The Procrustean Bed

excerpt Bucharest is a city with bleak winters and decomposingly hot summers. The sewage system is primitive and complicated, because it follows twisted streets. Repair works, lasting forever, produce trenches, hindering the traffic. There is no room for relaxation, or refreshing. Apart from the beauty of the sky, high above, everything muddles the imagination. The Dâmboviţa River is petty, like a slops ditch. From June to September, this city smells like a garbage bin. Drinking water comes from far away, and power plants will have to stretch out hundreds of kilometers of cables, over mountains and hills. In 30 years, the traffic will become so complicated, that the existing streets will only be of service to pedestrians. Fifty years from now, the citizens will be the slaves of commercial, outrageous expropriations. Such actions will dishonor the city uninterruptedly, for half a century. The Victoria Street, whose houses are moldy, damp, dark, and stinking ruins on the inside, filled up with rats as big as puppies (I have seen them with my own eyes, so many times), will cost the budget of an entire state. Hundreds of thousands of lei will be necessary for each meter.I dream of a capital city with a new heart. Somewhere on the Olt River, in Transylvania, let us say close to Braşov, at Feldioara. Away from snow storms, with pleasant summers, like a spa. We could start over in such a place. Restaurants will not have kitchens in stables – with stable hands suffering from scab, kitchens will be like laboratories, with faience and nickel. And dining rooms will get fresh air, because their windows will not open to sewage canals. Sites will be left for gardens, parks, and large squares. The surroundings will have hills with villas, or, close to Braşov, plains with arenas and stadiums, a hippodrome of beauty. All the area, 30 to 40 kilometers around – a green girdle, with the gray tops of the Bucegi Mountains. People will work all year in song and joy in this city of health.And perhaps – not perhaps, certainly – architects and city planners will find a way to make boulevards, streets, and squares so beautiful, that poor people would enjoy the moments when they would be able to forget the ugliness of life. (Here, in Bucharest, the gap between the pleasure the rich can obtain and the stifling atmosphere the poor live in, without anything being offered to their eyes, is too wide).In 10 years, until 1936, the number and volume of the houses in Bucharest is expected to triple, through modern, huge constructions. Let us build these villas and palaces there, and get it over with, and in 10 years we will have a city with 300,000 inhabitants, similar to any city in Switzerland or Germany, and which would enrich the beauty of this great kingdom. Mussolini wants to build another physical countenance, not just a new soul for his Italians. He does not even allow any talk about the greatness of ancient Rome, anymore. He wants a new Italy, with new Italians. What is worth keeping here of this Bucharest, requested by the Turks, to be convenient to them? Our tombs are in Argeş, Târgovişte, and Suceava. Why should the liberated blame us forever because they are the slaves of these Balkan people in Bucharest?(1933)

by Camil Petrescu (1894-1957)