Disheveled Maidens

excerpts Across Lina's, a stout house, laid awry, nurtured a small garden with a row of sweet basil; on the corner of the street a new house shot up on six floors: a tall slim slice with only one façade that showed the other two sides of coarse blind paint, waiting most likely for projects of future alignment. Our of remains and innovation, the city, through mobile aspects, was making up its character as well as that of its inhabitants, was changing it ceaselessly through speedy adaptation, through new levels bursting in on the old picturesque. Its present inhabitants represented a generation that had spent their childhood or had experienced the time of grandmas living in little houses with gardens, that still dwelt in the comfort of those spoilt, egotistic buildings that each family boasted, unlike in other capitals: those rez-de-chaussée with their prim and varied architecture; or slightly sloped mansard roofs, others small stylish hotels, all giving the city the air of a luxury resort, with excessive personal gardens, with fir-tree transplanted down here and the fantasy of pergolas covered with capricious creeping plants, the amorous sweetness of tiny roses or the languid, yellow and violet clusters of creeping acacia or who knows what other bizarre fruit of delicate grimpantes. Visions of houses that made you turn your head on reaching the corner of the street like after an elegant, exquisitely perfumed woman: balconies suspended among greenery and flowers, like stage sets in front of which passers-by unhurried by the rush of making a living, stopped dreamingly for a moment, placing there, in those beautiful nests, the leisure of illusion. It was only recently that the boulevards had acquired the gravity of smooth, tall, imposing, aligned edifices, yet with a diversity of new façades; and for the perhaps impending future – that's how quick the transformations came – there emerged huge constructions, weighing heavily and disproportionately on the harmony of the rest, splitting here a road, there expropriating a house or plot, feasible and yet problematic. Mini was overwhelmed by the physiognomy of the City. "To Capşa!" Nory cried crossing the road. Mini hesitated briefly. She hated going into public places, but she had to take shelter. When she had arrived then in the City, that very cold winter, she had, on the contrary, craved greedily the noise, the crowds. Barely settled in, she was looking specifically for boisterous, packed places in order to hide her shyness and defend it. She had known the city for a long time, she had often inhabited it but before she had always crossed it indifferently, looking at it with a banal eye. But when she had arrived then everything had come as a surprise, everything had seemed new to her. The multitudes gave her intellect the impression that vivid light makes on eyes used to the shade. Unknown, unheeded, she mingled in the bustle, in the swarm, like one of the thousands living instances of the many-faced City. Now she had collected herself from that first excitement and the city had become clear to her. She was no longer the stray alien and the throng seemed no longer the multiple face of unknown persons. A sort of decency of her precise existence made her avoid the promiscuity of public places. It was a joy for her to be protected. From her shelter she admired the metropolis that thrived like a luxury construct in which people put everything urban they had in them as instinct, intelligence and power of work. Everything vivid they had in them, good and bad alike.

by Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu (1876-1955)