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The importance of being universal

The importance of being universal
  Mircea Pricăjan
Story of survival
Big Brother is watching you
Seven lives
Poetry's demise
Audio vs. Video
varianta print

Mircea Pricăjan

Publicat Duminică, 10 Decembrie 2006, ora 16:39

      In my endeavor of finding and promoting young Romanian writers I have stumbled over some interesting concepts which I think are symptomatic for the present state of things in the Romanian literature.

      Firstly is the universality issue. I would have never believed that the young suffer of the same illnesses as the elder had I not met such cases myself. I have recently exchanged some e-mails with a talented Romanian writer which I have invited to publish in Imagikon. Even if his writing is still deeply impregnated by the Romanian mythology and word-games, which make his stories highly untranslatable, I feel that he has the potential of becoming an important world writer. I have told him so and the reaction I got still bewilders me. “A writer doesn’t need to ask himself what his readers will think of his writing, but what his place in the present context is!” In other words: forget about the others, forget about those whom the actual writing process is intended for, and focus on your own person, as if you’re the only living being on earth, the navel of the world. It’s not important whether your stories find an audience, whether they have a purpose; what’s important is what your own ego thinks about them.—Such a mentality I know to haunt the writers of the old generation, those who were satisfied only with their families and friends knowing they were writers. Never would I have thought that even the young think this way. But, look, miracles happen!

      I have always believed that good writing is that which indeed explores the writer’s world, analyses it, but also finds an echo within each (or as many as possible) reader who happens on that piece of literature. Introspection doesn’t have a meaning if it limits itself to the writer’s person. Why do you think the works of such authors like Dostoyevsky or Poe stood the proof of time? Because they focused exclusively on the author’s person? No, I think not! Better because they knew which part of their self to choose in order for the others to be able to identify with it. The universal self, isn’t it how’s it called?

      Well, some of the young Romanian writers seem to believe otherwise. They forget that even the marginal writers like Rushdie, Ishiguro or Soljenitîn practice an universal kind of introspection, contextualized self-analysis let us call it.

      Secondly, now, the minor cultures issue. The Romanian culture is a minor culture, let’s be realistic once and for all. Apart from the writers which have chosen other countries—and languages—to express their ideas in (Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco or Brâncuşi, to name only a few from the old generation; Andrei Codrescu and Norman Manea, from the present generation), which writer can we say other nations know about? Mihai Eminescu? Maybe the Philology students which study the Romantic period might have heard of him…

      Our only escape from the so called ghetto-ization is to start thinking at a larger scale, to start seeing beyond our own mythology and even beyond our own language. A work of literature which cannot be translated into a large circulation language has no other value but the value of intimacy. Tudor Arghezi is a brilliant poet; everyone knows that—too bad his poems cannot be translated! And even if they could be, who would understand them?

      I remember something that Ana Blandiana (another brilliant Romanian poet) once said about her famous poem “Everything”, which caused her many years of detention and the banning of all her books from bookstores and libraries during the Ceauşescu regime. Immediately after the ’89 revolution, she found out that a translation of that same poem had appeared on the front page of a famous British magazine. Only that the poem wasn’t enough. The poem itself actually took only a small part of that page. The rest was filled with a glossary of terms, explaining what every word of the poem meant for the Romanian citizen.

      I fear that, if the young Romanian writer doesn’t pay enough attention to the amount of understandable information his/her readers will get from his/her writings, s/he is doomed to become at best an indexed author for the Eastern European Literature Course at who knows what University. And that would be a shame.

© Copyright Mircea Pricăjan
Sursa :   Imagikon
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