Maria Cantacuzino-Enescu: Light And Shade. The Memoirs Of A Moldavian Princess

After a half-century's wait, in 2000 Aristarc Publishers from Oneşti released a bilingual (French-Romanian) volume by Maria Cantacuzino-Enescu: Ombres et lumières / Umbre şi lumini. Souvenirs d'une Princesse Moldave / Amintirile unei Prinţese Moldave, 926 pages, edited by C. Th. Ciobanu, translation by Elena Bulai. It is a singular memoir, between a diary and an autobiography, between essays and a collection of sentimental portraits, written over a period of more than three decades, with long breaks and interruptions, repetitions and rewritings, perhaps rather a family chronicle with spicy intimate accents, evincing the verve and talent of a sharp, intelligent, cultivated and refined mind. The offspring of an ancient aristocrat family from Moldavia (Rosetti Tescanu) turned "princess" through the unhappy marriage to Mihai Cantacuzino, son of the famous landowner nicknamed "the Nabob", Maria (Maruca to the intimate friends) became, at almost forty, after the death of her husband in a car accident, the wife of composer George Enescu, with whom she "signed" one of the most passionate love stories in Romanian literature. A temperamental woman (like Cosima Wagner), with unstable moods (like George Sand), Maruca Enescu (the immortal La princesse aimée to the author of the masterpiece Oedipe) built to herself a Baroque aristocratic biography, maybe unique in Romanian memoir literature, in which the 19th-century Moldavian world of the boyars acquires Western dimensions in its social and cultural life, but also strong Byzantine-oriental roots in the religious conception and folk myths, completing the picturesque image of a fabulous Romanian world, almost extinct in the 20th century. Political accents are present too, openly pro-Western and fiercely anti-Soviet, in view of the totalitarian communist regime that rose to power in Romania after 23 August 1944.The five chapters of the book (Preludes, My Family, The War, Legend, Broken Words), preceded by a Preface and the Editor's Note, progress cinematographically, sometimes surprisingly, with uneven, heterogeneous, yet lively articles written in a subtle, elevated style, perhaps with too many romantic accents (to rhyme with the sentimental effusions); sincerity is, however, overpowering and fascinating. The fact that Maruca Cantacuzino's book deals very little with George Enescu, the man who adored her and introduced her to the miraculous world of the art of sounds and legendary virtuosos of music, may come as a surprise to the uninformed reader. Nevertheless, the journal compensates through its substance, each page dedicated to the genius, beginning with the recollection of their first meeting in the gardens of Peleş Castle in Sinaia (Thunderstruck) and ending with the evocation of the Archangel, the River, the lyrical tragedy Oedipe or the unforgettable moments they spent at Chatelet, being brilliant, and occasionally staggering.

by Viorel Cosma (b. 1927)