Iulia Hasdeu: A Queen's Diary

The bibliography of my works I threw into the pyre included a 125-pages psychoanalytical study about Iulia Hasdeu.I had discovered her diaristic notes at the State Archives. They were then, and still are, a novelty, and perhaps a sensational thing; I'm talking about the Queen's Diary, which was not included in Iulia Hasdeu's Diary published in 2000 by Eminescu Publishing House (a book of 568 pages edited by Crina Decusară-Bocşan).Iulia Hasdeu's "queen diary" is disguised, well hidden, pulverized in various notebooks, among homeworks, summaries, or her own poems; therefore, in order to read it, one must carefully and skillfully cull from school exercise books and manuscripts.Most of this diary is fiction. The author jots down, specifying the exact year, day and hour, possible moments in her forthcoming life. There we have imagination, delusion of filiation and grandeur, the project of a destiny.She writes using the verbs in the past tense (as if things had occurred without any trace of doubt) about having married Prince Ferdinand, the future King Ferdinand I, and become the queen of Romania. Through her descendants and their marriages, she would gradually get related to the great monarchies of Europe. Iulia Hasdeu the queen wrote the detailed chronicle of her receptions at the palace and the review of her literary apotheosis. She noted in French: "Queen Iulia died on May 21, 1971, at 11:20 in the morning, aged 101, 6 months and 6 days…"Incidentally, I found this page from her diary precisely on the 21st of May 1971, at 11:20 a.m. I was shattered by this perfect coincidence: Iulia Hasdeu seemed to have spoken to me with amazing accuracy.The note must have been written in 1888, when the poetess's condition was worsening; she was to die soon after. She died at 19, but she had been making minute royal and literary plans for the next 100 years, countering the fiction of life with the reality of the text.As for the recently published Diary, it outdoes the legend of the poetess – it is stronger than her myth. A polymorphous, live book, a novel and a social-psychological document at the same time.Except that she will not accept death, not even on the last page of her non-fictitious diary. Like in the folk ballad Mioriţa, she leaves a message to her mother saying that she is going to a secret place to be independent and prevail in glory.The text, written in September 1888 in French, is as follows:"Mother, I am leaving you forever. I shall never see you again. Under an unknown name I shall make a living. I shall attain, without anyone's help, by my own forces, the glory I have been dreaming of."The attitude before death, the symbolic transformation of death into happy accomplishment, reminds of both Mioriţa and Christ. Taking into account that she did not know about the ballad, which was not as popular then as it is today, we may assume that she expressed an archetype of salvation, accessible only to a chosen few. Other queenly diaries: Marie Bashkitseff and Katherine Mansfield In October 1884, when the painter and writer Maria Bashkirtseva (she signed in French Marie Bashkitseff) died of consumption, Iulia Hasdeu was 15. She attended Marie's funeral. She was impressed by the death of the painter at only 24. Maria Bashkirtseva bequeathed a significant artistic legacy: paintings, drawings, but also a Diary in two volumes, the story of her life, of a Russian woman transplanted to France. It was a spirited journal, encompassing both French and Russian milieus, that also contained introspection and a sense of the tragic that lends depth to her pages. She nurtured the Romantic hope of surviving through genius.Remarkably, Maria Bashkirtseva also dreams of an imperial future. At first, she anticipates that she will become famous as a painter and sculptor; later on, as a harp player; then she will electrify the masses through elocution. "The Emperor of Russia will marry me to keep his throne…"But Maria awakes from her dreams and says, "I have been dreaming larger than life…""Still and all, I'll end up in a coffin. And I haven't even met love!" she wrote, when the signs of death become clearer. Yet all the time, to the last breath, she has hope and faith, being closer to a Russian mystique that reveals a different spirit of salvation. In 1888, only one month after Iulia's death, Katherine Mansfield was born in New Zealand. There are a few astonishing parallelisms between Katherine and the two artists evoked above. Katherine is also an exile. At 13, she left New Zealand for Europe. Her career as a writer was outstanding, albeit discreet-elitist. She died in France, near Paris, at Gurdjieff's convent-institute. She left a prose volume and a splendid Diary, one of the best ever written, comparable to Kierkegaard's. When I was living in Wellington, New Zealand, I would often visit the house where Katherine Mansfield was born. I feel her as a relative of mine, as if between us there weren't one century. What brings me closer to her is the destiny of a traveler between Europe and the Antipodes. Like her, I traveled twice on that route, as a pilgrimage to the sacrament of wedding, as if we were contemporary, as if we were absolutely free… Between Bukovina and New Zealand, the distance is as long as it used to be then: 30 days by sea in 1900, and a 30 hours' flight in 2000.When I read the diaries of the three precocious geniuses, I feel a perfect continuity: they seem written by the same hand, with light nuances that reveal "local" tones.Iulia died at 19, Maria at 24, and Katherine at 31. Iulia and Maria died virgins. The former was very young too, which explains it, whereas the latter was very proud, or protecting her shyness through pride. She avowed her virginity in her final confession.Katherine got married, but her wandering husband loved her more passionately after her death than before.I am looking at the portraits of the three artists: all of them have oval faces, with similar bangs and traits. It looks as if the same spirit is embodied in three different faces. They are one and the same, and if we perceive them separately, they are sisters.And all three look to that halfway point, that "twilight zone" from which one can see both life and death: a zone that can only be researched by the mystics or those who are going through a near-death experience.Iulia Hasdeu's diary is not a Romanian book, but a piece of the young soul of humankind.Maria Bashkirtseva's diary is not a Russian book, but a piece of humankind's illusion of being happy.Katherine Mansfield's diary is not a New-Zealander's book, but a piece of the experience of nothingness, as much as man is allowed to know of it.

by Vasile Andru (b. 1942)