Rumunia - Romania - România

Romania is a paradoxical country. Although the long 19th century was very kind to it – the young country entered the European arena and quickly acquired an esteemed position – the short 20th century did not spare it in any respect. Trapped between fascism and communism, Romania had chosen the lesser of two evils. Decades in the shadows of “The Sun of the Carpathians” turned out to be the worst years of all. “A sad country, full of humour” – George Bacovia’s prophetic words from the 1930s came true in excess.
Exiting communism was not velvety and the road to Europe – bumpy. Is this the reason why Romanian transformation turned out to be so complicated? This is just one of the questions we would like to answer, as the balance of that period is still open, and the reasons for the state of the affairs seem to be rooted in the past.
At the same time, Romania is an important partner in East‑Central Europe and we are not entirely aware of its potential. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to recognise and understand Romania’s specificity, and most of all – to perceive it as a country in the process of modernisation, which presents great inner diversity and cultural creativity, best manifested by the success of young Romanian cinema or “young Romanian art”.
Romania is different, but somehow similar, close, and therefore – very interesting. [JD]

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      Editorial
      Jacek Purchla

      Romania is a paradoxical country. Although the long 19th century was very kind to it – the young country entered the European arena and quickly acquired an esteemed position – the short 20th century did not spare it in any respect. Trapped between fascism and communism, Romania had chosen the lesser of two evils. Decades in the shadows of “The Sun of the Carpathians” turned out to be the worst years of all. “A sad country, full of humour” – George Bacovia’s prophetic words from the 1930s came true in excess.
      Exiting communism was not velvety and the road to Europe – bumpy. Is this the reason why Romanian transformation turned out to be so complicated? This is just one of the questions we would like to answer, as the balance of that period is still open, and the reasons for the state of the affairs seem to be rooted in the past.
      At the same time, Romania is an important partner in East‑Central Europe and we are not entirely aware of its potential. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to recognise and understand Romania’s specificity, and most of all – to perceive it as a country in the process of modernisation, which presents great inner diversity and cultural creativity, best manifested by the success of young Romanian cinema or “young Romanian art”.
      Romania is different, but somehow similar, close, and therefore – very interesting. [JD]

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      Worth a Look

  • Romanian dilemmas
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      Why is Romania different?
      Lucian Boia

      Professor Lucian Boia talks to Cristian Pătrășconiu

      Romania has its faults that cannot be denied. However, these imperfections are not to be blamed on the country which the Romanians found themselves to inhabit. They are dependent on a historical situation, on certain consequences of historical evolution. The future, however, is open.

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      Who’s had enough of Romania, and why?
      Traian Ungureanu

      If there is such a thing as a special “Romanian casus” that is different to the cases of other nations and societies, it is the result of this suspenseful study of our national character. Herein lies our difference. Other societies react with greater equanimity – which is not to say satisfaction – at their own reflection in the mirror. Romanians, on the other hand, regard their collective portrait with irritation, and react to it with exaggeration.

    • 60
      The paradox of nostalgia over communism
      Dan Lungu

      One of the most surprising lessons that I was taught in the field of nostalgia was that it is not necessarily rooted in the past, as I kept thinking for a longest time. I absolutely disregarded the role that the future plays here, and to be more exact – the way we think about our future.

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      In our own view. People of cultural recognition before, during and after…
      Marius Stan

      After 1989 Romanian culture went through a necessary stage of revising the canon. A democratic breakthrough created a space not only for free development, but also for specific incompetence. Some new issues, approaches and institutional structures arose, having been unimaginable before 1989, and the world of culture, burdened with a strong load of several decades of communism, had to adapt immediately to a new course of events.

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      The absent gadjo Gypsy and the present goy Jew
      Octavian Logigan

      Romanian Jewry faced a challenge equal to the one of Gypsies: in face of regime guidelines, they needed to comply. Instead of disappearing and becoming state statistics like their cohabiting Gypsies, Jews were there.

    • 88
      Does Romania need the myth of Central Europe?
      Olga Bartosiewicz

      As part of the founding myth indispensable for keeping autochthonous continuity, up to this day Transylvania is mainly associated with the Dacians, that is with “the cradle of Romanian identity”. Such an approach does not leave any room for a Hungarian or Habsburg history of Transylvania; nor is there any need for one as it completely does not befit the discourse on which Romanian identity is built. It would be a mistake, however, not to notice intellectual initiatives in Romania that draw on these traditions.

  • Art
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      Surrealism’s second homeland. The mysterious heritage of the Romanian avant-garde
      Jakub Kornhauser

      The history of Romanian surrealism has proved that even the seemingly most marginal and short‑lived episode may, with time, turn out to be a key phase in a culture’s development, and Breton’s 1947 remark referring to Naum, Luca and co., saying that “the centre of modern poetry has moved to Bucharest”, sounds today less like a gallant gesture than an important point of reference.

    • 108
      Olga Bartosiewicz

      Currently, Fundoianu is making a comeback in Romania – where for years he existed on the margin of national literature (from which he was excluded due to his affiliation with the Jewish intellectual circles) – and is now recognised by some critics as one of the most outstanding Romanian poets, endangering the position of such literary aces as Tudor Arghezi or George Bacovia.

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      The rulers and the exiles. The past and memory in Romanian cinema since 1989
      Małgorzata Rejmer

      In new Romanian cinema there is no room for lifting heroic faces, patriotic cataracts or excuses. There is no pathos and the kind of symbolism which was abundant in communist productions. What is to be found instead is a mirror or the reflections of a distorted mirror.

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      The invented peasant? Traditionalism in modern Romanian art
      Valentina Iancu

      In the interwar period, the national myth, which was based on the message that “the best in us so far is our peasantry”, gained an impressive following among people of culture; the world of the countryside became a leitmotif for all disciplines of art.

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      The Clujians
      Łukasz Galusek

      Cluj joins the carnival of cities where the ballast of tradition was negligible and cultural life modest, and where into this kind of void an artistic movement was born that was unhindered by the past and could draw freely, even nonchalantly, on many traditions, and make its own rules as it went along.

  • Ideas in practice
    • 174
      City meets art – how micro big bangs changed Cluj
      Corina Bucea

      Romanticism loses any track when it comes to differences from what is known to work for similar creative factories in other countries – here, the building belongs to a private company (as most of the industrial spaces in Romania), which collects equal rent from members of Fabrica de Pensule for each piece of space they use, while the state and the city institutions needed quite some time to credit its impact and relevance.

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      Museum of the Peasant
      Tomasz Ogiński

      Taking away the spell from the Romanian peasant was extremely difficult and only succeeded thanks to an unprecedented enthusiasm which the Romanians persistently experienced during the first two decades after the overthrow of the dictatorship.

  • Reflections, impressions, opinions
    • 202
      A close-up. On Nicu Ilfoveanu’s photography
      Michał Korta

      Notes taken at a meeting with the artist
      www.ilfo.ro

      Nicu Ilfoveanu is a young Romanian photographer, born in 1975. He belongs to the generation of artists who spent the years of their childhood and youth under the previous system; at the same time, this is the first generation of artists who could express themselves freely after the revolution in 1989. Although he does not take up political subjects, his photography is visually deeply set in the Romanian reality. I should start from the beginning though.

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      Wojciech Bonowicz

      Max Blecher
      "Zdarzenia z bliskiej nierzeczywistości"
      (Adventures in Immediate Unreality),
      translated into Polish by Joanna Kornaś‑Warwas
      Pogranicze Publishing, Sejny 2013

      Imagine you sit down at a desk with an intent to describe a certain event in an ordinary, realistic way, when all of a sudden it strikes you that all real events are no more than appearances and pretexts, and people are only random shapes – masks which secretly hide a dark and anonymous force. Isn’t our contemporary arrangement of forms and norms merely a moment in development? And doesn’t it seem as if the same idea constantly acquires new forms, as if the force was to present itself in constantly new, random characters, and so a frightened man, who is only an ephemera, but the fear within him – something lasting and unchangeable? Blecher followed the path of such sensation. His writing brings out the sense of dread and strangeness of the spectacle.
      Sounds familiar? It should because the paragraph above is partially a paraphrase, partially a summary of an excerpt from Witold Gombrowicz’s review of "Sanatorium Under the Sign of an Hour‑Glass". Schulz’s name has been changed.

    • 216
      New after fifty years
      Adam Burakowski

      Dinu Pillat
      "Așteptând ceasul de apoi"
      ("Waiting for the Last Judgement")
      Humanitas Publishing House
      București 2010

      Așteptând ceasul de apoi (Waiting for the Last Judgement), a novel by the renowned literary critic and writer Dinu Pillat, was published in 2010. Pillat was one of the most distinguished Romanian intellectuals of the 20th century; however, the novel waited over 60 years for its publication. Few books have had a similar history and consequently the release reverberated across the Romanian literary world.

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      Return to Transylvania, a spiritual Tower of Babel
      Claudio Magris

      Dieter Schlesak
      "L’uomo senza radici"
      Garzanti Publishing House
      Milano 2011
      Adam Salmen, the last Jew to survive the Shoah in Dieter Schlesak’s hometown in Transylvania, advises the author working on his book to write it, if he has to write it at all, in German thus introducing into the text “exile, and posing for himself the utopian goal of representing exile in my own language as if it was to precede death”.
      (...) This is an outstanding book about love for one’s homeland, Transylvania, and the pernicious madness permeating this love which can only exist in the homeland of one’s childhood years, where, however, it is destined to die. In fact, it is doomed to fratricide, which one side, i.e. the Germans committed in the author’s childhood against the other side, their own brothers and neighbours, despite having lived with them in harmony for centuries. The others were German Jews, who often considered themselves completely German.

  • By myself
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      Finis Saxoniae and the art of return
      Dieter Schlesak

      The state accord signed in 1943 between Bucharest and Berlin heralded the start of the compulsory – although nominally “voluntary” – enlistment of Romanian Germans into the SS, a “foreign” army. They volunteered willingly, of course, many of them even enthusiastically. This was a catastrophic rape of their own tradition, and was to cause the collapse of the German community, albeit with the far‑reaching complicity of the Romanian state. The final blow to the Transylvanian Saxon community came in 1990 with the mass emigration of this ethnic group to Germany. They left some 250 towns and villages completely depopulated.