On The Generation In Shambles, 1936

The generation preceding us gave several peaks: Ion Barbu, in poetry, Tudor Vianu, creator of aesthetic systems, none of the most refined, but solid nonetheless, Lucian Blaga, in metaphysics and the philosophy of culture, Nae Ionescu, Cezar Petrescu, novelist of "failures," Camil Petrescu, mobile spirit, preoccupied with all the great issues and attempting a solution even to the destiny of the world (On the Necessary Noocracy); among those a few years older I'll mention the greatest Romanian novelist, Mr. Liviu Rebreanu, the greatest lampoonists, N. D. Cocea and Tudor Arghezi, the only Romanian with an understanding of literature, Mr. E. Lovinescu (...), the writer and theologian engrossed in the Christian problematics and the feasibility of a Christian life, Gala Galaction.A descendent of all of them is the so-called "young" generation, which Mircea Eliade (The Generation in Shambles, in Vremea) – who paradoxically brings together scholarliness and imbecility – defends against Zaharia Stancu by stating that none other has been preoccupied with metaphysics, with the issue of culture, with introspection, with Christianity etc. ever since there has been a Romanian culture to speak of. We have seen that all fields have got their outstanding representatives in the generation that made a name for itself after the war. But Eliade claims that it is the 30 year olds that have reformed Romanian culture, without realizing that in so doing, they but partook in precipitating the end of its cycle. What is more amusing is that, by making the mistake common to any theoretician of any new Romanian generation – for the Sburatorul generation and the symbolists and all the rest before them also denied their parents – he banally integrates in, and resembles all his forerunners' parricidal feeling. Guiding himself, like indeed all Romanians, like Farfuridi, by the all too common "What will Europe have to say", the ridiculous Mirciulică Eliade holds acknowledgement abroad as the guarantee for the worth of the new generation: Grigore Moisil, Ţiţeica are "known" abroad. If this is the criterion, then Eminescu and Caragiale, anonymous beyond the borders, are worthless, while in fact none of the youngsters is at least as "known" as the mathematician Dan Barbilian and none enjoys the worldwide renown of George Enescu, Dr. Marinescu or Panait Istrati. Therefore, from yet another point of view, this generation has asserted itself to a lesser extent.That it is indeed "young" and has yet had no time to make a name for itself is a different issue altogether and we do have faith in some of its members, but we have, as yet, no grounds to predict either its failure, or its achievement. One thing can, nonetheless, be felt: since it distinguishes itself by nothing else but laying a heavier stress on certain issues which belong to the times and were, like others before them, imported from "Europe" (agony, Proustianism, confessional literature, a sense of the end, etc.), characterized by an anxiety which, devoid as it is of any great accents or genuine desperation (resolved through victuals, money and literature), can only be mediocre – the 30 year old generation shares the only authentic preoccupation of their forerunners: to move up in the world. That it is called "fear of failure and desire for self-achievement," as with a well-known novelist and his direct follower, Mircea Eliade, is of little consequence. It is the desire of any young member of a new generation to change from peasant to bourgeois. And their characters mirror this very aspiration: lampoon, disowning of one's forerunners, lack of critical spirit and of critical calm.In effect none are better than the others. And this current new generation pushes to its end a cycle of Romanian literature that has started off on the wrong foot. If we were to give some details – among the values of the generation of the 30 year old literati Mircea Eliade has singled out Dan Pătraşcu, who is still crude, Dan Botta, whom my objectivity forces me, with all regret, to label a poor poet and, I would have expected, Pericle Martinescu, about whom Mircea Eliade used to declare, orally, that he has written an excellent book. Given Eliade's lack of critical acumen, we daresay his omission is owed to the author of this article. It is a victory that, with no false modesty, we claim.Going back, we deem that, anyway, the list of worthy names in Eliade's article is "exaggerated". Let alone the fact that it fails to mention Mircea Vulcănescu, the spiritual leader of this generation, as well as its authentic poets: Horia Stamatu and Eugen Jebeleanu. But the acknowledgement of Elian – still unknown author of a brochure on Turnavitu in the Mavrogheni age, an honest but unremarkable historical research – as a "great Byzantinologist" is rash to say the least. Elian is a young man we know and are friends with, a clever boy who has, nonetheless, not distinguished himself and, more importantly, has not achieved anything that could make him Charles Diehl's equal. Elian, a conscientious and lucid person, would be the first to become disenchanted with the casualness of historical research. Someone once said: "The entire after-war generation is, culturally speaking, condemned to superficiality" – because "it fights undefeatable hardships."I do not know that this generation is superficial.It is, admittedly, confused. In fact, even if we allow for Mircea Eliade's statement that this generation is concerned with grand problems – this means little as long as it has not yet found a fulfillment, a cultural expression. Alive, preoccupied, intelligent, dull people are everywhere to be found, among all young generations of the world. But testing these qualities against cultural creations is what gives the measure of their achievements, their value. Mircea Eliade has ten "preoccupied" friends, and because they are "preoccupied," so are they brilliant – this is the conclusion to which their conversations led him. And if they are also professors at the age of 30 (N. Iorga became a professor at 24), Mircea Eliade is definitively won over. We have to admit, in good conscience, that Mircea Eliade's three main selection criteria (recognition abroad, "preoccupation", university chair) prove but the naivety (to put it politely) so typical of the adorable leader of the young generation.
Facla (The Torch), 1936, no. 1603

by Eugen Ionescu (1909-1994)