I Look At Things As A Romanian Does

Excerpts from a discussion with Raluca Barac, published in Acum (Now) magazine, No. 13, April 1990 Going back to the fate of the cultured generation, let me make so bold as to ask your opinion of the so-called "age of Noica", a phrase that seems to get bandied about quite a bit these days, in some cultured circles, at least. In spite of the fact that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, Noica did teach us a thing or two, I'd say we shouldn't exaggerate.  Quite. That's such a blown up story, it collapses under its own weight. Granted, Noica was a great personality, but to speak of the "age of Noica" is like speaking of the age of every Tom, Dick, and Harry. There was no such thing as the "age of Nae Ionescu", though he would have been entitled to an age of his own. I used to work with Nae Ionescu on the editing staff of "Cuvântul"; I did some scribbling for the sheet myself. The man had, truth to tell, a great power of seduction. You'd find him in his office working on an article, he'd stop at a comma, and after you left, he'd pick up the sentence from where he'd left it. Eliade, Noica, Cioran and all those who had Iorga and Nae Ionescu among their teachers came in their turn to have a marked influence on Romanian culture. Yet many a critic holds them responsible for an extreme career-oriented fierceness. They've all become remarkable personalities, there's little doubt about that. Yet I have to ask myself whether, say, Eliade made a career as a University professor in Chicago. It's like saying Petre Ţuţea would have made a career had he but taught in a Western university. And coming back to our discussion, is someone teaching at the University of Chicago supposed to lend his name to an age? Take Cioran, who said about himself: "I am the Cioran case." Cioran is not a system, neither is he a principle. He is a case, and I don't think he was being pedantic when he made this statement. It's obvious – there's no such thing as Cioranism in Romania, just as there's no such thing as French Cioranism to my knowledge. He is, like Eliade, a personality sufficient in itself. But Cioran himself, on being asked whether he acknowledged anyone as a genius, answered that there was one indeed, who was to be found in Bucharest and went by the name of Petre Ţuţea. In spite of the fact that we were a very close foursome – Noica, Eliade, Cioran and myself – I always saw myself as located outside that context. After Cioran made the statement you've just mentioned, I sent word to him: "Emil, my friend, whatever is blown out of proportion is insignificant. Don't do that to me, or I'll burst." That's how you can end up assassinating someone out of admiration. Cioran is a great personality. Becoming the talk of the town, no matter how, and in Paris, too, of all places, is no mean feat. It's one thing being in Bucharest, another – being in Sofia, yet another – being in Ruschuk, but in Paris it is a great thing if people know you exist, just that you exist. He is said to be one of the great French writers, and I myself believe in his literary gifts. And if he has dubbed himself a "golan"[1], then I'm an arch "golan". Why, do you think, Cioran has not only given up writing in Romanian, but, as far as I know, he also refrains from speaking Romanian? To keep his parlance pure, I suppose, but he's overdoing it. I feel sad when Cioran falls back on such commonplace statements as "I don't want to ruin my French by speaking Romanian". You should know one thing: French is not more brilliant than Romanian is, and in order to write brilliantly in Romanian you have to be someone very special. Which means Cioran cannot be someone very special. The entire world culture can be fitted into the framework of the Romanian language. This is the merit of the Romanian people: creating a universal instrument adapted to all purposes. It's true they're not using it as they should, but this does not mean the language lacks the quality of being a global vehicle for the universal spirit. The way Romanians see it, being stupid is a crime, for, as the saying goes, "You can gallop for two hours through Bucharest without running into a fool." You came to know Mircea Vulcănescu, as you were frequently in his presence.  I – in Mircea Vulcănescu's presence? I think he lacked the audacity... let's get things right – we were in each other's presence. One of his critics even quipped at his expense: "He's struggling to know everything, and that's why he's found out nothing". Cioran was miles ahead of him. For instance there is no such thing as the "Exercises d'admiration" in Vulcănescu's writings, that's fulfillment for you. I might be more of a scholar than Cioran ever was; yet I continue in anonymity despite two sciences I master absolutely: economics and law, which allow me a global approach. There's no need to possess encyclopedic knowledge, for that's a sort of cancer of the mind. What matters is to make certain branches of knowledge your starting point, and proceed coherently and in an organized way. You appear to be possessed of a scientific, rather than a religious spirit. Any great intelligence is bound to oscillate between philosophy and theology. Nae Ionescu was somehow contemptuous of scientists. He'd call them "the scientifics". He wasn't right, though. You know where my high regard for scientists comes from? From the simple fact that I can travel to Campulung by train, that's all. Oh, I'm religiously minded myself at times, yet I cannot cut myself loose from science. I'm religiously minded in the sense that all captives resort to salvation through religion. What's your opinion of Romania's current government? What about a future alternative in this area? I can't see at the moment any effective leader with a genuine call for the task. An effective leader is supposed to be a history maker who brings ideas to pass. Personalities are scarce in Romania right now. Grievously scarce… Noica himself founded no school of thought; neither did Nae Ionescu, whose master, Eliade, called him a Socratic type, a speech-oriented personality, that is, just as I myself have been labeled. That's all very well, yet Socrates was unique and transient, and Plato was his product. Noica's products were individuals and nothing else. They might make good assistant professors at the Faculty of Philosophy, that's all. He cannot boast any top spiritual disciple. Iorga himself is inferior to Maiorescu in this respect, since Maiorescu did leave a mark on his age: there is such a thing as the age of Maiorescu, yet there's no age bearing Iorga's name. Între Dumnezeu şi neamul meu (Between God and My People), Fundaţia Anastasia, 1992
[1] "Riffraff" – name by which the opponents of the first allegedly post-communist government of Romania were referred to by President Iliescu during the demonstrations of June 1990.

by Petre Ţuţea (1902-1991)