E. Lovinescu And The Modernization Of Romania

To the Romanian state, the end of World War I and the new European order brought about by the Treaty of Versailles had the significance of a major event, perceived as a culmination of Romanian existence. According to the principle of self-determination, Romania, now Greater, due to the number of its inhabitants, its geographical position and its economic potential, was turning into a country that could no longer be ignored, firmly engaged in the politics of pan-European cooperation promoted by the League of Nations. Although this success was nothing short of a miracle, no one explained it through the hundred-year-old historical process that had embraced, gradually but resolutely, a liberal regime (not exceedingly democratic) and an open policy of westernization. Upon his victorious return from Paris, the champion of this triumph, I. I. C. Brătianu, chairman of the National-Liberal Party, had made the bitter remark that there was no official delegation to welcome him at the railway station and congratulate him. This ingratitude was not even shown later, at the time of disappointment with the chaos following a devastating war, and of the reforms that the leaders of the country had to initiate, since Romania had not received war damages. In addition, the introduction of universal vote and massive land expropriation had pushed to the forefront unknown, claimant forces, changing – albeit non-violently – the political system and the balance of power overnight. Romanian had been a peasants' country before, and now it was not the old boyars' elite, basically an oligarchy, that claimed leadership for itself, but the representatives of rurality. These claimed to be emanated and delegated by the real "country", criticizing the modern state in the spirit of old conservatives. It was E. Lovinescu, author of a History of Romanian Modern Civilization (1924-1925), where the process (and progress) of Romanian modernization is credited to Western influence (in which the Romanian spirit could find its true identity as preordained by its Latin origin), who rose against this vision that had won over almost the entire intelligentsia of rural extraction. His is not a pleading, but a purposely scientific, well-documented demonstration, which only leaves room for one conclusion. It soon had to face the response of ideologists and political scientists of sundry nuances; the very young Nae Ionescu, an intellectual who in the next two decades was to play a major role in forming new disciples, made scornful remarks and promised not to read the subsequent volumes; his professor, C. Rădulescu-Motru, read a paper at the Academy, blaming the History for disregarding the profound reality which, in his opinion, consisted in the solely negative influence which the modern revolution had had on peasants' lives; finally, Nichifor Crainic, already an advocate of "Orthodoxism", who taught at the Faculty of Theology and was co-director of an important magazine, Gândirea (The Thought): in the spirit of an acuter nationalism, he accused the newborn Romanian state of cosmopolitanism, from which it was not the native people who would profit, and of neglect of the tradition embodied by the Church, as well as by the rural world, the true cradle of the nation. In the same agrarian tones, E. Lovinescu's book was countered by the ideologists at Viaţa românească (Romanian Life), a venerable periodical that initially had represented the "left" of the Liberal Party; its mentor, C. Stere, was the promoter of "poporanism" (derived from popor, Romanian for people), inspired by Russian narodnicism, a movement that discarded the theses of orthodox Marxism, preaching instead a peasant socialism that could be reached without going through the capitalist stage: E. Lovinescu's study started from "superstructure" (in Marxist terms), from ideas and a development project elaborated and implemented in opportunist fashion, not from the development and evolution of material factors, thus coming into conflict with St. Zeletin's major work The Romanian Bourgeoisie, published at the same time, but which he knew only fragmentarily. He is almost certain to have used it, albeit in a rather negative sense, as it was the product of a Marxist who had read Sombart, a staunch partisan of economic determinism. E. Lovinescu's History is quite the opposite, proving that, with Romanians, for a hundred years, progress was set off and upheld by the upper classes through revolutionary action, in stages, permanently monitored, and keeping a constant course. E. Lovinescu's study provided a historical basis for a renewal movement that the critic had already initiated, in 1919, with the appearance of his magazine Sburatorul (in folk mythology, a fantastic creature that torments women and girls in their sleep) and the creation of a literary circle that would remain active and influential, while following the same ideal, until his death in 1943. Lovinescu's History gave legitimacy to an ampler action by uncovering its past foundation. It shared the fate of The Romanian Bourgeoisie during the communist regime: they were both condemned and banned – Zeletin's book because it had strayed from the Marxist dogma, and Lovinescu's because it was a blatant contradiction of any kind of Marxism, let alone the fact that it considered the Russian interventions in the process of Romania's westernization the main obstacle on the road to progress. Alexandru George (b. 1930), an essayist, prose writer, literary critic and historian, and translator from French, wrote a monograph on E. Lovinescu (1975), and received several prizes of the Romanian Writers' Union.

by Alexandru George (b. 1930)