Ion Luca Caragiale And The Kitsch

excerpts 1.
"Now, as for the figments of the German imagination - why turn to them at all? They're nothing but fads." (the respectable Jupîn Dumitrache)"You love me too, leave off pretending and put all fads aside." (Rică)"Come off it and put all fads aside, Ghiţă." (Tipătescu)"So, I'll off and see what this new fad's all about, out of mere curiosity." (Trahanache) "I'll have none of these fads and all, my good man, let me tell you!" (Farfuridi)"Don't you give me any of your fads, you crook!" (Miţa)"Stuff and nonsense! It's all fads!" (Didina)"Buts and fads! This is not the Venerable man's house, and no question!" (Iordache)" 'I've been ill, dear sir.' 'What a pile of faddish nonsense.' " (Lots)"He'll have it that he's saving money…it's nothing but faddy talk." (The CurrentState of Affairs)"At the theatre, they sometimes go together buying their way in with a fad: they pay for only one penny-worth seat at the gallery and enter the two of them, Lache holding the ticket in his hand, Mache, just the counter-ticket." (Lache and Mache)"Don't come to me with this sort of faddy stuff, man, the private initiative and all that!" (The Initiative) If we take the views of Caragiale's heroes, this would be what "the fad" means. As for the author himself, his attempts to define this notion systematically fail, when they do not get converted into more or less inspired instances of circumlocution. "Hail to you, Fad! You are the seal and watchword of the times. Vast syllable, unbounded content while it's, O, so comprehensive: you can accommodate with ease no end of meanings: both joy and sadness, merit and demerit, deliberate and chanceful sin, rights, duties, sentimental matters, interests, convictions, politics, the plague and ague, diphtheria, sybaritism, miserableness, talent and imbecility, together, eclipses of the moon and of the mind alike, the past, the present and the future - all of these go by a single curt name for us, modern Romanians: THE FAD." The 26 equivalents of the syllable (if we've counted them thoroughly) give the clear sense that, just as the baroque does today, the term "fad" has overflown every semantic barrier, implicitly becoming empty. "Whatever acquires too much sense ends up completely devoid of meaning." (Jean Rousset, L'interieur et l'exterieur). The difficulty is derived here from the fact that Caragiale the theorist remains… one step backwards from the demiurgic creator of the same identity. The demiurgic creator has named a reality and has consequently created it ipso facto. He has introduced the magnet in the iron powder, and the latter has become ordered according to certain lines of force. But in order to confer not only reality on "the fad" but also an adequate definition, he would have had to change into the exegete of his own work!From our point of view, namely that of the readers bent on clarity, as long as we insist on striving to pinpoint its essence, by laboriously confronting quotations, the term will remain confusing. To grant it a minimum coherence, therefore, we shall have to "betray" it.Namely to translate it. 21.

"Quelle bizarre époque!…les queues de siècle se ressemblent. Toutes vacillent et sont troublés."(J.-K. Huysmans)

We talk about Caragiale, as we do about the classics in general, only on festive occasions. Most of the time, however, it is Caragiale who talks about us. And he seems to do it much better than us, too. What we say about Caragiale is open, at all times liable to be changed. What Caragiale said about us lasts, is cast in the bronze of eternity. Caragiale always escapes all formulae that we use in our attempt to pinpoint him, while we cannot possibly escape the formula whereby he has pinpointed us. Shall we set out, then, by the mediation of the writer, and confront two ages of the kitsch phenomenon? Suffice it to say that, just as the air of our planet abounds in noxious emanations, the noosphere overflows with kitschy waves. It is even possible to maintain that the latter possess a superior spreading force. The landings of the spaceships on the moon, were, as is well known, subjected to severe sterilizing measures, for protecting the satellite's environment from the risk of becoming contaminated with terrestrial germs. But the kitsch itself was not refused a space-passport then ! When he set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong uttered a sentence he'd learned by heart ("A little step for man, but a giant step for mankind!"); it had been previously selected by the NASA specialists from a list of a few score proposals. The thought that man might tread the soil of Selene in silence did not, unfortunately, cross anybody's mind. No matter how much we deplore this fact, it remains irreparable, objectively speaking. Now, the thing that might not have happened cannot be prevented from having been. "The gaining of distance by means of humor - A. Moles believes - ought not to give us false hopes; the kitsch exists deep down in every one of us." And he goes on to say that "when regarded as a form of entropy, the amount of kitsch in society as a whole can only be increasing"; the struggle of the individual person (the artist, the intellectual, the refined man) against the kitsch is, at all times, a local phenomenon, a particular deviation, whose outcome is a corresponding growth somewhere else" . A form of pessimism that I will hurry to say physicists do not share entirely, by far not. If generalized so as to embrace the universal scale, the second principle of thermodynamics would be tantamount to a death sentence. The universe has not evolved, however, towards increasing disorder and disorganization; on the contrary, it has moved in the contrary direction, for the moment at least, culminating with the appearance of life, and, within this phenomenon, with the appearance of man. By its very essence, life is anti-enthropic, neg-enthropical or ectropical in nature. Living matter does not shun the laws of physics - but as Erwin Schrodinger has shown - it makes manifest new laws in order to avoid disorganization and to promote the maintenance of order which it absorbs, as it were, from the environment. It is, one hopes, worth our while to attempt extending such considerations to the sphere of culture. For us, Caragiale was an extraordinary ectropy generator and he will remain one forever. This was something worth proving more amply, in the book whose existence suggested itself to me on the train, when the time for its writing was ripe.…The 726 fast train went on faster and faster and the night had closed in.

Cartea românească, 1988 

by Ştefan Cazimir