Primitive? In Great Company!

As I was translating with much esteem Mr. Vintila Mihailescu's text entitled Neo-Western-Supremacism, it suddenly dawned on me: the inyourpocket presentation he discusses, one "fascinated" with "primitive" Romania, shows an attitude somewhat similar to that of Englishman Allan, the lead character in Mircea Eliade's novel Bengal Nights (Maitreyi). In India, Allan sees Maitreyi, a Brahman's daughter he is supposedly in love with, as "a child, a primitive being," adding "I was delighted by her incoherent thinking, by her naiveties, and, for a long time later on, I enjoyed feeling like a whole man alongside this barbarian." (Chapter IV). When poetess Maitreyi talks to him about a variety of subjects, many of which border on Indian mysticism, he feels the "same disillusionment and voluptuousness I felt every time I deciphered the jungle of superstitions in Maitreyi's love and soul." (Chapter XI). Namely that which Mr. Mihailescu calls the Western tourist's "fascination" with the place where the "chaos of 'Barbarity' begins." Equally enlightening, Mr. Mihailescu emphasizes that the tourist needs to enter a space where "(almost) everything is allowed," and where it is acceptable to commit "little sins." Probably to experience that "carnival" world as a game, like Allan writes: "… I knew I was immune, I felt I would be able to stay above the game…" (Chapter V). However, the important thing is that he does not manage to "stay above the game," and this issue should be put on the list of threats lurking in the shadows of this place, which tourists are warned about in the online guide! This kind of thinking also explains the travel guide's description of Mihai Eminescu's Luceafarul (Hyperion in English), a solemn poem about the cosmic, impossible love between a celestial man and an earthly maiden. According to inyourpocket, it is "rather sugary," with "delightfully simple, childlike couplets" – "to the Western mind," Mr. Mihailescu explains. No surprise here either, listen to Allan while Maitreyi performs their engagement ceremony: "Like with any civilized man … every solemn gesture, every responsible word, every pledge made me feel awkward." (Chapter XI) It is debatable how much this Allan character has learned from his experience; or whether any tourist who may wish to feel like a "civilizing hero," as Mr. Mihailescu accentuates, could, willy-nilly, acquire knowledge in his travels here. But if Western tourists feel that this country is so delightfully primitive, Romanians should cheer up: they are not in good, but rather in great company, next to India! Flattering. Two or three of inyourpocket's customers may even end up loving this place – and it does not matter how they might love it. As Maitreyi puts it to Allan: "The soul knows so many kinds of love, doesn't it?" (Chapter VIII)

by Monica Voiculescu