Preface To Benjamin Fundoianu, Images And Books

excerpts Having begun when he was seventeen or even earlier, B. Fundoianu's activity as a publicist impresses by its intensity and diversity. Simultaneous and assiduous collaborator to many magazines, the author doesn't seem to have the prejudice of specialization: he writes with the same proficiency literary, theatrical and fine art chronicles, articles on Romanian or foreign writers – not only French – , he owns columns of miscellaneous comments in which he goes beyond the aesthetic domain, tackling themes of philosophy and morals, of public instruction and justice, of internal and international politics, of administration and even sport. Usually, these themes are a pretext for a debate with implications which are, eventually, still aesthetical and cultural. The domain to which the author's references converge is that of the philosophy of culture. The starting points are most often offered by recent books and events; the incursions in the past are not missing, though. "The old books should be read more often" – writes the columnist, disappointed by the "rapid, centrifugal movement" of modern life, in which contemplation is disturbed, if not even rejected, a contemplation seen as a "social function."* It is one of the reasons for which contemporaneity quite often attracts his sarcasms. Sometimes, important acquisitions of civilisation are depreciated for their unexpected – and harmful – consequences on a spiritual level. B. Fundoianu is always keen on suggesting that he is not very happy with his times and it is not fortuitous that one of his columns is entitled "From the notebooks of a non-actual." His "non-actualness" is sometimes nothing but the attempt to make actual again old initiatives and ideas: "The new books are trains for Europe and for the too noisy and feverish present. One should sometimes look for the trains that lead into the past. […] There are ideas that, if signed today, would pass as paradoxes to the public. There are works written many decades ago, which reveal themselves to the casual reader as suddenly intuitive and actual. We should give the old books the chance of being faced with the present from time to time!"** Nothing anachronistic thus, in such an initiative, nothing in contradiction with the author's extreme responsiveness to the novelties from the most diverse domains. B. Fundoianu proves to have been up-to-date with all major literary, cultural and political events; reading him today, the map of the trends of thoughts that haunted the first decades of the century takes shape right under our eyes, even if some lines are highlighted and some are barely outlined. Even if sometimes only hinted at, almost all present-day matters are in his articles: one cannot say that about the opinions of the day, put forth, usually, only to be contradicted. B. Fundoianu is almost always at loggerheads with the common mentality, whether it is about recent fashion or persistent prejudice. He has, above all, the pride of singularity. Existence in itself is for him nothing than continuous differentiation. The same is thinking: "…to think means to think already different than the others, to be different from others."*** Obviously, his points of view, and even the sentence above quoted, pertain in their turn to the purest Romanticism. However, if Claudel's (and others') saying is true, namely that we do not understand things in themselves but by what we add to them, then we must agree that Fundoianu's understanding definitely belongs to this category. Firstly, the author feels repugnance at the thought ossified into convention and clichés. The commonplace scares him like a siege: "We destroy these images because they have become clichés and we loathe clichés. We want to clean the words, as one cleans metal, of the dross of unanimous understanding. We will purify them, we will renew them and we will launch them again…"**** By its purifying radicalism, this measure seems to belong to a poet originating in Mallarmé. The thinker aspires towards a similar demolishment of common perception by cultivating the excessiveness and the paradoxical. Anyway, the unanimous acceptation is for him a real fall and avoiding it means respecting an elementary hygiene of the spirit. This is not a mere juvenile rebellion, nor is it a blind passion for contradicting, but an early need for critical spirit, distrust in "idols." There is with Fundoianu a close connection between distrust and the maturing of intelligence, between doubt and culture. Distrust should precede "every change of the spirit." "The true man is a tree, in which you can guess the years by the circles distrust has imprinted."***** The repugnance for the commonplace doesn't spring so much from the individualist vanity as from the rejection of any spiritual comfort. Another form of inertia for Fundoianu, as we see it, would be the unconditional embracement of a certain doctrine, be it political, aesthetical or philosophical. However clear, his attachments are limited, controlled, that is, by a critical spirit. We see him engaging in polemics, but without the exclusivism of a group politics. The young publicist defends his availabilities. His mind in permanent ebullition is ready to produce ideas on everything, to establish unexpected analogies, to contemplate the quotidian through a universal frame. Considered as a whole, these columns represent some demonstrations (sometimes executions) concerned not so much with their object proper, going beyond it when they do not invent it, as with the symmetry of the arguments guided with a sinuous ability towards an irrefutable judgement. Against the appearances and – how fiercely! – against ordinary common-sense, the author is keen on being right. The disconcerting diversity of topics approached gives the impression of a fingering exercise, and the easiness of replies, the instinct of paradox, a certain superior detachment seem the attributes of a pure dialectical game. B. Fundoianu is not only keen on being right, but also on being persuasive. His demonstrations are not gratuitous, they are haunted by a fever, a vocation of contagiousness. Without displaying ambitions for a system, but still consistent, of a consistency that means fidelity to his own obsessions, the publicist-poet runs real "campaigns"; a tinge of urgency can be felt in his columns. This urgency is nevertheless one of strictly spiritual nature. One of the aphorisms that the author silently creates – with a sort of impassiveness that gives the measure of his elegance – is as follows: "Reality is for now the only poetry allowed."*** ***Minerva, 1980
* A social function, in Rampa (The Footlights), August 4, 1921, p. 1.** From the books of a non-actual, in Rampa, July 23, 1921, p. 1. *** Inscriptions, in Chemarea (The Call), January 15th, 1918, p. 202.**** Inscriptions, in Chemarea, January 15th, 1918, p. 101.***** Inscriptions, in Chemarea, January 29, 1918, p. 101. ****** Inscriptions, in Chemarea, January 15, 1918, p. 201. 

by Mircea Martin