The Subversive Classic

Caragiale cannot be celebrated officially and patriotically because his writings, his profile as an author, the entire symbolism around his name and works retain an active subversive dimension altogether incompatible with the intrinsic solemnity of a ceremony. One has to choose: either one evokes the great artist and citizen in Caragiale spirit, so the whole pomp required by the magnificent "Caragiale Year" goes down the drain; or, by keeping grave and producing tribute speeches followed by baskets of flowers and wreaths, Caragialism applies to one too and the celebration becomes a parody itself, a comedy, a ludicrous kitsch, consistent with the lineage of so many attitudes ridiculed by the author. There is no way out of this dilemma! And as there is no way, what will the authorities do beginning with January 30th?Caragiale remains the embodiment of this paradox: he is the subversive classic. The passage of time, the accumulation of prestige, his promotion to the chosen few in the history of literature have never blunted his mordancy. Thus, the process seems inevitable – to others it doubtlessly is: "classicization" solemnizes, flattens contours, blurs nuances, projects into myth, "officializes", changes what was once new, live, dynamic creation into a museum exhibit and a landmark of authority. Great satirists endure the longest: time pushes them into "classicism", yet they preserve their subversive profile, in principle incongruous with "mythification". Caragiale's character Mitică is comfortably installed in his prose, that is why it cannot become "mythical"!Well, there are other reasons too. For instance, the typology of his heroes puts today – as it has always done – a terribly acid caricatural mirror before posterity. How can one pay homage in a speech or ingenuously sit in a protocol box watching a Caragiale performance when his comedies devastatingly scoff the very idea of officialdom associated with stupidity, upstartness, and abjection?Or: the ability with which the author manipulates various idioms compels us, his readers/spectators, to grasp the mechanisms of language, its stereotypes, redundancies, or any types of expression. A sharp sense of the functions of linguistic communication, whether they are put to good use or not, on the path between reality and thought, as well as the burlesque that results therefrom, become inexhaustible sources of subversive attitude. If we, both his readers and spectators, understand him well we will align ourselves to his nonconformity, and against any type of authoritarianism, the symbolic included. Paying homage to himself will then appear as laughable. We must feel, decode, and wield Caragiale as a language against stupidity, not sing odes to him. Whoever does this, instantly becomes his… hero.

by Ion Bogdan Lefter