Court Philanderers,' was written in a primary form in 1916, 1918 and 1919 and then certain details were modified. The second part, 'The three pilgrimages,' was written as follows: in 1919 the episode of Pashadia and Pirgu entering the restaurant, in 1920 the story of Pantazi's journey around the globe and in 1921 Pashadia remembering the old days. The third part of the novel, 'Confessions,' was partly written in 1922; Pantazi's confession was finished on December the 24th 1924 and Pashadia's on August the 4th 1926. Ultimately, the fourth part 'The sunset of Old-Court Philanderers,' was finished in 1927. The novel appeared in instalments in Gandirea magazine between 1926-1928 and it was printed in full in 1929." "Mateiu I. Caragiale wanted to write a trilogy, the first one being Old-Court Philanderers. The second novel was supposed to be 'Under the Seal of Mysteries' and he publishes some fragments in Gandirea between December 1930 and April 1933. Unfortunately the novel remained unfinished. The third novel of the trilogy also remained at the stage of a mere project, 'The Council of Dowdy' whose initial title was 'The School of Dowdy.' The first and only page that was recovered in three variants was written in January 1929. "Mateiu I. Caragiale didn't have enough time to complete his masterpiece. He died on January the 17th 1936 at the age of 51. "He attained the literary glory, which he dreamt for with the publication of Old-Court Philanderers, glory more precious and more powerful than nobility titles, glory that was consolidated by the appearance of his Works, wonderfully put together by Perpessicius, glory that kept on growing for posterity."Teodor VÂRGOLICI, 1970 "While in Berlin, Mateiu was probably in contact with E.T.A. Hoffmann's fantastic stories, Chamisso and apparently Novalis's symbolist novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen. These readings completed the refined ideas he gathered from the works of Edgar Poe, Viliers de l'Isle Adam, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Oscar Wilde and Baudelaire." "Besides his French symbolist knowledge that he acquired until then, while in Berlin it is very likely that Mateiu Caragiale became familiarised with a series of romantic writers, to whom he felt linked by visible temperamental affinities. It's not only an influence that these writers had upon him, we have to underline in this case the presence of certain similarities and parallels, which don't steal away anything from the originality of the Romanian author. Heinrich von Ofterdingen and Pantazi are very similar. Novalis said about Heinrich: 'Verlor sich allmächtig in süsse Fantasien' (He got lost in sweet fantasies without posing any resistance), Pantazi characterised himself as being: 'An impenitent dreamer, forever drawn to what is far and mysterious.' Pantazi's voice, wailing and singing like a bell in an ageless sunset, is so much like the hidden tonality, the shies from Novalis's prose and hymns. Pantazi's confession shows him to be in the same spiritual constellation, as Heinrich, as Senancour's Obermann, like des Grieux from Manon… or like Werther: 'My soul has always been cobwebbed by that light melancholy of sensitive people, so sensitive that even soft touching makes them suffer, even pleasure hurts them. Long before I read Lucretio, I had realised that delight gives birth to something extremely bitter, something that hides in the lovely smell of flowers.'" "It's not the triumphant and Promethean romanticism of Byron, Shelley or Hugo; it's the dusky hypostasis of the genius, ill with sadness, withdrawn in the chambers of dream and fantastic illusion. Under the spell of dream Pantazi gives away 'the whirlwind of hallucinations.' His dream is more like a journey back in memory, over mountains and countries, annihilating space just like the giant run around the world of Peter Schlemihl from Chamisso's story. "The autumn landscape touched by a hint of symbolism, is more a romantic one, like a Böcklin painting. Then as in Novalis's novel, the hypnotic power of the moon unleashes the delirious state of dreaming: 'The tinsel of the moon glowed over old little sleeping towns; playful blazes were lighting up the marshes.' "The world is looked at from above in a panoramic way, just like Eminescu's First Epistle. His comments have a moralist edge, so we can feel the expressionist theme of the Sodom city cultivated by Trakl, Sorgel, Heym, Stadler, Blaga or Vinea: 'The torrent of light was polishing the mud of the great metropolis, turning the fog above them in a giant measles. I could run away fast from their smog and their mustiness....' Like Vinea in the poem Ev (Age), like Blaga in Veac (Century), where the end describes a return to nature on the threshold of the eternal mountains, Mateiu Caragiale continues through his character: '…on the horizon the snow of the summits was beading in the twilight. And we left to find the steep dizziness of the peaks, we left behind flowery clearings, we climbed through pine forests, drawn by the whispers of the streams spread around underneath fern plants, we climbed, drunk because of the strong air, we climbed higher and higher. Under our feet, between bald slopes and mounds covered by thick woods, the valleys lay along the meandering rivers, which disappeared far away in the steam of the plains. A long murmur rose like a prayer. We watched the flight of eagles above the black precipices, in the peace of the endless solitude, and at nights we felt we were closer to the stars.' This description is wide, as a cosmic psalm dedicated to mother nature, like Rousseau's invocations or Hölderlin's. Then the sliding south follows, a romantic vision of a traveller to the exotic land of the east: '…in the lands that bare sweet names, where autumn lingers on until spring, where everything, suffering, even death, takes the face of voluptuousness.' "The exact proportions, the European geometric harmony, that incapacity of the Greek spirit to grasp the un-Euclidean dimensions, appear in a fierce light there under the Orient sky: 'I used to forget about Europe, everything I have admired about her seemed so small and insignificant now.' The measures are all different, the norms are turned upside-down by that thirsty aspiration to something more deep. To the romantic dream he adds the symbolist element (most likely Baudelaireian from Artificial Paradises) the exciting smell of flowers, drugging yourself by inhaling primitive poppy seed smoke and hemp that stirs the imagination." "People haven't noticed that, in Old-Court Philanderers, Mateiu Caragiale is one of the greatest poets in out literature in making the strange character of Pantazi. And it's not just mere poetry. A Dionysiac ecstasy tumbles down like a ball of fire, like the sun at twilight in the ocean. Of course we can't know for sure, but I'm inclined to believe that Mateiu knew about the incantations in Les Chants de Maldoror. He must have come in contact with the work of Lautréamont, because he read so tirelessly French authors and also because he was a fan of the Gaelic style. He must have found affinities in Ducasse and in his social appetite to lend his songs to a nobleman, the imaginary count Maldoror. It's impossible for Mateiu not to have been fascinated by he extraordinary stylistic virtues of the text while reading this. My assumption is also sustained by the fact that after 1910 the name of Lautréamont became rather famous with the help of some authors such as: Valéry Larbaud, Max Jacob, Léon Paul Fargue. After 1914, through the shocking ideas of the surrealist trend led by Breton, his work is even more popularised. Most of all not the external data of Mateiu's creation, but the style and the deep tone of Pantazi's confessions represent powerful arguments for this assumption. The connection between Mateiu and Lautréamont still remains a very significant parallel." "The images of Pantazi's delirious trance, in their entire structure and aesthetics are situated next to Heinrich von Ofterdingen's dream. Unlike Heinrich, through contemplation and anti-Faustian attitude, Pantazi, avoiding conflicts even while dreaming, is an exemplary person in which the soul is at its purest. He is also helped by his heredity: he has a father crowned by sunset, while Heinrich's father was a rational spirit who often stated: 'Die Träume sind Schäume…' (Dreams are only foam)." "Just as Hoffmann's monk Medardus witnesses the appearance of a new person within himself, what Musset used to call a symbolic twin brother, the same thing happens between Mateiu Caragiale and Pantazi, except for the fact that in their case there is no demonic passion. Pantazi's dreams don't have a satanic nature, neither do Pasadia's memories. They aren't driven forth by a demonic power like the characters of Chamisso, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Goethe or Poe, they practice a school of dream, aesthetics as the hero of Novalis. Their internal twilight, the refuge in dreams as in a ultimate harbour, is determined by social-historical causes, by that inexorable punishment Balzac witnessed and then nostalgically analysed: the death of a family tree, the collapse of certain Usher houses, the disintegration of a social class – aristocracy, feudal nobility. Mateiu looks at this agony with a romantic eye, full of tears, making the candle shiver with his shies. The Romanian author admits that he had met certain people for whom he felt an intimacy, which led to touching, tender feelings, writing for them small novels. Among these he finds himself in Aubrey de Vere from Remember and in Pantazi, as 'another himself.'" "In finding some key characters from Mateiu Caragiale's work, the case of Proust seems eloquent. In general, in these kinds of circumstances, the assumptions must be made with a lot of care and attention. The character is never mistaken for a real person. Proust confessed in a letter that the supposed keys existent in his writings 'only fit for one second.' This means that by turning a key the author passes through many living prototypes. Every degree can have the name of a certain person, the circle closes and contains all these anonymous people who became characters, and they can only now be called: Pashadia Magureanu, Pantazi, Gore Pirgu or Masinca Dringeanu. In an extremely long letter from May 7th (1908), Barbu Cioculescu tries to discover the prototype of Pantazi under the appearance of an original Sturdza, friend with the sultan in Dieppe, described as an intelligent man, but nocturnal and mysterious, running some business I haven't insisted on finding out. (…) He lived in Bucharest 20 years ago and then he disappeared; now he came back again. What people! What times!" "The true Petronian banquet takes place only at Arnoteni, impoverished aristocrats full of vices and who have in them the remnants of an old noble family. In their house turned into a gambling and party place, all the rascals meet: Poponel – a pederast diplomat, Raselica Nachmansohn – a Balzacian courtesan, but through her oriental instinctually she's more of a master of vice, more unscrupulous than the easy women of Paris from Lost Illusions, Masinca Dringeanu – intelligent dowdy hunting for sensations and of course – the buffoon of the parties, the mean page, Gorica Pirgu." "In an Europe where feudal privileges had disappeared, where thousands of coat of arms had been buried and forgotten, between the two wars – one whose echo was still roaring, the other which was waiting to come with all its monstrosities – Mateiu Caragiale 'comte de Karabey,' what he called himself in a letter, thought it wisely to put up in front of his mansion in Sionu the green and yellow flag, even making a coat of arms with angels and a crown, under which it was written: 'cave, age, tace,' his slogan – 'beware, work, shut up.' This was an innocent game, which made him happy. This flag was a dream blown by the wind as a utopian light in the stormy night. "It was, without his wish, a mourning scarf for the sunset in his works, from the stories where we see terrible social destruction, a real historical process. "Sewn with silver string, Mateiu Caragiale's great coat of arms lies in his heart, which spoke the language of the cherubim-kings, poet-brothers with Eminescu. "It was almost sunset, the black cheetah died down on the golden shield… Giuseppe Lampedusa was wrong when he thought prince Salina was the last 'Cheetah.' Pantazi was the last one." 
Mircea VAIDA, 1975

by various critics