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The Traditions of Invention

Balkan Studies Library


Zoran Milutinovi, University College London

Editorial Board

Gordon N. Bardos, Columbia University

Alex Drace-Francis, University of Amsterdam
Jasna Dragovi-Soso, Goldsmiths, University of London
Christian Voss, Humboldt University, Berlin
Advisory Board

Marie-Janine Calic, University of Munich

Lenard J. Cohen, Simon Fraser University
Radmila Gorup, Columbia University
Robert M. Hayden, University of Pittsburgh
Robert Hodel, Hamburg University
Anna Krasteva, New Bulgarian University
Galin Tihanov, Queen Mary, University of London
Maria Todorova, University of Illinois
Andrew Wachtel, Northwestern University


The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/bsl

The Traditions of Invention

Romanian Ethnic and Social Stereotypes
in Historical Context

Alex Drace-Francis


Cover Illustration: A Romanian (Wallachian) in traditional costume. Trachten-Kabinett von Siebenbrgen (1729), from a 1692 watercolour. Romanian Academy Library / www.europeana.eu.
Author unknown.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Drace-Francis, Alex.
The traditions of invention : Romanian ethnic and social stereotypes in historical context /
by Alex Drace-Francis.
pages cm. (Balkan studies library, ISSN 1877-6272 ; volume 10)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-21617-4 (hardback : acid-free paper) ISBN 978-90-04-25263-9 (e-book)
1. RomaniaSocial conditions. 2. National characteristics, Romanian. 3. RomaniaIn literature.
4. RomaniaCivilization. I. Title.
DR212.D724 2013

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List of Tables and Illustrations....................................................................




Social Representations
1.The Traditions of Invention. Representations of the Romanian
Peasant from Ancient Stereotype to Modern Symbol.....................



Travel and Alterity

2.A Provincial Imperialist and a Curious Account of Wallachia:
Ignaz von Born............................................................................................


3.At ten minutes past two, I gazed ecstatically on both

lighthouses: Time, Self and Object in Early Romanian Travel


4.Like a member of a free nation, he spoke without shame:

Foreign Travellers as a Trope in Romanian Cultural Tradition. 115
5.Dinicu Golescus Account of My Travels (1826): Eurotopia as
Manifesto...................................................................................................... 135

Myths and Discourses of the Nation

6.National Ideology between Lyrics and Metaphysics: The Political
Writings of Mihai Eminescu................................................................... 161
7.Ion Luca Caragiale: The Tall Tale of the Romanian Nation......... 187



At the Verbal Frontiers of Identity

8.Eugen Ionescus Selves, 193460.......................................................... 201

9.Beyond the Land of Green Plums: Romanian Language and

Culture in Herta Mllers Work........................................................... 213

East-Westism in the Cold War Age

10.Sex, Lies and Stereotypes: Images of Romania in British
Literature, 19452000.............................................................................. 233
11.Paradoxes of Occidentalism: On Travel and Travel Writing in
Ceauescus Romania............................................................................... 251
Works Cited....................................................................................................... 265
Index.................................................................................................................... 293


1. Leipzig Valachica, 1774............................................................................. 84
2. Intercontinental ethnography in the London press, 1777.............. 85
3. London popular pamphlets, 1779.......................................................... 85
4. Frameworks for comparison: Ignaz von Borns other works........ 86
5. Articles in The Times about Romania, 19961998............................. 247
1. View of Schemnitz (Bansk tiavnica), site of Maria-Theresas
Mining Academy (from R. Bright, Travels from Vienna through
Lower Hungary, 1818)................................................................................. 68
2. Emmanuel-Adolphe Midy Le rencontre, c. 1840. Encounter
between a boyar of the older generation in Oriental dress, and
a younger boyar in European dress. Detail from lithograph,
Romanian Academy Library................................................................... 103
3. A Wallachian boyar, c. 1830. Watercolour by Russian artist
R.G.A.I., Romanian Academy Library................................................ 140

A work compiled over as long a period as this one was brings with it many
scholarly debts, and I have done my best to recall the assistance I have
received along the years. Primary support, encouragement and critical
engagement has come from Dennis Deletant, now Emeritus Professor of
Romanian Studies at University College London, and Wendy Bracewell,
now Professor of Southeast European History at the same institution. With
their contrasting but complementary approaches, Dennis and Wendy
have suggested topics, readings and contacts in the world of comparative Romanian and southeast European history and culture. In Bucharest,
I have always found a warm welcome at the Nicolae Iorga Institute of
History, as well as at the New Europe College, and have enjoyed many
fruitful exchanges with the members and fellows of these establishments,
as well as with those of the A.D. Xenopol Institute in Iai. I have also
been fortunate to receive invitations to lecture at the Doctoral School of
the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest and try out my ideas on
students there in 2010 and 2012: thanks to Mircea Anghelescu and Adrian
Stoicescu for facilitating this. An earlier such invitation to the University
of Cluj in 2003 was no less fruitful. Colleagues at the Universities of Liverpool and Amsterdam, notably Harald Braun, Alexandrina Buchanan,
Charles Forsdick, Kirsty Hooper, Michael Hughes, Kate Marsh, Lyn Marven and Brigitte Resl at the first institution, and Joep Leerssen, Michael
Wintle, Krisztina Lajosi, Guido Snel and Christian Noack at the second,
have engaged in discussion of issues of travel writing and cultural difference, in a most fruitful way.
Xavier Bougarel, after inviting me to present some of my ideas from
Chapter 1 at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris,
suggested the title traditions of invention for that section. It seemed to
me such an inspired coinage that I adopted it for the work as a whole.
Angela Jianu read the manuscript through and offered valuable suggestions, references and improvements, especially in respect of structure and
continuity. Zoran Milutinovi has acted efficiently as efficient editor, and
administered the peer review process in a constructive fashion. Ivo Romein
has been exemplary in his courteous and prompt assistance. I thank also
Brills anonymous readers for their helpful comments and observations;
and Thalien Colenbrander for her careful production editing.


Many other people sent or gave me books, articles and theses, including Cristina Bejan, Ioana Both, Xavier Bougarel, Cristina Codarcea, Eugenia Gavriliu, Mihaela Grancea, Florea Ioncioaia, Vintil Mihilescu, Andi
Mihalache, Ctlina Mihalache, Raluca Muat, erban Papacostea, Jeanine
Teodorescu, Maria Todorova, Marius Turda, Constana Vintil-Ghiulescu,
and Alexandru Zub. For help sourcing illustrations, I am especially grateful to Angela Jianu and Cristian Cercel.

This book gathers a number of studies researched and written over the
past fifteen years, on representations of Romanian culture from the beginnings of the modern age to the late twentieth century.
In an earlier book, The making of modern Romanian culture (2006),
I attempted an institutional, social-historical survey of the development
and production of cultural output in the Romanian language over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here on the other hand, methods and
approaches from literary and cultural history are used to elucidate a number of themes and topics in greater detail than could be achieved within
a survey work. Case studies put the focus on individual actors and documents; or on specific social types or social practices, such as peasants, or
travel. At the core of all of them is a focus on the topic of representations
of self and other; on the subjective nature of these representations; and on
the interplay between formal and informal discourses on identity.
The book also offers a long-term approach. For, while the majority of
the studies focus on the period from the late eighteenth century to the
end of the nineteenthRomanian historys first era of transitionan
important theme is the persistence of older ideas, for reasons that are
elaborated especially in the first chapter. At the same time, I have made
significant inroads into the twentieth century, with four chapters dedicated to texts and cultural practices after 1900.
Research Context
The study of modern Romanian culture in terms of its relationswhether
active or passive, oppositional or integrationalto Europe, has a relatively long history. Pompiliu Eliade, writing at the end of the nineteenth
century, saw this as an entirely one-way process. He described Western influence not in terms of a synthetic element or graft of European
ideas on existing roots, but as the force which actually brought a culture
into existence where none had flourished before.1 Others perceived the
matter differently, speaking of an old and original civilization which
1Eliade, De linfluence, iii.


nevertheless sought respect, being not yet integrated into the general life
of humankind.2 Inter-war literary and cultural historian Eugen Lovinescu
understood Romanian relations with western Europe as a two-stage process, first of imitation, then of synchronization.3 A more neutral and
popular term to describe Romanian cultural relations with western Europe
was discovery.4 Irrespective of their positions, however, pretty much all
scholars agreed that issues of culture and identityespecially collective dignity in relation to the outside worldwere important aspects of
the modernization process that accompanied political independence and
the creation of the national state.5
Since the 1960s, despite the constraints placed on research by the Communist regime, a tradition of image studies developed in Romania.6 Significant documentary projects were undertaken, including a ten-volume
collection of travellers accounts of the Romanian lands in the period to
1800.7 Scholars drew partly on the mentalities paradigm, following the
illustrious tradition of the Annales school, and partly on the traditions of
literary image studies or imagology developed in comparative literature
circles.8 This was supplemented by some important contributions by foreign scholars, usually interested in the cultural dimension of their own
countries relations with Romania.9

2Iorga, Roumania, 259; idem, La place des Roumains, I:1.

3Lovinescu, Istoria civilizaiei. For excellent overviews on the interwar debates, see
Heitmann, Das rumnische Phnomen, Verdery, Moments (II); Hitchins, Rumania, 292334; idem, Identity, 26996; Deletant, The debate; and Trencsnyi, Politics. On
Lovinescu in particular, see Nemoianu, Variable socio-political functions, and Petrescu,
4E.g. Clinescu, History, 73130; Bucur, La dcouverte de lEurope; Marino, Les
lumires roumaines dcouvrent lEurope.
5Zub, Political attitudes, surveys some important statements around the concept of
dignity; Drace-Francis, Making, 57 surveys the English-language secondary literature..
6On the history of research into the study of ethnic stereotypes, or imagology, see
Pageaux, Recherche sur limagologie and especially Leerssen, Imagology. Some significant early works of the school were actually published in Romania, e.g. Pageaux, Une
perspective, or going back still further, Drouhet, Le roumain.
7Cltori strini. A bibliography of 19th-century travellers to Romanian lands appeared
in Bibliografia istoric, 1:6270, while cartographical sources were catalogued by PopescuSpineni, Rumnien.
8On Romanian contacts with French social-cultural history see e.g. Some of the historiographical context is covered in Lung, La storia culturale in Romania.
9Outstanding is the monograph of Heitmann, Das Rumnenbild; on English attitudes
see the more miscellaneous but still valuable contributions of Tappe, Rumanian echoes;
idem, Victorian glimpses; idem, Anglo-Rumanian contacts.


After the collapse of communism, this type of study flourished in

Romania. Important and in some cases outstanding works were dedicated
to such topics as the self-image of the Romanians in nineteenth-century
schoolbooks; Hungarian attitudes to Romanians; Romanian images of
Russians, Greeks or Jews, to name but a few.10
In the English-language scholarship of the same period, issues of
geocultural identity and representation also came to the fore, although
the scope and methodologies used were different. Works tended to focus
less on reciprocal ethnic images than on broader culture areas such as
Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Moreover, the inspiration was less from
literary image studies than from postcolonial studies, especially Edward
Saids Orientalism. Perhaps especially in the circumstance of the Yugoslav conflict and the ensuing struggles over representation, questions of
the political significance of images and the inequality of control over the
means of disseminating them were special objects of scrutiny and debate.
The trend generated some impressive scholarly studies which far transcend the immediate context and made constructive but not uncritical
application of the Saidian paradigm to a geographically contiguous case.11
However, while all these authors touched on Romania, many texts still
await systematic treatment in English. Moreover, the reception of the
postcolonial paradigm by scholars in Romania has been somewhat halfhearted, perhaps because the implicit casting of Romania as a country
subject to passive representations is something a number of scholars are
somewhat uncomfortable with.12

10Gavriliu, Sindromul Gulliver; Murgescu, ntre bunul cretin i bravul romn; M. Mitu,
Problema romneasc; S. Mitu, Imagini; Mazilu, Noi i ceilali; Ivanov, Imaginea rusului;
Muntean, Imaginea romnilor; Pecican, ed. Europa; Lascu, Imaginea Franei; Oiteanu,
Inventing the Jew. Vlad, Imagini, studies Romanian attempts to represent the national
identity abroad through world exhibitions and fairs. For related work in the field of social
psychology, see Iacob, Etnopsihologie i imagologie.
11 The most widely-cited are Baki-Hayden & Hayden, Orientalist variations; Wolff,
Inventing Eastern Europe, and Todorova, Imagining the Balkans. Most important for literary studies is Goldsworthy, Inventing Ruritania; see also Kostova, Tales of the periphery.
12The first scholar to adduce Orientalism as a relevant concept in respect of Romania
may have been Verdery. See Verdery, Moments (II), 100, 105; eadem, Moments (I), 49. The
paradigm was then flagged by Antohi, Imaginaire culturel, 250 n5, and Brnzeu, Corridors of
mirrors, 14, 39. Iordachi, Citizenship, nation and state-building, applied it to the Romanian
states policies in the Dobrogea after 1878. On Romanian scholars relative lack of interest in Orientalism, see Cioflnc, Cunoaterea alteritii, 121. Leanca, Geografii culturale
considers some more recent trends.


In the present work I use aspects of ideas from the tradition of Orientalism and postcolonialism, following the insightful and pioneering
work of the above-cited scholars. Indeed, unlike some of my colleagues,
I dont believe it is always necessary to establish a paradigm of Balkanism fundamentally distinct from Orientalism.13 But at the same time my
approach is not subordinate to any one tradition and tries to adapt the
theory to the relevant case study material. Verbal representations of Romania, whether self-images or ones produced by outsiders, cannot be easily
understood in a monolithic way. In fact they may belong simultaneously
to a set discourses about Europe and its boundaries, and to ones about the
Orient; while it is equally important to bear in mind that neither of these
main paradigms can offer definitive answers, and statements about Romanian identity may easily have quite other meanings. Simple inventories of
images drawn from heterogeneous sources do not always take account of
the different functions they play within specific narrative contexts.14
Content and Structure
I start my inquiry in Chapter 1the longest in the book, constituting the
whole of Part Iwith a consideration of the image of the Romanian peasant, an archetypal one for discourses about the nation as a whole. While an
explicit ideology of peasantism did not emerge until the late nineteenth
centurya process which I also analyse15I argue that the general cultural context in which it did so owes a lot to older relations and representations, understanding of which is essential to a proper reading of the
terms of the twentieth-century debate. I attempt a comparison between
domestic legal and historical discourses, where a strong categorization
of the peasant was not in evidence, with foreign discourses, which depicted
the inhabitants of this area variously as fierce savages and pacific farmers.
This background is then drawn on in an analysis of the nineteenth century when the image of the peasant developed its modern contours.

13Compare e.g. Hammond, British literature, 4366; Todorova, Balkanism and postcolonialism. While Todorova is quite right to argue for the historical specificity of the Balkan experience, such specificity can of course involve similitude to as well as difference
from regions which were after all part of the same Ottoman polity. I develop this point
most explicitly in Chapter 2 below.
14Prianu, Sintaxa antisemitismului, 229,
15See Ch. 6; and Drace-Francis, Making, 17897.


Part II, Travel and alterity, consists of four studies on discourses of

identity and otherness to be found in travel texts in the late eighteenth
and early nineteenth centurya key period for the formation and crystallization of such discourses. There are two case studies on travellers
Ignaz von Born and Dinicu Golescu; and two more general studies. The
first of the latter looks at Romanian responsesboth acquiescent and
polemicalto being the object of Western travellers descriptions and
evaluations. The second looks at Romanian travellers own travel experiences and particularly at the techniques they used to represent it in a
Romantic paradigm. In all these studies I try to bring nuance to the analysis of the othering process by focusing on a series of common factors.
These include: the biography and motivations of individual authors; comparision of Eastern discourses with Western ones, and vice versa, as well
as continued interrogation of whether these might be relevant or meaningful labels for given texts; analysis of publication contexts and paths of
dissemination and reception (or lack of it); and consideration of rhetorical
structures and strategies which might serve to advance certain messages
or even relativize or ironize them.
Part III, Myths and discourses of the nation, examines two writers and
texts from the classic period of Romanian literature, around the time of
independence. A reconsideration is offered of the political journalism of
national poet Mihai Eminescu. This, considered a controversial topic in
Romania, is often discussed but less frequently analysed. Dramatist Ion
Luca Caragiale, often juxtaposed to Eminescu as evincing a satirical or
even sarcastic attitude to nationhood, was also a great writer of short stories. These are considered here as producing a more complex, dialogic
representation of national language and character. In both cases, complex
representations of foreigners are also produced, as Jews but also Greeks
and others are juxtaposed to Romanians and find their place as characters
in the national imaginary.
Part IV, At the verbal frontiers of identity, examines a further two
writers, both born and raised in Romania, who went on to find fame and
reputation abroad. Eugen Ionescu wrote several books and a large body of
journalism in Romanian before leaving the country aged 32 (in 1942). His
later work rarely treated the topic of Romania explicitly, but his Romanian background, still relatively little known by scholars, throws much
light both on his own oeuvre and on the broader issues of identity and
alterity. Herta Mllers native language was German, not Romanian. She
spent a litle longer than Ionescu in Romania, being 34 at the time of her
departure (in 1987), but her work focuses more explicitly on Romanian


experiences and landscapes. I explore attitudes to Romanian identity both

in these writers explicit affirmations, and in certain themes and motifs
from their literary works. I then try to put these in the context of the cultural and geographical politics with which their life and work was bound
up. Considering these two cases side by side gives us a glimpse into the
potential complexity and variety of attitudes to Romanian culture and
identity, which could easily be explored further through any number of
exiled or hyphenated writers.
The final part, V, also consists of two studies, this time surveys focussing on the period after 1945. The first treats the representation of Romania in British literature, especially fiction and travel literature. The second
looks at the record of Romanian travel literature about Europe during the
same interval. As short surveys, both are necessarily selective, and focus
on a limited number of themes which seemed salient in both traditions.
But they both establish a record and offer, I hope, points for future comparison. Placing the articles together demonstrates that both British and
Romanian travel writers had recourse to strategies of othering their destinations, in both positive and negative ways. There are also, of course,
asymmetriesfor instance British writers portray Romanians in an erotic
key, whereas the reverse is not true at all. And the two types of discourse
were largely elaborated in conditions of mutual ignorance.
Taken together, the studies must stand for a small sample of the complexities that questions of Romanian identity and alterity could provoke.
Other categories, particularly those of gender, age, regional identity and
countless others, must await future analysis. Moreover, I should stress that
the purpose of this work is not to answer the question of who the Romanians are (or, in studies dedicated to views of other cultures, to reduce
them to a single, identifiable Romanian perspective). The question of
who exactly is gazing upon whom (in the singular or plural) is in constant flux, and the purpose of these diverse studies is to give a sense of
the variety of possible actors that participate in this process of reciprocal,
if asymmetrical, scrutiny and spectation. The very names of the participants change over time, as do the size and form of the given groups. In
particular casesstriking are the hyphenated writers like Ionescu and
Mllerit is simply impossible to define the actors unilaterally as insiders
or outsiders. Studying them does, however, give a unique insight into the
ways boundaries are being constantly drawn, broken down and redrawn,
often according to quite time-specific factors. Moreover, I have also given
attention not just to the content of cultural representations but also to
the processes of their dissemination, adaptation and interpretation, which


have a decisive effect on the influence and significance of representations.

As such, this is a work as much of social history as of literary and cultural
history, although in any case I believe the two enterprises to be fundamentally intertwined.
For that reason, many of the studies here do not focus solely on naming
and defining different groups such as Romanians and Westerners and
implicitly constructing lines of difference in the process. I have argued that
some researchers, by the very process of declaring an intention to study,
say, Western/British images of the Balkans have installed a presupposition of difference between the two categories which the texts themselves
may not always bear out.16 The focus here is therefore not solely on a
cumulative technique. Each study adopts a methodology such as I hope
is appropriate and sensitive to the material. As such it is introduced at the
start of each chapter. Moreover, by adopting a multidirectional approach,
using different perspectivesnot just bilateral, a sense of the multiple
possibilities of identity can hopefully emerge. It is the kind of historical
research where, precisely by privileging the surface impressions and overarching conceptions and forms over the mineralogically overvalued detail
of the archive document, a sense of the complexity of the representational
process emerges. As Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga once observed, the
past ages of the social and political life of the peoples of the world can not
be understood without recourse to forgotten literature.17 Or, as Fernand
Braudel concluded, when confronted with the impossibility of defining
history except by conceiving of it as the sum of all possible historians,18
it is necessary, when considering ethnic, social or geocultural representations, to think of such souces as but part of a greater spectrum of possible
categories and images.

16Drace-Francis, review of Jezernik; idem, review of Hammond.

17Iorga, Les crivains, preface.
18Braudel, Histoire et sciences sociales, 734.

part one


Chapter one

The traditions of invention. Representations of the

Romanian peasant from ancient stereotype to
modern symbol*
Introduction: Past and Peasant
Historians and sociologists have not yet reached full agreement as to
whether the peasant really exists, or whether he (for it is generally a he
that is being discussed) was invented by people who, not counting themselves as peasants, sought for their own purposes to ascribe certain values
to certain ways of life.
Some scholars would reject outright the attempt to produce a rigorous
definition, asserting that the concept peasant has no precision whatsoever and that it is essentially a folk term adopted into social science
usage without the necessary scientific refinement; that it represents a
dubious search for essences; that it fails to account for the role of the
other in delimiting such roles; that it is inevitably used to back a political
agenda, and so on.1 Others would like to reject definitions that do not take
into account the precise economic patterns and activities of the people in
Still others are more optimistic about the chances of categorizing the
peasant, but would insist upon a proper historical and regional delimitation. Reinhard Wenskus offered a formulation that was accepted by later
historians: this time the emphasis was on defining the peasant against
non-European modes of production, and against later (industrial) or
earlier (primitive) society.3 Western Europe, it is said, achieved a peasantry in the High Middle Ages as a result of various social and technological changes: the development of the mouldboard plough and harness;
*Unpublished. A much earlier version was presented at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes
en Sciences Sociales, Paris, 16 March 2001. I am pleased to thank Xavier Bougarel for
that invitation, and Nataa tefanec (Zagreb), erban Papacostea (Bucharest) and Paul
Stephenson (Nijmegen) for specialist advice on medieval and early modern scholarship.
1 Leeds, Mythos and pathos, 22831.
2Orlove, Against a definition of peasantries.
3Wenskus, Wort und Begriff Bauer [1973], cited in Rsener, The peasantry of Europe,


chapter one

the three-field system; the evolution of the professional knightly class.4

In other quarters, a hot debate ensued over the dating of the disappearance of the peasant class from western Europe. In his book Peasants into
Frenchmen, historian Eugen Weber argued that it was only in the third
quarter of the nineteenth century that peasant forms of life finally disappeared from rural France as a result of the encroaching influence of
the state. His thesis, however, was not unanimously approvedCharles
Tilly for one, countered that the proletarianization of the peasant had in
fact begun much earlier, around 1800.5 Yet another authority, Eric Wolf,
saw the process of capitalization of the peasantry as having gained irreversible momentum in the West in the mid-eighteenth century and, in
eastern Europe, as having reached its apogee around the 1860s, with the
emancipations in Russian, Polish, Romanian and other lands: Put in general terms, peasants became farmers.6
Romanian intellectuals have expressed a similar diversity of opinions
about the reality or otherwise of the peasant. In an issue of the cultural
journal Transilvania dedicated to the peasant in the mid 1990s, a number of them were asked whether they thought the Romanian peasant
still existed. The responses ranged from a belief that popular culture is
a living flame, to the affirmation that Today, the Romanian peasant no
longer exists, to I cant give you an informed answer. I havent just come
fresh from a tour of Romanian villages and I couldnt draw any conclusions without falsifying the state of things.7 Elsewhere in post-communist
Romania, the peasant was described variously as a mystification, and as an
all-too-real obstacle to European integration. One commentator remarked
that For too long the peasant has been the obverse image of our everyday
illusions and helplessness; out of this has come an authoritarian idealization, which has falsified not only what we know about our past, but
also what we ought to do in the present, thus placing the concept of the
peasant in the sphere of the imaginary.8 Another pro-European writer, on
the other hand, argued that peasant societies do have real general characteristics, and that such characteristics have a negative effect on Romanian modernization: Rural society, traditional, enclosed, isolated, having
4Rsener, The peasantry of Europe, 209.
5Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen; Tilly, Did the cake of custom break?, 2933.
6Wolf, Europe and the people without history, 3178.
7Transilvania: interviews with, respectively, Stniloae (2932); Paleologu (6877); Pleu
(813). The editor, Mircea, avowed his intention of resuscitating a theme of ongoing living
interest, but deliberately avoiding its excesses (8).
8Patapievici, Despre ran, 102.

the traditions of invention


an instinctive reaction of mistrust and self-defence in the face of the

stranger, cannot think and act in the European spirit. It is animated by
other values and other reflexes. Its traditions are diametrically opposed,
conservative, religious. Only the town, in contrast, opens new horizons to
its inhabitants.9
If I choose to use the term invention, that is neither because I think
peasants didnt exist, nor because I think the elaboration of the concept
was only a literary or juridical fabrication. Just as imagined communities
are not always imaginary, so invention can refer to the discovery of a real
phenomenon, as well as to the elaboration of a mythological one. Perhaps
a more apt way to define invention is to go back to the Latin inventio, a
term in classical rhetoric for the selection of a theme for a discourse. This
meaning avoids the distinction between discovery and fabrication which
is common to modern discourse historybut also describes well what certainly did happen with the peasant in nineteenth-century Romania. The
peasant was selected as a central theme for both writing and oratory.
Any examination of the literary development of the peasant must grapple with the meaning of the word itself. In Romania the very word for
peasantranbecame a kind of magnet which attracted a particular
set of values to it; and these figures often substituted for, and made more
difficult, a proper understanding of what peasants are. If we are to be able
to define peasants at all, we need to recognize that peasant is as much
a word as a real person. Nevertheless, the concept peasant, Theodor
Shanin has asserted,
is not an empty word reflecting the prejudices of the populus, the linguistic frivolities of the intellectuals, or else the plots of ideological henchmen,
even though each of these may be true at times...The conceptualization of
peasant specificity rests on the admission of the complexity and degrees of
the ambivalence of social reality and expresses an attempt to grapple with
it on a theoretical level. It is not an answer but a working hypothesis and a
tool which help to elicit answers.10

Those, then, who would argue that there really is such a thing as peasant
specificity need precisely to concede the fact that the reality behind the
image is no more simple than anybody elses: that, like most words denoting social classes or categories, peasant is rather an intellectual tool than

9Marino, Pentru Europa, 44.

10Shanin, Defining peasants, 73.


chapter one

an all-embracing description of a uniform reality: a concept, rather than

a fixed group of people.
Often this has been a distillation of literary and historical ides reues.
A certain set of writers provide the contours which defined the peasant,
giving the figure not only its social definition, but a positive or negative
moral value. Ernest Gellner observed this when writing about the different cultural strategies employed by nationalists in eastern and western
Europe during the nineteenth century: In the Westernmost time zone,
national unity is forged with, but against the peasantry. Peasant is a term
of abuse, not of endearment, in such societies. In East-Central Europe, on
the other hand,
a national and state culture is created not in opposition to peasant idiosyncracy, but on the basis of it. A Folk Culture is used to forge an operational
High Culture. Of course, this culture has to be sifted and distilled and standardized; but none the less, it must first of all be investigated in its raw state,
if it is ever to be streamlined and codified, so as to provide the base for a
new High Culture around which a nation and state are to be created.11

A critical examination of that process of sifting, distillation and standardization to which Gellner refers, and of which the end result was the creation of the figure of the peasant as one of the cornerstones of modern
Romanian identity, is the subject of the present article.
One could limit the period in which Romanians ideas of the peasant
underwent their most dramatic and fundamental development by looking at two dictionary definitions, one fifty years later than the other. The
Transylvanian compilers of the first published Romanian dictionary, the
quadrilingual Lexicon published at Buda in 1825 are significantly hesitant
about the meaning of the word. Their entry for eranu is as follows:
1. the son or inhabitant of a certain country: indigena, patriae filius: hazafi:
Der Burger, das Landeskind.
2. one who is in a country with me: popularis, gentilis: foldi: der Landesmann.
3. ()
4. Some have glossed this word to mean ploughman, or villager (qv.)
(from Lat. terrenus. Ital. tereno.)12

In other words, the word ran does not even necessarily have a rural
identity attached to it, or at least only in its secondary meaning; it is a
11 Gellner, Encounters with nationalism, 191; Hofer, Creation, offers more detail.
12Maior et al., Lexicon Valacho-Latino-Hungarico-Germanum, sub voce. Translating the
Romanian, I have left the other three languages (Latin, Magyar, German) in the original.

the traditions of invention


civic conception based on political membership rather than a term denoting ethnie, mode of production, place of residence or any other socially
differentiating criterion. Other dictionaries of this period likewise omit
the word.13
By 1876, the second volume of A.T. Laurian and I. Massims Dictiona
riu, commissioned by the recently-founded Romanian Academy, was
published in Bucharest. The word ran (spelt terranu, for these lexicographers were committed to a Latinist orthography in order to emphasize
the Roman origins of their language) was defined as follows:
TERRANU [rusticus, colonus, ruricola]. He who works the land [pamintulu],
who is settled on the land [campania]. The peasants plough, sow, harvest
and thresh; the peasants are the basis of the land [terra]; the peasants lead a
simple life, but a laborious one; our peasants are of a rare frugality, they eat
only cereals, vegetables and fruit, milk, cheese and eggs; very rarely do they
eat meat; and despite all this they are healthier than the urban dwellers.14

Obviously this moralizing normative definition did not arise from

nowhere. One might therefore reasonably assume that Romanians attitudes towards peasants dramatically altered in the years between these
two definitions: and this was indeed the case.
However, despite this apparently clear-cut state of affairs, in which the
peasant is evidently the subject of an invented tradition, there are many
nuances which need to be taken into account, even in the most general
survey of writings on the peasant.
Prior to the systematic attempt by Romanian writers to construct and
diffuse images of their people as a peasant nation,15 the Wallachian and
Moldavian principalities, occupying as they did a marginal and contested
space on the European map, had been the subject of a certain number of
cultural characterizations from outside, especially from the West. They
were sometimes seen as a barbaric people, but also as simple peaceful
folk; as incapable of civilization but also as bearing certain ancient and

13Clemens, Walachische Sprachlehrer fr Deutsche. ran is not listed, while the normal German word for peasant, bauer, is defined as land worker, villager [lucrtoriu de
pmnt, stnu] i.e. without use of the word ran.
14Laurianu & Massimu, Dictionariul Limbe Romane, s.v.
15Several works deal with this debate from the point of view of intellectual history:
Ornea, rnismul; Jowitt, ed. Social change; Durandin, Une tape; eadem, Le bon sujet;
eadem, Les intellectuels; Verdery, Moments, II; Mihilescu, Comment peut-on tre paysan?; Muat, Sociologists. From the perspective of ideas on language and folklore: Karnoouh, Linvention, 75122; from that of literary history: Craia, Orizontul rustic; Cncea,
Situaia rnimii.


chapter one

praiseworthy characteristics which might constitute a critique of the civilized world; as a negative example or as an ironic counterpoint to Western
vanity and egocentrism. Moreover, since Romanian literary discourse was
frequently concerned with presenting the national character to a Western
audience, Romanians were compelled both to react to and to assimilate
existing Western preconceptions about a) Romanians; and b) peasants.
For the nineteenth-century Romanian writers discovery of the peasant
went hand in hand with their discovery of Europe; and their encounter
with the latter, I shall argue, decisively influenced their conceptualization
of the former.16 If the creation of a peasant identity within Romania is a
modern affair, then the identity of the Romanians as peasants has a rather
older history in certain writings in wide circulation in the rest of Europe.
This symbolic transmission of messages outwards was combined with
a need to use ideas inwards, to create durable images and symbols that
can form part of the new, nationalized identity. Internally, the struggle for
nationhood involved a degree of social transformation. For Romanians,
the principal forms this social transformation took were the establishment of a modern democratic constitution and the move from a disrupted
semi-pastoral tributary economy to a producer of agricultural goods on
the world market. This alteration carried with it the need to redefine the
social centre of gravity; the basis of political legitimacycoming now
from the people, rather than from divine right or military triumph. In this
context, literature functions as a tool for representing new social realities;
for providing a concrete image of the people conceived as a whole; and for
forging a sense of unity among hitherto disparate parts: Only eloquence,
the love of letters and the fine arts can make of a territory a fatherland,
and give to the nation living there the same tastes, the same habits and the
same sentiments.17 This very frequently takes the form of anthropomorphic characterizations: the idea that nations represent different individual
types, and the qualities of a nation can be resumed in a single figure: a
process that by its very nature involves aesthetic representation.
The attitudes of pre-modern Romanian writers are also relevant because
the nineteenth-century writers themselves attempted to identifyon their
own terms, of coursewith an older body of literature and tradition
in the Romanian principalities, in order to provide a historical basis for
their rhetorical model. Those who invented the Romanian peasant were

16Marino, Les Lumires roumaines.

17de Stal, De la littrature, 56.

the traditions of invention


also obsessed with history: they associated the peasant with the past,
with tradition and with their literary forebears. Thus a Romanian writing in 1880 might call upon the testimony of a chronicle written in 1650
to substantiate claims that there was such a thing as a peasant state in
Romania in 1400. For Eminescu, Romanias greatest poet and one of the
key elaborators of the peasant ideal, love of the fatherland is not love
of the furrow, of the soil, but of the past.18 It will be my contention that
the peasant was not a coherent concept in these earlier writings, and
that when the older tradition of Romanian literature and historiography
dealt with the peasant at all, this tended to be in a negative, dismissive
mode which subsequently had to be jettisoned or revised.
The rest of this chapter, then, will be divided into three parts. First,
I shall attempt to highlight certain images of the Danubian peasant that
figure in classical and modern European literature. This European part
will be concerned with generalised images of peasants and of their superimposition onto, or overlap with, images of Romanians. Secondly, in an
analysis of usages of the word in older Romanian writings, I intend to
show that the word ran had various different meanings and values
already attached to it before 1830; but that, in general, the word lacked its
main modern connotations. Finally, I shall discuss a selection of writers
who, during the course of the nineteenth century, were responsible for
transforming both the meaning of the word and the symbolic value of
the image.
The Romanian Peasant: A European Invention?
i)The Classical Legacy
The Romans had their own cult of agrarian life; and this too involved the
manipulation of images about the countryside in order to establish and
maintain a stable social and political order. After Octavius Caesar established himself as sole emperor after the battle of Actium in 31 bce, he used
the harmonious songs of his friend Virgil in order to reconcile his soldiers
to their new estates. Over fifty different books of Georgics, poems praising the agrarian life and evoking the belief of the elder Cato that Tillers
of the soil make the best soldiers and the strongest men, were published

18Eminescu, Vremea strmoilor notri, 60.


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in the first few years of Augustuss rule.19 Horace complained that the
regal villas of the new rich leave few acres for ploughing, and that This
is not the norm our ancestors divined, that Romulus and rough-bearded
Cato prescribed.20 A particular historicity was thus evoked, an association of agrarian practices and rustic simplicity with ancestors and with a
golden past.21 Indeed, according to Virgil, the very introduction of agriculture dated to the arrival of Jove, king of the gods:
Before Joves time no settlers brought the land under subjection;
Not lawful even to divide the plain with landmarks and boundaries:
All produce went to a common pool, and earth unprompted
Was free with all her fruits.22

On the other hand, the Latin poets delimited their tradition not only
according to timethe beginnings of their godsbut also by space.
As some of the oldest sources for the history of the space now occupied
by Romanians come from Roman writers, it is interesting to see how these
sources reflect the agrarian virtues when writing about the people whom
the Romanians consider their ancestors: known as Dacians or Getae and
inhabiting the little-known outposts of Empire.
Horace counterpoised the pacificity of the Roman rustic with the
Dacians aggression: in his Ode to the Goddess Fortuna, he writes that
she is entreated not only by the rustic peasant, but even by Dacian
savages and Scythian refugees (Odes I:38). Elsewhere he maintains the
contrast between the fleet Dacian menacing the city, and the values of
the metropolis (Odes III:6; III:8). Thus for Horace the Dacians stand in
contrast both to the city and to the ploughman: they are a barbarian people, whose possible virtue is bravery but whose chances of rustic peace
are slim.
Ovid, who was exiled on the Black Sea coast for the ten years to his
death in ad 18, also generally portrayed the Getae as barbarians. He noted
a tendency towards agriculture, but saw it imperilled by the generally warlike conditions prevailing on the edge of Empire:
The harsh enemy, in great number, comes in flight like a bird, and scarcely
have you sighted him when he has seized his prey...So it is, that rarely do

19 Gibbon, Essai sur la littrature, 3540.

20Horace, Odes II:15: Iam pauca aratro, trans. W. Shepherd.
21 Williams, The country and the city, 1320.
22Virgil, Georgics, trans. C. Day Lewis, 1258.

the traditions of invention


you see somebody daring to cultivate the land, and even he, wretched fellow, ploughs with one hand and holds his weapon in another.23

These Latin poets stress on the contrast between pacific agriculture and
warlike tribes has roots as far back as Herodotus and other Greek writers, who had described Thracians and others occupying the same space
to the north of the Lower Danube, to the effect that They could be one
of the most powerful nations of the earth but that To them, idleness
is extremely widespread, while working the fields is a most humiliating
practice.24 But elsewhere Horace toyed ironically with the possibility that
one day the Dacians might study his work (Odes II, 20). Finally, and most
curiously, in one of his habitual critiques of the decadence of urban mores
at Rome, he evokes the stiff-necked Getae (et rigidi Getae),
Immetata quibus jugeras liberas for whom unnumbered acres make

fruges et cererem ferunt harvests under Ceres.
Nec cultura placet longior annua Each brave works a year on the land:

defunctumque laboribus his service remitted,
aequali recreat sorte vicarius.
a successor continues by equal rota.

Illic matre carentibus There stepmothers behave
Privignis mulier temperat innocens rationally to orphaned daughters,
Nec dotata regit virum no women rule by dowry
Coniux nec nitido fidit adultero. and wives do not trust in some sleek

In other words, the Getae are portrayed as the idyllic counterpoint to

the corrupt and greedy city-dwellers, whose communal life of innocence,
despite its reputation for harshness and wildness, may serve to point to
a better way. At the same time their practices are reminiscent of those
of the Romans before the intervention of the god Jove. The evocation of
a barbarian people as a rhetorical device to criticise corruption at home
was a common theme in antiquity. Certain similarities with other peoples

23Ovid, Tristia, V:10, 1724. Syme, Ovid in history, 1645, argues that Ovids description
of the peoples of the Pontic region was conditioned by considerations of prosody: he may
attach the name of a tribe to a particular practice because the ethnonym fits his metrical
scheme. Habinek, Politics, 15169, claims that Ovid is not merely bemoaning the barbarity
of the Getae but demonstrating and enacting the transferability of Roman institutions to
an alien context.
24Herodotus, Histories, V:3, V:6. Many Romanian historians quote the first part of Herodotuss remarks but not the second; e.g. Pascu, ed. Foreign sources, Doc. I.
25Horace, Odes III, 24, ll. 1220, in The complete odes, trans. W. Shepherd, 1556.


chapter one

living across the Danube can be seen, for instance, in Tacituss Germania.
Tacituss description of the Germans, strikes a familiar note:
The fields are taken in succession according to the number of cultivators,
and are subsequently divided among themselves according to rank. The
lands are changed over every year and there is an abundance of fields.26

Likewise Caesar on the Suevi, a Germanic tribe:

However, there are no private and separate fields amongst them; nor does
anybody stay in one place for more than a year, to cultivate them. Nor do
they consume much cereals, but live for the most part off milk and cattle,
and a great deal from hunting.27

As Martin Thom has recently reminded us, the work of Tacitus and
other classical historians (Posidonius, Pliny, Livy) often treated the
topos of the barbarian or distant peoples according to set rules of the
genre, so that what is said conforms more often to a convention rather
than to solid geographical or ethnographic fact.28 This is clearly the case
here too: three different writers are attributing the same or similar practices to geographically distant peoples. However, this did not in the least
stop later historians and statesmen from waging major political and ideological campaigns on the basis of these works. And just as Tacituss work
was rediscovered in the early sixteenth century and used as evidence in
polemical debates between Pope Pius II (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini) and
recalcitrant Protestant bishops, so Horaces remarks about the Getae were
to find echoes in a large number of subsequent writings. Not only did classical writings become fuel for a long-running historical debate about the
origins of the Romanian communal village,29 they also evidently affected
26Tacitus, De origine et situ Germanorum, in On Britain and Germany, trans. H. Mattingly,
ch. 26.
27Caesar, De bello gallico, IV, 1.
28Thom, Republics, nations, tribes, 21221. See also Hartog, The mirror of Herodotus.
29One of the first Romanian scholars to invoke Horace as a historical source for the
agricultural practices of the proto-Romanians was Grigore Tocilescu, in his doctoral thesis
of 1876. In fact Tocilescu was cheerfully sceptical about the possibility of drawing conclusions from Horaces writings. In short, it would be safer to consider Horaces description
as a vague, unclarified recollection from Caesar on the Suevi, as an idealization of the
little known peoples of the North; more a poetical, and particularly satirical, description,
than a historical one. Tocilescu, Dacia nainte de Romni, 374. G. Popa-Lisseanu published
a Romanian translation in idem, ed. Dacia n autorii clasici, 16. However, later historians
(e.g. Stahl, Contribuii, 1:2936; Panaitescu, Obtea rneasc, 17) have tried to take the
poem as valid evidence for the agrarian life of the Getae. Both these authors have curiously mistranslated the Latin to make Horace say that it was the fields worked, rather than
the people working them, that were changed over by rota. This gives the unwarranted

the traditions of invention


the imaginations of 19th-century lexicographers, as is clear from a comparison of the remarks of Caesar about the eating habits of the Suevi, and
Laurian and Massim on those of the peasant.
ii)Renaissance Refashionings: The Princely Mirror
Early modern sources are no less contradictory when it comes to describing the mores of the Romanians. For instance, writers who sought to
explain the surprising fact that they were a Latin people, the only one in
Europe to live across the Danube-Rhine limes, might refer equally to their
warlike disposition or to their propensity for agriculture as proof of this.30
The tension between the violent and the agrarian, remarked as early as
Herodotus, continues. We have heard Ovid remarking on the natives
reluctance to plough the land for fear of a military ambush. Fifteen centuries later, the Polish chronicler Bielski reversed the same terms, when
he was writing about the Moldavians:
They are brave men, masters in wielding javelin and shield, though they
are simple peasants taken from the plough. Apart from the courtiers, the
rest are mostly peasants with bare saddles and oaken stirrups, but strong in
attack with the javelin.31

Bielski himself had met the Moldavians in battle at Obertyn in 1531, and
neednt necessarily be seen to be relying on classical stereotypes: the concordance of his materials with those of Ovid might be merely accidental. But the classical image of the barbarian/peasant (for the categories
were henceforth to be increasingly confused) was, in the same decade, to
undergo a remarkable revival elsewhere in Europe.
El vilano del Danubio is the title of an episode in the book of princely
instruction written by the Spaniard Don Antonio de Guevara, bishop of

i nterpretation that a) the entire community was engaged in agriculture; b) land was distributed on egalitarian principles; c) the rudiments of crop rotation were in place.
30Thus the Italian historian Marcantonio Coccio, in his Rapsodie historiarum Enneadum. Ab orbe condito Ad annum Salutis Humanae, 1504: Valachorum nobilissimi qui agriculturam et qui pecuariam excercent, quae res ipsius gentis arguit originem; on the other
hand, the Pole Stanisaw Orzechowski wrote that Hi natura, moribus ac lingua non multum a cultu Italiae absunt, suntque homines feri, magnaeque virtutis; neque alia gens est,
quae pro gloria belli et fortitudine angustiores fines cum habeat, plures ex propinquitate
hostes sustineat, quibus continentur aut bellum infert, aut illatum defendit (Annales
polonici ab excessu Sigismundi, 1554). Both these examples from Armbruster, Romanitatea
romnilor, 82, 115. Similar contradictory opinions in the valuable recent study of Almsi,
Constructing, focused especially on Transylvania.
31 Cited by Gona, Satul n Moldova medieval, 212.


chapter one

Guadix, and first published in Seville in 1528: Libro aureo de Marco Aurelio, emperador. This was republished as El relox de principes [The Dial
of Princes] in Valladolid the following year. This book was one of many
books of princely education published in the Renaissance, expounding
on matters of public and private comportment and rules for action in the
life of a prince. As is usual for the genre, it purported to derive from classical literature, as a book of orations made by the Roman philosopheremperor Marcus Aurelius; its author claimed to have translated it from a
much older Greek text. In fact Guevara did nothing of the kind, and the
speeches and moral lessons of which the book is constituted, were original rhetorical compositions, embossed with fables, epigrams and quotations from Humanist literature. However, this fiction did not stop the
book becoming an international bestseller. It went through over seventy
editions in five European languages before 1600,32 and translation were
made into many European languages, including by the eighteenth century
a Romanian version (by Nicolae Costin, c. 1712)33 and even an Armenian
one (Venice, 1738). A Greek version made its way into the library of the
Mavrokordatos family, whose members would play a major role in ruling
the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia in the eighteenth century, as
we shall see.34
The episode of the villain of Danuby is a tale narrated by Marcus Aurelius himself to Senators, Philosophers, Physicians and other sage men,
and it serves the purpose of a kind of moral mirror to illustrate the corruption of manners and arts in ancient Rome. A poor villain from the river
of Danuby comes to Aurelius to complain of the injustices and cruel acts
perpetrated on him and his race by the Roman prefects and judges sent
to administer his province. His physiognomy is the type of the barbarian
according to the classical imagination:
This villain had a small face, great lips, hollow eyes, his colour burnt, curled
hair, bare headed, his shoes of Porpyge skin, his coat of goatskin, his girdle of
bulrushes, a long beard and thick, his eyebrows covered his eyes, the stomach and the neck covered with skins, haired as a bear, and a club in his

32I have consulted a modern edition of Norths English translation: The Diall of Princes;
the bibliographical information I cite comes from here. See also Ginzburg, Occhiacci di
legno, 205.
33Ceasornicul domnilor; most recently published in Costin, Scrieri vol. 2.
34Popovici, Difuzarea ideilor luminilor, 84. Pippidi, Tradiia politic bizantin, 624,
interprets the translation of Guevaras work into Romanian at the instigation of Nikolaos
Mavrokordatos, as part of the development of a cult of the sovereign.

the traditions of invention


hand. Without doubt when I saw him enter into the Senate I imagined it had
been a beast in the form of a man.35

Despite this bestial appearance, the peasants harangue against the

Romans impresses Aurelius greatly. He denies that the Danubians have
no awareness of good and evil, asserting that we want not reason to know
who is just and righteous in holding his own; he accuses the Romans of
being but the destroyers of the people that be peaceable, and robbers of
the sweat and labours of strangers; arraigns their greed in conquering
distant provinces, their corruption in administering them, and the folly of
their luxury both at Rome and abroad: ye that are here do rob us of our
good name, saying that since we are a people without a king (as unknown
barbarous) ye may take us for slaves.36
Against the colonialist corruption of the Romans, the villain posits the
simple virtues of his own peoples manners:
since we had no enemies, we needed no armies, and since every man is
contented with his lot and fortune, we had no necessity of a proud senate to
govern us, and we being as we are all equal, it need not we should consent
to have any princes...in apparel we were honest, and in meat very temperate, we needed no better behaviour. For although in our country there are
no merchants...yet for all this we are not brutish, neither cease to have a

Furthermore, the peasant offers as supporting evidence to the Roman

Senate the moral influence of his primitive lifestyle, which has a powerful
rhetorical appeal in the circumstances:
I live by gathering acorns in the winter, and reaping corn in the summer.
Sometimes I fish, as well of necessity as of pleasure, so that I pass almost
all my life alone in the fields, or in the mountains...For I had rather wander solitary in the fields, than to see my neighbours hourly lament in the

At the end of the peasants oration, the Senate and the Emperor agree to
provide new judges for the river of Danuby, and command the villain to
write down his speech. Furthermore, he was made a Senator and a free

35Guevara, Diall of Princes, 989.

36Ibid., 102, 106, 110, 112.
37Ibid., 1134.
38Ibid., 11920.


chapter one

man of Rome, and that forever he should be sustained with the common
Even though this is a clear instance of classical texts being updated
and reinterpreted, it would be unreasonable to accuse Guevara of intending to portray real Romanians, even if he had heard of such a people.40
The tales set or target is at the civilized audience rather than the barbarians themselves, in conformity with Renaissance norms for rustic perorations: not of purpose to counterfeit or represent the rusticall manner of
loves or communications: but under the vaile of homely persons, and in
rude speeches, to insinuate and glance at great manners, as the contemporary English author Thomas Puttenham put it.41 The villain identifies
himself as German, which, although a generic term in Tacitus, indicating
all dwellers across the Rhine and Danube, excluded the Dacians.42
Two observations can be made, on details in Guevaras work which
will return countless times in the reworking of this classic image, both
in western European writers and in Romanian texts. The first is that the
peasants reward comes not because his case is actually investigated and
proved true by the judges of the Senate, but on account of his eloquence.
His story might have been a pack of lies: what has impressed Marcus
Aurelius is the peasants ability to argue his case according to the rules of
rhetoric; to adduce examples at suitable moments; to perform to a given
theme; to observe not only the classical topography but also the figures of
speech. Indeed, the original authors purpose was probably to provide as
much a stylistic and rhetorical example as a social one. One of Guevaras
principal concerns (as well as forging a classical origin for his work) had
been to prove the capability of the vernacular Castilian as a medium for
the sumptuosity of high rhetoric.43 The successes of the villain of Danuby
reflect this concern, and indeed the initial suspicion of his possible coarseness of speechif it was a fearful thing to behold his person, it was no
39Ibid., 124.
40The few specific studies on the paysan du Danube tend to agree on this point:
Ciornescu, ranul dela Dunre (in the context of comparative literature); and Stoyanovitch, Le paysan du Danube (treating it as a motif of global colonisation).
41 Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie [1589] cited by Williams, City, 21.
42Germany borders on Dacia to the East, Tacitus tells us in Chapter 1.
43Guevara, preface to Diall of Princes, xvii. Likewise the last paragraph of the first English translation (by Thomas Berners): Certainly as great prayse as oughte to be gyven to
the author is to be gyven to the translators that have laboriously reduced this treatise oute
of Greke into Latin, and out of Castilian into french and out of french into English. Written
in high and swete styles. Ibid., xvi. On the rhetoric of ordinary speech in the Renaissance
see also Greenblatt, Marvelous possessions, 1467.

the traditions of invention


less monstrous to hear his wordsis one of the first things the emperor
seeks to allay at the end of the oration: what words so well couched,
what truth so true, what sentences so well pronounced.44 Guevaras villain, then, is prized for his speechas will many a Romanian peasant be
in the centuries to comehis progress can be said to almost a symbol for
the rise of the vernacular, its ability to find a place in the civic order. It
is not, of course, the true language of the peasantry, but the speech of a
higher classical order that is prized.
Secondly, the villains reward causes him to undergo a complete change
in status. Although the emperor decides to reappoint judges on the Danube, the villain will not be there, for he has become a citizen of Rome.
This is his reward: not to return to the simple, honest life he has only
just finished depicting; but to become part of the metropolis, a Roman
instead of a barbarian. This clearly discloses the attitude of the author,
hitherto not revealed, towards the rural life he has portrayed. It has served
well as a subject for oratory, but the just place for the eloquent is in the
city. There is no suggestion that the villain would have preferred to return
to the country from which he has come, and to which he has declared
his allegiance. A patrician life isagainst the ostensible moral of the
discoursesimply assumed to be desirable and creditable. Later, as postRomantic writers in the West but even more acutely in Romania, would
try to invest the peasant with value qua peasant, they would come up
against a new paradox, which scarcely presented itself in the Renaissance:
that to praise the peasant way of life and at the same time attempt to
encourage the peasant to actually adhere to it, was actually to force him
to remain a barbarian and an outsider to the empire.
The popularity of Guevaras work gave rise not only to hundreds of editions and translations, but many imitations and adaptations of the theme.
In French, the episode was reworked in Pierre Boaistuaus Histoires prodigieuses, extraits de pluisieurs fameux auteurs grecs et latins (1561); Jean
de Marcouvilles Recueil mmorable daucuns cas merveilleux (1564); Pierre
Sorel Chartrain, LAvertissement du Monstre du Danube au snat romain
(1566), and Gabriel Fourmennois, Harangue descriptive au livre dor de
Marc Aurle, empereur, dun paysan des rivages du Danube (1601). By the
end of the seventeenth century, Guevaras own fame was fading, and
44Guevara, Diall of princes, 99; 123. Compare Shakepeares Othello, another kind of
Renaissance barbarian: Rude am I in my speech,/ And little blest with the soft phrase of
peace (Othello, Act I, Scene 3, ll. 812) But it would be unthinkable for Othello, however
rude in speech not to speak in pentameters in front of the council-chamber of Venice.


chapter one

he is now almost completely forgotten. But the tale of the Danubian peasant was to be given a new lease of life by another world-famous author of
the day, Jean de la Fontaine.
La Fontaines Le Paysan du Danube, was included in the eleventh book
of his Fables, published in 1679. Most of the detail in it is similar to that
given in Guevara. Its political intent was, however, probably more closely
directed against the depredations of the French intendants who were just
then indulging in unscrupulous requisitioning and taxation across the
Rhine, as a consequence of the French wars in the United Provinces.45
Again, we see a modern author making free use of tropes considered
part of the common literary inheritance, to illustrate a moral closer to
the concerns of his own time. But one or two of the details undergo a
subtle sea-change. The peasantby now named as such, the word paysan
having replaced the mediaeval villainhad hitherto been represented as
disdainful of the arts of agriculture, both amongst the Roman authors and
in Guevaras work.
La Fontaines description of the peasant of Danuby breaks the mould
in this respect. For his peasant is not content like Guevaras to fish and
gather acorns, but is proud of his agricultural skills:
Nous cultivions en paix dheureux champs, et nos mains
taient propres aux arts ainsi quau labourage:

Quavez-vous appris aux Germains?

Moreover, the fruit of their skilful and arduous toil is seen as passing
explicitly into the hands of the Romans, at which point they refuse to
practise it any longer, and flee to the mountains:
Rien ne suffit aux gens qui nous viennent de Rome;

La terre, et le travail de lhomme
Font pour les assouvoir des efforts superflus.
Retirez-les; on ne veut plus

Cultiver pour eux les campagnes;
Nous quittons les cits, nous fuyons aux montagnes...46

La Fontaine has been praised for these and other passages in his work
which, it is alleged, are far from being toy-like representations of ruralurban tensions, but are actually addressing real issues: were one to attach
45Couton, La politique de La Fontaine, 946.
46La Fontaine, Le paysan du Danube (Fables XI, 7); lines 435 and 605. I am indebted
to the textual apparatus of this edition for bibliographical details of the earlier French
versions of the episode.

the traditions of invention


to his concrete evocations the abstract words of which we have contracted

the regrettable need, his discourse would appear right up-to-date. Here are
questions of imperialism, colonialism, Malthusianism.47 This may well be
true in terms of a critique of seventeenth-century western Europe. But
what persists is the sense of the Danubian peasant being depicted not as
a character in his own right, but as an ironical index of the shortcomings
of others: in short, it is a critique of empire more than a manifestoor
even a descriptionof the colonised. The peasant, however virtuous, is
still other; his discourse is by now a familiar, even banal morality tale;
and while La Fontaine should be given credit for modernizing both the
style of the lesson and the social details of the situation described, he can
hardly be said to have produced a new realist work. As he himself says:
Le conseil en est bon; mais il nest pas nouveau.
iii)The Enlightenment and After
It is very difficult to measure precisely the cultural effect this image had
on European expectations as far on as the nineteenth century. As already
stressed, there are no grounds at all for assuming that the villain of Danuby
in Guevaras day has any specific association with the Romanian people.
The Wallachians and Moldavians remained a fairly unknown quantity to
the broader public well into the nineteenth century, up to 1848 and even
afterwards. However, it is certain that the image circulated very widely
indeed throughout Europe, from the 1520s onwards and for as long as
La Fontaines fables were standard material for learning by rote in every
Francophone school, in other words well into the twentieth century.
The Comte dHauterive travelled to Moldavia in 1785, in the capacity
of French representative and counsellor to the reigning prince, Alexandros Mavrokordatos-Firaris. Later he wrote an account of his experience
which is a major source of information about the customs and practices of
the period. His work is notable for its positive curiosity about the peasant: he is one of the first writers to refer to the Latinity of the Romanian
language as being best preserved among the masses, and to affirm that
the Moldavians linguistic and ethnic purity may even exceed that of the
French or Italians.48 He also defends the peasant against the customary
accusations of idleness, arguing that his reputed sloth is in fact a strategic
response to the indiscriminate exploitation that he suffered.
47Couton, La politique de La Fontaine, 94.
48See nevertheless Peyssonnel, Observations historiques, 195.


chapter one

Still more interesting is the account of the manner in which the peasant maintained an intimate judicial link with the ruler of the land.
They do not fear to cross the entire province to come to the court to present their cases on their own and full of tenacity. They harangue with an
eloquence all the more persuasive for the fact that it bears all the simplicity of natures inspirations, without lacking the resources of art. One could
not present oneself with a more modest countenance....but this studied
embarrassment is soon followed by a tide of words, now pronounced with a
prodigious volubility, now sustained by a pathetic tone, and ever accompanied by an expressive gesturing and an exceedingly interesting physiognomy.
I avow that this tradition of ancient Roman liberty is one of the things I was
least expecting, and which was all the sweeter for me to find four hundred
leagues from Rome and eighteen centuries from Cicero.49

It is not completely impossible that this passage was based on accurate observation of the Moldavian court. We know, for instance that the
Phanariot prince Konstantinos Mavrokordatos, who reigned as Prince in
Moldavia or Wallachia on ten separate occasions between 1730 and 1769
frequently received peasants and judged their cases in a manner which
oftenand possibly deliberatelyinfuriated the native aristocracy,
who claimed it was against customary law.50 However, in all likelihood
dHauterives owes more to the rhetorical mirroring and stereotyping of
the type discussed above. We can be fairly sure that this was not an ancient
tradition: another Frenchmans description of the same process about two
centuries earlier represents the peasants calling out their doleances on
their knees, at a distance of a hundred paces from the prince, surrounded
by guards dressed in Hungarian military uniformhardly the same egalitarian scene as in dHauterives account.51
Moreover, the then prince of Moldavia, Alexandru Ipsilanti, had
been responsible for doing away with this very practice in Wallachia in
1775, an abolition that was codified in 1780 in the famous Pravilniceasca
Condic [Register of Law]. In this code, Ipsilanti made provision for the
appointment of a number of provincial judges [ judectori], who were to
49DHauterive, Mmoire, 803.
50Georgescu & Strihan, Judecata domneasc, I-ii: 8.
51 Pavie, Relation. Iorga makes light of the knee-bending, the hundred paces and the
military retinue, commenting that we could be watching a scene from the Middle Ages:
Louis the Saint judging the Frenchmen of the 13th century under the oak of Vergennes
Istoria romnilor prin calatori, 1:193. It forms an important piece of evidence in his positing
of a medieval Romanian peasant state: see for instance Iorga, A history of Roumania, 131.
He references the paysan du Danube motif on numerous occasions in his work: see e.g.
Romnia n chipuri i vederi, 11.

the traditions of invention


be independent both of the prince and of the centrally-appointed local

administrators [ispravnici]. While this initiative has been praised as representing the first introduction of the separation of the judiciary and executive powers in Romanian lands, it also had the effect of breaking the
personal judicial bond between peasant and prince. Ipsilanti makes this
clear: he motivates the appointment of judectori as necessary in order
to judge the cases of the inhabitants and to determine them according to what is right, that they be not forced to come to me.52 Even if
dHauterives description was accurate, one still has to recognize that he
was firstly, recording a practice which was effectively moribund; and, secondly, evidently embroidering it as timeless and classically-rooted when
earlier witnesses do not support such an image. We are dealing with two
phenomena, both highly characteristic of the elaboration of the myth of
the peasant. One is the tendency of writers to be assigning value to customs and practices only as a result of their own rupture with the communitarian world which produced them, and their consciousness of the
imminent disappearance of the customs. Another is determined by the
motivation and mind-set of the traveller abroad, who is prone to have
recourse to the standard literary images even when seeing with his own
eyes. Andrei Pippidi expressed this well: To explore the unknown is to
go to the limit of ones own mental horizon; [travellers] testify effectively
in this counter-society, to precisely those phenomena which their own
community has been forced to banish.53
It would not, of course, be fair to tar all Western writers about the
Romanian lands with the same brush. Not all of them showed a substantial interest in characterizing the inhabitants as a nation of peasants. For
instance, Jean-Louis Carra, who published a sufficiently lurid account of
Moldavia in 1777 and was hardly one to shy away from coarse jokes at the
natives expense, almost entirely ignores the existence of the peasantry
and mentions them only once.54 For him it was the nobles who were savage, not the peasants who were noble. Other writers actively deplored
the condition of the peasantry, but without attributing their state to any
kind of essential character traits: William Wilkinson, a former British
consul in Bucharest who wrote up his experiences and published them
52Pravilniceasca condic (1780), 76. See also Hitchins, The Romanians 17741866, 31;
Stahl, Traditional Romanian village communities, 10911.
53Pippidi, Hommes et ides, 3. Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe, 2915, points interestingly to a number of Rousseauist interferences in Hauterives general outlook.
54Carra, Histoire. The only allusion to the peasantry is to their thick hessian clothes, 176.


chapter one

in London in 1820, went positively out of his way to insist that government, and not climate or race, lay at the root of the peasants experiences.
Whereas dHauterive had been fascinated by the physiognomy of the
natives, Wilkinson affirmed categorically that they have no peculiar turn
of features which may be called characteristic; from long intercourse with
foreign nations, their blood seems to have become a mixture of many.55
If later Romanian historians have privileged the account of peasants given
by the former writer,56 and ticked off Wilkinson for a crude and unfair
judgement of the peasantry,57 this is scarcely the fault of the authors
themselves; however, the very existence of their accounts served as often
as not to promote and to prolong a particular peasant discourse into the
nineteenth century and beyond, as can be seen from two final examples.
In 1854, during the Crimean War, in other words when the peoples of
eastern Europe had once more been put in the forefront of public attention in the West as the dissolution of European Turkey became a serious political possibility, Jules Michelet began writing a series of lgendes,
examples of heroic figures from different European countries with an
almost fairy-tale quality. He conceived his project as a kind of modern,
popular Book of Instruction, legends in several senses: because they were
on the lips of the people across Europe, and because the people were
making the stories through their actions and through their representatives, the heroic leaders. Michelet also gave such peoples their own legend
in written, literary form and he also encouraged them to treasure other
forms of their folklore.58 He was in contact with numerous Romanians,
exiled from the 1848 revolution and living in Paris or England; the recent
tribulations of the Danubian Principalities were therefore to form the setting and subject of one of his legends, which were eventually published
in 1857 as Lgendes dmocratiques du Nord. Three themes struck him particularly when he was engaged in reading up his subject. One was the figure of Maria Rosetti, wife of the Bucharest liberal journalist and politician
C.A. Rosetti: her allegedly heroic role in the events of 1848 was painted
in suitably saccharine colours, thus fulfilling one of Michelets purposes
in illustrating the moral and patriotic vocations of the modern woman.

55Wilkinson, Accounts, 158.

56Thus a respected legal historian Georges Fotino, takes dHauterives remarks as solid
evidence of the ethnic homogeneity of the Romanians of different provinces. Fotino, Ce
este vechiul drept romnesc?, 11836.
57Iorga, Istoria romnilor prin cltori, 3: ch. 6.
58Rearick, Symbol, legend and history, 90.

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The two other themes were the peasant and the Danube. He asked his
correspondent Rosetti whether he know of any folk-songs, tales or chants
associated with the illustrious river: Seeking the unity of the Danube, its
genius and its soul, I wanted to catch in these divers melodies the plaint
and the sigh of the great captive river.59 Rosetti was obviously nonplussed
by this request, and replied in the negativefor the Danubes value as
a cultural motif in Romanian writing was virtually nil. This did not stop
Michelet depicting it in the rich romantic colours of picturesque, deserted
The harsh softness of the songs of the Serbian shepherd, the ferrymans
monotone rhythm, the refrain of the Romanian and the raia of Bulgaria, all
is confounded in a vast plain, this is your sigh, o river of captivity!...The
tide varies ceaselessly, the deep never varies. Romania, from Trajan to the
present day, stays true to herself, fixed in her primitive genius.60

Moreover, Michelet explicitly uses the sufferings of the inhabitants of the

Danubian region as a reproach to the indifferent West, who has apparently cynically failed to come to their aid: They call you barbarian. It is
they who made you so. There is nothing inhuman in your genius. The
peasants are familiar creatures:
They are an elegant people, of an easy eloquence, who talk marvellously.
There is no difference between the peasant and the man of letters; truly, it is
like Italy, there is no people; however, if one wishes to seek it out, elegance
and distinction are above all to be found in the countryside.
I would venture to say that in no other land can one found to such a
degree, among the inhabitants of the countryside, this noble primitive
strength, this vigour of ancient common sense, and at the same time a
true, penetrating and irreproachable logic, which the modern age believes
belongs to them alone.61

The atmospherics and the ethnological specificity of Michelets evocation

are relatively new elements. However, the evocation of the Danube as a
paradoxical haunt of peasants, simple in their manners and a reproach to
the civilized West, could easily have been derived from the earlier topoi of
the fabular tradition. The effect, therefore, of Guevaras apparently timeless tale, was felt in political writings of singular importance for the fate

59This information from Cadot, Introduction, 10017. See also Jianu, A circle of friends,
60Michelet, Lgendes dmocratiques, 250.
61 Ibid., 250, 252, 269.


chapter one

and identity of the Romanians, over three hundred years after its original
Finally, it was left to Michelets fellow historian, Edgar Quinet, to provide an account of the Romanian people which definitively wedded the
figure of the peasant with the latest developments in language theory.
Quinet had been more or less the first French writer to take an interest
in Herder, translating the latters Ideas towards a philosophy of history of
mankind in 1834: this was to be one of the routes whereby Herderian ideas
on language and culture reached the Romanian Principalities.62 He took
as his second wife the daughter of the Moldavian poet and civil servant
Gheorghe Asachi, and was therefore equally interested in taking up what
had become a fashionable theme in western Europe in the 1850s. His work
Les Roumains, which first appeared in the Revue des deux mondes in 1855
and subsequently in book form, shows an ongoing Herderian concern
with language and with the rural. The work was in fact composed under
somewhat difficult conditions. Not only was Quinet living in political exile
in less than comfortable circumstances in Brussels, but he found it hard to
think his way into Romanian history. His wife taught him elements of the
language and supplied him with materials, but, as he wrote to Michelet,
Ill do what I can to write something on their account, but I have never
seen the places in question. All the materials I have managed to collect
consist merely of endless repetitions: I feel decidedly awkward.63
Although he begins by telling the Romanians that you are no longer
an isolated province, you form part of the city, I would say the Occidental Christian fatherland, his account of the Romanians national revival
focusses on the hidden resources of the rural population: In the midst
of this deep night of their history, they found, as an orientation towards
humanity, nothing but echo of the antique word in the mouth of the
peasants, the mountain peoples, the plainsmen.64 Much of his interest
lay in using Romanian as evidence to posit an early date for the crystallisation of the neo-Latin languages, in order to contribute to a domestic
French polemic about the relative contribution of the Germanic and Latin
peoples to the ethnogenesis of the modern French nation. In the guise of
the paysan du Danube, he was thus able to harangue the metropolitan

62Zub, Cunoatere de sine, 14751.

63Cited in Vals, Edgar Quinet, 230.
64Quinet, Les Roumains, v, 33.

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philologists, notably Raynouard, to some effect. However, Quinets writing

is also noteworthy in that it contains many ideas about the peasant and
his language which will appear in later Romanian writings:
It is under the peasants reedy roof, in listening to his plaint, his doinas, that
[the Romanians] seek to rediscover the true imprint of their ancestral language, not altered or disfigured by the neologisms of the large towns....
Only then [in the Dark Ages] was a Slavic layer superimposed, like a
blight, on the Latin stratum.65

As we shall soon see, these types of concept had not yet fully made their
mark in the writings of the Romanians, even by the 1850s; perhaps it was
inevitably more natural for a Western author to focus on the figure of the
peasant as a symbol of purity and simplicity. However, the superimposed
layer as a blight on the bedrock, and the peasant as the bearer of the
ancestral imprint, would at a later time become firmly entrenched in the
local literary imagination.66
To summarise, Michelets and Quinets writings, although they played
demonstrably on an extremely old theme in European literature, were
important for two main reasons. First, they modernized the image of the
peasant by explicitly developing a theoretical discourse which stressed
the national value of the peasants linguistic resources. Secondly, as they
communicated directly with Romanian writers and intellectuals, they constituted a kind of interface where the native and the external traditions of
thinking and writing about the peasant could merge: they were one of the
most important channels whereby the by-now general European exaltation of the peasants virtues spread to Romania.67

65Ibidem, 52, 56.

66The theorist par excellence of the superimposed layer in Romania was Mihai Eminescu, in his political writings of the 1870s and 1880s. Other writers, however, took up the
idea before then: for instance, Alexandru Odobescu wrote in 1861 of Slavonic influence on
the Romanian language as a superimposed veil which a masters hand could lift discreetly
and carefully, without in the least altering the true character of the national language
(Odobescu, Psaltirea, in Opere, 2:1812).
67More on French travellers and their depiction of the peasant as emblematic for
Romanian identity: Muntean, Imaginea, 20817; On the attitude of German travellers
see Heitmann, Das Rumnenbild, 2328; and my ch. 2 below. One could even extend the
argument to non-European attitudes: the Ottoman Sultan Murad, when offered a Transylvanian military leader in hostage after the Battle of Kosovo in 1448, is said to have
remarked indignantly: What should I want with such an uncouth infidel peasant? See
Iorga, Cronicele turceti, 12.


chapter one
The Domestic Tradition: The Word and Concept ran before 1830

Whatever was thought or written in Classical or western Europe about

the peasant, there are few instances in pre-modern Romanian writings of
a disposition to praise him; to use him as a figure of ironical counterpoint
to correct courtly manners; or to develop any kind of myth of the honest
ploughman. Indeed, as we have seen, the lexicographers of 1825 did not
even assign to the word ran a particular signification of rurality or agrarian activity. One might go further, and assert that whereas in the West the
peasant was fairly clearly conceptualized as a social category at least by
the mid-12th century;68 in the Romanian principalities it is far from clear
even what the term meant before about 1650.
The word is very old in Romanian, and its etymology apparently indisputable. ran derives from ar (= terra, land or country), in much the
same way as paysan derives from pays.69 We have no known usage of
the word before 1591: but most scholars and lexicographers assert that, in
Slavonic documents from mediaeval Wallachia and Moldavia, the word
horan (derived from Greek choriatis, villager or inhabitant of a or
) substituted for, and had an equivalent meaning to, ran.70 But
what horan itself meant as a social class or grouping is often impossible
to tell from documents.
The earliest mention of the term comes in 1470 in a document relating to the confirmation of the use of some mountains for grazing by the
monastery of Tismana. We are first told that neither boyar nor cneaz, nor
siromah [poor man] should be permitted from grazing there without the
princes permission; then this is repeated, with the added injunction that
any horani taking their cattle to the mountain will be punished according to Wallachian law. One scholar interprets this as meaning peasants;
another thinks it refers merely to local people; a dictionary seems to imply

68Bloch, Feudal society, I: 3201.

69As far as I know the only writer to have disputed this claim is the Banat chronicler
Nicolae Stoica de Haeg, Cronica Banatului [c. 1825], 545 who said it derived from Tsar,
the Slavonic form for Ceasar, a presumed Emperor ancestor-figure. Naiile slovene au
zis stabunilor romaneti aru roman, apoi ara rumun...Slovenii aceia numea pre stabunu
rumnesc ar roman, apoi ar rumuneti.
70Iorga, rani; tefnescu, Despre terminologia, 11612. The is the land surrounding or outlying a town, and dependent upon it; a in 11th-century Byzantium
was a village in which the dwellings are concentrated together; as opposed to a , a
more scattered settlement. Ostrogorsky, La commune, 161.

the traditions of invention


that horani might mean cattle-grazers.71 Likewise with the use of the word
on the tombstone of a Wallachian prince, Radu de la Afumai, who died
in 1529 and was remembered to have fought a battle at Poenari, at the
citadel, with horani [u gradu, sa s horani]: some incline towards a peasants revolt, others towards a fight with the locals.72
On the other hand, in Moldavia the word ran occasionally took over
the meaning of the Slavonic zemlean, a word which in Polish had denoted
provincial noblemen, and for which the Latin equivalent was terrigenus.
The precise social role and status of such-named people is still not entirely
clear: A Polish chronicler described them confusingly as nobles who
worked the land.73 However, it is likely that zemleane had an important
administrative role in the principalities in electing the prince, in collecting taxes, and so on; they owed personal service to the prince in return
for property right. Roughly similar privileges appertaining to people called
zemleane or cognate names certainly applied across Slavophone eastern
Europe in the Middle Ages, from Lithuania to Serbia. Historian Valeria
Costchel has argued for an equivalent status for zemlean (in Moldavia)
and horan (in Wallachia), and offers a general definition of zemlean:
owners of land, obliged to perform military service, and to execute various
tasks related to the need to defend the country. The category of zemleane
was not homogeneous: some of them, accumulating a lot of land, became
boyars, others passed from being free peasants, masters of their plots, to the
position of enserfed peasants.74

As if the meanings of these words were not already sufficiently unclear,

there is the additional problem of what happened to such terms when
Romanian started to predominate as the official written language of
state and society from the sixteenth century onwards. Did zemlean and
horan become translated as ran, or were the particular categories to

71 The document is given in Romanian, with translations of some Slavonic key words, in
Documente privind istoria Romniei, 145. Interpretations in Panaitescu, Obtea rneasc,
49; tefnescu, Despre terminologia, 1161; DLR, s.v. Some light is shed by a charter of 1579
in which Radu is said to have done battle with the treacherous sons of Bilu [sinii Biltsov]
who wanted to instal a bandit, namely Dragoslav the pig-herder [edin lotru, na ime Dragoslav purkar] as prince [gospodar]. Mihnea, Charter.
72Panaitescu & tefnescu respectively; the original was recorded by Nicolae Iorga,
Inscripiile, 1489.
73Kromer, Polonia [16th century] cited by Frost, Nobility, 185: This name comes from
the lands and fields which they till and where they have lived so long, which they inherit,
buy or are granted by the prince.
74Costchel, Contribuii, 163.


chapter one

which they referred in such decline as not to warrant being translated?

The question is scarcely answerable in this case, and has not always been
helped by the desire of historians to interpret the documents according
to the particular vision of Romanian society that they were interested in
promoting.75 I shall confine myself to a few observations.
The Slavonic term zemlea, scholars have never doubted, is equivalent
to ar. Put at its simplest, this means land. However, by metaphorical
extension this meant (and not only in the Romanian principalities, but
also in neighbouring Serbia and Lithuania)76 the political nation, the
forces in the land. Thus ar-zemlea carries with it a sense not only of
land, region, country; but also to an extent of those who participate in
the states business. When, as is quite frequent, the term is used to refer
to people and not a place, it is often extremely unclear whether the entire
population of the country, or merely a select group empowered or implicated in decision-making, is to be understood. Nicolae Iorga once asserted
that ar means, without any further addition, free Romanian earth, in its
full extent and with all the sacred right which is comprised in it.77 Modern
historians have arrived at a more nuanced interpretation: that by the mideighteenth-century ar gradually came to be used to designate the mass
of people outside any of the privileged estates (noblility, clergy or urban
corporation). And even then, This opposition is not always expressed in
the same rigid terms: ar could mean both state and people.78
If ar and zemlea were near synonyms, this does not permit us to assert
that the ran was a zemlean. Was he a member of the political Land; or
simply an unprivileged inhabitant? In the usage of the term found in a
census taken by the Moldavian Prince Petru chiopul (Peter the Lame)
in 1591, we might conclude that this refers to dependent labourers. They
are by far the most numerous category in this fiscal document of the

75Indeed, such were the historiographical divergences at the beginning of this century
that one historian wished to claim that the free peasant class in Romania was descended
from an expropriated nobility, while another tried to show the exact reverse, that the
roots of the Romanian nobility were to be found among the communities of free peasants.
Respectively, Rosetti, Pamntul, and Iorga, Dveloppement.
76On the zemiane in Lithuania, see Backus, The problem of feudalism; von Loewe, The
Lithuanian statute, 1989.
77Iorga, nelesul cuvntului ar, 79. Elsewhere, a similar formulation: The name
ara Romneasc [i.e. The Romanian Land, the standard internal name for Wallachia]
once had a meaning which many people have forgotten and some have never understood:
it meant all the land ethnographically inhabited by Romanians. Iorga, Romni i slavi.
Romni i unguri, 910, cited by Papacostea, Postfa, 413.
78Georgescu & Strihan, Judecata domneasc, I-ii, 93.

the traditions of invention


Moldavian counties, and are divided into rani de istov [full rani] and
rani sraci [poor rani]. These have been interpreted as, respectively,
labourers with and without work-animals and tools.79 However, the other
categories of people listed in the census (curtiani, military courtiers; vtai,
bailiffs or headmen; neamii, lesser noblemen; popi, priests) are all known
to have been fiscally privileged at one stage or another: there is, then, no
reason not to assume that this is a list of those with privileges, rather than
of those who have fiscal dues to pay.
There are several examples in Grigore Ureches Chronicle of Moldavia
(Letopiseul rii Moldovei, composed in about 1640) of rani engaging
in military activity.80 Ureche describes the Hungarian army fleeing after
defeat at the hands of Stephen the Great at the battle of Baia in 1467:
Seeing as they were drunk and unprepared for war, Prince Stephen struck
against them with a fully made-up force at dawn, causing much death and
destruction among them. On account of this unpreparedness, they took
sooner to their heels than to their weapons, but had no means of escape, it
being night time, having no idea which way to go, they strayed in all directions, and the rani hunted them in the mountain coppices, where about
12,000 lay dead.81

The lascivious behaviour of another prince, Iancu, causes the boyars to

chase him of the country: he determined to pass into Hungary through
Poland, for across the mountains, it was not possible to cross, as he feared
the rani.82 This is as likely to refer to warriors as to villagers, since there
would have been villagers on whichever route he took out of Moldavia.
Indeed, a retreating Polish army in 1564,
could not find a clear route out of the country, since they feared a ruse on
the road they had come by, that [Moldavian Prince] Tomas men might
come out in front of them...they were afraid to pass by the Cosmin forest,

79Livad, Feele srciei, 51; tefnescu, Despre terminologia, 11579. The document
is published in Hurmuzaki, Documente 11: 21920; and by Turcu, Cele mai vechi statistici.
See also the debate between Cihodaru and Panaitescu, 1609.
80Panaitescu, Obtea rneasc, loc. cit.
81 Ureche, Letopiseul, 93. In a later version of the same episode, Nicolae Costin (writing c. 1710) described these rani as being, on the order of Voevod Stephen, ready on
the paths with arms, scythes, axes and flintlocks. Cf. Chiimia, Probleme de baz, 24953,
who argues that since there is more, and not less detail in the later chronicle, both writers must have been using a common (Slavonic) chronicle, now lost. The earlier extant
Bistria chronicle which describes the battle (see Bodgan, Cronice, 38) does not mention
the rani. Gona, Strategia lui tefan cel Mare, 1140, believes this story is part of local oral
tradition, and that it is extremely likely that these were peasants pillaging for booty.
82Ureche, Letopiseul, 213.


chapter one
lest the rani might cut the forest down on their heads, and suffer worse
than John Albrecht...although they returned home, in many places the
rani bore down on them with flails and scythes.83

At one point in Ureches chronicle, the ara is equated with the military
force.84 At another, rani are distinguished from oteni [soldiers]: when
the Polish king John Albrecht is chased out of Moldavia by Stephen the
Greats army, much of the Polish army was killed: some by the oteni
[soldiers], some by rani.85
From these examples, we can conclude that the people in question are
obviously cultivators (judging by their use of agricultural implements as
weapons), who did not form part of the regular army. They may or may
not have been zemleani, i.e. men holding privileges in return for military
obligations: this is not clear. However, in terms of the mental images and
ethical models evoked, Ureche insisted mainly on their military function
as defenders of the country, and hardly at all on a picture of peaceful
ploughmen working the land.
Later on, in the 1670s, the Moldavian historian Miron Costin (16331691)
describes the difference in status between a curteana servant of the
prince with military obligations and fiscal privilegesand a ran. And
so, when a curtean goes to law with a ran, the curtean should have the
greater honour in both the princes word and in his consideration.86 One
of the clearest documents indicating the status of the ran refers to the
four sons of Petru inter, living in Moldavia: on 12 June 1664, they declared
to the princely court that they had not the privilege of curtenie or of any
other group and fell into rnie.87 Finally, in the early eighteenth century there is an instance of ran being used to refer generally to people
who enjoy no exemption from fiscal dues. In a printed booklet of 1714
setting out the obligations and duties of the priesthood in Wallachia, the
metropolitan bishop Anthimos reinforces a recent princely edict declaring the clergy to be exempt from paying dues to the state; but should
priests fail to observe the observations contained in the book, or lose the
book, they shall be numbered amongst the rani.88
83Ibid., 188.
84Ibid., 111: Aa ara strngindu-s, iar din cetate ct putiia s apra [The ara, thus
assembled, then defended what it could of the fortress].
85mult oaste leasc au peritu, unii de otenii, alii de rani, ibid., 113.
86i aea, cnd s prte un curtean c-un ran, mai de cinste s fie curteanul i la
cuvnt i la cuttura domnului Costin, Opere, 89.
87Grigora, Instituii feudale, 186.
88Antim, Capete de porunc [1714] preface repr. in BRV, I:493.

the traditions of invention


The above instances thus seem to indicate that the rans definition
in the pre-modern Romanian lands depended as much on fiscal considerations as on questions of lifestyle, occupation, place of residence or other
cultural characteristic.
Nevertheless, the use of the word ran to mean a low-born, base person was becoming more frequent from the middle of the 17th century
onwards. A law book of 1652 lays down the precept that God has created
only man, and nobody has subsequently laid down that one should be a
simple ran, and another of good family.89 But this precept was clearly
not observed: as seen in the paragraph above, Miron Costin dismissed
claims of the ran to be judged on an equal footing with the curtean. Elsewhere he equated the ran with prostime, simple base folk: recounting a
turbulent revolt of the 1630s against the machinations of the Moldavian
court, he depicts a peasant smashing the Vornic Vasile Lupu (later prince)
over the head with a bone. Subsequently an unpopular Greek courtier is
seized and given over to the rani. Unspeakable hatefulness of the base
folk! bemoans the chronicler.90
A more unequivocal use of the word ran to mean a base creature is
to be found in a fragment of a version in Romanian of the life of Aesop,
from 1705. This tells of Xanthus wishing to show to Aesop a model of an
incurious man: he goes out to the market place and finds a ran prost,
who is bad-mannered, unwashed, coarse of speech and dressed in haine
rneti [the clothes of a ran] Xanthus tests the rans lack of curiosity by announcing his intention to make a big fire in his courtyard in order
to burn his pastry-maker for making bad cakes (too thin, according to the
ran, he should have made them thicker). The ran goes off to get his
wife, and put her on too, cause thats only fit. On the popular level, then,
the term certainly had a clear enough, and impolite enough, meaning.91
The term was thus being widely used, both in the legal sense of those
without fiscal privileges, and in a more ideological direction as a term of
abuse for the violent or ignorant lower classes. However, the word ran
did not denote particularly a worker of the land. We have the Moldavian
law-book of 1646, Cartea romneasc de nvtur, as evidence for this.
89Dumnezeu au fcut numai pe om, iar altul al doile n-au fcut s fie unul prost
ran, iar altul de buna rud; Indreptarea legii [1652], cited by Barbu, Concepia asupra
blagorodiei, 148.
90i aea l-au apucat i l-au dat pre mna ranilor. Nespus vrjmiia a prostimii! i
aea, fr de nice o mil, de viu, cu topoar l-au fcut frme. Costin, Letopiseul, ch. 12,
zac. 21.
91 Anon, Omul necurios [1705], 352. (DLR: rnesc).


chapter one

In it are named all the workers of the land, namely: ploughmen, workers
of the vine, servants and shepherds.92
However, the writers of the lite who compiled law codes, chronicles
and translations of belles-lettres in the eighteenth-century showed a certain unease with the word. There are numerous instances of this. Nicolae
Costin (Miron Costins son, c. 16601712), who translated The Dial of Princes
into Romanian in about 1712, translated villanus alternately as ran and
as lcuitoriu oarecare [a certain inhabitant]. A quotation from Ciceros
oration which in the original reads vitamque hanc rusticam...et honestissimam et suavissimam esse arbitrantur is rendered as Viaa rniasc
nvtoare sau dascal iaste motiniei nevoinei i direptii [the rustic
life is the guide or tutor of the estate of simplicity and righteousness].
This could well constitute the first instance of such a sentiment being
expressed in Romanian: it is symptomatic, however, that it represented a
translation of a Western work.93
Such a notion was hardly a widespread article of faith. Nicolae Costins
contemporary, Dimitrie Cantemir (16731723, prince of Moldavia 170910,
1711), believes that Rusticus pure Moldavus nullus est. He imagined a land
of aristocrats of purely Roman blood, ruling over an ethnically impure
people. All the power was in the princes hand: however, if he wishes
to bestow the title of Grand Logothete, which is the supreme rank that
Moldavia has in its gift, to some rustic [quem rusticanum], nobody will
dare to contradict him in public.94 Elsewhere, he perpetuated the idea
that the local population was lazy and ill-disposed to engage in trade or
agriculture. However, his conception of Moldavian society was also innovative in that he was one of the first writers to divide the population into
cives and rustici.95
Texts dealing with agrarian reform in the eighteenth century reveal a
subtle and complex mixture of terms in use for denoting the rural and
agrarian population. Konstantinos Mavrokordatos, many times ruler of

92Toi lucrtorii pmntului, anume: pentru plugari, pentru lucrtorii viiilor, pentru
nmii [i.e. servitori, slugi] i pentru pstori; Carte romneasc de nvtur [1646], 54.
93Guevara, Ceasornicul domnilor; most recently published in Costin, Scrieri, vol.2.
ran is used twice, 137 & 155; lcuitoriu twice, 136, 137; rniasc, 137; cf. Cicero,
Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, ch. 17. Costins translation was of the Latin version by Johann
Wanckel (Torgau, 1601): see Cartojan, Ceasornicul domnilor.
94Cantemir, Descriptio Moldaviae [c. 1717], 298; 126.
95Ibid., 298304. His proclamation of 4 June 1711 calling the Moldavians to join arms
with Peter the Great against the Turks is likewise exceptional in addressing itself to the
entire population: Pippidi, Hommes et ides, 207; cf. Subtelny, The contractual principle.

the traditions of invention


Moldavia and Wallachia between 1730 and 1769, is remembered for having abolished serfdom in both principalities. Serfs went under the name
of rumni in Wallachia, and vecini in Moldavia.96 In order to ensure the
maintenance of a steady taxable population in Wallachia, Mavrokordatos
in 1746 declared that all sons of the fatherland who had fled their home
villages would be allowed to return and to be free of rumnie; moreover,
that the tribute that weighs upon the rani shall not apply to any returnees for a period of six months.97 Mavrokordatos executed a similar reform
in Moldavia, and this time was quite explicit in wanting to abolish not
only the condition of serfdom, but also the word. He stated clearly that
the former vecini should now be known as free neighbouring villagers
[steni megiei] without landholdings; and that wherever land is sold, the
men are not sold with it, but they should remain in the village as villagers
of the village.98 The most common juridical terms henceforth for people
engaged in agriculture, but without their own land and usually owing dues
to the masters of the land, were clcai [somebody owing clac or labour
dues], lcuitori [residents], stenii [villagers], plugari [ploughmen].
Thus in the legal canons elaborated in Wallachia by Alexandru Ipsilanti
and his legal adviser Michael Photeinos in the 1770s and 1780s, the standard term was plugar. The basis of the agrarian section of these laws was
a Byzantine text known as the Nomos georgikos (written in the late 7th
early 8th century), which was translated as Pravile pentru plugari, and had
already been used in the Moldavian law-book of 1646, Cartea romneasc
de nvtur [The Romanian Book of Teaching].99 Nevertheless, the term
ran slips in occasionally, nearly always when it is a question of exclusion, sanction or limitation. For instance, it was a punishable offence to
house rani who fled from the estates where they were settled.100 Likewise, ranii cei proti who engage in selling or borrowing were only
supposed to do so under the witness of the parish priest, constable or
96For these terms see tefnescu, Consideraiuni; Gona, Satul, 2959.
97This was unfortunately mistranslated as six years by E.D. Tappe (Mavrokordatos,
Decrees, 1302). It is given correctly in Documente privind relaiile agrare, 2:4534.

98Documente privind relaiile agrare, 2:2879.

99Georgescu & Popescu, Legislaia agrar, 679. For a critical edition of the Nomos
georgikos, see Ashburner, The Farmers Law.
100Pravila pentru plugari, zac. 18: Cnd va fugi ranul de la locul i de la stpnu-su,
nime neciuri s nu-l primeasc, iar de-l va i priimi, deodat, de srg s-l ntoarc napoi
la satul lui de unde iaste.. This paragraph seems to have been inserted into the Nomos
georgikos sometime in the 14th century: the text reproduces an edict of the prefect Zoticus
(512 ad), in turn inspired by previous constitutions. Georgescu & Popescu eds. Legislaia
agrar, 79 n.91.


chapter one

village elders.101 And in Ipsilantis edict of 1775 for the development of

education in Wallachia, the occasion of the mention is again a negative
one, his exclusion from access to any form of schooling. But, as we might
expect from a rationalist legislator, a reason is given: it is given to them
to work the land and to raise livestock.102 The ran, however, is specifically named: and even in the Greek in which this law was redacted, he
is not only but also .103 A pattern is apparent which will
become important later. The ran is i) classified directly as a worker on
the land; ii) his importance to the common good is stressed, and indeed
considered praiseworthy; iii) he is excluded from reaping the benefits.
The exclusion of rani from schooling was almost certainly motivated by
the earlier decree of Mavrokordatos in 1746 which made attendance at the
Academies of Bucharest or Iai an obligatory condition of access to public
office. The boyars thus increasingly felt the need to protect themselves as
a class from incursions from below.104 A marginally more generous attitude towards the peasants can be detected in a Schools Instruction from
Habsburg-administered Bucovina in 1797: there, peasants were permitted
to attend, but the purpose of schooling is not so that educated peasant
children can rise up to the great higher schools by themselves but merely
to teach them the elementary reading, writing, and arithmetical skills.105
An alternative tradition, however, was gradually making itself felt. In
an introduction to a series of Lives of the Saints written in 1807, Veniamin Costachi, the Orthodox metropolitan of Moldavia, showed an interest
in propagating faith and knowledge to all classes of society: Books, he
opined, ought to benefit not only the great, but also the small; not only
the citizens, but also the rani; not only the wise, but also the simple
and foolish. He is remembered for the establishment of a seminary at
Socola, outside Iai, where, in contrast to the educational policy of Ipsilanti and other, natives and foreigners, the poor and the rich alike were
101 Pravilniceasca Condic, ch. 24, zac. 3, 112: iar datul i luatul ce s ntmpl ntre
ranii cei proti [ ], s se fac supt mrturie preotului enorii i a
prclabului sau celor mai btrni ai satului.
102Ipsilanti, Hrisovul pentru coli [1775], in Hurmuzaki, Documente 14ii, 1273. The
term seems even to have entered the Russian language in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia: cf. the title of a scholarly article on labour rents in eighteenthcentury Moldavia: Dragnev, Evoliutsiia otrabotochnoi renty v tsaranskoi [sic!] derevne.
103Other instance of the use of the term in Greek texts of the period are cited
by Papacostea & Constantiniu, Les premires reformes, 101, 102.
104See Pippidi, Laccueil de la philosophie franaise, 2256.
105Instruction pentru Privighetorie ce-i de loc a coalelor de prin trgurile cele mari i
cele mici i de prin sate, 17 June 1797, cited by Ceauu, coal i educaie, 2326.

the traditions of invention


e ncouraged to enrol.106 A further index of the changing ideology of the

times, was the opinion of the Greek-Romanian historian Daniil Philippide,
who expressed in 1816, possibly for the first time in Romania, the sentiment that the peasantry are the most precious part of the population,
the foundation of the entire people, the fathers and feeders of the towns.107
That it was not a universally-shared belief, however, can be seen from
a statement of 1821 by one of the members of the Philike Etairia, which
voiced the contrary opinion that it was the boyars that were the mainstay
of the country.108
Meanwhile, in Transylvania as we have seen, the word ran had no
particular connotation of rurality, nor of any attempt to valorize such
a rurality. Peasants were indicated by two main terms borrowed from
the Hungarian, iobag [dependent] and jeler [Hun. zsler, cottager].109 The
dictionary definition cited earlier, where ran was associated with the
German Brger or Landsmann, reflected local usage. Thus the historian
and philologist Gheorghe incai could write in his Hronicul Romnilor
(18051812) that the invasion of Romania by the Cumans in 900 ad was
terrifying not only to the foreigners but also to the rani.110 A proposed Romanian journal of 1789 is called Ziarul romnesc pentru rani,
which the German censors translated as Wallachische Zeitung fr den
Landesmann.111 The sense of a compatriot is again to the fore; the sense
of an honest, humble agrarian, illiterate but virtuous, that we will meet
at the end of the nineteenth century, is not part of the intrinsic meaning of the word. On the one hand, an agrarian identity was extremely
natural for the Transylvanian school of writers, most of them coming as
they did from rural backgrounds.112 On the other hand, the authors of the
106Cited by Isar, Trsturi iluministe, 44950.
107Geografikon ts Rumanias (Leipzig 1816), cited by Georgescu, Political ideas, 100. This
in itself may owe something to an earlier work in Greek, the Elliniki Nomarkhia, which
stated that: the peasants toil non-stop and suffer tribulations beyond description, they
never have anything to spare of the fruits of their sweat, so that they may rest for as much
as one day...the peasants, the most respected class of a state, the most stable support of
civil happiness, live worse than their own animals. Anon, Elliniki Nomarkhia; cf. Clogg,
Aspects, 24.
108Brad-Chisacof, Language.
109For these terms and their evolving meaning see Constantiniu, Termeni sociali,
110 DLR: ran.
111 See Tomescu, Istoria crii, 108.
112 See for instance the list of vocabulary entitled De necessariis in domo in incai and
Micus grammar: the list includes besides an inkpot and pen, a hoe and a sickle. incai &
Micu, Elementa linguae [1780, 1805], 2023.


chapter one

petition to Leopold II in 1791 (Supplex Libellus Valachorum) explicitly laid

claim to an aristocratic heritage, and denied that they were merely a race
of peasants.113 incai, besides his grammatical and historical works, was
also the author of a brochure entitled Natural teaching for the eradication of popular superstition [nvtur fireasc spre surparea superstiiei
norodului, 1803]: to him it was clear that the peasants folk beliefs were a
serious obstacle to national development.114
Romanians into Peasants. The Crystallization of the Image, 18211883115
It is roughly with the uprising of Tudor Vladimirescu in Wallachia in 1821
that one can see a discourse developing that tries to define the nation
according to different criteria from the traditional lites point of view,
and to put forward a definition of the nation (norod) that at least included
the peasantry, although it did not base itself upon it. In a letter of Tudors
to Nicolae Vcrescu, he writes that
Evidently you consider the people, which whose blood the whole noble class
has fed itself and refined itself, to be merely nothing, and you only include
the thieving nobles in the fatherland...But why do you not realise that the
people is the fatherland and not the clique of thieves? And I ask you to tell
me what I have done to oppose the people. For I am no other than a man
taken from amongst the people of the country who have been embittered
and down trodden on account of the thieves.116

A lot of the ascriptive speech figures that would later be used to describe
and locate the Romanian peasant, begin to appear. The phantasmagorical unreality of the upper orders on the one had, and the sweat and
blood of the lower on the other: according to Tudor, the boyars are piling
up ill-intentioned fabrications on top of us while they feed and refine

113Prodan, Supplex libellus Valachorum, 493510.

114Bodea, Preocupri economice i culturale, 935. Similar publicity aimed at stamping out allegedly unhealthy popular traditions appeared rather later in Moldavia: e.g. the
article Despre obiceiul [1840], 1720.
115For this period there exist already the insightful (if at times impressionistic) studies
of Durandin, Une tape, eadem, Le bon sujet; cf. Karnoouh, Linvention. More detailed
analyses, focusing on the concept of the people, by Roman, Le populisme; and Cornea,
Cuvntul popor.
116Vladimirescu, letter to Nicolae Vcrescu [11 Feb 1821], in Bodea, ed. 1848 la romni,

the traditions of invention


themselves on the blood of the people.117 A pamphlet of the time, Cuvntul unui ran ctr boierione of the earliest instances of the rhetorical
appropriation of the voice of the peasant in Romanian writinglikewise
describes the boyars as sleeping on in the bosom of idleness and languour while they ride on our backs and feed on our sweat.118 And in 1826,
Dinicu Golescu would allude to a lot of these speculators, masters of all
around them, wringing all the sweat out of the people.119
We could say that a social critique that derives its power from a claim
to represent (both in the political and aesthetic sense) the lower classes
has come into being. There is also, in Cuvntul unui ran ctr boieri, a
particular sense of a golden age, when boyars lived simply and peasants
were happy:
Our ancestors used to tell usand clearly it was like that in the golden
timesthat, whenever a want came upon them, it weighed on them only
until they showed their case to the boyars, and at once they found relief and
comfort; so the peasant wished for nothing else but for the boyars to hold
power, and the boyars did not reckon much of wisdom or power or honour
except to serve the good of the country...
How simply they lived, with what judgement, with what care; with only
a few servants, they walked in the streets amongst the people and were
pointed out and known, not from the ornaments on their clothes, but by
the brilliance of their worthy deeds!120

However, this kind of talk was not part of the mainstream public discourse, nor could it be said that such social critiques were blessed by the
The actual word ran appears rarely in these diatribes; both Golescu
and Vladimirescu prefer the terms norod or patrie or obte. Indeed, one
critic has plausibly argued that the Cuvnt was a later fabrication, dating
from the 1840s, for the very reason that the word ran was not in common use in the 1820s; rather, it was an attempt by liberal writers to invent

117 Ibid. The imagery may or may not appeal to local vampiric traditions, but is in any
case not Tudors invention. Nearly twenty years earlier, the Russian consul in Constantinople, Vasilii Tamara, wrote to the Prince of Wallachia Alexandros Soutzos, criticizing the
gang of bloodsuckers that the princes bring in their wake to Moldavia and Wallachia;
Letter of 16/28 August 1802 quoted by Vianu, Iluministul rus V. F. Malinowski, 176. See
also Chapter 4 below.
118 Cuvntul unui ran ctre boieri, in Acte i legiuiri, 7615.
119 Golescu, nsemnare [1826], in idem, Scrieri, 201.
120Cuvntul, loc. cit.


chapter one

a tradition for themselves.121 Even when agricultural activities are being

alluded to, there is no need to evoke the ran: ploughing was quite capable of being undertaken by noroade, as for instance in the enlightened
boyar Vasile Pogors poem Dialogue between nature and Moldavia:
Moldova, de ce ai lips, n ce simati greutate?
Au pe cmpii ti n-ai road, sau puni mblugate?
N-ai isvoar s ti-adpi? N-ai nroade s te are?
n snul tu nu s nati argintul, aur i sare?
(Moldavia, what do you lack, what hardships do you feel? In your plains have
you no crops, or luxuriant pastures?/ Have you no springs to water you?/
No peoples to plough you?/ Does not your breast bear forth silver, gold and

Similarly, literary and economic publications of the 1820s and 1830s were
as likely to refer to the plugar or the stean as to the ran. Most of these
writers recommended the benefits of civilization and commercial development, as solutions to the plight of their people. If they promoted agriculture, it was as the foundation of wealth and happiness in a nation,
for we see all the civilized people practising it, wise and great men write
about it and dedicate their whole lives to writing and teaching it in practise and in theory.123 Ploughing was a modern, industrial activity, a sign
of modernity rather than traditionalism. One writer equated the plough
quite directly with civilization, breaking with the past and cutting off the
roots of tradition.124 Those who praised the continuous, submissive aspect
of agriculture, on the other hand, were likely to be reactionaries like Mihai
Sturdza, who spoke in 1823 of une soumission paternelle, la soumission
que le peuple entier conserve aussi, en conduisant leur charrue et labourant la terre.125
Moving into the 1830s one can see the image of the peasant subjected
to a kind of conscious literary rusticity. The Moldavian poet and civil
121 Mnuc, Argumente, 52; idem, Cuvntul. The pamphlet was traditionally attributed
to the Moldavian Jacobin writer Ionic Tutu (17951830) and dated to the 1820s. Iorga,
perhaps wishing to give it an even older pedigree, attributed it to the monk Vartolomeu
Mzreanu (c. 1720c. 1790). Ist. lit. rom. n sec. 18 [1901 edn.], I:5436.
122Pogor, Dialog ntre fire i Moldova [1821] in Vrtosu, O satir n versuri din Moldova
anului 1821, 523.
123Plan pentru un azmnt de agricultur spre mbuntirea rinilor [1830], apud
C. Bodea, 1848 la romni, 1:82.
124Plugul, adeca civilizaia, strpete zi pe zi rdcinile i preface codrul n curtur.
Russo, Studie moldovan [1851], in Scrieri, 13.
125M. Sturdza, Arz mahar address la Sublime Porte par les boyards refugis en
Bucovine [1823], repr. by Xenopol, Un proiect de constituie, 168.

the traditions of invention


servant Asachis idyllic representations, influenced by both classical and

modern European pastoral, often show the pstor or the plie living a
happy, simple life:
Pe la munte-i avuie,
C umbrosul verde plai
E lca de bucurie,
De plcut i dulce trai.
Acolo rsun stnca
De un cntec armonios,
Gioac-n hor cu romnca
Pstorelul cel voios.
(There is plenty in the mountains,/ For the green and shady uplands/ are a
haven of joy/ Of a sweet and pleasant life./ There the rock resounds/ To a harmonious song,/ And the lively shepherd/ with a Romanian girl dances in the

Nonetheless, Asachi was certainly aware of the unofficial, eschatological

imagery. Thus, in his adaptation of Grays Elegy in a Country Churchyard,
one particular strophe stands out from the rest:
O voi care n-avei stim pentru omul umelit,
Nobili plini de fantezie, mndri-n titlu ruginit,
De ce-n ur-avei steanul, cnd a fruntei lui sudoare
A produs mrirea voastr -avuilor odoare?
(O, you who cannot respect the humble man,/ You fantasizing nobles, proud of
your rusting titles,/ Why hold you the villager in hatred, when the sweat of his
brow/ Has given rise to your greatness and the ornaments of your wealth?)127

When this poem was recited by a pupil at the summer examination of

the Academy in Iai in 1838, these lines caused both the prince Sturdza
and the metropolitan Costachi to walk out of the room. The poet Asachi
and the schools inspector Gheorghe Seulescu were subsequently severely
upbraided for having attacked the honour of church and state. These lines
have been remarked upon frequently by critics, and much comparative
analysis and conjecturing has tried to establish which source Asachi used
for his translation of this poem.128 But these lines, which repeat the existing tropes of sweating villager and dreaming nobleman, surely have their

126Asachi, Cntecul unei pstorie romne de la munte [1854], in Opere 1:124.

127Idem, Elegie scris pe intermul unui sat [1836], in Opere 1:52.
128Grimm, Traduceri i imitaiuni, 2923; Cornea, Originile romantismului romnesc,
3336; Sorescu, Gh. Asachi.


chapter one

roots in the existing Romanian tradition. They are certainly not explicitly
in Grays original, nor in any of the French or Russian versions of Grays
poem that have been proposed as a source.
In Wallachia, too, the burgeoning of literature enabled a more elaborate representation of a world of rustic harmony, and the enactment of
the idea that a rural community can stand in as a metaphor for the political community. This moral message comes across with clarity in a festive
sketch written by Ion Heliade Rdulescu on the occasion of the birthday
of Alexandru D. Ghica, prince of Wallachia in 1837. The scene is set in a
village where Ghica had once served as ispravnic or district prefect: on
the return of two of the villagers from a visit to Bucharest, all learn that
their former local prefect is the present prince: Didnt we know him
eh? what do you say, is it twenty years ago now? Hes changed his dress,
his gait, but his natures just the same. The returning villagers also bring
history books telling of the Roman origins of the Romanians; everybody
rejoices: the dance begins. This sketch shows how literary works served
the need to project on an imaginary level the personal, communitarian
link between the head of state and the world of the village. It is also an
early example of a writer successfully representing popular speech in a
literary work. The dramatis personae, however, is revealing: the speaking
parts are taken by people described as jurai [men capable of swearing
oaths], and steni [villagers], whereas rani are denoted as an anonymous supporting crowd, without a speaking role.129
A final key development of the 1830s, which was to have a long career
in Romania, was the elaboration of the idea that one or other of the Principalities was a predominantly agrarian country. As we have seen, this
had been a typical assumption of foreign writers and observers, for hundreds of years. However, it was only when an intellectual discourse began
to be considered as a possible aid and solution to the Romanians problems, that objectivized statements of this nature became commonplace in
local writings. One of the key works stating this proposition was the economic treatise Aperu sur ltat industriel de la Moldavie, published in 1838
by Prince Neculai Suu (17981871), at the time Grand Postelnic (a senior
court function, equivalent to the later Minister of the Interior). Moldavia is an essentially agrarian country: its only wealth is drawn from the
production of agriculture he began unequivocally. In fact his work was

129Heliade Rdulescu, Srbtoare cmpeneasc pentru 30 August 1837, in idem, Opere,


the traditions of invention


designed to show that this state of affairs was not inevitable for Moldavia;
that economic wealth depended on producing exchangeable goods, and
not only primary materials in which there was no intrinsic advantage.
Agriculture exercises no superiority in the creation of riches.130 But he
was not always taken at his word. Whether or not the Romanian lands
should remain predominantly agrarian would become the principal
bone of contention amongst Romanian economists for the next hundred
years and even beyond. Henceforth, however, almost no writers denied
that Romania was somehow profoundly agrarian in its nature.131 And this
despite the fact that only since the opening of Wallachia and Moldavia to
the international grain market in 1829, following the Treaty of Adrianople,
had cereal production been the predominant economic concern of the
However, even in the 1840s the peasant could hardly be said to be a
major object of representation in literary works. The Moldavian writers
associated with the review Dacia litterar [1840] and with developing the
theatre in Iai were concerned with social class, and saw literature as an
ideal way to distinguish and evaluate different groupings.133 Many of them
sought to promote a model of the past and of traditional, archaic manners
and ways of life: but the figure of the peasant did not attract any special
attention. In works such as Negruzzis Fiziologia Provinialului [The Provincial Type, 1840] or Koglniceanus Fiziologia provincialului [The Provincial Type in Iai, 1844], the bearer of traditional values was frequently a
rural boyar, dressed in the old-fashioned bearskin coat in opposition to the
frivolous youth in their top-hats and tails; smoking a Turkish pipe rather
than French cigarettes; still going about town in a carriage guarded by an
Albanian retainer.134 This figure continues to appear as a moral counterweight to the corrupt urban bureaucracy in later fiction: Nicolae Filimons
novel Ciocoii vechi i noi [Upstarts Old and New, 1864] contains a typical
130Soutzo, Aperu, 1, 12.
131 Paiusan, Strat vs. Xenopol. Other instances of the privileging of agriculture include
Ionescu de la Brad, Povuitorul sntii [1844], 29: our only source of sufficiency and
wealth; Blcescu, Question conomique, in idem, Opere, 2:42 (les pays comme les ntres,
o le seule industrie existante est lagriculture); Catargiu [1857], 156 (lagriculture, notre
seul richesse naturelle); Moruzi, Lamlioration des monopoles [1860], 110 (la Moldavie,
pays essentiellement agricole).
132See Platon, Geneza revoluiei, 142212.
133For instance, Russo, Critica criticii [1840], in idem, Scrieri, 310.
134Negruzzi, Fiziologia provinialului [1840], in Opere, 1:2435; Koglniceanu, Fiziologia provincialului din Iai [1844], in Opere, 1:6774; cf. also Russo, Studie moldovan
[1851] in idem, Scrieri, 1024.


chapter one

example in the person of banul C...., a Romanian by nationality, whom

the daughter of a Phanariot official falls in love with but is forbidden from
marrying by her ambitious father.135 Koglniceanus sketch, Fiziologia provincialului in Iai [The Physiology of the Provincial in Iai, 1844] describes
a lesser class of provincial than that portrayed in Negruzzis earlier work
of the same name, but, perhaps characteristically, the author writes:
The peasants, in other words, the workers on the land, likewise cannot serve
me for my type: their life is so terrible in comparison to our own, their character is so natural, my sympathy for them is so great and right, that even the
slightest joke that I could make against such a class of people, upon whom
all burdens lie, apart from the beneficial ones, and who provide us, the lazy
and idle townsfolk, with food, would be imputed to me as an injustice.136

Although the extended expression of sympathy was a new sign of a more

humanitarian outlook, the exclusion from representation harked back to
the older discourse of the eighteenth century.
Nevertheless, in the period immediately before and during 1848, the
image of the peasant is developed in two extremely significant directions.
One we owe to the collectors of folklore and compilers of peasant songs,
poems, and customs; another derived from the more concrete political
developments of the revolution itself, and the arrival on the political
agenda of the idea of the peasants emancipation as a real possibility. One
could say that we are dealing with the peasants political representation
and territorialization on the one hand, and with their literary representation and territorialization on the other.
Nicolae Blcescu (18191852), famous like many of the 1848 generation both as a writer and as a politician, speaks of the need for sources
for a new, authenticating history. The first historians were poets, a collection is needed, then, of poems and stories which are to be found in
the mouth of the people.137 Just as in literature, appeal is made to the
mouth of the people, so on the Field of Liberty, according to the liberal
journalist and politician C.A. Rosetti, every word that came out of the
mouth of the orators entered down directly into the heart of the Romanian villager.138 Meanwhile, the village deputies who come to the commission for property set up by the provisional government in Bucharest
135Filimon, Ciocoii vechi i noi [1864], ch. 2: Postelnicul Andronache Tuzluc.
136Koglniceanu, Fiziologia provincialului din Iai [1844], in Opere 1:70.
137Blcescu, Cuvnt preliminariu despre izvoarele istoriei romnilor [1845], in Opere,
1:95, 96.
138Rosetti, Despre stenii, [1848], in idem, C.A. Rosettignditorul, 102.

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to debate the emancipation of serfdom in August 1848 call out together in

a united voice, or so we are told. Authenticity, direct vocal link between
the peasants and the master, and unity of opinion are the hallmarks of
the discourse.
It is at this stage that the previously threatening image of the agricultural
labourer, sweating, bleeding, and put upon by his masters, enters both the
official archives of the state as well as the annals of literature. Thus again
Blcescu in 1848: Those who possess land, he argues, will defend better
their birthplace, are more deeply penetrated with the national sentiment,
and opposed themselves better against foreign invasions.139 Moreover, in
order to achieve the fixation of a positive image of the Romanian peasant, it was necessary to delimit him from the figure of the barbarian, with
whom the Romanians had for so long been associated by foreign writers.
Blcescu makes this distinction subtly at the beginning of his brochure
of 1850, Question conomique des Principauts Danubiennes. Speaking of
the residue of Roman inhabitants of Dacia following the withdrawal by
Aurelian in 274 ad, he wrote:
The disdainful attitude of the barbarian peoples towards agriculture was
well known. They did not even touch the plough, reports Ammianus Marcellinus: Nemo apud eos arat nec stivam aliquando contigit. This disdain for
the land saved the Romans, who remained masters of it. They conserved the
practices and customs of their ancestors, and equality for them was a sacred
law and the consequence of all the peoples hatred of the name Roman.140

Thus the Romanian could continue to be allied with his ancestors the
Romans, through the invocation of the cult of agriculture; and simultaneously the peasant could be rescued from the possible indignity of confusion with the barbarian.
At the same time, however, as the peasant and the land become sacralized images of the nation, they also become subject to the laws of circulation and exchange: as one Conservative deputy in the Wallachian
assembly put it, the peasant is the boyars capital.141 Blcescu was thinking along similar lines: The soil, a fixed capital, becomes a circulating
capital, like any currency, without losing its quality, only slightly less

139Blcescu, Discurs despre mproprietrirea ranului [1848], in idem, Opere, 2:23.

140Blcescu, Question conomique des Principauts Danubiennes [1850] in idem, Opere,
2:44. A similar sentiment in B.P. Hasdeus historical drama Rzvan i Vidra [1867], in idem,
Scrieri, 1:271.
141 A.G. Golesco, De labolition du servage, 46.


chapter one

mobile.142 But the peasants themselves explicitly attempted to resist this

commercialization of landlord-peasant relations; at the Property Commission set up in August 1848, which actually had to decide on the problem,
the villagers do not cry out with a single voice but merely manifest their
Furthermore, the more frequent the outward expression of unity
between peasant and boyar, and the more legitimate the peasants voice
becomes, the more distant the relation between peasant speech and the
language of the cultured. Thus the poet and playwright Vasile Alecsandri,
in his essay of 1844, O primblare pe munte [A stroll in the mountains,
1844], is for the first time placing the Moldavian vernacular accent in
inverted commas, drawing attention to the different style of speech used
by the writer and by the character. In his famous Poezii populare ale romnilor [Folk Poems of the Romanians, 1852, 1866], we sometimes come
across the same images that appeared terrifying when used by Tudor
Vladimirescu, circumscribed by annotation and by assurance that they are
part of the natural treasure of the Romanians. Tudor had referred to the
boyars as dragons which swallow us alive, and as the snake that when it
comes out in front of you, you should beat with your club to defend your
life. In Poezii populare, this potentially dangerous image recurs in the ballad Balaurul [The Dragon], with the note: the Romanians have many
superstitions concerning snakes, some of them based on experience,
others born of imaginings. While objectifying the image of the snake on
the literary level, Alecsandri removed the political venom from it, and
explicitly distanced himself from the actual enunciation of the words,
which come from the gura poporului, the mouth of the people.144 I dont
want to insist here on the more difficult-to-prove question of exactly how

142Blcescu, Question conomique, in Opere, 2:9091.

143To this proposal, nearly all the villages manifested their disagreement, records the
secretary of the Property Commision, Meeting I; see Bodea, 1848 la romni, 2:717. Both
Blcescu and, following his lead, Jules Michelet, actively misrepresented the peasants as
being in favour of a purely economic-contractual basis to property relations: compare the
text of the debate with Blcescus account of it in Question conomique, in Opere, 2:8590;
Michelets version in Lgendes dmocratiques du Nord, 2823. Research by economic historians has shown that while peasants were surprisingly willing to pay their dues to the
boyars and to the government in money, they had absolutely no interest in the solidification of property rights: their economic activity necessitated considerable movement and
the ability to get out of long-term obligations quickly when required (Lampe & Jackson,
Balkan economic history).
144Vladimirescu, Cea dnti proclamaie [23 ian 1821], in Bodea, 1848 la romni, 1:83;
Alecsandri, Poezii populare, 1718.

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Alecsandri amended and sanitized the folk poetry that he collected. Much
of it retains its value anyway. However, it is only the recent circumstance
of the creation of a literary language that made the popular language
differentiated, objectivized, or a clean source. The peasant, then, could
only become an objective ideal once his language as well as his social
being had become dramatically, manifestly other than the language of
government.145 Interestingly, although in his Romanian writings Alecsandri always referred to the peasantry or the people in the third person, as
a particular social other of which he did not form part (he was of noble
origin); in his dealings with foreigners he was remarkably willing to claim
for himself the characteristics of the peasant. In a letter to a female French
correspondent in October 1848, he bemoaned his status, describing himself ironically as un paysan du Danube, quasi barbare, un Moldave, enfin,
cest tout dire!146 While at home, Romanian writers described the peasant
as a creature with certain essential traits but as fundamentally different
from themselves; abroad, they assumed his posture, and saw the peasant
as somehow representative of the position of the Romanians in Europe.
Even at this time, however, the term ran, with all its potentially
national significance, was not the major term used by the poets, orators and revolutionaries. The favoured word was popor. This term too
was undergoing an alteration in meaning as a result of changing circumstances. As we have seen, in 1821 the usual word for the masses had been
norod or prostime; by 1848 everybody was speaking of popor or popolu.
Originally in Romanian it had signified the congregation or parish population of a church: now it became the focus of an intense nationalization, culminating in the figure of Christ-the-people, borrowed from the
writings of Lammenais, Michelet or Mickiewicz. Even in writings which
treated subjects that were apparently exclusively concerned with peasants, the word popor, popolu, or populaiune would be given preference
over ran.
So the historian George Bariius historical account of what is now
known in Romanian historiography as a peasant revolt, claims to deal
with a civil war that broke out between democracy and the aristocracy
between the representanii poporului and the familii patriciane, with
only intermittent reference to the populaiune rural, lcuitorii rani

145Cf. Duu, European intellectual movements, 1314.

146Alecsandri, Lettre une correspondante franaise [14 october 1848].


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or poporul ran.147 Another author, Cezar Bolliac, could write an article

about The social mosaic of the Romanian principalities, dividing the
population into seventeen classes and five castes, without referring
once to the ran, and with only a short passing reference to a stylized
caste of plugari [ploughmen], which alone supports the entire state on its
shoulders.148 Even as late as 1861 Alexandru Odobescu used the formula
Muncitorul romn [The Romanian labourer], for his idyllic depiction of a
specifically rustic scene:
No mistake, the labourer is the pillar of Romania! May we learn from him to
love our fatherland! Being in unbroken relation with the earth of our land,
he knows how to love it and to honour it!149

Nevertheless, although the word ran did not then come to be generally
used to mean the people, it was indisputably gaining ground as the commonly accepted term for the socially dependent residents of the countryside. The work of Nicolae Blcescu shows how a writer who previously
preferred the terms muncitor, plugar or lcuitor to designate the peasantry,
was subsequently converted to using the word ran. Blcescu had initially treated the agrarian question in a work entitled On the social condition of the labouring ploughmen in the Romanian Principalities in different
ages, which was published in 1846.150 The title of this work did not refer
to rani at all, and the text only occasionally. However, when Blcescu
returned to the same theme immediately before his death in 1852, in his
unfinished epic historical narrative The Romanians under Prince Michael
the Brave, he now explicitly entitled the section dealing with Michaels
enserfment of the free population of Wallachia, Robirea ranului [The
enserfment of the Peasant]. Blcescu is known to have shown a marked
preference for literary archaisms and traditional language and phrasing when composing his later works, often eliminating neologisms used
in pre-1848 versions and searching for old Romanian words to give an
antique aura to his prose style.151 In this case, however, the anachronism
works the other way around: he is applying not an archaic meaning of the
word ran, but a new one, which looks timeless but is in fact relatively
147Bariiu, Despre resbelul civil transilvan.
148Bolliac, Mozaicul social [1858] in Scrieri, 2:135.
149Odobescu, Muncitorul romn [1855], in Opere, 1:3132.
150Blcescu, Despre starea soial a muncitorilor plugari n Principatele Romne n
deosebite timpuri [1846], in Opere, 1:15161.
151 Anghelescu, N. Blcescu i romanul istoric romnesc.

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The political effects of this gradual definition and appropriation of the

peasant can be seen in the debates about the emancipation of the peasant which took place in the ad-hoc councils of 1857 in the Romanian
principalities. These councils were convened following the stipulations of
the Treaty of Paris, in the wake of the Crimean War. The European Powers had been prepared to support the Romanian pleas for autonomy from
Russian and Ottoman control; but had insisted that the Moldavian and
Wallachian councils give greater attention to the matter of the emancipation of the peasantry and the development of a modernized agricultural
At these councils, held in Iai and Bucharest, some deputies representing the rural population were allowed to put their case, and this is what
they said:
The cornfields were sown, the wheat grew green, the fields came out in
flower, for our sweat watered them...the river of our sweat flows the width
of the Danube, and goes overseas and abroad, where it is turned into rivers
of gold and silver; but we had neither good order nor our rights.152

Mihai Koglniceanu, who spoke for the landed classes in reply, was fully
aware of the impact that these metaphors could have on the political
opinion: the village deputies came of a sudden and hurled the thing in
our face, in all its terrible nakedness. This crude narration, he continued,
has put off many liberals who would otherwise support their reform. It is
as if the indelicate style of their rhetoric disqualified them from obtaining political rights. Koglniceanu himself preferred to give a new, synthesized definition of the rani: they are the most powerful element of
Romanian nationality; the peasants themselves are the country [ranii
sunt nsi ara]. The difference is that the boyar defines them as ranii,
and the most powerful element of Romanian nationality, whereas the
village deputies continue to describe themselves as stenii [villagers].153
It seems that, although the term ran carried negative connotations for
most levels of society, a particular campaign was now at work to promote
and dignify the word. To give just one example, this was the period in
which there first appeared a newspaper in Romania with the title eranul
Roman (18611863), of which there were to be numerous instances in the

152Jalba deputilor steni [1857], 36.

153M. Koglniceanu, speech on peasant-landlord relations to the Divan ad-hoc of Moldavia, 18 Dec 1857; in Opere, 3i: 839.


chapter one

twentieth century. It was edited by the agronomist Ion Ionescu de la Brad,

and argued vigorously in favour of the peasants emancipation.154
It was Koglniceanu who was primarily responsible for seeing through
the legislation of 1864, under the rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, which
legally emancipated the peasant from extensive labour dues and promulgated the resettlement of part of the peasantry on the boyars estates, with
proprietary rights over the land. This agrarian reform has been greatly
criticized: many subsequent writers of both liberal and conservative orientation looked upon it as a failure in some degree. But there can be no
doubt that the Statut of 1864enshrining the right of the peasants to private ownership of land in the Romanian Constitution, after their rights
had been substantially whittled away over several centurieschanged
both the status of the peasant and the nature of the discourse about him.
Although the law itself referred throughout to peasants as stenii, the
ministerial circular to the county prefects, which served to inform them
of the laws promulgation and significance, declared that:
From that day [the next St. Georges day] in the whole extent of Romania,
the rani shall be free masters of their arms and of their lands. This being
done, we must concern ourselves with the necessary measures to ensure
that agriculture, our great national treasure, does not collapse.155

Although the law claimed to give the peasants equal status with the rest
of society, in fact it extended enormously the number of juridical specifications as to what steni may or may not do. For instance, those who
received land were forbidden to sell it for a period of thirty years. In a later
modification, the terms stean [villager] and agricol [agricultural] were
even given legal meanings: different conditions of landholding and labour
contracts were applied to villagers and agricultural work, from those
conditioning the rest of society.156 At the same time, the law completely
failed to take into account a large number of categories of rural labourer,
who were subsequently prejudiced in their rights to land ownership. This
is not the place for a detailed discussion of the social conditions prevailing
in post-independence Romania;157 suffice it to note that, simultaneously
154Hangiu, ed. Presa literar romneasc, 1923.
155Circulara Ministrului de Interne ctre toi prefecii, Acte i legiuiri, 1st ser., 2:905.
156Lege pentru modificarea legii tocmelilor agricole votat de senat i amendat de
adunare [1872], in Acte i legiuiri, 2d ser., 1:647. For the definition of stean see Eidelberg,
Great Rumanian peasant revolt, 47.
157The subject is well covered in English: Mitrany, The land and the peasant, 1117;
Eidelberg, Great Rumanian peasant revolt; Stahl, Traditional Romanian village communities; Chirot, Social change; Hitchins, Romania, 16683.

the traditions of invention


with his emancipation, the peasant underwent juridical delimitation and

constraint: that such a process was in his detriment is shown only too
clearly by the revolts of 1888 and 1907.
The occasion of the Universal Exhibition at Paris in 1867 was a symbolically important one for the infant Romanian state. It was the first such
fair at which the Romanians would be permitted to show off the products of their nation in a space separate from that of the Ottoman Empire:
they thus had the chance to display their autonomy to the world, as well
as to indicate a particular style of achievement in cultural and economic
spheres. At the Exhibition in London in 1851, the Moldavian Gheorghe
Asachi had sent plans for the erection of statues of Stephen the Great in
various picturesque locations in his country, together with lithographic
plates representing scenes from Moldavian history, or classicized mountain landscapes.158 This time around, Alexandru Odobescu was charged
with collecting materials for exhibition and selecting the areas in which
Romania could best contribute. Romania being an essentially agrarian
country, he wrote for the catalogue, the government wished above all to
put on display, at the exhibition, this part of the national industry. There
was a debate as to whether, for their pavilion, the Romanians should construct a model of a peasant smallholding, or one of an Orthodox church.
Eventually the latter was preferred, but nevertheless, an architects plan
of the smallholding was sent, together with a selection of peasant costumes, which relate, on one side, to the costumes of the peoples of Latin
origin inhabiting the South of Europe (Italy and Spain), on the other to
the clothes worn in the northernmost lands, peopled by Slavs, Magyars
and even Bretons. In certain respects too, they are close to purely oriental
Unfortunately for the Romanians, neither the Orthodox pavilion nor
the peasant costumes struck a chord with the Parisian spectators. The
costumes were dismissed by the director of the Louvre as an almost savage display, rude furs, straw-packed specimens of the fauna of the forests
and mountains, mens clothes in embroidered leather, wool in various
colours, a few womens dresses in which already the Orient is manifest.160
Clearly this critic had not been convinced of the fine distinction between

158Clinescu, Istoria literaturii romne, 97.

159A. Odobescu, Casa, vemintele i petrecerile ranului romn [1867] in idem, Opere,
2:334, 337. The model Orthodox church can be seen today at the Muzeul de Art Frederic
Storck i Cecilia Cuescu-Storck, strada Vasile Alecsandri 16, Bucharest.
160D. Kaempfen, in Paris-Guide [1867], cited ibidem (textual notes), 632.


chapter one

the hard-working, Roman peasant and the savage peoples of the East.
However, the Orthodox church proved no less bemusing to another
Strange destinies of peoples! Why have the Roumanians turned towards
the Greek church, while they kept the use and the traditions of the Latin
language, which they still speak today as if by a natural gift? Why do the
Roumanians remain schismatic between Catholic Poland and miscreant

The battle of images was proving a difficult one.162

However, if the peasant was diffidently received in what was probably
his first state-sponsored outing as a representative symbol of the Romanian nation, this did not stop his cult from growing apace. While, on the
one hand it became common for Romanias Orthodox inheritance to be
played down in the latter part of the nineteenth centurysome Orthodox churches such as the Metropolitan church at Iai and the episcopal
church at Curtea de Arge, were rebuilt by Western architects and redecorated in neo-Byzantine style. On the other, the stylistic accoutrements of
the peasant were beginning to be fully appropriated as a national treasure. A significant index of this are the images of the new Prince Carol
of Hohenzollern and his family that circulated in the 1860s and 1870s.
The initial photo- and lithographs issued immediately after his election
showed Carol in military uniform; by 1876, the Prince and his family were
to be portrayed in the Leipzig magazine Illustrierte Zeitung wearing peasant clothes, called national costume.163
If, then, in internal matters, the peasant was defined by intellectuals
and politicians in the third person, in foreign affairs the Romanians were
affirming themselves as peasants. It is an obvious trait of the idea of the
peasantand the paysan du Danube theme is an outstanding example
that the word is attributed not to oneself (as in, say, the category intellectual), but to other people. In nineteenth-century Romania, however,
an unprecedented discourse of self-definition as peasants was beginning
to operate. This is illustrated not only by the above attempt at aesthetic
publicity, but also by a curious pamphlet published by a Romanian deputy at the time of the Congress of Berlin, when Romania obtained official
recognition of her independence but also ceded the territory of Southern
161 Cited by Duu, Y-a-t-il une Europe Orthodoxe?, 23.
162On the evolution of Romanias strategies at World exhibitions, see Vlad, Imagini.
163Ionescu, Fotografia, contains numerous illustrations.

the traditions of invention


Bessarabia to Russia. The author, Emanuel Quinezu, wishing to protest

to the foreign powers, framed his pamphlet as nothing less than a letter
from a peasant of Danuby to a Russian, and argued that
the most superficial study of our country and its history, will plainly show
you, on one side, the clerics and the whole of Caesars Europe; on the other,
the Roman society on the Danube which along has remained, ab antiquo, a
civil, republican and elective society par excellence, with its high priests and
sovereigns always chosen by the suffrage of the nation and the people...
Of what are we guilty, we poor peoples and nations, who pay with our
blood and our gold, for the excesses and faults of the diplomats?164

What had been mere ventriloquism on the part of the writers who developed this idea, and possibly also a strategy for depiction of the other in an
ironical mode, is reworked into an eminently self-defining rhetorical plea.
However, what Eugen Weber has remarked of Romanians attitudes to
their own society was equally true of the Great Powers attitude to Romania itself: the reality was different from the lore. Giving the peasant his
due in literature seemed to absolve the cultivated ruling classes from giving him his chance in fact.165
In a recent article examining the history of Romanian ethnography, the
point is made that ethnographic research can and did develop as a result
of two impulses: empire-building, involving the search for the primitive
in distant, usually overseas lands; and nation-building, involving the construction of a domestic genealogy of virtue.166 What gives peculiar interest
to the Romanian case is that the nation-building phase of peasantism
usually seen as beginning more or less where this article ends, around
1880was not only preceded by, but also in many ways was significantly
influenced by, the older imperial traditions. The actual legacy of the various imperial interactions with Romanian peasants is complex, and cannot be rendered through blanket judgements. But it is clear that in the
important process of class-formation, involving both real and imaginary
conditions, the intersections of these impacts merit further study.

164E. Quinezu, Question Bessarabienne [1878], 124, 132.

165Weber, Romania, 503.
166Mihilescu & Hedean, Making.

part two

Travel and alterity

Chapter two

A Provincial Imperialist and a Curious Account

of Wallachia: Ignaz von Born*
Inventing Eastern Europe
Empires conquer peoples and places which they then investigate and
represent. The production of such representations, it is now widely recognised, is not an innocent or incidental preoccupation but integral to
the legitimation of authority. The problem has been much discussed, but
largely in terms of European encounters with the non-European world.1
This article is about a comparable encounter and its representations, this
time between Europeans.
Imaginings of east European peoples have been related less to ideas
of empire than to the establishment of an East-West dichotomy, allegedly a by-product of Western cultural dominance. In the Enlightenment
era, it is said, Western travellers produced hegemonic discourses about
Eastern Europe; apparently, they invented it as a category, and western Europe became identified with civilization and Eastern Europe with
barbarism. Such at least is the argument put forward by Larry Wolff in
his influential book Inventing Eastern Europe.2
That certain peoples now called east European were then labelled barbarous is unquestionable. However, Wolffs account of how and why this
came about has been faulted on several grounds. Disparaging discourses
about the region existed prior to the Enlightenment, and in non-westEuropean sources; barbarous usually meant uneducated rather than
violent, and barbarisms relation to geography was being criticised as
much as upheld in the eighteenth century. Nor was the term Eastern

*European history quarterly 36:1 (2006), 6189.

1 Asad, ed., Anthropology; Said, Orientalism; Porter and Rousseau, eds., Exoticism and
the Enlightenment; Bitterli, Cultures in conflict; Schwartz, ed., Implicit understandings;
Pagden, ed. Facing each other; Osterhammel, Geschichtswissenschaft, 179239.
2Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. Recent work pursuing this West invents East paradigm includes Wolff, Inventing Galicia; Jezernik, Wild Europe; and Bisaha, Creating East
and West.


chapter two

Europe widely used.3 Moreover, a brief but important earlier study showed
that in many eighteenth-century texts, the East-West division was evoked
only intermittently.4
Others studying images of Balkan peoples have invoked Edward Saids
paradigm of Orientalism (and, implicitly, Western imperial interests) to
interpret them, but also affirmed Balkanisms distinctness, notably with
respect to the degree of otherness attributed to the object.5 Prefixes like
para-, quasi-post- or crypto- colonial are deployed; theses are formulated to the effect that in eastern Europe non-colonial discourses mask
colonial practices of extraction, or, conversely, that colonial discourses
accompany non-colonial power relations.6
Here I treat a case in which an East European people were compared
to Indian and American natives and seen to be not so much similar but
different as similar but similar. I look at an account of the Romanian
population of the Banat which is today extremely obscure, but which was
reproduced at least a dozen times in four languages in mainstream publications in Leipzig, Frankfurt, London, Venice and Paris between 1774 and
1800. I identify the author and reconstruct the context in which he first
wrote his Account; then I follow the ways in which it travelled, was translated, transformed, travestied and finally forgotten.
The Habsburgs conquest, colonization, exploitation and representation of their south-eastern frontier is, I argue, best understood not as part
of a process of defining eastern Europe, nor as a semi- or para- imperial
enterprise, but one that bears legitimate comparison with colonial experiences elsewhere. To propose such a thing means either establishing a presentist definition of colonial and measuring the material history of the
region against it,7 or considering the representational framework in which
the region was seen at the time. Here I pursue the latter approach.

3Confino, Reinventing the Enlightenment; Evans, review of Wolff; Dupcsik, Postcolonial studies; Petrungaro, Lest europeo; Adamovsky, Euro-Orientalism.
4Jager, Les limites orientales, 21.
5Todorova, Imagining the Balkans; Fleming, Orientalism, the Balkans and Balkan historiography; Wolff, The innocence and natural liberty of Morlacchia.
6Berman, Enlightenment or Empire, 13; Ruthner, Central Europe goes postcolonial;
Herzfeld, The absent presence; Hammond, The uses of Balkanism.
7Kosry, Antcdents questioned the application of the colonial paradigm to Habsburg
rule in Hungary and Transylvania; Verdery, Internal colonialism, accepted it but with several reservations. But the Banat of Temesvar was separately administered by Vienna until
1778: Jordan, Die kaiserliche Wirtschaftspolitik; Roider, Nationalism; Thomas, Anatomy;
and Brenger, History, 88 all stress the regions coloniality.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia65

However, although I want to think comparatively about how images

of savages relate to ideas of empire, my aim is not to formulate a unitary
theory of colonial discourse. Many scholars have already questioned the
utility of such an enterprise.8 Instead, I try to take up insights from work
on the contemporary diffusion and reception of travel texts,9 as well as
on genre and authority in travel writing,10 as a means to understanding
precisely how and why scientific and literary ideas and images of the Wallachian other entered the Republic of Letters. I reconstruct the purposes
for which the Account was written and the contexts in which it was published, but also how the text might have been readas field report, as
pen-portrait, and as lurid popular entertainmentby different audiences
in late eighteenth-century Europe.
A Curious Account of Wallachia
The curiosity of Europeans about the Southeast of their own continent
grew rapidly in the last thirty years of the eighteenth century: at least
a hundred first-hand accounts of the region or parts thereof were composed. This coincided with the general rush to know and map territories
all over the world at this time; but also reflected the specific policies of
the Christian states who were starting to win wars against, and appropriate territory from, the Ottoman Empire. The Habsburgs had taken over
Hungary, Transylvania and the Banat of Temesvar by 1718, and even held
Serbia and Little (i.e. Western) Wallachia for twenty years, until 1739. Russia annexed parts of Poland in 1772 and the Crimea in 1783, and pushed
her southern frontier to the River Dniester by 1792. Austrian and Russian
statesmen therefore wanted to know about the contents, human, organic
and inert, of these acquired territories, or the acquirable ones beyond
them. So did people in other countries, whose interests these changes
affected. More texts were therefore produced; quite a few were published.
So far, so colonial: the process may be treated as relatively analogous to

8Asad, Anthropology, 18; Thomas, Colonialisms culture, 51; Lyons and Papadopoulos,
eds., The archaeology of colonialism; Velychenko, Postcolonialism.

9Marcil, Tahiti entre mythe et doute; Rupke, A geography; Thomas and Berghof,
Reception; Withers, Geography; Knopper, ffentlichkeit und Meinungsfreiheit.
10Pratt, Imperial Eyes; Turner, British travel writers; Leask, Curiosity.


chapter two

imperial conquest and investigation by Europeans in any other part of the

world during the same period.11
One of the shortest, strangest and most obscure items in this series of
reports and investigations is a text called A very entertaining, comical and
curious Account of the manners and customs of the inhabitants of Wallachia,
with a particular description of that country. It was published in London in
1779 as an annexe to a much more notorious wild-man adventure story
called The Life and Adventures of Captain Socivizca who was commander
of a numerous body of robbers of the race of the Morlackians, commonly
called Montenegrins, which furnished readers with an account of a notorious Balkan brigand of that name.
The story of Socivizca, and the wider investigations into the customs of
the so-called Morlacks of Istria and Dalmatia, are well known to students
of noble and other savages in eastern Europe. First told in print by the
Dalmatian writer Giovanni Lovrich in his Observations on various parts
of Abb Fortiss Travels in Dalmatia, to which is added the Life of Socivizca,
it inspired both philosophers and writers of fiction and drama, and was
the subject of much commentary, adaptation and imitation: those who
treated the theme included such figures as Goethe, Herder and Madame
de Stal, as well as countless less famous contemporaries of theirs. Modern commentators have also been plentiful.12
The curious Account of Wallachia, on the other hand, went almost completely unremarked for two hundred years, until it was unearthed by the
Romanian scholar Andrei Pippidi. In an article in the Cahiers roumains
dtudes littraires of 1979, which was reprinted in a book of his the following year, Pippidi provided a characteristically erudite tour dhorizon of
the traditions of early Balkan ethnography, and showed the Account to be
a veritable synthesis of the information a Westerner might have about
the Romanians, and a brutally clear summary of the prejudices clouding
such a representation, although the image seems nonetheless plausible.13
11 As Anglophone anthologies (most recently Fulford and Kitson, eds., Travels) ignore
travel to southeastern Europe, and Wolff, Inventing, offers no bibliography, scholars must
consult the corpuses established by Romanian, Bulgarian and Greek scholars: Cltori
strini; Chuzhdi ptepisi; Xenoi taxidioti. Vingopoulou and Polycandriotis bibliography,
Travel literature on southeastern Europe, covers Greek territory better than the more
northerly lands treated here.
12[G. Lovrich], Osservazioni; see Wolff, Venice and the Slavs.
13Pippidi, Naissance. Like Pippidi, and in spite of the objections of, among others,
Venturi, Settecento riformatore, 4ii; 695, I translate Wallachen, valacchi as Romanians: for
as Born and many others noted, that is what they called themselves (rumni or romni).
However, I use Wallachians when following a contemporary source.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia67

Pippidi also republished the Account, which, briefly, treats the following aspects of Romanian life: their manner of living (extremely rough and
savage); their agricultural productions and means of subsistence (maize,
rakie, oats, livestock and so forth); their clothing (long white woollen
trowsers, as the Hungarians, but wider; soles of raw skin tied about the
feet instead of shoes for the men; for the women, among other things
long shirts, an annular bolster stuffed with hair or straw upon their head,
pieces of money tied round the head and neck); the age of marriage (very
young: the man not above fourteen, the wife even not twelve years of
age); characteristic trades (cartwrighting, weaving); their religion (they
have scarce more religion than their domestic animals; the ignorance
and superstition of the bonzes cannot possibly be above that of their
popes); their funerals (accompanied with dismal shrieks) their belief
in vampires (or strolling nocturnal blood-suckers); practices of bloodbrotherhood (generally a rite previous to robberies); and various other
beliefs and superstitions, including their preference for impaling over
hanging (because in their idea, a rope ties the neck and forces the soul
out of the body downwards).
The one question Pippidi did not address in his otherwise comprehensive analysis was that of authorship. He treated it as a scurrilous and
anonymous production of the London popular press, printed on bad
paper and by a publisher, John Lever, whose rival productions included
The life, strange voyages and uncommon adventures of Ambrose Gwinett,
formerly known to the Public as the Lame Beggar; The strange voyages and
adventures of Domingo Gonzales to the World of the Moon; or The wonderful, surprising and uncommon voyages and adventures of Captain Jones to
Patagonia. In this context, the anonymous status of the work seems like
an obligatory corollary to its ludicrousness; as well as a bogus guarantee
of its objectivity.
In fact, far from being the product of a forgotten Grub Street hack who
had never been near Wallachia, the Curious Account was extracted from
a book written by a native of Transylvania, one of the most distinguished
scientists of his time. His name is Ignaz von Born.
Ignaz von Born
Born was born in Karlsburg in Transylvania (todays Alba Iulia, Romania)
in 1742, and educated in his home town; in nearby Hermannstadt (todays
Sibiu); and then in Vienna. He spent sixteen months as a novice in the


chapter two

Fig. 1.View of Schemnitz (Bansk tiavnica), site of Maria-Theresas Mining

Academy (from R. Bright, Travels from Vienna through Lower Hungary, 1818).

Order of Jesuits (17591760) before leaving to study law in Prague.14 After

travels in western Europe, he returned to Prague in 1763 where he published his thesis on the limits of natural law, but then switched fields,
choosing to dedicate himself to Montanistik, or Mountain Studies, a new
and exciting discipline in which the Empress Maria Theresa had just established the first chair in Europe in that citys university. In 1765 he married
the daughter of a Prague merchant, and three years later was ennobled
in the Bohemian Landestafeln: he later bought an estate at Alt-Zedlisch
(todays Star Sedlit, Czech Republic). In 1770, he undertook a scientific
trip to Lower Hungary, Transylvania and the Krajina. He had to cut short
his journey when he was appointed Assessor of the Bohemian Mining
and Minting Directorate in Prague. His activity in this field soon became
controversial: in 1771 he published Podas treatise on the machinery at
14Later writers borrowed freely from the early portrait by Borns friend Ignaz de Luca,
Das gelehrte Oesterreich, 406; cf. Schlichtegroll, I. Edler von Born; Townson, Anecdotes
of Baron Born; von Hormayr, Oesterreichischer Plutarch, 9:15864. See now Lindner, Ignaz
von Born (convincingly refutes older claims that Born was born in Kapnik, Maramure);
Reinalter, ed., Die Aufklrung; Mitu, Un fiu al Transilvaniei.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia69

Schemnitz (todays Banks-tiavnica, Slovakia). This brought him into

conflict with his boss, Kolowrat, president of the Imperial Mint and Mining Court Chamber, who forbade the publication of any works relating to
mining, considered to be sensitive intelligence in a time of war and international tension. Frustrated, and even threatened with charges of treason,
he resigned in 1772, and dedicated himself instead to playing an active
role in promoting the arts and sciences, and public culture generally: he
founded one of the first learned reviews in Bohemia, the Prager gelehrter
Nachrichten, after the model of the Leipzig Nova acta eruditorum, and
established a Private Society for Mathematical Undertakings, from which
later emerged the Royal Bohemian Society for the Sciences.
In 1776, he was back in royal favour: the Empress summoned him to
Vienna to reorganize her Naturaliencabinet and tutor one of her many
daughters; he was named Acting Counsellor in matters of numismatics
and orography. After 1780, he took up the editorship of the most important Viennese journal of the period, the Realzeitung der Wissenschaften,
Knste und der Commerzien. Several years later, in 1784, he discovered a
new technique for amalgamating silver and gold. He hoped to secure his
fortune by selling his discovery to the state, and at the same time summoned what was perhaps the first International Scientific Congress, at
Glaserhtte (todays Skleno, Slovakia), where he laid out extensive proposals to solve problems of communication, data-sharing and professional
loyalties in the scientific world. Although his amalgamation method was
recommended for use throughout the Empire, and a share of the profits promised to him, the Emperors money men were still quibbling over
the sums in Borns project proposal when he died, heavily burdened with
debt, in June 1791.
Like many intellectuals who escaped the clutches of the Jesuits, Born
was also a leading freemason, Master of the Zur wahren Eintracht [True
Concord] Masonic Lodge in Vienna, frequented by both Haydn and
Mozart. In 1785, after Borns discovery of the amalgamation process
Mozart composed a piece of music, Die Maurerfreude [The Masons Joy],
in his honour. Besides a diverse set of writings and treatises on mineralogy, industrial processes, orography, palaeontology and numismatics,
Born is also remembered for two other works. One is his Physiographia
Monachorum, or Natural history of monks, an anticlerical work satirizing
vices of the monastic orders of the Empire, and ranking them according to
a Linnaean system of classification. The other is his learned Masonic treatise, ber die Mysterien der Aegyptier [On the mysteries of the Egyptians],


chapter two

from which the more abstruse Masonic references in the libretto to the
Magic Flute are said to have been borrowed.15
Borns name is therefore well known to historians of science, of freemasonry, of Mozarts life and particularly to interpreters of the Magic Flute.16
Several more general accounts of Habsburg or Hungarian society in this
period cite Born as an instance of the new class of enlighteners with ambitions to attack the inefficient bureaucracy and the obscurantist Roman
Catholic Church, and transform the hidebound culture of the Empire in
the 1770s and after.17
Because he died in debt, many of Borns possessions were sold off,
which means we have a detailed auction catalogue of his personal library,18
but no personal papers and only such private correspondence as has
been preserved in archives of those people or institutions with whom he
came into contact. It is therefore no easy task to form a clear picture of
Borns position within Habsburg society. His editorial and Masonic activity
is often read as constitutive of an enlightened environment, mediating
between public and private spheres independently of the state.19 However,
the general interpretation of freemasonry as an autonomous, progressive
force in the European Enlightenment has been much questioned in recent
years, and its occasional complicity with rather authoritarian aims noted.20
Borns loyalties were indeed rather ambiguous; freemasonrys ostensibly
cosmopolitan raison dtre became compromised as the lodges popularity
made them into sites for advancing the political projects of the Emperor.
Apparently, Born initially supported Josephs attempts to introduce some
state control over the plethora of lodges, but soon became disillusioned,
and abandoned freemasonry in the autumn of 1786.21
15 Reprinted with English translation in Eckelmayer, Cultural context, 2:239475.
16 Teich, Borns amalgamation process; Basso, Linvenzione della gioia; Beaurepaire,
LEurope des franc-maons, 13545; Beales, Court, government and society. Chindri,
Horia i masoneria?, suggests Born might have been involved in the sparking of Horias
peasant uprising in Transylvania in 1785. The evidence is slim, beyond some interesting
Romanian-language oaths taken at the Zur wahren Eintracht lodge.
17 Horwath, Literature, 717; Bernard, Jesuits and Jacobins, 757; Wangermann, Reform
Catholicism, 139; Evans, Austria, 40, 46, 47, 143; Kosry, Culture and society, 180; Brenger,
A history, 123; Robertson & Timms, eds., The Austrian Enlightenment, 162; Balzs, Hungary
and the Habsburgs, 272; Vocelka, Enlightenment, 207; Okey, The Habsburg monarchy,
312; Fichtner, The Habsburg monarchy, 164.
18 von Born, Catalogus bibliothec.
19 Helmut Reinalter, most recently in Die Trger.
20Blanning, Joseph II, 16470; Beales, Court, government and society; Van Horn
Melton, Rise, 25272; Daniel, How bourgeois was the public sphere?.
21 Reinalter, ed., Joseph II. und die Freimaurerei; Basso, Linvenzione, 48897.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia71

His account of the Wallachians has escaped serious critical attention.22

For this we have to turn to his first book, namely Briefe ber mineralogische
Gegenstnde, auf seiner Reise durch das Temeswarer Bannat, Siebenbrgen,
Ober- und Nieder-Hungarn...geschrieben [Letters on mineralogical matters, written on his journey through the Banat of Temesvar, Transylvania,
Upper and Lower Hungary]. It is hardly an obscure work: first published
in Leipzig in 1774, it was translated into English, Italian and French within
six years. Geologists still cite it today, as the first scientific account of ore
deposits in the Southern Carpathians.23 Historians, anthropologists or
literary scholars have done it far less justice: standard works on foreign
travellers in Romanian lands, and on German-language representations
of Romanians, do not even mention Borns book.24 This is unfortunate,
not just because it provides us with the original source for the text of our
1779 London pamphlet, but because it can tell us a lot generally about
how Romanians were represented in the European media; by whom, to
whom and where.
The Context of Borns Travels and Their Publication
When Born made his journey, in May 1770, the province of Wallachia
proper, to the east of the Banat, was under occupation by a Russian
army, and would remain so until 1774, when the Treaty of Kk Kaynarca was signed. We have too little information about Borns journey to
know whether it also bore a hidden strategic purpose, or whether it was
connected in any way with the little-known journey undertaken by the
Emperor Joseph II to the Banat a mere month previously. Joseph had first
visited the province in 1768; so, according to his own testimony, had Born.25
In his request for leave to travel, dated 2 May 1770 and preserved in the
Hofkammerarchiv fr das Mnz- und Bergwesen, Born mentioned a desire

22Only one of the many above-mentioned scholars (Bernard, Jesuits, 76) paused to
gloss Borns description of the Wallachians, claiming it shows him possessed of a highly
developed social conscience.
23E.g. Nicolescu, Excursion guide.
24Iorga, Istoria romnilor prin cltori; Heitmann, Das Rumnenbild. The first Romanian scholar to discuss Borns book appears to have been Lzrescu, Imaginea Romniei,
1:23947; excerpts, annotated and translated by Maria Holban, then appeared in Cltori
strini, 10i:92123. None connected Borns text with that published by Pippidi.
25Born, Briefe, 10. Joseph wrote of the inhabitants indescribable ignorance and stupidity (Szentklray, Szz v, 1i:207). But he does not mention Born in his 1770 travel notes,
published by Fenean, Die zweite Reise Kaiser Josephs II.


chapter two

to visit the goldmine at Nagyag, as well as a need to put his fathers possessions in order.26 However, the investigation of the material and human
content of the region was of such major interest at this time that it is difficult, even without evidence, not to speculate about a political interest.
If so, it would not be the only Austrian politico-territorial description in
the period to be published later under a more literary guise.27 But no hint
that Born was part of an official project is produced in the text, which is
presented as being ostensibly motivated by the friendship of two scientists and their common interest in nature.
Two other works appeared in Leipzig in the same year, which sought
to meet the increased interest, generated by the recent conflict, in the
Empires southern and eastern frontiers. The first, Swedish scholar Johann
Erich Thunmanns Untersuchungen ber die Geschichte der stlichen
europischen Vlker [Researches on the history of the eastern European
peoples], was a rather abstruse dissertation dedicated to exploring the
linguistic similarities between Romanian and Albanian. It was to become
a key point of reference in discussions over the origins and homelands of
both these peoples.28 The other was a completely fabricated fantasy narrative entitled Sehr merckwrdige Begebenheiten eines Teutsche nicht nur
auf seinen Reisen sondern vornemlich Was im in der turkischen Sclaverey
und ungarischen Feldzeugen begegnet [Most remarkable adventures of a
German, not only in the course of his travels, but also what he encountered in Turkish slavery and the Hungarian campaigns], which purported
to reproduce a diary of some military escapades from the beginning
of the century.29 These works followed closely on from the publication
three years before, in German translation, of the illustrious Prince Dimitrie
Cantemirs Descriptio Moldaviae, originally compiled in about 1715 at the
behest of Peter the Great; and of Nicolaus Kleemanns account of his
exploratory voyage down the Danube to the Black Sea and the Aegean.30
Like many works of scientific exegesis, Borns Letters, although seriously
concerned to document the discoveries made, are framed by a series of
26Lindner, Ignaz von Born, 423.
27General Splnys 1775 report on Bucovina was summarised and published as a
travel account in Canzlers Magazin (Grigorovici, ed., Bucovina, 1014); librettist Ratschky
was commissioned by Joseph to write an account of Galicia in the 1780s (RosenstrauchKnigsberg, Zirkel und Zentren, 10320).
28Gymnt, Micarea naional, 6071; Malcolm, Myths of Albanian national
29Holban, Pretinsele aventuri.
30Kantemir, Beschreibung; Kleemann, Reisen.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia73

stylistic and rhetorical devices. The most obvious of these is the epistolary
form: the travels are written up as letters addressed to a learned correspondent, Professor Ferber of the University of Leipzig. Born had already
participated in this common form of publication, as addressee and editor of Ferbers letters dispatched from his geological travels in Italy.31 He
was also to receive the various reports despatched by Balthasar Hacquet,
Joseph Mueller and Tobias Gruber from their exploratory travels in the
Tyrol, Carniola, Croatia and Slavonia.32 His significance as a catalyser of
scientific travel in fact went far beyond the confines of Austria: the first
systematic geological descriptions of North America were addressed to
and published by him, as were the path-breaking South American reports
of the Czech traveller Thaddaeus Haenke.33
In Letter Two of his own book, after describing the geographical and
administrative situation of the Banat, Born goes on to discuss the regiments of so-called national troops recently established in the Military
Frontier bordering on the Ottoman Empire, and the gaol in Temesvar
(todays Timioara, Romania) where he saw a famous robber, formerly
a rich merchant in Serbia. He is, however, detained in the city for longer than he would wish by the business of his travelling companion, an
unnamed Court Commissar; an experience which causes him to compare
his situation with that of the Roman poet Ovid who had been exiled by
the Emperor Augustus to the shores of the Black Sea. If you be happy, he
wrote to Ferber in Leipzig, remember your friend in Pontus.34 It is at this
point that Born offers his detailed survey of the manners and customs of
the Romanians of the Banat. He took pains to justify his digression on several grounds: that he had already travelled to the Banat two years previously; that he was a native Transylvanian; and that, in the absence of data
pertaining to the field of Natural History, his account may, if not please
you, at least entertain you (7). At the end of his account, Born promised
to return in his next letter to matters more in our field (17).
Elsewhere, strictly technical questions prevailed. Letter Ten came with
two long appendices, amounting to almost a seventh of the whole book: a
Proposal for the softening of copper, by Delius, Assessor of the Banat Mining Directorate; and some Observations by Mr. Koczian on gold-washing
31 Ferber, Briefe aus Wlschland.
32Hacquet, Lettera odeporica; Mueller, Lettre; Gruber, Briefe.
33Schpf, Beytrge, first published in Borns review Physikalische Arbeiten in 1785. On
Haenke see Haenke, Trabajos.
34Born, Briefe, 10.


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techniques in the province (6293). But Born did not restrict himself completely to mines and metals. Almost every chapter contains little asides
about the usual travellers concerns, such as itineraries, or the weather,
or the possible dangers of the road. On the frontier between the Banat
and Transylvania he reflects on the ambiguity of the public exposure of
impaled criminals, identified as an Ottoman practice, which helps reduce
the incidence of highway robbery but may also be considered intolerably
cruel (94). Letter Fourteen opens with a brief rustic interlude in a Transylvanian village in which, hungry, thirsty, and tired, Born accepts the
hospitality of a cheerful Romanian boatman, of whom Born writes that
I would have wished for such a boy as my own son and who serves them
an improvised repast on an upturned tun under a straw awning, in the
company of farm dogs and sparrows. The company try to mark the birthday of Borns distant correspondent Ferber by toasting his health, but the
country wine proves so sour that Born toasts Ferber with water instead.
At the end of the meal, the tun is transformed from dining table into writing table, and Born continues with his mineralogical observations (1313).
The passages fate in fact constrasts starkly with that of the more famous
curious account of the Wallachians of the Banat, with which we are principally concerned here: it was omitted from all subsequent translations.
Borns was not the first text to treat Romanian cultural and spiritual life
(or the lack of it) in such a critical manner: negative appraisals of their
mores can be found in travel texts dating at least from the sixteenth century, if not even earlier,35 and were given contour and specificity, notably
through the observations of Catholic missionaries, in the seventeenth.36
Austrian administrative reports on the Banat very frequently adopted a
similar tone.37 But few of these had found their way into print. The 1770s
was a very important period for the development of a critical public discourse of travel in the German-speaking world. Scholars have noted an
emphasis on the personal and the verifiable; use of the epistolary form; a

35Barbu, ed., Firea romnilor, 1137 extracts ethnographic observations from Cltori
strini. On the medieval tradition see Armbruster, Der Donau-Karpatenraum.
36Catholic missionary accounts in Cltori strini, vols. 59, passim; Tth, ed., Relationes missionariorum; Bur, Catholic missionaries; Codarcea, Rome et Byzance; Tth,
Missionari italiani. Aspects of this tradition may have been available to Born through his
Jesuit apprenticeship.
37Fenean, Administraie i fiscalitate, 78. Cf. Szabo, Austrian first impressions,

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia75

turn towards domestic travel; and a general rise in publications, as well as

attempts to exploit the political stakes of describing territories.38
Specifically in this context, Joseph was unhappy with the administrative situation in the Banat and had accepted the resignation of the Governor, Clary, at the beginning of the year.39 Another writer in Austrian
service, inspector Johann Jakob Ehrler, had focused on the condition of
the regions inhabitants and the need to improve their lot, publishing in
1771 a brief account of the Romanians origin and present state in a local
newspaper, the short-lived Temeswarer Nachrichten. This appears to have
been expanded into a much more detailedbut unpublishedreport
during the course of 1774, as a prelude to substantial reforms.40 But there
were limits to what could be put before a wider readership.
Reviewing Ruritania
Borns work was reviewed at least four times in German publications. The
Zugabe zu den Gttingischen Anzeigen von Gelehrten Sachen [Supplement
to the Gttingen Notices of Learned Matters] complemented the author for
one of the richest and most remarkable mines in Europe with the greatest
attentiveness; all that adds to our knowledge of minerals and mountains is
described with great care: nor are other circumstances, such as customs,
diet, and so forth, neglected.41

The most important German paper, the Berlin-published Allgemeine

Deutsche Bibliothek, was also broadly favourable, and remarked dryly on
the importance of Borns observations:
Would the parlour philosophers believe that in todays Europe there might
be found people so outlandish that they take a solar eclipse to represent the
struggle of the Devil in hell with the sun? Herr von Born has found them in
the Bannat of Temeswar.42

Closer to home, the Viennese journal Wiener Anzeigen was slightly more
critical; its reviewer, the Hungarian scholar Samuel ab Hortis, despite
38Stewart, Die Reisebeschreibung; Bauer, Journalistische Briefform; Knopper, Le
39Fenean, Administraie, 76.
40Ehrler, Das Banat; Neumann, Cultura din Banat.
41 Anon, review of Born, Briefe, in Zugabe zu den Gttingischen Anzeigen, 28994.
42Anon, review of Born, Briefe, in Allegmeine Deutsche Bibliothek, 278.


chapter two

describing the work as being of interest, took umbrage at Borns rather

negative remarks about cultural life in Hungary, claiming that unprejudiced readers, who have a more exact idea of the inhabitants of the kingdom, may question Herr Mining Counsellor Borns judgement.43 The
Physikalische Bibliothek merely praised the letters for being very remarkable, but while recommending them to any lover of mineralogy, the
reviewer overlooked the ethnographic and other content.44
Borns letters were translated into English amidst what was something
of a heatwave for British Enlightenment historiographical and philosophical publications. Johnsons Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland
had appeared two years earlier, Adam Smiths Inquiry into the Nature and
Causes of the Wealth of Nations and the first volumes of Edward Gibbons
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the previous year.
1777 itself saw the publication of William Robertsons History of America,
Voltaires Universal History in English translation, David Humes posthumous autobiography, and Georg Forsters Voyage Round the World, his
innovative and controversial account of Captain Cooks second voyage.
But Borns Travelsnow entitled thus and not Letters, and accompanied
by a translation of Ferbers Mineralogical History of Bohemiaheld their
own against this heady competition, and received lively comment in
the reviews. The translator, Rudolph Erich Raspe, was an ambitious but
impecunious littrateur and scientist who had moved from Gttingen in
Georgian Hanover to London in search of fame. He would later, having
attempted to discover marble in the outer Hebrides, achieve notoriety as
the author of the fantastic Adventures of Baron Munchausen.45
There were reasons why a book about the mineralogy of Hungary and
Transylvania might prove interesting: Adam Smith, following the lead
of Montesquieu, had mentioned the mines of the Banat of Temesvar as
an instance of how a system of material extraction functioned more efficiently with a free labour force than it had done under the Turks with
an enslaved one.46 Latin-reading mineralogists could have used Klesris Auraria Romano-Dacica (Sibiu 1717) and Fridvaldszkys Minero-logia
magni Principatus Transylvaniae (Cluj 1767). But few up-to-date accounts
43Ab H[ortis], review of Born, Briefe, in K. K. allergndigst priviligierte Anzeigen, 97101,
44Anon, review of Born, Briefe, in Physikalische Bibliothek, 30913.
45Carswell, The prospector.
46Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book 4, part ix, para. 47; cf. Montesquieu, Esprit des lois,
Book 15, part viii, para. 3. Montesquieu had been in person to Upper Hungary (Balzs,
Hungary, 26) but not to the Banat.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia77

of Hungary were available, and none at all of the Wallachians. In English,

details gleaned from the odd translation like that of Merins Journey (1732),
Keyslers Travels (1756) or Bschings New system of geography (1762), were
pretty much all the mainstream public had to go on.47
The Monthly Review was rather circumspect, declaring that the countries described were
so little known to the rest of Europe, that this attempt to display their subterranean riches, cannot but be acceptable to persons engaged in the useful
studies of mineralogy and fossilogy. To such, however, it is almost solely
appropriated: since the ingenious travels are confined to his relations to the
subject so exclusively, as to admit scarcely any of those observations on the
manners of the people, and the general appearance of the country, which
might furnish amusement for miscellaneous readers, or such who turn over
books of travels, merely in search of entertainment, or with the laudable
view of killing time.
The third letter, which is almost the only exception, describes the
inhabitants of the Bannat, as a people sunk in the deepest ignorance and

The Critical Review, on the other hand, took issue with this assessment.
The reviewer compared Borns work with that of his correspondent and
editor Ferber, whose travels in Italy had also been translated into English
by Raspe and put out by the same publisher; and whose Mineralogical History of Bohemia formed an appendix to this edition of Borns work.
Mr. Ferber wrote in a country where every subject, except that of natural
history, was exhausted by former travellers; he therefore was obliged to
confine himself entirely to mineralogy, and to write a work which illiterate
and superficial readers will throw aside as tedious and unentertaining. On
the contrary, Transylvania and Hungary are little known to the enlightened
Western World, and Baron Born has sometimes interspersed the abstruse
scientifical parts of his book with accounts of the inhabitants, and their
manners, clothing, and dwellings; a method which certainly deserves great
commendation, as it is founded on that great Horatian rule Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci.49

47Brief accounts of Hungary formed interludes in the Oriental travels of Richard Pococke (travelled 1737, published 1745; Edmund Chishull (travelled 1702, published 1747); and
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (travelled 1716, published 1762). See Gmri, Angol s skt
48Anon, review of Born, Travels, in Monthly review, 233.
49Anon, review of Born, Travels, in Critical review, 207.


chapter two

The reviewer in fact found Borns description of the Wallachians so well

done that he reproduced the entire passage. This review has in its turn
been cited as a model of the appreciation of travel texts in Britain according to the Horatian principles originally laid down by Addison at the
beginning of the century.50
Born Again, and Again, and Again
Contemporary rivals clearly liked it too: so much so that two periodical publications, the Annual Register and the London Magazine, carried
extracts of Borns descriptions of the Wallachians.51 Both these versions
were edited so as to give the impression of a specially written, separate
work; any personal references and first-person statements were suppressed. The Annual Register version is preceded by an Authentic account
of the burning of a Gentoo woman alive with her husband, at her own
request, at Azumabad and followed by an Account of the savage tribes
of America (extracted from Robertsons History), which gives an idea of
how extensive the range of comparative ethnographic inquiry had now
become. Around this time, both journals carried similar extracts from the
works of Fortis on the Morlachs, and Lovrichs account of Socivizca.52
In the London Magazine, however, the text is presented as an account
of Wallachia, rather than of some Wallachians located in the Banat of
Temesvar. A brief preamble was added explaining Wallachias geographical and political position. Some cuts were also made: a part at the beginning about the Wallachians origin and language; a part in the middle
about their ablutions; and a brief passage at the end comparing the qualities of the Serbs and the Wallachians (the former is fierce, proud, bold,
cunning, a friend of trade, fit to be a soldier. His Popes are less ignorant
than those of the Wallachians, while the latter has no idea of haughtiness, is a better husbandman, a friend of ease, and abhorring military life.
They agree in being born robbers and slaves to their popes and national

50Batten, Pleasurable instruction, 29.

51 Born, Account of the inhabitants; idem, Curious account.
52Fortis, Description; Lovrich, Adventures. On the prehistory of these texts see now
Bracewell, Lovrichs joke.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia79

This rebranding fitted the piece into a tradition of small and eye-catching
set-piece descriptions of rare, distant or wonderful things, sometimes set
apart from the main narrative. Examples of such accounts are numerous:
Nicolaas Van Graafs 1719 Voyage aux Indes Orientales came with a Relation curieuse de la ville de Batavia; Elizabeth Justices 1739 Voyage to Russia
with A curious account of the relicks which are exhibited in the Cathedral
of Oviedo; while A curious account of the cataracts at Niagara by Mr. Peter
Kalm was annexed to John Bartrams 1751 North American Observations.
According to Nigel Leask, the epistemological prestige of such curiosity, characterized by fleeting, superficial accounts of foreign lands and
peoples, and the novelty, singularity, and dazzle of the travellers first
impressions, was on the decline towards the end of the century, but continued to be prized as a literary quality.53 The elimination of first-person
references, a common strategy of the period, rendered the account simultaneously more readable and more authentic.54
It is from here, then, that the anonymous London pamphleteer drew
his text. The adaptation in many ways satirizes this squeezing of an individually experienced, authored and dated account into a consolidated
body of moral perceptions expressed through a uniform aesthetic.55 The
smoothness of the delivery has become comically at odds with the savageness of the object described. The interpretive environment and the
informations genesis disappear from view; the description is condensed,
made harder and thinner (and cleansed of reference to ethnic groups
other than Wallachians).
Borns Travels in France and Italy
The appearance of an Italian translation of Borns Travels in Venice in
1778 was almost certainly due to the efforts, if not the hand, of Giovanni
Arduino (17141795), the so-called Father of Italian Geology, upon whose
system Ferber had based his aforementioned description of Italy. Arduino
had already supported Borns and Ferbers election to the Siena Academy
of Sciences in 1773. Ferber did the same for Born and Arduino with respect

53Leask, Curiosity, 45.

54Turner, British travel writers, 223; Rogers, Boswell and Johnson, 10838 shows how
Dr. Johnson third-personized his (originally epistolary) account of his tour of Scotland.
55Benedict, Making the modern reader, 165.


chapter two

to the Society of Friends of Natural History in Berlin in the same year.

Born had arranged for the translation of Arduinos Raccolta di Memorie
Chimico-Mineralogiche into German and would do likewise for Fortiss
Lettere geografico-fisiche sopra la Calabria e la Puglia, as well as for the
Lettere odeporiche of the Venetian naturalist and writer Francesco Griselini, who had been working in the Banat in Habsburg service since 1775.56
In June 1774, Arduino received Borns description of the extinct volcano
at Eger in Bohemia together with a large series of mineral samples. Part
of the former appeared in the Giornale dItalia (3 & 10 September 1774).
This paper was also to host a serial reproduction through late 1776 and
early 1777 of Borns letters to Ferber,57 in addition to Griselinis.58 The publisher of the GiornaleBenedetto Milocco, printer of Voltaires works in
Italian, as well as of a number of Arduinos own productionsput out
Borns letters in book form in 1778. The work is today extremely rare, and
unfortunately did not come to the attention of Arduinos biographer, who
has otherwise assiduously documented the relationship between the two
men.59 But it presents few peculiarities. The translator has cut passages
also excised by the French and English translators (administrative details,
the meal in a Wallachian village in Letter 14, the favourable reference to
the Catholic faith in letter 20), which leads one to suppose that Born himself may have been in a position to have supervised, or at least recommended cuts for, all three translations. One or two other minor details
present in the other versions (such as the reference to Transylvania as
his solum natale in Letter 17) were also cut. The treatises by Koczian on
goldwashing, and Delius on softening copper, were shortened and moved
to the end of the book.60
In 1780, Borns work was presented to the French public in a neat duodecimo format by Antoine Grimoald Monnet, an ambitious scientific
systematizer of modest origins who had studied at Freiburg and recently
published a Nouveau systme de Minralogie (1779). Monnet, who soon

56Vaccari, Giovanni Arduino, 2912; Muljai, Su alcuni scritti sconosciuti di A. Fortis,

57Born, Lettere, Nuovo giornale dItalia 1 (17767), 5763, 737, 815, 916, 11620,
13742, 14951, 1589, 1756, 1824, 22732, 2339, 24956, 2579.
58Griselini, Lettere, Nuovo giornale dItalia 3 (1778), 3440, 437, 536, 624, 6872,
7980, 839, 9195.
59Vaccari, Giovanni Arduino, 2456, 2523, 2867, 2945. Nor does Franco Venturis
wide-ranging overview of Wallachian appearances in contemporary Italian media
(Settecento riformatore, 690712) mention Born.
60Born, Viaggio mineralogico, 184204.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia81

afterwards was to initiate the project of a geological map of the whole

of France, clung fiercely to his specialism, and was none too keen on
descriptions of peoples: Barbara Staffords claim that the natural historian as Plinean traveller was instrumental in refashioning that aspect of
the eighteenth-century vision seeking to recover a world purified of the
human component61 applies rather better to him than it does to Born.
Monnet was not afraid to defend his position in his preface:
up until now, it is as if travels have been limited to the observation of the
customs, mores, and habits of Nations;...the soil and nature, the composition and parts of the globe have rarely attracted their attention. The time
has finally come when people are starting to travel to study and meditate
upon Nature.62

He remarked on how Borns researches into mines complemented Ferbers

interest in minerals:
had these two friends traversed these interesting countries together, their
united labours would have produced a comprehensive work in which the
public would have found all the necessary details and the most useful observations...even if Mr de Borns mineralogical voyage does not meet these
two ends precisely, we hope to have brought pleasure and satisfaction to the
friends of Natural History, in presenting them with this translation.63

Monnets impatience with descriptions of mankind was slightly at odds

with Borns text, which at certain points explicitly sought to justify the focus
on humanity and friendship. But in fact Monnet made fewer cuts from
the text than Raspe: the passage corresponding to our Curious Account is
rendered more or less faithfully here. For instance, Borns explanations of
the administrative status of a mine on the border of Transylvania; the pay
and working conditions of the miners; and the terms whereupon mines
are leased by the state to private companies, were omitted by Raspe but
retained by Monnet.64
In 1799, the Curious Account was again singled out to French audiences as being of particular interest. France was in conflict with Austria

61 Stafford, Voyage into substance, 345.

62Born, Voyage minralogique, vvi.
63Ibid., viiiix. On the reception of Borns work in France there is now excellent information in Marcil, La fureur. Marcil identified 3 reviews, 3 short notices, and 4 bibliographical notices. This made it one of the most noticed works on eastern Europe (536) but still
less reviewed than works on other regions (100).
64Born, Briefe, 204; 2930; 150; cf. Born, Travels, 27, 32, 152.


chapter two

throughout this year, and information about the Habsburg Empires

dominions was naturally in demand. Robert Townsons Travels in Hungary, out in London since 1797, was duly translated. In a long preface, the
revolutionary Thophile Mandar stressed Townsons socially progressive
attitude. On the other hand, he questioned his acceptance of the Hungarian elites right to lord it over the Romanian peasants. Townson had
described the Wallachians as the most ferocious inhabitants of Hungary
and offered a semi-pornographic account of Romanian peasant women
bathing in a pond outside Grosswardein (todays Oradea, Romania), in
which he used mock-Linnaean Latin tags to describe their breasts.65 This
passage, obviously designed for entertainment and possibly for serial
excerption on the model of Borns description, was nevertheless considered by contemporaries to be in poor taste. As a counter to this, and as an
implicit critique of the aristocratic regime in Hungary, Mandar presented
to his readers what M. de Born wrote in 1780, on the inhabitants of Wallachia, and we refer to the details with which this naturalist scholar has
furnished us, concerning these unfortunate and enslaved peoples.66 The
third volume of this edition also carried a reprint of Monnets translation
of Borns letters 20 to 23.67 This printing was re-issued in Leipzig in 1800,
and again in Paris in 1803.
So, Borns view of the Romanians had been rapidly reproduced in a
range of contexts: first, as private letters between scientists, during the
voyage itself; second, in book form in German in 1774; third, in an Italian
journal in 1776; fourth, in English translation in 1777; fifth, sixth and seventh as newspaper extracts in the years immediately following; eighth, in
book form in Italian in 1778; ninth, as part of a dubious popular brochure
in 1779; tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth, in French in 1780, 1799,
1800, and 1803.68

65Townson, Travels in Hungary, 257, 2525.

66Townson, Voyage en Hongrie, 1: xxxviiilvi. 1st reissue: Leipzig 1800; 2nd reissue: Paris
67Ibid., vol. 3, 239312.
68Note also that of three copies of the German edition in the British Library, one (shelfmark 990.d.4, bearing the autograph of Sir Joseph Banks), appears to be a reissue. A list of
errata appears at the end, and before the title page, which is nevertheless identical to that in
other editions and bears the date 1774, an engraving of Born by Jacob Adam dated 1782.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia83

Later Echoes

Despite this extensive public dissemination, Borns work does not apear
to have set alight the contemporary imagination. He clearly influenced
the local topographical and literary tradition: echoes of his work can be
found in the much better-known accounts of the Banat by the Venetian
Francesco Griselini (1780), and the Temesvar-born writer Johann Friedel
(1784), among others.69 In Britain, however, he appears to have been little
read, despite the fact that books about mineralogy were in demand at this
time.70 The sole surviving set of borrowing records from English libraries of the period, those of the Bristol Library, shows only three borrowings in the interval 178284: this compares poorly with the tens and even
hundreds of borrowings of books about Cooks voyage.71 Robert Townson,
whose rather more lurid account of the Romanians has already been mentioned, testified to the importance of Born as mineralogist, ethnographer,
and Viennese society figure. His sketch of Borns life was in turn excerpted
in the Annual Register.72 For the wealthy English antiquary Edward Daniel
Clarke, passing through the Banat at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Borns Travels was a work full of valuable information, as it related
to mines the least known, and Born himself the best mineralogist of his
age, while his observations on funeral shrieking seem to prove the Celtic
origin of the Wallachians.73 A Scottish traveller to the Banat in 1814,
Richard Bright, mentioned Born regularly, and may have been inspired
by him when he insisted, after having given an account of some rather
wild Romanians, that I must not be understood as wishing to represent
the whole nation under a similar form.74 Finally, large chunks of his text
were reproduced as valid contemporary ethnography (with nodding reference to an old German author) in a work by an American surgeon, James
Noyes, written at the time of the Crimean war.75 Borns scientific work suffered more painful transmutations than this: the 1791 English translation
of his New Process of Amalgamation of Metals is to be found in a list of
69Cltori strini, vols. 910 lists accounts of the Banat and its Wallachians in chronological sequence to 1800 (de Feller, Friedel, Ehrler, Griselini, Steube, Sestini, Spallanzani,
Sulzer, Salaberry, Lehmann, Hofmannsegg, von Goetze, Nayss, Damas).
70Porter, Making, 989; Hamblyn, Private cabinets, 194.
71 Kaufman, Borrowings, 80.
72Townson, Travels, 41022; idem, Anecdotes.
73Clarke, Travels, 8:284, 260.
74Bright, Travels, 559.
75Noyes, Roumania, 16170.


chapter two

Works of which all the unsold Copies were destroyed by Fire, and which
will probably never be reprinted.76
Mapping the Account
In an older study, Hayden White remarked on how a history of a given
idea can sometimes look more like an archaeologists cabinet of artefacts
than the flowing narrative of the historian.77 He bemoaned the fact that
this gives out a sense of structural stasis rather than a sense of the developmental process by which various ideas came together and coalesced
to produce the Noble Savage of the eighteenth century. The problem is
perennial; but it is precisely the discordant effects of static representations, rather than a traditional history of ideas about Wallachians, that
interests me here. In an attempt to recreate the distinct compartments
in which Borns work was displayed in public, I summarize some of the
information presented hitherto in four comparative tables. This may then
facilitate a more complex and nuanced articulation of the complexities of
how scientific description operates within a larger cultural frame, as the
scholar Richard Nash has argued in his study of literary representations of
wildness in this period.78 By schematizing the contexts in which the Wallachians were selected for analysis, description, publication or consumption, I am not (or not only) travestying the juxtapositional techniques of
eighteenth-century collecting, but also trying to enable a twenty-first century audience to see what Wallachians might have been compared to by
audiences in different places and at different levels of 1770s society.
In Leipzig in 1774, then, readers could have chosen Borns Travels
alongside one of two other genres: the abstruse work of philology offered
by Thunmann, which nevertheless set a liberal agenda for the study of
stateless nations; or the cheap fantasy comprised in the pseudo-biography
of a German soldier said to have crossed Wallachia:
Table 1.Leipzig Valachica, 1774.
Johann Erich Thunmann

76Anon, Literary intelligence, 338.

77White, Tropics of discourse, 150.
78Nash, Wild Enlightenment, 6.

Ignaz von Born




a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia85

Browsers through the Annual Register in London in 1777, in contrast, will

have come across the Wallachians in different company, between the Gentoos of India and the savages of America. The juxtaposition was a politically tantalizing one: the Wallachians occupied a kind of middle ground
between the colony that Britain was losing in the western hemisphere,
and the one she was consolidating in the East. In anthropological theory,
too, being placed between India and America meant standing between
the two poles of contemporary interpretation of the manners of savages.
Table 2.Intercontinental ethnography in the London press, 1777.
1777Annual Register

Ignaz von Born

Authentic account of the

burning of a Gentoo
woman alive
Old World

William Robertson

Account of the Wallachians

Account of the savage

tribes of America

Eastern Europe

New World

American natives were seen as peoples without history, and could therefore be used as an object of conjecture: study of them might enable conclusions about the primitive state of European peoples. Indian culture,
by contrast, was placed genealogically in relation to the European, an
empirical basis for establishing Europes concrete pre-history, as in William Joness celebrated positing of Sanskrit as the ur-language of most
European peoples.79 The Curious Account is in fact not nearly so philosophically ambitious, but the idea of the Wallachians as occupying some
kind of intermediary position between two major kinds of savages and
two major approaches to them, clearly struck an editor as suggestive.
This in its turn sheds light on the array of titles offered by John Lever
in 1779.
Table 3.London popular pamphlets, 1779.
1779John Lever

Anon [Lovrich/Born]


Ambrose Gwinett

Socivizca/ Wallachia Captain Jones


Domingo Gonzales

79On America and India see the classic works of Gerbi, La disputa and Schwab,
La renaissance, both also in English translation; on their shifting position as ideal types in
the following period: Thom, Republics, nations, tribes.


chapter two

The street-level cultural producer has raided high culture for his source
material, in a direct act of appropriation; and reproduced the elites fascination with human and geographical diversity for a new audience: the philosophers case study becomes the common mans wild man narrative.
A fourth and final figure enables us to return to the problem of how the
Wallachians fit in in Borns own classificatory career, in which unusual
objects becomes subject to unprecedented analytical attention, description, study, satire or lucubration.
In some of Borns work (Monks, Egyptian mysteries), satirical or arcane
motivations determined the selection of the object; in others (fossils,
mines), its analysis is directly connected with power, stocktaking and the
marshalling of material possessions, preoccupations generally considered
to be upmost in the minds of the Empires administrators, particularly
since the defeat by Prussia in the 1740s had given food for thought on the
question of maximization of resources.
Table 4.Frameworks for comparison: Ignaz von Borns other works.

Account of the
Frontier people




Bergbaukunde Mysteries of the
Anticlerical satire Mineralogy
Masonic arcana
Defunct social
Ancient civilization

Borns selection (inventio) of the Romanians as a discursive object may be

considered to have been driven by both these factors. He was a key figure
of Empire not only by virtue of his scientific work and his social exemplarity as a freemason: his success as a provincial who made it big in the
centre was also emblematic for the times. Numerous scholars have noted
that he sometimes referred to Bohemia as his Fatherland: Bohemia was
the province into which he married and was ennobled, and whose culture
he did much to promote.80 His activity has also been considered potentially constitutive of a unified Austrian state conciousness (Gesamtstaatsbewutsein), an interpretation which has nevertheless been criticized as
motivated by a retrospective desire to provide an early and enlightened
genealogy for the modern Austrian state.81 But in his Travels, Born in fact
80Vvra, Ignaz von Born, 1416; Teich, Bohemia, 1512; Haubelt, Born und Bhmen;
Agnew, Origins, 30, 2034; Kroupa, The alchemy of happiness, 174.
81 See Klingenstein, The meanings of Austria and Austrian, 425.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia87

put more stress on his Transylvanian origins than on any other loyalty.82
He defended the qualities of both Wallachians and Gypsies of Transylvania as being more humanized than those of the Banat, and asserted
that their spoken language was much more elegant than that of those of
Wallachia; while criticizing the standards of literary and scientific life in
Hungary, Vienna and Prague.83
Scholars writing about Alexander von Humboldts representations of
American people and landscapes have drawn attention to the influence on
his work of the problem of the German Empire: in all this talk of far flung
and distant empires, it has perhaps been forgotten that, in central Europe
at the end of the eighteenth century, the notion of Empire struck quite
close to home...the local status of provinces was up for negotiation.84 As
a provincial who both criticized and sought to improve the state of learning in the Empire, Born may also be likened to the innovative historiographers of Scotland, or those of Spain where perhaps the provinces were
more interested in crafting a Spanish identity than the core. Valencians,
Aragonese, Asturians and Catalans were at the forefront of the movement
to write new, patriotic, yet critical histories of America.85
It is this tension between province and empire that surely provides
the key for understanding the work of Born; certainly more so than
the notions of eastern and western Europe, which he did not employ,
even though the first book to contain the words east European in the
titleThunmanns Untersuchungenwas published in the same year
as his travels. German and Habsburg empire-builders invented not only
schools of mining and international conferences, but also the very term
ethnography, as recent researches have shown.86 Born was just one of a
number of scientist-bureaucrat-travellers who were to prove immensely
influential in creating administrative systems and textual machinery for
recording observations of Russian and east European peoples, systems at
least as sophisticated as those set up by the British in India.87 Moreover,
82Born, Briefe, 7, 104, 105, 134, 150.
83Ibid., 94, 137 (more humanized); 11 (language more elegant); 2023, 224, 228 (critique
of scientific life).
84Dettelbach, Global physics and aesthetic empire, 2589; cf. Rupke, A geography of
85Caizares-Esguerra, How to write the history of the New World, 4.
86Stagl, History of curiosity; Vermeulen & Alvarez Roldn, eds., Fieldwork and footnotes.
87Carmichael, Ethnic stereotypes in early European ethnographies; Withers, The
geography of scientific knowledge; Wingfield, ed., Creating the other. Among many
recent studies on Russian imperial ethnography, see Slezkine, Naturalists versus nations;
Sunderland, Taming the wild field.


chapter two

his critique of Wallachian mores went beyond a mere lament about the
barbarity of foreign customs to what Thomas Habinek in his reading of
Ovid has identified as demonstrating and enacting the transferability of
imperial institutions to an alien context.88
German scholars using similar methods were busy defining Jews and
Gypsies in the period, in ways that can without anachronism be considered racist.89 Borns work bears some relation to theirs; but it would be
reductive to identify him with any movement towards theories of immutable ethnic distinction. Borns account did not oblige a unitary acceptance of a Romanian identity; on the contrary, he explicitly differentiated
between the character of the Romanians and Gypsies of Transylvania and
those of the Banat, thus creating problems for the crudely essentialist
account produced by Heinrich Moritz Grellmann in 1783, which sought
to argue that Gypsies, as an oriental people, were uniformly pernicious
in their behaviour and difficult to change.90 Nor is his account fixated on
any one characteristic of the Romanians: recourse is had to a variety of
How did this actually affect policy? As mentioned earlier, Austria entertained ambitions to take over more Romanian-inhabited territory at various stages in this period. But in the event, Maria Theresa considered that
Unhealthy provinces, without culture, depopulated or inhabited by perfidious and ill-intentioned Greeks, would be more likely to exhaust than to augment the forces of the monarchy.91

Even her chancellor Kaunitz, who was much more keen to prosecute
claims to Wallachia and Moldavia, confessed to his employer that they
were full of the wildest people.92 These statesmen certainly didnt need
intellectuals to tell them how to disparage natives, and their attitudes
render somewhat questionable the view that attributes racism in travel

88Habinek, Politics of Latin literature, 15169; White, Tropics, 18396. In Byzantium too,
a classicizing frontier ethnology had helped to restore a sense of imperial order: see Stephenson, Byzantine conceptions of otherness.
89E.g. Willems, In search of the true Gypsy; Hess, Johann David Michaelis.
90Grellmann, Dissertation, 413, 206.
91 Maria Theresa, Letter to Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, 31 July 1777, cited by Ragsdale,
Evaluating the traditions of Russian aggression, 94. Greeks here could mean any Eastern
Orthodox peoples (i.e. Romanians included), or particularly the governors of Wallachia
and Moldavia, appointed from the Greek-speaking Orthodox of Istanbul.
92Roider, Austrias Eastern Question, 132.

a provincial imperialist and a curious account of wallachia89

texts to social insecurity.93 But their discourses on savagery, while essentially similar to those of French and British writers outside Europe, were
designed to justify not colonization but a refusal to colonize.94
In 1774, the Habsburgs, tired of war, gave up any thought of recovering Wallachia and satisfied themselves with annexing a small corner of
Moldavia which they rechristened Bukovina and retained until 1918. But
they went to work on the human resources available to them in these territories, subjecting Romanians to unprecedented programmes for social
integration and educational improvement. In this enterprise, they sometimes commissioned reports from loyal local actors, including some who
knew Born personally through Masonic circles in Vienna. Through this
process, Romanians came to draw up ethnographies which share a number of features with Borns account. Their texts, initiating tropes which
ran throughout early nineteenth-century Romanian culture, emphasized
the brutish and animalistic behaviour of the Romanians. They thus initiated a critique which has been associated with the domestic development
of theories of identity and national character.95
The history of the genesis and fate of Borns curious account is significant,
then, for many reasons. As a text by an east European author representing another group of east Europeans as profoundly different, it is by no
means unusual.96 As the first detailed ethnography of the Romanians to
be published in English, it deploys the language of barbarism in the service of empire, but need not necessarily be seen as geographically essentialist or racist. More broadly, its serial exposure to different audiences
with different expectations served a plethora of purposes. In Austria,
93e.g. Hunt, Racism. On the Empresss antisemitism see Vocelka, Enlightenment.
94Roider, Reform and diplomacy, 3123; Jones, Opposition to war, 48.
95See notably Vasile Bal, Beschreibung der Buccowina [1780], in Grigorovici, ed.
Bucovina, 33058; and Ion Budai-Deleanu, Kurzgefasste Bemerkungen ber Bukowina
[1805], ibid., 378424. On these Romanians contacts with Born see Duu, Josephinismus. Cf. Pratt, Imperial eyes, 143, who sees Latin American authors transculturating elements of metropolitan discourses to create self-affirmations designed for reception in the
96Cltori strini, vols. 910 lists other east European representers of Romanians: the
Hungarian de Tott; the Dalmatians Boscovich and Raicevich; the Pole Mikoscha, the Transylvanian Wolf, etc. In earlier times too, most describers of Ottoman lands came from
Venice, the Habsburg lands and points east, as Yrasimos, Les voyageurs clearly showed.


chapter two

Borns Wallachians were a symbolically liminal people on the Ovidian

model; an object of concern, but also a link in the chain of transformable
human and natural resources. Intricate networks saw them reframed and
re-presented to a London readership as the chief dwellers of a semi-fictional
land, comparable to the moon and anticipating the phantasmagorical
Ruritanias and Transylvanias of a hundred years on; a vignette interposed
between Britains contrasting imperial experiences overseas. In some contexts, comparability and improved understanding were enabled; in others, difference was commodified, explanation refused, and particularities
became the object of ridicule. The Curious Accounts metamorphosis from
sombre field report to paraliterary bizarrerie was rapid, but characteristic
of the times. Like so many attempts to pin down the essence of man, it
ended up not as a definition but as a series of representations.97 If, as
Diderot claimed, It is the presence of man which makes the existence of
things meaningful,98 then the meanings to be deduced from the presence
of Wallachians in the 1770s were various indeed.

97On the allegorical qualities of Enlightenment discourse on human nature see, among
others, Pratt, Scratches; Macdonald, The isle of devils, 1912; Munck, The Enlightenment,
14; Wilson, Thinking back, 362. On the ulterior development of the Ruritanian tradition
in British culture, see Goldsworthy, Inventing.
98Cited by Smith, The language of human nature, 102.

Chapter three

At Ten Minutes Past Two I Gazed Ecstatically Upon

Both Lighthouses: Self, Time And Object In Early
Romanian Travel Texts*
An allegedly central feature of Romantic travel writing, which has been
the object of much critical discussion, is the development of the focus on
the self as an object of literary description. This focus takes many forms,
but is particularly often considered in terms of emotional reaction to
landscape. George R. Parks, writing over forty years ago, identified three
principal components in the turn to the Romantic in the travel literature
of the eighteenth century: 1) an interest in mountain scenery; 2) a referencing of natural observation to the techniques of landscape painting;
and 3) a language of enthusiasm, in other words a focus not just on the
scene in front of the traveller but on the emotions the latter undergoes
upon seeing it.1 Similarly, Roger Cardinal contrasts the didactic...sober,
analytical, philosophical Enlightenment author who disdains the first
person, with the Romantic author, a recording mechanism equipped
with a subjective lens who could assume the role of director and even
scriptwriter of the travel scenario.2 Moreover, while acknowledging the
importance of encounters with foreign peoples and explorations of distant cities for the collective discourse that is Romantic travel, Cardinal
argues that characteristically Romantic ways of thinking and imagining
may be best illustrated by reference to the relation of the Romantic traveller to the natural world.3
Mircea Anghelescu has analysed the phenomenon from a comparable,
but not quite identical perspective: the motive for travelling. The latter,
according to Anghelescu, becomes in the Romantic period neither curiosity nor tradition, but an impulse arising from the core of [the travellers]
being, or a yearning difficult to elucidate in terms of rational or logical
principles. He gives the example of Goethe being impelled to undertake
*In Romantism i modernitate, ed. A. Mihalache & A. Istrate (Iai, 2009), 2345.
1 Parks, The turn to the romantic, esp. 278.
2Cardinal, Romantic travel, 136. One is tempted to add lead actor to Cardinals list of
roles performed by the traveller in his film-making.


chapter three

his Italian journey not in order to carry out a mission or gather information, but to fulfil an urge prompted by recollections of images of Rome
seen in his childhood. What interested Goethe was his own individual
response to what he experienced.4
Similar views can be found in many more books on travel literature of
the period,5 even if scholars differ in their accounts of precisely how and
when the interest in the self-representation became a dominant feature
of such texts.6 Although I do add some documentation to the dossier, the
aim of this chapter is not to resolve this localised question. There is probably something in the nature of travel writing, its status as montage, that
calls for an open critical approach which can see texts as having not one
object, still less a unitary meaning, but as being understood in a series of
contexts and relations.7
My main intention, rather, is to examine how certain basic problems
of the representation of the personal experience of time and space was
addressed by first British, then Romanian compilers of travel accounts in
the period running broadly from 17501840. Was there a turn away from
the inventorization of the world, towards meditation on the self?

4Anghelescu, Romantic travel narratives, 167. Goethe in this way anticipates not only
Chateaubriand (jallai chercher des imagesvoil tout) and the proto-tourist Stendhal
(I do not travel to learn about Italy but for my own pleasure) but also Freud, whose visit
to the Acropolis was motivated by an intense urge to make verifications of the reality of
images seen in childhood.
5E.g. Moussa, La relation orientale, 8.
6Parks (Turn, 32) ventures 1779 as the date when the new mode for including
emotional passages in accounts of journeys in Europe was fully accepted; Anghelescu
(Romantic travel, 166) places Goethe (1786) at the beginning of the tradition; an opinion
shared by Slovak literary historian Zlatko Kltik (Vvin slovenskho cestopis, in Chirico,
The travel narrative, 289). Korte (English travel writing, 4065) likewise distinguishes
between object-oriented travel accounts full of historical and encyclopaedic information, and a shift towards the travelling subject, locating the latter in the 1760s; Fabricant
(Eighteenth-century travel literature, 708) posits Sterne (1768) as the symbolic initiator
of travel as primarily an individual activity, divorced from the concrete historical mediations that tie any journey, no matter how personal or paradigmatic in nature, to the social
and material conditions enabling its existence; Vivis (English travel narratives, 25) rejects
the search for a single origin as reductive, preferring a broad historical backcloth stretching from 17601780; Leask (Curiosity, 478; cf. 7) proclaims the existence of a residual
discourse of antiquarianism coexisting in loose solution with both subjectivist and scientific approaches; leading him to locate the true disjuncture between scientific and literary
travel in the decades after 17901820.
7Vivis, English travel narratives, 1078.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


At a basic level of analysis, taking the texts at face value, I simply consider what things our authorsor more precisely author-narrators8
reckoned to be worthy of note. At a slightly more complex level, the
presentation of noteworthy objects is considered in relation to the inevitably temporal nature of literary description. This almost always introduces the problem not just of the correct rhetorical technique following
(explicit or implicit) rules, but also the (explicit or implicit) modulations
of the authors sensibility in the face of what he is seeing or experiencing.
Finally, relating my analysis to recent insights in the cultural theory of
travel writing, I ask to what extent the development of Romantic motifs
in Romanian texts might be considered typical of travel literatures and
cultures elsewhere in the world. Are they characteristic of a European
tradition, or do they constitute the outcome of unequal relations in the
literary and political spheres?
Some examples from British travel accounts may help to clarify what
I am talking about. These texts played an influential role in establishing norms for travel culture, form and sensibility not just in English but
throughout Europe during this period. However, as will become clear
later, British texts almost certainly did not function as models for Romanian travel writers, or at least only after considerable mediation through
European (French, and also German and Russian) texts. I am not positing
British texts as paragons or paradigms, still less as imperialistic forms
from which Romanians sought to emancipate themselves.
Fielding: An agreeable companion to a man of sense
In his fascinating book Telling Time, the critic Stuart Sherman has established the impulse towards what he calls diurnalization as a central
component of the transformation of British literary culture in the period
16601785. Starting out from the public deployment of clocks and diaries,
Sherman then identifies travel literature, and specifically the travel journal,
as a kind of conduit whereby the book of continuous days...emerged into
public consciousness.9 The travel journal was for most of the eighteenth
8Travel writing is predicated on an alleged (and implicitly accepted by the reader)
identity between author and narrator (Chirico, The travel narrative). And yet with travel
writing, as in biography, it can be difficult to say whether it is a real or a fictional personage
that we are dealing with (Joseph, Language and identity, 2; cf. Anghelescu, Mistificiuni).
9Sherman, Telling time, 167.


chapter three

century virtually the only kind of journal to find its way from manuscript
to print and therefore capable of recreating in the public sphere a sense
of the intimate immediacy of successive experiences.10
But for such an account to appear successivepart of a continuous
thread in timeits annotations should not be excessive. It should avoid
the trap of the boring travel text, that lists everything seen, that itemizes,
in the literal sense of the word, and exposes the object to a relentless
view.11 Henry Fielding realised this when he set out to write an account
of his voyage to Lisbon in 1754: To make a traveller an agreeable companion to a man of sense, it is necessary, not only that he should have seen
much, but that he should have overlooked much of what he hath seen.12
Actually, travellers are not merely overlooking; even from what they do
manage to observe, they are selecting material for inclusion in their work.
And they arrange it in one way or another.
Despite his admission of selectivity, Fielding nevertheless attempts to
create for the reader the illusion of undergoing successive experiences
in continuous time. In the preface to his Journal, he explicitly endorsed
travel literatures pretensions to empirical status by insisting on its status
as history, albeit as a branch of that discipline which, perplexingly, alone
should [have been] overlooked by all men of great genius and erudition,
and delivered up to the Goths and Vandals as their lawful property.13 He
particularly sought to distinguish travel texts from the poetical and mythological contributions of the ancient poets; and even while greatly admiring the modern English authors Burnet14 and Addison,15 he expressed
doubts as to whether the former was not perhaps to be considered as a
political essayist, and the latter as a commentator on the classics, rather
than as a writer of travels (8).
Specifically, Fieldings Journal has entries for each successive day
(Wednesday June 26, 1754 [...] Thursday June 27 [...] Friday June 28), with
only a few exceptions through the fifty that his voyage occasions, even if
towards the end of the work only the day is supplied, and not the precise
10Ibid., 161.
11 Bann, Under the sign, 1023, quoted in Leask, Curiosity, 34. Leask is applying Banns
critical remarks about older travel catalogues, to Pocockes Description of the East (1743).
12Fielding, Journal, preface.
13Ibid., 7. Fieldings view anticipates that of Volney, to the effect that travels belong
to the department of history, and not that of romance. Travels, 1:vi, quoted in Schiffer,
Oriental panorama, 343.
14Burnet, Some letters.
15Addison, Remarks.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


date. More than that, many of the entries take the reader through that day
in temporal succession. A selection of the opening lines of the first few
paragraphs of Day 1 will, I hope, suffice to illustrate this point:
[Para. 1:] On this day, the most melancholy sun I had ever beheld arose,
and found me awake...[2:] In this situation, as I could not conquer nature,
I submitted entirely to her...[3:] At twelve precisely my coach was at the
door...[4:] In two hours we arrived at Redriffe...[5:] To go on board the
ship it was necessary first to go into a boat...[6:] I was soon seated in a
great chair in the cabin...[7:] A surloin of beef was now placed on the table.

All this increases the readers sense of proximity to the narrators experience; even if details are being omitted, the order of them is not being
rearranged. As Onno Oerlemans has remarked, part of the pleasure of
such reading is in vicariously tracing ones own way through an unknown
landscape...travel writing encourages a curious repetitive meticulousness in locating oneself in physical space.16 Consequently, this kind of
writing partakes of an apparent spontaneity, its ability to portray seemingly unpredetermined slices of the lives of travellers.17 In Fieldings case,
this effect is heightened by our knowledge of the authors extreme illness,
and the fact that he died shortly after arriving at his destination, which
would have left him little time for rearrangement of his material: the incidentality of the quotidian intersects with the ominousness of the confessional, leaving the status of the account somewhat ambiguous, oscillating
between chronicle and creation.18
Account, Letters, Journal, or Tour?
The title pages of these British books give us some indication of what
kind of thing their authors thought they were: Observations, Remarks,
Reflections, Incidents; Memoirs, Sketches, Letters, a Journal, an Account, a
History, a Description; sometimes metonymically Travels, a Journey, a Voyage, a Tour.19 The author might thus privilege the act of displacement;
the sensations experienced during it; or the mode of accounting for or

16Oerlemans, Romanticism, 164.

17Ibid., 150.
18Vivis, English travel narratives, 24.
19On the significance of travel book titles, Parman, A harrowing true mysterious pilgrimage travel adventure, is both amusing and instructive.


chapter three

representing them. In some cases they felt the need to refer to more than
one of these things, and as the eighteenth century was not squeamish
about lengthy titles, they often did so. In 1769, for instance, the young
James Boswell, still in his twenties, published An Account of Corsica, The
Journal of a Tour to that Island, and Memoirs of Pascal Paoli, all between
the same two covers.
Boswell is known to have attended Adam Smiths lectures on Rhetoric
and Belles-Lettres at the University of Glasgow, in 175960. It is possible
that he heard the latter expounding the then novel view that the best
method of describing the qualities of an object is not to enumerate its
several parts, but by describing the effects this quality produces on those
who behold it.20 This may have instilled in him a sense of the value of
representing self-experience as well as describing things encountered.
So may have his discussions with Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1764, which
directly preceded his journey. We do not, however, know what specific
advice Boswell took when planning the structure of the Account of Corsica
which made his name (and even for a time, his nicknamebefore he
became famous as Samuel Johnsons biographer, he was known for many
years as Corsica Boswell).
Contemporaries certainly remarked upon the novelty of the books
structure. Boswell solved the problem of travel composition effectively by
drawing a distinction between the description of the island, including a
fairly comprehensive scholarly verification of much of the known data
concerning natural history, all collated against classical and other sources;
and the journal of his tour, where observations are correlated not to documents, but to personal experience. The latter is as scrupulously dated and
contextualized as any written source; and indeed depends on circumstantial detail to acquire vividness and plausibility.
Sherman has related this impulse towards separation of historical
analysis from diurnal narrative, to some remarks made by Johnson on
historiographical composition as early as 1743, when he was contemplating a (never realised) history of the British Parliament. In a letter to his
publisher, Johnson distinguished between

20Smith, Lectures, 67. This lecture dates from December 1762, but as Smith gave the
same lectures year after year, it is quite possible that Boswell heard him expounding this
view in 175960. See Pottle, Boswells university education, 2468.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


a Journal which has regard only to time, and a history which ranges facts
according to their dependence on each other, and postpones or anticipates
according to the convenience of narration.21

Each form had weaknesses: history, construed as spirit in a remarkably

modern, almost Hegelian manner, is contrary to minute exactness; while
the regularity of a Journal is inconsistent with Spirit. Perhaps something
akin to these considerations led Johnson twenty-six years later to praise
Boswells method thus:
Your History is like other histories, but your Journal is in a very high degree
curious and delightful. There is between the history and the Journal that difference which there will always be found between notions borrowed from
without, and notions generated from within. Your history was copied from
books; your Journal rose out of your own experience and observation. You
express images which operated strongly on yourself, and you have impressed
them with great force upon your readers.22

This observation was to become a staple of the newer ruminations on the

methodology of travel composition, such as can be found in the prefatory
remarks of Arthur Young,23 and of countless other travellers from the late
eighteenth century onwards.
Romanian Travel Theory and the Problem of Description
But how was this fundamental question addressed by Romanian authors?
The problem seems to have been comparatively little addressed by modern critics. Despite a pioneering article on Romanian mountain literature by Paul Cornea, which brought together a wide variety of primary
works and potential interpretive approaches,24 most subsequent exegesis
of the rhetorical structures of Romanian romanticism has continued to
privilege poetry and fiction.25 This is perhaps surprising, not least in light
of the observation that both in Moldavia and in Wallachia, the first texts

21 Cited in Sherman, Telling time, 187.

22As reported by Boswell, Life of Johnson, cited in Vivis, English travel narratives, 35.
23There are two methods of writing travels; to register the journey itself, or the result
of it. In the former case, it is a diary, under which head are to be classed all those book
of travels written in the form of letters. The latter usually falls into the shape of essays on
distinct subjects. Young, Travels in France (1792), apud Batten, Pleasurable instruction, 32;
also in Korte, English travel writing, 57.
24Cornea, Literatura muntelui.
25See e.g. Cornea, ed. Structuri tematice.


chapter three

to adopt the adjective romantic (in an older form romanticesc, influenced

by Russian morphology) were travel accounts.26 The situation of travel
literature has improved considerably, notably through the appearance of
new editions and bibliographies,27 but this seems not to have incited critics to look much at this genre as a site for the cultural interpretation of
Romantic postures, mentalities and ideologies.28
The first explicit discussion of such a distinction that I have found in
Romanian travel literature occurs in Ion Ionescu de la Brads Excursion
agricole dans la plaine de la Dobruja (1850), the result of an assignment by
the reformist Ottoman government of the period to survey the condition
of this frontier province between the Danube and the Black Sea. Ionescu
virtually reproduces Youngs words:
Il y a deux manires dcrire les voyages scientifiques: la premire est de
raconter jour par jour ce quon observe; la seconde de prsenter lensemble
de toutes les observations en suivant non plus le cours du temps, mais la
liaison des matires quon expose en chapitres.29

Ionescu openly acknowledged Youngs influence and announced his intention to follow the latters methods, which he presumably learnt about during the course of his studies in agrarian economics at the Conservatoire
national des arts et mtiers in 1840s Paris.30 He followed them not only in
this book but in a series of pioneering ethnographies of Romania, Macedonia and other parts of European Turkey.
In this sense, however derivative his ideas, he can be considered the
first Romanian theorist of travel as history, or as we would say, as a
social science. But that is not to say that the problem of narrative versus
26Cornea, Oamenii, 271. The texts in question are Wallachian Dinicu Golescus nsemnare a cltoriii mele (1826), referring to a most beautiful and romantic walk in Bern,
Switzerland; and Moldavian Daniil Scavinschis poem Cltoria dumnealui hatmanul Constantin Palade (1828 ms.), referring similarly to a beautiful and romantic view, this time
in the Moldavian hills.
27Particularly the work of Mircea Anghelescu, with his editions of the writings of Dimitrie Rallet, Nicolae Filimon, Dinicu Golescu, Ion Heliade Rdulescu &c.
28Notable for their combination of cultural history and literary analysis are Anghelescu, Utopia as a journey; Ioncioaia, Viena; and Mihalache, Metaphor and monumentality. A recent edited collectionBocan & Bolovan, eds. Cltori romnicontains little
textual analysis, but some interesting new texts are brought to lightthe 1832 journey
of the Transylvanian Saxon Carl Sthler to Italy (by Ittu) and the student letters of the
Oltenian Nicu Grdreanu from 1840s Paris (by Mihai).
29Ionesco, Excursion, 10. Summary information on Ionescu in English can be found in
Constantinescu, Bdina & Gll, Sociological thought, and in Michelson, Ion Ionescu de la
30Ionesco, Excursion, 15.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


a nalytical exposition had not already presented itself to the two dozen or
so Romanian travel authors to have written in the eighty or so years before
him.31 Each of them solved the problem, a perennial one in the history of
prose description, in his own way. And examination of practice rather
than theory might prove more enlightening in this case, especially since
Ionescu, like Young before him, subordinated the theoretical problem to
the utilitarian one of producing the most accurate statistical account of
the regions travelled through.
Diurnality Monastic and Bureaucratic: Hegumen Venedict (1769)
to Teodor Codrescu (1844)
Perhaps the earliest evidence of a Romanian traveller practising an
extended diurnal travel journal is that of the Moldavian monk Venedict.
Hegumen of Moldovia monastery, Venedict travelled to St. Petersburg
after Christmas 1769 as part of a delegation to request political aid from
the Russian court (Russia, the leading Orthodox power, was then at war
with the Moldavians Islamic suzerain, the Ottoman Empire). His diary, as
one might expect from the modest initiator of a tradition, perhaps overegged the diurnal pudding, as his editor, publishing the text seventy years
later, indicated not without irony:
Our author who calls his travel impressions, The going of our route from Moldavia to Petruburhu, is most parsimonious with historical and geographical
notations; the chief thing for him is to sleep and eat well, which he never
even once forgets to write down with a special predilection, as our readers
will be able to establish for themselves. But for all its gastronomical monotony, his journey nevertheless contains much information of interest to us.
Leaving aside, then, his passage through townships and villages where His
Holiness, seeing nothing else, confined himself to sleeping and eating, we
shall publish in the Arhiva only those annotations which have something
new to offer for us, while nevertheless preserving faithfully the style and the
distribution of the author.32

Perhaps unfortunately for his readers, but luckily for us, Koglniceanu
who was one of the key creators of Romanian literature, history and literary history33appears not to have carried through his intention of editing
31 Drace-Francis, Romanian travel writing, lists accounts in book form only; a longer
but still incomplete list is in BIR 1:6270 (to Romanian lands), 44960 (abroad).
32Koglniceanu, preface to Vartolomeu & Venedict, Cltoria, 24950.
33Drace-Francis, Mihail Koglniceanu, gives a cursory introduction and bibliography.


chapter three

out references to eating and sleeping (or at least if he did, we can only
imagine a text even more soporific and less digestible than the one he
published). Translation of merely the initial portion of Venedicts account
serves easily to illustrate the point:
27. Sunday I set off from Solca monastery, and passed the night in Solca
28. Monday I went to Rdui, and passed the night there.
29. Tuesday, setting off I went to Frtui, and there I ate victuals; and from
there I passed the night at Baini village.
30. Wednesday, travelling I ate victuals at Strcea village, on the Siret river;
from there I passed the night at Mihileti village, by Cuciur Forest.
31. Thursday I went to Cuciur, estate of Putna monastery, there I ate victuals, and also passed the night.
January 1770
1. Friday I went to Cernui, and I ate victuals there; going ahead, I passed
the night at Mteti village, an estate of Sucevi [monastery]
2. Saturday, eating victuals there, and going ahead I passed the night at
Comani village, an estate of the Diocese of Rdui.34

Venedicts obsessive annotation of his eating and resting habits inevitably

appears risible to an enlightened readership accustomed to being either
amused or instructed by travel texts; but we should also place it in its
proper context, that of a religious man seeking to mark the cycle of his
daily actions, that he be seen to be observing them in some kind of order.
The success of his mission would depend not only on the political encounter at Petersburg which would take place at the end of it, but perhaps also
on the correct performance of the journey (which begins immediately
after the Christmas festival, at the end of a long forty-day fast, as important as Lent in the Orthodox monastic calendar). What appear to us as
banal materialities take their place alongside the other active and passive
omens of the journey: snowdrifts, but also veneration of holy relics at the
Monastery of the Caves at Kiev, encounters with Russian Hierarchs, the
great ceremony at the Bogoyavlenskii (Theophany) Monastery to mark
the funeral of Andrei Galistyn, and so forth. By February Venedict himself
apologises that

34Venedict, Cltoria, 250. Shortly afterwards Koglniceanu interrupts the text: As you
can see our author eats victuals and passes the night too much; and so as not to excite such
a hunger for food and rest in our readers too, we shall follow our traveller only through
those localities where he noted something other than table and bed (251).

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


having set off from Kiev on a staging route that goes day and night [without
stopping], I have left off showing the days of the month, and have written
the townships and villages, and from which town how much to the next,
how many versts.35

It is the fact of two weeks having passed that causes him to set off from
Moscow to Petersburg; and it is on Palm Sundaya feast surely not
without significance in this contextthat an audience is granted with
the Empress. There is a kind of assumption that profane occurrences will
not be written down, so that even quite detailed sensory inventorization
of the contents of the Imperial apartments and gardens serves to sanctify
rather than to debase the experience:
May 8. Saturday St. John the Evangelist I went to church at Court, and after
the Holy Liturgy I walked in the Imperial Gardens which is up at the palace,
where there are all kinds of images carved in marble, and fruit-bearing trees,
lemons, figs, laurels and others. Likewise an nrngerie [orangerie, editors
note], that is a winter garden, where there are also many kinds of fruit trees
and flowers, glass walls, and stoves inside; there are also birds, and English
crows, and canaries endowed with all kinds of feathers. The canaries also
have nests with their young there, among the trees. There are also some
birds called fazani [i.e. pheasants, AD-F]: their tail and wing feathers are red,
while on the belly and under the wings yellow, and on the neck striped in
three colours, with yellow and red feathers. I went through the apartments
around the garden, which are furnished with many fine things, like religious
and historical paintings [kartine], painted to look as if they were really alive;
there are also many animals of great size. There is also a clock, which when
it strikes after each hour, plays all kinds of tunes in panpipes for a quarter
of an hour or more.36

The Empresss move from her summer to her winter residence is marked
by eating of victuals (257); eating of victuals with the Archimandrite
Platon is accompanied by spiritual and other chanting (258); but also by
the political bulletins arriving from the home and foreign frontsTartar
raids back home in Moldavia, the public knouting of thieves in Petersburg. As sacred and political time intersect in this way, the closest Hegumen Venedikt gets to expressing some kind of personal emotion is again
on a feast day, St. Peters, when at another Imperial banquet there were
many French and Italian songs, women singing, and especially a girl with
an amazing, indescribable voice. And giving thanks after dinner we went

35Ibid., 251.
36Ibid., 2556.


chapter three
into the third galdarea [galrie, editors note] or house, which again was
decorated with many beautiful objects. And making the sign of the cross
and giving thanks after coffee, I went out, and walked in the imperial garden where there are innumerable torchlights, and all kinds of wild animals,
stags, hinds, goats and many other indescribable beauties; this garden is on
the sea shore, and you can see Kronstadt from it.37

The pleasure described is closely intertwined with sense experience and

personal movement through sounds, tastes, sights, buildings and landscapes. On the fourth of July, or rather in the entry for that day, Venedikt
makes a more general meteorological observation, both pre- and postdated, that from 15 May to 8 July, the sky having been so cloudless and
clear, stars were hardly seen, for night hardly even fell.38 Saint Elijahs day,
Tuesday 20th July, brings tidings of joy, concerning Count Rumyantsevs
victory over the Turks and the Tatar Khan; but only on the 22nd does he
tell us he has been ill, which has cost him the first eighteen days of the
month and 30 lei in doctors fees. Of the journey home, begun on Tuesday
27th July, day of the Martyr St. Panteleimon, not much incident is recorded,
with a final entry on the first of September 1770.
Judging by Koglniceanus editorial derision, this appears at first sight
to be a text which has entered the circuit of public criticism and appreciation too late for it to be properly understood. Reviewing a similar process,
namely the way in which readers of Addisons Remarks on Italy became
increasingly uncomprehending of his purposes with the passing of the
later decades of the eighteenth century, critic Charles Batten noted how
fundamental problems arise when readers do not comprehend the conventional aims of travel literature and when literary historians are ignorant of the tradition in which travellers write.39 A monolithic reading of
Romanian cultural transition from medieval to modern might lead us to
assume that some kind of general schism intervened between 1770 and
1840, leaving the old literature unintelligible to the new, realist generation. Such a reading, present in so many late twentieth-century analyses,

37Ibid., 25960. I have interpreted fantaluri as a misprint for fanaluri torchlights.

38Ibid. This is followed by a curious interpolation in the manuscript, a forfeit for the
drunkard, that, being on a separate sheet, can only be read, charitably, as just that, an
interpolation: Catch a gadfly and put it in hard spirits, to kill it, and give it to the drunkard, saying: as cattle run from the gadfly and hide, so should so-and-so flee from the inn,
and drink no more.
39Batten, Pleasurable instruction, 19. Cf. Anghelescu, Mistificiuni, 57, on the misreading
by later critics of Romanian traveller Dinicu Golescus nsemnare a cltoriii mele.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


Fig. 2.Emmanuel-Adolphe Midy, Le rencontre, c. 1840. Encounter between a

boyar of the older generation in Oriental dress, and a younger boyar in European
dress. Detail from lithograph, Romanian Academy Library.

was being constituted even in the 1830s and 1840s: Moldavian writer and
traveller Alecu Russo made so bold as to assert that
In the 16 years from 1835 to 1851, Moldavia has lived more than in the five
hundred historical years from the descent of Drago in 1359 to the days of
our parents. Our parents lived their lives very much as their ancestors did
[whereas] our life has no connection to theirs, we could even say that we
are not their children.40

That this was far from being the case can be appreciated by an analysis
of a new travel account published by a young Moldavian intellectual of
relatively humble origins, Teodor Codrescu (18191894), whose O cltorie
la Constantinopoli was published for the first (and only) time in Iai in
1844. Born in Galai, the main port of Moldavia on the Danube, Codrescu
underwent summary primary schooling in his home town before being
orphaned, whereupon he moved to Iai and studied at the recently
founded public higher school, the Academia Mihilean.41 In the patronage system of the time, his chance came when he was given the position

40Studie moldovan [1851] in Russo, Scrieri, 11; also cited in Michelson, Alecu Russo, 117.
41 Mnuc, Teodor Codrescu.


chapter three

of Romanian-language tutor to Prince Mihail Sturdzas brother-in-law

Nicolae Vogoridi (18201863), son of Stefan Vogoridi, a wealthy Phanariot
of Bulgarian origin.42 Accompanying Nicolae Vogoridi to Constantinople,
Codrescu felt that
I could not stop myself from making a few notes on the objects most worthy
of being seen and known, that can be found there, as well as, at the same
time, the customs of the people there.43

The introduction to this work is something of a political essay insisting on

the reforms that had been taking place in the Ottoman Empire and combating the views of those who, not having encountered the Turks at close
quarters...considered them utterly barbarous, confounded in idiotic
prejudices and that nothing good can be done in this Empire.44 And the
greater part of the book is not arranged temporally but in a tableau of the
kind often produced by Western writers: separate chapters treat Constantinople (2136), religion (3756), schools (5767), the Nizam or reformed
military (6974), observations (7593), and visits (95101). But during
the chapters on departure (919), and return (10311), a specific, and not
just diurnal but literally minutious account of the journey is given.
On Saturday the 5/17 August at 8 hours in the morning,45 we set off from
the port of Galai to Constantinople, on the steamboat Seri-Pervas, property
of the Austrian Danube company. The weather was favourable, the day fine
enough and cooled by a plentiful downpour that caught us on our entry into
Galai, on Friday at 6. Leaving that place, we reached Saccea at 10 minutes
past eleven, on the right side of the Danube, a fortified locality. (11)
At thirty minutes past twelve oclock we reached Tulcea (12)
At five past six in the evening we reached the mouth of the Danube, called
Sulina (12)
Sunday, at four minutes to nine we reached the isthmus of Kaliakri (15)
At eight minutes to 12 we reached the bay next to Varna (16)
Sunday at 12 hours and twenty-five minutes past midnight, I was told that
the lights of the Bosphorus could be seen (17)

42Stefan Vogoridi had used his influence at the Porte to sponsor Sturdzas ascent to the
Moldavian throne; in return, Sturdza accepted Vogoridis daughters hand in marriage.
43Codrescu, O cltorie, 3.
45The two dates represent, respectively, the Julian or Old Style calendar which most
Orthodox nations still followed until the early twentieth century; and the Gregorian or
New Style, in use in most of western Europe.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


Most of the information that punctuates this extremely punctual account

or, reversing the hierarchies, that is punctuated by its timekeepingis
historical in nature, with some human and political geography. Near Isaccea, the foundations of an old fortress, possibly from the time of Stephen
the Great, the fifteenth-century Prince of Moldavia (There was a time
when the Princes of Moldavia entitled themselves Rulers also over the
Black Sea11). Near Tulcea, settlements of Russians and Germans, with
another of Arabs nearby (12). Sulina inspires an account of the Delta, formerly of six channels but now only three, and of the Russians civilizing
efforts: a lighthouse, for which each boat pays a toll of a thaler, formerly
two (1213); at Kaliakri, again the ruins of a fortress of the same name,
whose foundations, battered constantly by the waves, seem to take root in
the depths of the Black Sea (15). But on finally entering the Bosphorus,
At ten minutes past two I gazed ecstatically upon both lighthouses [the
Asian and the European], their lights striving to cut through the fog of steam
emanating from the sea on a beautiful August night, to lighten the path of
our entrance into the Bosphorus, whose waves gently rocked us. (18)

Codrescus text brings to mind the kind of travel description ridiculed by

the anthropologist Claude Lvi-Strauss.46 This man, who apparently has
no difficulty looking at a view and at his watch at the same time, begins
his chapter on Constantinople with a panorama of the city, seen from
the Kule-Kapsi watchtower, wherehe notes with satisfactionthere is
also a clock. However, he appears not to have availed himself of the latter

46Lvi-Strausss impatience with the picturesque, and attempt to distinguish between

the truth of ethnography and the sediment of description, became paradigmatic, and
quasi-obligatory for the discipline: We may endure six months of travelling, hardships and
sickening boredom for the purpose of recording (in a few days, sometimes a few hours)
a hitherto unknown myth, a new marriage rite or a complete list of clan names, but this
residue of memoryAt five thirty in the morning, we entered the harbour at Recife amid
the shrill cries of the gulls, while a fleet of boats laden with tropical fruit clustered round
the hullthis worthless recollection can hardly be worth me taking up my pen to write
down. Lvi-Strauss, Tristes tropiques, 17. Cf. Johnsons much earlier critique of travel writers, these wanderers who inform us that on a certain day he set out early with the caravan, and in the first hours march, saw towards the south, a hill covered with trees...that
an hour after he saw something to the right which looked at a distance like a castle with
towers...Then he conducts his reader thro wet and dry, over rough and smooth...and if
he obtains his company for another day, will dismiss him again at night, equally fatigued
with a like succession of rocks and streams, mountains and ruins (Idler, no. 97 (1760),
partially cited in Sherman, Telling time, 198). The problem of anthropologys simultaneous
distancing from and complicity with literary modes was brilliantly reexamined by Pratt,
Fieldwork in common places.


chapter three

facility, and from this point on he ceases to time his annotations, moving
rapidly towards a general tableau mode:
The view of this city is one of the most enchanting in the world, and one
can justly say that: here nature made everything, and man nothing, for its
elevated position, the combination of trees, houses, and minarets which it
displays; the grand entrance of the Bosphorus, filled with caiques; the extensive port, surrounded by the suburbs of Galata, Pera and St. Demetrius; the
whole of Scutari rising opposite; the greenish hills extending behind in the
form of a shadow; the Sea of Marmara with its smiling islands, further off,
snow-covered Mount Olympus, the fertile plains of Europe and Asia all
around. (23)

This dithyrambic landscape is, unfortunately interrupted by reality, for

As soon, however, as one enters into its midst, a feeling of astonishment
and disgust prevails. This extensive city is poorly built, being composed of a
collection of ill-proportioned shacks and of narrow and poorly paved lanes.
Most of the habitations are of wood and are located on the peaks of the hills
or on both shores of the Bosphorus. (24)

The return to Moldavia occasions a return to diurnal notations, as

on Tuesday 12th September, at 1 hours after noon, we left Constantinople
for Moldavia on the Metternich steamboat,...arriving at Sulina at 1 hours
after midnight....We stayed here until 6 oclock in the morning (105).

A favourable account is given of the quarantine, which the Moldavian

authorities had been responsible for erecting: so well built that seen
from the Danube from a distance it looks like a fortress; unlike Constantinople, this picture does not become a deception if one passes into its
interior; there is a well-kept garden here to amuse the freely-detained
passenger. A distinguished foreign traveller, the Austrian engineer Karl
von Birago,47 assures Codrescu that our quarantine does great honour to
Moldavia, and can compete with the first in Europe in matters of cleanliness and good order (106). Ever eager to give favourable mentions of
recently-established modernizing institutionsthe schools in the towns
of Galai, Tecuci and Brlad, the threshing machine and plate manufactory at his patron Vogoridis future father-in-laws estate at ignetior
people (the Austrian consul Huber at Galai), Codrescu leaves aside his
former exigency in timekeeping matters, and signals the date of his entry
into Iai as taking place after a journey of fifty-two days (110), in other
47Freiherr Karl von Birago (17921845), military engineer and bridge designer.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


words on the 26th of September / 6th October. Strangely, nowhere in the

text is the year of the journey given, and only by confronting the days of
the week assigned to certain dates against calendars for given years, and
collating this with various circumstantial details, do I feel confident in
establishing the date of this journey as being 1839.
In contrast to Hegumen Venedict, and as part of the new civil officialdom that was expanding in Moldavia in the period of the Russian protectorate, when the so-called Organic Regulations offered modernization
and a semi-constitutional regime, Codrescu tried to assume the role of
the modern professional layman. His travel text and his temporal regime
remain that of a bureaucrat, despite a keen geographical and ethnographical eye. As Florea Ioncioaia has noted, the nineteenth-century traveller, as
a mediating representative of the paradigms and mentalities of his home
culture, almost comes to resemble a public functionary.48
Romantic Paradigms? Mihai Koglniceanu and Alecu Russo
The installation of Romantic structures in Romanian culture is frequently
associated with the year 1840 and a number of now canonical statements
concerning the need to cultivate a national literature, and particularly
national history and landscapes.49 Mihail Koglniceanu, for example, in
the programmatic introduction that appeared in that year in the first
number of his review Dacia litterar, fulminated against the mania for
translations which he saw as threatening native talent, and insisted that
Our history has sufficient heroic deeds, our beautiful lands are large enough
and our customs picturesque and poetic enough for us to find subjects for
writing among ourselves, without needing, for this purpose, to borrow from
other nations.50

Likewise, Koglniceanus fellow Moldavian, Alecu Russo, writing in the

same year:
Could there be anybody so unjust as to say or believe that Moldavia were
a steppe country, in which the sun toils endlessly on the horizon, where
the pale and enfeebling greenery makes you sad? No, Moldavia contains all
kinds of landscapes, merry, sombre, bucolic, enriched by natures bounty.
What is more, it bears the ineffable mark of suave melancholy, like the scent
48Ioncioaia, Viena, 417.
49General analyses include Popovici, Romantismul romnesc.
50Koglniceanu, Introducie [1840], in idem, Opere, 1:223.


chapter three
of a delicate flower. The wildness of its hills possesses a primitive je ne sais
quoi, that causes you to forget lifes momentary misfortunes, and lulls you
into a soft and silent state of contemplation.51

But, it has to be said, the theoretical elaboration of a Romantic programme was not always consistently followed by its practical development. Koglniceanu himself left some fascinating unpublished material,
in the form of 128 precocious adolescent letters recounting his experiences
as a student travelling first to Lunville and then to Berlin, in the period
18341838;52 and also in a series of miscellaneous notes documenting travels through Vienna in 1844, and to France and Spain in 18451847.53
The texts form instructive contrasts. The first, the letters, are those of a
conscientious son and brother recounting facts and figures about his studies, travels, and about France and Germany in general. These letters are
of course dated (as with Codrescus text, in two dates, the Old and New
Styleanother temporal indicator of the disjunction between Romanian
and what was explicitly called European time). While including a number
of original observations, Koglniceanu sometimes has recourse to the cut
and paste method of excerption and translation from local guidebooks.
A letter of 8 April 1836, for instance, contains a description of the Berlin
Arsenal written in Romanian but also in French, so that the sisters can
understand, which description I have extracted from a book entitled Le
conducteur du voyageur Berlin.54 On 19 May another description, this
time of the University, is transcribed; on 9 June, one of the Gendarmes
Square; on 9 August, one of the Royal court.55 Both these latter are apparently accompanied by illustrations, some of them on special headed paper

51 Russo, La pierre du tilleul [c. 1840] in idem, Scrieri, 206.

52The letters from this period are published in Koglniceanu, Scrisori, ed. Hane, 1188.
This volume also contains five later letters from Vienna and Paris, 18441846 (18997) and
thirty-nine from exile in Austria and France in 18481849 (198232).
53Koglniceanus account of Vienna and Notes sur lEspagne in Opere, 1:487542. His
Viennese journal was written in (a small initial portion of) an elegant leather album; A
Voyage sur le bas Danube, mentioned in a plan of work for 1845, has not surfaced. On
Koglniceanu as traveller, besides Dan Simonescus useful editorial notes to the Opere
(whence I have the aforementioned information), see Ioncioaia, Viena, and TudoricImpey, An Eastern gate.
54Koglniceanu, Scrisori, 83. This interestingly implies that his sisters, educated by
Francophone tutors back home in Iai, may not have been able to read Romanian, then
still written in the Cyrillic script. Certainly Koglniceanu consistently wrote to his father
in Romanian and to his sisters in French.
55Ibid., 867, 889, 945.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


which Koglniceanu has managed to buy, each one with a separate image
of Berlin.56
The second, entitled Notes sur lEspagne, in a mixture of Romanian and
French, has been characterized as a literary mosaic, a disorderly collection of historical, literary and picturesque jottings.57 Again here, original
observation is interleaved with quite extensive translation from, among
other sources, George Borrows Bible in Spain and William Robertsons
History of Charles V, both through the intermediary of French versions.
In this sense, Koglniceanu hardly followed his own advice to steer clear
of the mania to translate. But his text also contains some instructional
notes betraying an attempt to meditate on questions of perspective and
distance their effect on the travellers experience:
The first duty of any traveller who desires to see and to remember is, immediately upon arriving at a noteworthy town or locality, to climb up the
dominant mountain or hill, or in the absence of one, up the highest tower.
Then he may study the local physionomy, position, direction and form of
the buildings, and thereby, in some sense, their soul. The panorama unfurling before him repays the effort of climbing up. That is what I did climbing the tower above the vaulted entrance to the Escorial. I could judge the
form of the ensemble. On one side we have the mountains still covered with
snow, on the other the plain with its olive forests in the heart of Castille, and
Madrid visible in the distance.58

These remarks have been dismissed, perhaps somewhat superciliously,

as having a puerile-scientific character.59 A more charitable view would
remind the reader that these texts were either written in early youth or
in great haste, and, not having been prepared by the author himself for
publication, were never subjected to the processes of literary revision
common to most of the works mentioned hitherto.
Similar reservations apply partly to the writings of Koglniceanus contemporary Alecu Russo (18191859). Like Koglniceanu, Russo belonged
to the boyar or noble class and was a member of a progressive generation
who had been sent abroad for education in western Europe, albeit not as
far as Paris. Having spent much of his adolescence at boarding school in
Geneva (182935), Russo returned to take up a number of positions in the
Moldavian bureaucracy. In the meantime he produced a miscellaneous

56Letter of 23 March, ibid., 82.

57Simonescu, notes to Notes sur lEspagne, in Koglniceanu, Opere, 1:5347.
58Koglniceanu, Opere 1:5312.
59Popa, Cltoriile, 243.


chapter three

uvre of journalism, literary criticism, plays and memoirs, a large part of

which were written in French and appeared only posthumously (his dramatic works have not survived). Works such as he did publish in Romanian during his lifetime were signed either with his initials or, on one
occasion, with a pseudonym.60
In terms of the question at hand, that of travel literatures oscillation between interest in the self and interest in landscape, Russos most
relevant and important text is, without doubt, La pierre du tilleul [The
linden stone].61 Named after a curious limestone rock formation in the
Neam region of Moldavia, about which legend records that a shepherd
planted a linden tree on it to ward off the devil, the piece in fact embeds
travel annotations and the recounting of popular and historical legends
within an extended reflection on his and his generations relationship to
travel and to knowledge of their homeland. Russos text bears the subtitles
Lgende montagnarde. Fragment dun voyage dans la haute Moldavie en
1839, and begins with a rhetorical defence both of domestic travel and of
writing about it.62 The actual travel-descriptive element is relatively short,
and yet Russo does momentarily assume the diurnal mode, recounting
his departure from Iai in early September, his arrival in Piatra Neam on
the fourth of that month, and his entry into the heart of the mountain[s]
on the eleventh.63 Even at the commencement of the diurnal section the
exigencies of unmediated annotation seem to make him feel awkward,
as if the hybridities of his discursive styles were a direct outcome of the
unevenness of the modes of transport, and the terrain itself:
I ask your pardon, for now, for all these reflections, observations and landscapes, dreamt up on the spot, for I am having a hard enough time keeping
my balance in these delicate carts. Each bump threatens to send me on an
aerial journey; it is most pleasant. The driver only overturned me twice the
whole way to Piatra. My mineralogical studies were profound, my progress
in human psychology boundless.64

60Faifer, Alecu Russo. Russos principal prose works are, in Romanian, Amintiri [Recollections] unfinished, partially published in the review Romnia literar, 1855; and Studie
moldovan, published in Zimbrul, 1851; in French, and posthumous, are La pierre du tilleul;
Iassy et ses habitants en 1840; and Sovja, journal dun exil politique en 1846.
61 Despite its importance being signalled by Cornea (Literatura muntelui, 383), there
has been little detailed analysis of the narrative structure of this text.
62Russo, La pierre du tilleul [1840], in idem, Scrieri, 2059.
63Ibid., 20917.
64Ibid., 210.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


But the attempt to write a simple diary is somehow at odds with the purpose of the journey, which is to return to see the homeland scenes he
had been put in mind of when facing the better-known landscapes of the
Rhone valley, where he had been sent for his Genevan education from
the age of 10. He tells his driver (whom he calls the Dacian, after the
countrys autochtonous inhabitants) to
stop, Dacian, for you cannot know how this breeze of life blowing from the
hills used to dry the tears of my childhood, cajole the dreams of my youth,
and has just found me again, after a long separation, an aged youth, with
furrowed brow, broken heart, disillusioned! How beautiful and delicate my
dreams were, like those light splashes sketched by the stones I used to skim
on the surface of the Rhone!65

Russos efforts at a full-blown travel journal are inevitably interrupted by

his disposition towards reverie, and after a couple of non-diurnal headings (Itinerarypoetry), returns to essayistic mode, reflecting on the
character of the Moldavians, the mountains, or on direct description of
the scenery; continuing into a story within a story in the form of the
eponymous legend, recounted by a villager who had joined our party.66
His encounter with picturesque nature and ancestral inhabitants is frequently correlated not only to his early childhoodthe classic technique
of landscape as trigger for recollection of origins, to be found in literary
and psychological writing from Wordsworth to Freudbut also to his foreign adolescence, on which his enlightened sensibility and Francophone
literary education depends but from which he is simultaneously attempting to emancipate himself. This explains his reaction on encountering the
linden stone of the pieces title; he dismounts from his horse and carves
his name into the stone like a true tourist who has traversed Switzerland,
the land of towers, and as one who knows his Dumas by heart.67
Elsewhere, he meditates at greater length on potential comparisons
between the Alps and the Carpathians:
I have frequently heard people comparing our Carpathians to the mountains
of Switzerland, although those who did so never saw beautiful Switzerland

66Ibid., 225. The technique of embedding folkloric legends into travel narratives is also
used by Russos friend and compatriot Vasile Alecsandri, in his O primblare la muni
[1844], which, by means of similar artifices, incorporates stories and legends previously
published separately. See Alecsandri, Proz, 13361. On this technique in early Romanian
fiction, see Manca, Structura naraiei, 21213; Roman, Le populisme, 15864.
67Russo, La pierre, in Scrieri, 225.


chapter three
even in a dream. What can I say? Our mountains are genuinely beautiful,
grand, and with a thousand picturesque views, but lonesome, pleasing only
to those genuinely infatuated with such things, and covered with a nebulous
veil of melancholy, that forms the distinctive mark of our landscape, but not
broad tableaux, sometimes focused and almost purposefully framed, sometimes unfolding in the distance with their rich pastures, such as nature has
sown in Switzerland. There is also grandeur and sublimity in the peaks rising crowned with dark fir trees and their sides eroded by torrents of water,
covering the valleys in stones and ruins; but it is not the grandeur of the
Alps. Faced with the latter, the eye is astounded, judgement powerless.
Faced with our mountains, the soul drifts into dreaminess, as in an endless
elegy. As if you were seeing fallen grandeur, or spirits wounded by contact
with the real world, having experienced lifes disappointments.68

Russo earlier admits that his interest in the countryside and the picturesque had been stimulated at least in part by his knowledge of foreign
accounts that, however superficial and stereotypical in their treatment of
Moldavia, nevertheless made it seem bearable.69 This has been analysed
by Wendy Bracewell in terms of a sense that value and originality lay
elsewhere, that the domestic and indigenous could only ever be a reflection of a copy...while at the same time beset with an uneasy nostalgia for
the domestic ways they have been taught to despise, leading to a sense
of the nation as being both inferior and infinitely precious.70 In this posture, the Romanian discovery of landscape does indeed accompany and
metonymise a fascination with the self, but it is a discovery mediated and
overshadowed by the encounter with the other.
As Raymond Williams reminded us in The country and the city, the very
etymology of the word country suggests otherness, deriving as it does from
contre, i.e. that which faces us, it opposite us.71 This has sometimes been
analysed in terms of unequal relations between metropolis and hinterland, or European imperialist attitudes towards depicting remote regions.72
68Ibid., 217. A later Moldavian traveller, visiting Switzerland in the 1860s, produced a
cruder numerical comparison between the two ranges: Imagine, on top of our Carpathians,
another row of Carpathians, and you would scarcely have the altitude of these mountains.
(Gane, Pcate mrturisite, 211). Ford, Relocating an idyll, argues that the Carpathians constituted surrogate Alps for British writers, especially from the 1860s onwards.
69Russo, La pierre, in idem, Scrieri, 208.
70Bracewell, The limits of Europe, 1056.
71 Williams, The country and the city; cf. Muecke, Country.
72E.g. Pratt, Imperial eyes, 28, for whom nature description is a story of urbanizing,
industrializing Europeans fanning out in search of non-exploitive relations to nature, even
as they were destroying such relations in their own centers of power...a narrative of anticonquest, in which the naturalist naturalizes the bourgeois Europeans own global presence and authority.

self, time and object in early romanian travel texts


Part of Russos task may indeed be to stylize and ancestralize the native
places and inhabitants, while praising the beneficent paternalism of
the Moldavian landowners. But his is not a discourse of othering in a
timeless present...without an explicit anchoring either in an observing
self or in a particular encounter.73 Unlike his compatriot Codrescu travelling to Constantinople in the same month of the same year, he notes not
just the month but also the year of his journey, and gives considerable
voice to the locals he encounters. Although he does little to undermine
patriarchal boyar-peasant relations, he also invokes an imagined West, in
a moral geopolitics which, as Jzsef Brcz has written, comes not only
from the Western observer or postcolonial subject, but also from the
frustrated location of inadequate (eastern, &c.) Europe.74 In this case,
perhaps what is other is not so much the landscape itself but the foreign, Romantic, implicitly European tradition of writing about it, especially when placed in a certain relation to cultural identity and personal
memory. At the same time both his journey and his meditations on it are
anchored in history and provide a reflective commentary on the present
and on the dilemmas of Moldavian selfhood. As mentioned above, one of
Russos gestures when faced with the linden stone, the ancestral symbol
of his homeland, is to inscribe his name on it. This gesture is returned to
in the dnouement of the piece, when a peasant remarks
A strange thing you did there, sir...
What thing, mon brave?
Well, what were you doing with your knife? A fine knife, I dont
I was signing my name.
And why?
For other travellers, coming after me, to see it.
A worthless task, sir, unless you be joking with me...For twenty-five
years, since I have known the linden stone, although many boyars and
upstarts have passed by here, I have never seen even one stop, let alone
to write their name!75

73Eadem, Scratches on the face of the country, 1201 (referring to descriptive techniques in British travel accounts of Africa).
74Brcz, Goodness is elsewhere, 134. See also Dainottos interesting interpretation of
southern European self-positionings vis--vis the European centre (Dainotto, Europe).
75Russo, La pierre, in idem, Scrieri, 235.


chapter three

In conclusion, Russo leaves the solution of the mystery of his graphic gesture to the Devil and to the reader. As far as I am aware I am only the
second Anglophone reader to engage in such a diabolical hermeneutic
contest. The first, Paul Michelson, in a sensitive presentation of Russos
uvre, stressed particularly the theme of historicism and the national
past, and argued that Romanians, to be able to engage in a successful
assumption of selfhood, needed to analyse and situate, rather than simply
reject, their native traditions.76 Here I have tried to show the worth of
paying attention not just to reflections on the nature of history, but also
to the specific forms of narration at work in the representation of place,
time and landscape, which in turn have important consaequences for the
presentation of self-identity, as well as enabling us to elucidate certain
problems of the status of such texts as historical documents. Traditionally,
analysis of such forms has been applied by literary critics to fiction, but
they have relevance for the historian too.
In its early textual development, the Romanian travel account did not
necessarily move from a dry analytical discourse to a minutious, introverted diurnality. On the contrary, the perfunctoriness of the journal was
criticised and abandoned, much as it had been in the Western Middle
Ages.77 At the same time, Romanian travel discourses (and here I have
focused almost exclusively on the Moldavian variant of these discourses)
took a variety of forms, as can be seen by the examples of Codrescu and
Russo, who produced such different texts despite having travelled almost
simultaneously. However, the growth of the reflective mode, particularly
in the era of Romanticism, served as a platform for discourses of historical value to be displayed through a symbolic personal journey, in which
temporal and spatial travel, not to mention reverie and reality, often intersected and overlapped. This mode, precisely while privileging an explicitly subjective and fragmentary approach towards recollecting the past,
sought also to define collective identities and act as a spur to action in
the present.

76Michelson, Alecu Russo.

77Howard, Writers and pilgrims, 1819, argues that Western pilgrimage narratives
undergo a move towards literature as they emancipate themselves from the mere log of
details and gain in narrative consistency.

Chapter four

Like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame:

foreign travellers as a trope in Romanian
cultural tradition*
In October 2004 the prominent Romanian writer Horia-Roman Pata
pieviciperhaps the archetypal representative of Bucharests current
metropolitan intelligentsialaunched a literary-intellectual review entitled Ideas in Dialogue. The title of the review indicated a programmatic
intention to supply a forum for a type of cultural discussion perceived to
be lacking in Romania. Patapievici took up this theme in an essay introducing the first number, which begins thus:
If a foreign traveller were to undertake a sojourn in Romanian cultural life
of recent decades, he would be struck by the fact that there is no intellectual debate here, original books fail to provoke discussion, while schools
of thought are, in reality, borrowed trends or interest groups whose coherence is maintained by force of profitable convictions. Although not exactly
a cultural desert, Romania is a field where people shout, prattle or titter, but
where there is little listening, still less understanding, and the calm sound of
discussion is rarely heard.
Modern Romanian culture was created in the nineteenth century, growing around the nucleus of the model of general education. And general education, in its turn, was built around belles-lettres. You could be considered
cultured, if you knew the names of a few canonical authors, if you were up
on the literature which circulated, if you listened to a certain music and you
proved yourself capable, either orally or in writing, of handling in an assured
fashion the classic locutions of the pink pages of Larousse. In short, to be
cultured meant to have read high literature.1

How should we interpret this opening gambit? A domestic writer, attacking the sterility and superficiality of contemporary Romanian intellectual
life, calls upon the testimony of a foreign traveller. No explanation is
required: his readers are assumed to be aware of the importanceand,
*In Travel and ethics, ed. C. Forsdick, C. Fowler & L. Kostova. Abingdon: Routledge,
2013, 183203.
1Patapievici, Calmul discuiei, and in a slightly different form in his book Despre idei
& blocaje, ch. 1. In his autobiographical memoir, Zbor n btaia sgeii (1995), Patapievici
describes himself as having cultivated this immersion in high culture during the Ceauescu
period, within a context of resistance to the dominant ideology.


chapter four

it is implied, accuracyof the putative foreigners putative verdict. The

trope of the foreign traveller is therefore, it seems, a classic locution, to
cite the phrase Patapievici uses to denote widely-detained cultural knowledge. But what, precisely is the nature and role of this foreign traveller?
How did he acquire such symbolic authority?
Scholarsmainly in Romaniahave enumerated, translated and analysed the relatively large number of foreign accounts of Romanian life and
culture that were produced from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.2
Critiques have appeared in English, largely pursuing a neo-Saidian
approach, showing how Westerners elaborated a superficial and derogatory discourse about small, Balkan or Ruritanian cultures.3 At more or
less the same time, scholars in Romania and elsewhere in eastern Europe
were starting to take a more scholarly and critical look at the evolution
of discourses of national identity, and precisely identifying a reaction to
foreign writings about them as being a central trope in this ideology.4
For instance, it was posited that the paradigm of east European alterity
imposed itself not only as an ambivalent and necessary ingredient of west
European identity, but also as an essential element of the self-identification
processes of local elites.5
A further notable assumption often made by analysts of Romanian
identity issues is that the description of Romanian lands by foreign travellers, as an act of cultural hegemony, will tend to produce as a symptom
a split, stigmatized identity or inauthenticity complex among the people
constituted as objects of travel description.6 This has sometimes involved
the transposition of the thesis of incompleteness or ambivalence which
was elaborated by Homi Bhabha to denote a state engendered in colonial
subjects as a result of mimicry or fixation on the colonizers discourse.7 I
have already attempted to question this diagnosis in an earlier chapter
dedicated to Dinicu Golescu, the author of the first Romanian travel
2The compendium Cltori strini registers over 300 accounts for the period 17001850
(vols. 810 of the old series and 15 of the new).
3See introduction.
4Zub, Political attitudes and literary expressions; Verdery, Moments; Mitu, National
identity, 1553. Some relevant primary texts are now accessible in English, in e.g. Trencsnyi & Kopeek, eds. Discourses, and Bracewell, ed. Orientations.
5Antohi, Imaginaire culturel, 269.
6Verdery, Moments, 589, speaks of an interstitial subject; Antohi, Imaginaire, of the
constitution of a stigmatic social identity; Alexandrescu, Identitate n ruptur, of identity
fragmentation; cf. Roman, Fragmented identities.
7According to Bhabha, the ambivalence of mimicry produces an uncertainty which
fixed the colonial subjects as partial presence, i.e. both incomplete and virtual.
Bhabha, Of mimicry, 86.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


book and a figure considered paradigmatic for the national tradition of

In this chapter, I propose to continue this debate with reference to
some sources which enable a more precise focus: Romanian discourses
not just about foreigners, but specifically about foreign travellers. In doing
so, I seek to raise questions concerning not just the status of Western
travellers as imputed ethical arbiters, but also some of the problems and
dilemmas raised by the presence and function of this trope in a variety of
forms within an allegedly minor culture.
More specifically, I will analyse a series of texts, composed between 1702
and 1858, in which Romanian authors either describe British and French
travellers, or respond to the latters writings about their country or people.
I identify various modes of treating the theme, which range from relative indifference at an early stage, to high indignation, through to a later
phase where anger is displaced by the use of irony and literary distancing to perhaps indicate that the theme has crystallized and can become
the object of humour. Without wishing to make these examples bear too
much interpretive weight, I propose that this roughly corresponds to the
establishment of the foreign traveller as not merely an occasional object
of remark but as a motif of cultural significance as used by Patapievici
in the early years of the twenty-first century. It bears some relation to
tropes of writing back against metropolitan misrepresentationsbut the
attitudes evinced are in themselves complex and contrasting, for some
identify with the traveller as a source of authority, while others explicitly
polemize against him, questioning his legitimacy.
In the wider scholarly discussion, some attention has been paid to the
role and influences of Western practices of topographical representations on peripheral self-identities. Mary Louise Pratt has coined the term
travelees, to denote the inhabitants of the described lands. She did so by
making an analogy with addressee, meaning persons traveled to (or on)
by a traveller, receptors of travel.9 The term is a useful way of drawing
attention to the function of travel descriptions in casting certain actors in
positions of passivity or objectivization. However, it encompasses quite
diverse potential roles, involving greater or lesser degrees of contact and

8See chapter 5 above. See also the critique of a related diagnosis, that of Romanian
passivity, made by Deletant, Fatalism.
9See Pratt, Imperial eyes, 242 n.42. Cazimir, Alfabetul, 118, uses the suggestive term
objects of transition, as Romanians were cast both as static in relation to the moving
travellers, and as in transit between eras and cultures.


chapter four

more or less active or passive relationships with travellers. Furthermore,

despite the morphological homology, there is also a semantic opposition
between travelee and addressee, in that travelees are often specifically
excluded from the group of recipients of the message. Whether they are
excluded from speaking, Pratt doesnt say. The Romanian travelees I am
referring to here are relatively independent commentators on travellers,
who neither appear to be taken into account by the authors of travel
accounts, nor necessarily address their commentary to the travellers
cultural milieu, although they use both vernacular and metropolitan languages. In conclusion, I argue that part of the importance of these Romanian texts lies in the way in which, through responding to foreign (not
necessarily Western) discourses, they reorganize the relationship between
traveller/travelee and addresser/addressee. Sometimes this involves not
just writing back at foreign travellers, but of finding ways of representing
them, either by ironizing their persona or simply it as a mask to speak to
domestic agendas.
Greceanu on Paget
In a number of standard accounts of Romanian (or, more broadly,
Balkan) Occidentalism, a fascination with Western culture and society,
often mediated through travellers, is seen as a new development appearing at the end of the eighteenth century or during the course of the early
nineteenth.10 But Romanian observations on foreign travellers can be
found as early as the late seventeenth century, when quite extensive historiographical chronicles began to be composed and disseminated both
in Moldavia and in Wallachia. While these sources may not be classic
instances of reverse gaze literature such as is furnished by say, Arab views
of Crusaders, or native American responses to European conquistadores,
they merit more attention than they have received, particularly in terms
of what they tell us about cultural attitudes to outsiders.
Most of these early texts of encounter involve descriptions not of
Westerners but of neighbouring peoples, Poles, Swedes, Russians, Tartars,
Germans, Magyars, Serbs, Bulgarians, Albanians, Greeks or Turks, brought

10E.g. Clinescu, History, ch. 2; Georgescu, Political ideas; Marino, Littrature roumaine,
1048; Jelavich, History of the Balkans, I:1856; Berindei, Romnii i Europa; Michelson,
Romanians; Heppner, Einleitung, 16; Zub, Europa, 275; Cipianu, Opiunea.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


into view by the accidents of war and politics.11 A rare, but detailed and
significant, example of a description of an English traveller through the
Romanian lands can be found in Wallachian chronicler Greceanus History
of the Reign of Prince Constantin Brancoveanu.12 Like many early Romanian
chronicles, Greceanus work is centred on the deeds of the Prince, on the
principle that truly the virtues and deeds of man are to be praised, and
held in greater honour than his wealth or possessions (Preface, 7). These
deeds frequently involve reaction to external events, as at the turn of the
eighteenth century Wallachia found itself caught between the rival designs
of Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian strategy. Representatives of all three of
these powers, or intermediary forces like the ones mentioned above, are
frequently sent into Wallachia, or, conversely, summon the Prince to send
envoys to resolve issues of military requisitioning, territorial delimitation
or appointment of officials. About halfway through this episodic history,
Chapter 55 offers an elaborate description of the visit to Bucharest in 1702
of Lord Paget, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and his
entourage.13 Paget, a great, honourable and wise man according to the
chronicler, had acted entirely in the Portes favour in the recent negotiations at the Treaty of Karlowitz, and therefore merited special hospitality
in his route through Wallachia towards England.14 On his arrival at Tutrakan on the south bank of the Danube, two great boyars with princely
carriages, marquees and all equipage, with a few equerries such as were
worthy of performing office received Paget with all possible honours, and
with great pomp brought him to the princely seat at Bucharest. The next
day, Brncoveanu sent two of his sons and three great boyars to greet
Paget at Vcreti, to the south of Bucharest, whence he was brought with

11Berza, Turcs; Volovici, Polonii; Ciobanu, Imagini ale strinului; Ioncioaia,

Veneticul, pgnul i apostatul; Mazilu, Noi i ceilali.
12The full title is nceptura istorii vieii luminatului i preacretinului domnului rii
Rumneti, Io Constantin Brncoveanu Bassarab Voievod, d cnd Dumzezeu cu domnia
lau ncoronat, pentru vremile i ntmplrile ce n pmntul acesta, n zilele Mriei-sale s-au
ntmplat [Outline of the history of the life of the enlightened and most Christian prince
of Wallachia, Constantin Brincoveanu Bassarab Voevod, from the time of his coronation
by the Lord, recounting the times and events which took place in this land in the days of
His Majesty]. See the latest critical edition in Cronicari munteni, 403671.
13Greceanu, nceptura, 51721. There are no translations into Western languages, but
Iorga, Histoire des relations, 408, gives a longer prcis of the episodes.
14On Paget see Heywood, Paget; Tappe, Documents signalled a Latin ms. account
of the journey from the British archives, while, in the Romanian ones, Cernovodeanu,
Contributions, found some accounts for the costs of entertaining Paget.


chapter four

great ceremony to the Princes lodgings. Official dinners were accompanied by the firing of cannon and other guns, and toasts were offered
with great merriment, so that not only he [Paget] but also his entourage,
became drunk (although they hadnt been forced to by anyone). And when
they got up from table, His Majesty the prince dressed him in a robe with
sable lining, and sent him to his lodgings to rest.

Aside from this early signalling of a British propensity to inebriation

when on Continental travels, Greceanus account is on the whole more
concerned with detailing the ceremonies of the Wallachian court than
with developing a symbolic discourse around this Western traveller, who
features here as just one aspect of the political calendar requiring the
attention of a chronicler.
Some useful comparative light on Pagets visit to Bucharest, and on its
perception, can be obtained by considering the account composed by a
member of Pagets entourage, Edmund Chishull, chaplain of the English
factory at Smyrna.15 In his posthumously-published Travels in Turkey and
back to England, Chishull made some incidental observations on his way
through Wallachia, which he describes as luxuriantly rich, but desolate
for want of culture and inhabitants. By way of example, a miserable collection of cottages, scarcely deserving the name of a village is juxtaposed
to a pleasant wood, enriched with lily of the valley, and other flowers.16
On the whole, however, he gives a comparatively favourable account of
the local culture and conditions: his lodgings, for instance, are reckoned
fair and gentile, built of stone and covered agreably to the custom of this
place with wooden tiles; and being furnished with apartments after the
Christian fashion, may be esteemed magnificent when compared with the
barbarous edifices of the neighbouring Turks.17

After a similar description of courtly ceremonies, and visits to the printing presses of Bucharestwhere he was able to witness the production of
some of the earliest printed Arabic books, being prepared by the Patriarch
of Jerusalem for the Orthodox Christians of the Middle EastChishull
described Ambassador Paget as taking leave of Bucharest with a deep
sense of the generous, honourable and affectionate treatment he had
received in this court.18
15On him see Constantine, Early Greek travellers, 3452; and Gibson, Chishull.
16Chishull, Travels, 77.
17Ibid., 78.
18Ibid., 80.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


In conclusion, the reciprocal images produced by early English and

Romanian chroniclers were relatively even-handed; colourful and critical notes are included, but there is no sign of them metastasizing into
grosser stereotypes. Scholars have used this and other material to posit
rightly or wronglythat in the pre-modern period, Romanians stood in
a complex-free relationship with Europe, which they referred to as our
Carra and His Critics
Before the second half of the eighteenth century, information in Western
languages on the Romanian lands tended to be confined to these kinds
of incidental observations by scholars, traders or diplomats usually on
their way between larger centres such as Vienna, Istanbul, Warsaw or
St. Petersburg. And in the context of a relatively reduced reading public, and limited commercial or communicational networks between the
Romanian lands and the West, it is unlikely either that Chishulls book
was read in Bucharest, or that Greceanus chronicle was taken note of in
London.20 The possibility of comparing notes, or even of offering conflicting reactions to reciprocal encounters, increased during the course of the
eighteenth century as the circulation of both people and books grew more
rapid and frequent.
A particular stimulus for interest in the area was the renewed conflict between Russia and the Ottomans which broke out in 1768, and was
often cast as part of the broader question of the revival of Greece.21 In the
absence of any designated territory of Greece during this period, the status of Moldavia and Wallachia as lands governed semi-autonomously by
Phanariot princes appointed from Istanbul, as well as their location in the
path of the Russian armies on their way south, rendered them the focus
of European attention.22 In this context, it is understandable that foreign
19Georgescu, The Romanians, 1067; Pippidi, Pouvoir et culture, 28594; Antohi, Imaginaire culturel, 232; Michelson, Romanians and the West, 12. A different, longer-term view
in Verdery, Moments, 31; Marino, Vechi complexe; and Deletant, Romanians.
20Chishulls text (with a translation by Caterina Piteteanu) was presented to the
Romanian Academy in March 1921 as unknown by Bianu, Un cltor englez necunoscut.
However, it had previously been signalled by Beza, Early English travellers; and Iorga,
Histoire des relations, 45. When considering the phenomenon of writing back, it is worth
remembering how some texts are subjected as much to oblivion as to indignation.
21Constantine, Early Greek travellers, 16887; Augustinos, French Odysseys, 13173.
22See Georgescu, The Romanians, 7380; and Ragsdale, Evaluating the traditions.


chapter four

debates over the status and quality of the region have been labelled by
modern literary historians as the polemic of Ottoman Greece.23 However,
the label Greece hides not only the localized nature of a number of these
polemics, but also the fact that local actors engaged in them from a relatively early stage. In the following section I will examine some polemics
of Ottoman Moldavia and Wallachia, which clearly show the impassioned
responses of travelees to travel writing concerning their countries.
The first monographic work on these lands appeared in French in 1777
under the title Histoire de la Moldavie et de la Valachie: avec une dissertation sur ltat actuel de ces deux provinces, with the authors name only
hinted at by the designation M[onsieur] C.. Scholars have long since
identified C as Jean-Louis Carra (17421793), an erratic and somewhat
tempestuous citizen of the Republic of Letters, who spent the early part
of his career writing political and diplomatic memoranda and attempting
to find patronage; the middle part espousing the fashionable subjects of
electricity and mesmerism;24 and the final part as a Jacobin instigator,
which activities led to his death on the Parisian scaffold in 1793.
Carras Histoire, a pretentious compilation of geography, history, travel
and cultural analysis, takes a bold stance on questions of the political
economy of knowledge:
It is not at all the business of these barbarian, ignorant peoples to get to
know us first; on the contrary, it is for us, whom the favourable influence of
a temperate climate and the fortunate advantage of the exact sciences have
raised so far above the other peoples of the globe, in courage, in industry
and in enlightenment, to discern the character, the genius, and even the
physionomy of the modern peoples, placed on this earth as if subject to
our observations and criticisms. It is, in the end, for us to know these very
peoples, before these peoples may know themselves and, in their turn, seek
to know us.25

And at the end of his book, he sees fit to draw some philosophical conclusions, using his findings to question Jean-Jacques Rousseaus praise for
the simple life:

23Leask, Byron and the Eastern Mediterranean; Kostova, Degeneration, regeneration.

Both these studies cover much wider ground than their titles suggest.
24He features as a minor character in Robert Darntons classic work of cultural history (Darnton, Mesmerism). There is now a comprehensive scholarly biography: Lemny,
Jean-Louis Carra.
25Carra, Histoire, xvixvii.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


After all this, if M. Rousseau would fain tell us once more that the barbarous
and lawless peoples are worth more than the civilized ones, I would entreat
him to go and live for a year in the forests of Moldavia.26

While Carras book was favourably received in some quartersthe

Journal Encyclopdique described it as containing precise and judicious
observationsit was also reckoned to include certain rather frivolous
remarks [plaisanteries] which the Moldavian nation may well deserve, but
constitute something of a digression from history.27 In other circles, it
attracted criticism, being adjudged so confused and poorly digested that
it would be hard to extract any element capable or arousing the curiosity of our readers.28 Furthermore, later scholarship has shown that Carra
recycled a fair amount of the historical information that he used from the
previously published accounts of the indigenous historian Prince Dimitrie
Despite these scholarly exposures of Carras work as a superciliously
negligent compilation, and some attention from the newer Orientalismderived critiques,30 what is less well known outside a small group of specialists is that it was the object of a counterblast that was published as
early as 1779, and to which Carra responded.
The piece in question, entitled Letter to the authors of the Bouillon Journal [i.e. the Journal encyclopdique, ADF] on their review of a book entitled
Histoire de la Moldavie, et de la Valachie... appeared as a pamphlet in
Vienna in 1779, and offered a searing critique of Carras text.31 The author
whose identity I will discuss shortlydescribes himself as having hastened to acquire this history being persuaded that as regards knowledge
of those countries which we Europeans visit least, and of their inhabitants,
as well as of their customs, practices, laws and politics, we are ordinarily much deceived by travellers reports, be they ignorant, credulous or
composed in bad faith. However, perusal soon led him to surprise and
26Ibid., 197.
27Journal encyclopdique, 15 july 1778; Journal de Paris, 22 sep 1778, cited after Lemny,
Jean-Louis Carra, 856. Lemny has the first of these sources as 15 june, but 15 July is
28Affiches, annonces et avis divers, 21 octobre 1778, cited after Lemny, Jean-Louis
Carra, 86.
29See esp. Holban, Autour de lHistoire; more recently eadem, Jean-Louis Carra. Cf.
Kellogg, A history, 89.
30Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe, 2912; Drace-Francis, Making, 27.
31Lettre Messieurs les auteurs du Journal de Bouillon sur le compte quils ont rendu
dun livre intitul Histoire de la Moldavie (Vienna, 1779); cited after the edition in Alexandru Ciornescu, Le Serdar Gheorghe Saul.


chapter four

deflated expectations, when, on closer examination, he found the work

to be nothing but an assemblage of gross errors for which one would not
even excuse a schoolboy (50). The critique focuses initially on matters
of classical history and historical geography, particularly the false localization of certain places or their inaccurate correlation to classical ones;
then goes on to mock Carras treatment of more recent political history,
apparently nothing but a series of anachronisms, absurdities and puerilities (57). His allegation that the Princess of Moldavia was unable to
read or write was labelled most impolite and coarse; his speculations on
the Balkan policy of the courts of Vienna and Berlin showed him to be a
charlatan; while his critique of the Austrian administration of the Banat
of Temesvar apparently proved that Mr. Carra has never seen the Banat
(5758). His observations on the princely court were calumnious and misplaced platitudes (60).
The following month, the editors of the Journal wrote that
we were going to review this brochure, when we received the reply which
M. Carra saw fit to give, of which we publish an extract. It seems to us excessively crude in many respects, even if he had been attacked in too harsh a
fashion. (63)

Carras response is addressed largely in the second person to a seigneur

Saul, who has been identified as Gheorghe Saul, a Moldavian courtier
whose erudition Carra had himself praised in his Histoire.32 However,
another contemporary author, the Swiss German Franz Josef Sulzer, indicated a different source, attributing the pamphlet to a certain Bosniak
designated by the initial R., who in turn has been identified as Ignaz Stefan Raicevich, a Dalmatian who acted first as secretary to the Prince of
Wallachia, Alexandru Ipsilanti, then as Austrian agent in Wallachia, and
himself was to publish an important book on the Principalities in 1788.33
32Ciornescu, Le Serdar Gheorghe Saul,attributes the Lettre to Saul on the basis of
Carras response; Lemny, Jean-Louis Carra, 87,considers this probable, without committing himself fully.
33Holban, Autour, 1735; eadem, Jean-Louis Carra, 239, defends her ground against
Ciornescus attribution, arguing that Sulzer designates Raicevich fairly clearly. What Sulzer
actually said in his Geschichte is inconsistent. 1:12, he mentions the pamphletderisivelybutis
coy about givingany names; 2:92, he mentions the gedungene Verfasser des ehrenruhrigen
Briefes an die Journalisten von Bouillon; 3:142 mentions Herr R. as being the one who
called Carra a Kalumnianter, which is at odds with 3:76 where he speaks of two authors
flinging their Bosnian fists at the poor Swiss (he might be using Bosnian as a catch-all
pejorative term to refer to Raicevich, a Dalmatian, and/or Saul, who had an Albanian/
Greek background). In general Sulzer is very rude about him,calling him a fehlgeschlagener Arzt und starker Cholerikus (3:142, cf. 3:49, 3:53) and well disposed towards Saul

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


The author of the pamphlet defines himself as being one of us Europeans for whom these countries are among those we frequent the least
(50), and as being of western dress: they have as much right to mock our
curled wigs, our small hats, our justaucorps, as we do to laugh at them,
e.g. at their beards, turban and their long shorts (61). However, he also
seeks to defend the Prince and indeed the Sublime Portes policy as a
whole, which makes it likely that he had some links with the local courts,
and possible that his work was commissioned therefrom.34 We have evidence that the Bishop of Rmnic in Wallachia read Carras book, finding
that it contains many errors, and suggested to the person who sent it to
him that it would be good to print another book to correct those errors.35
There was also, apparently, a second reply, a Rponse au libelle diffamatoire (Warsaw, 1779), which Sulzer attributed to a friend of his but may
well have been his own.36
None of this information enables us to solve definitively the mystery
of this pamphlets authorship. What is perhaps interesting from our point
of view is that, irrespective of the true identity of the participants in this
polemic, it presents itself not as a case of powerful Western authors lambasting wretched and mute Romanians, but as a many-sided skirmish in
which provincial French, Swiss German, Dalmatian and possibly GrecoAlbanian authors all jostle and position themselves as the detainers of
truer information concerning the state of the Principalities. The modern

(den beruhmten und gelehrten Doktor und Gros-Serdar, 3:160), mein hochzuverehrende
Freund (3:542); from whose letters in French about the bishopric of Milcov he quotes large
extracts (3:56970). On Raicevich see Guida, Un libro italiano, although Guida misses
numerous contemporaries piquant characterizations of him: Bentham (Letter to William
Eaton, 8 January 1786, in Correspondence, 437) called him a Man of industry and extensive
knowledge but added that his good qualities are tinctured by a certain hauteur which
might be spared; Neapolitan envoy Ludolf (quoted by Popescu, La vendetta dellabate)
described him as a man of great spirit and most learned, but ruined by an excess of vanity.
Griffin, Fathers and sons, 41 n.43, has him down as a mere Serb pig dealer.
34Ciornescu, Le Serdar Gheorghe Saul, 50, 61. In 1779 Raicevich was still in the secretarial service of the Prince Ipsilanti. Moreover, there are other instances of Ipsilantis
courtiers printing works in his favour on the presses of central Europe: see for instance
Eliades, / Oratio panegyrica.
35BishopChesarie of Rmnic, letter to Hermannstadt merchant Hagi Constantin Pop,
October 1778, in Iorga, Contribuii, 196; cf. Lemny, Jean-Louis Carra, 87. Saul spent some
time in Hermannstadt at the end of the 1770s & early 1780s: Iorga, Ist. lit. rom. n sec. 18.
1969 edn., 2:107, citing an Austrian diplomatic letter of 1785.
36Sulzer says it is written by an ungenannte (1:126),einer von meinen Freunden
(2:93), and that it contains information concerning his own maltreatment at the Wallachian court. Cf. Baidaff, Note marginale. No copy has surfaced, nor any mention in
another source.


chapter four

Western-language historiography of Moldavia and Wallachia is thus

imprinted at its origins with the mark of polemic and denunciation.
Golescu on Thornton
From the 1770s to the 1820s, interest in Western countries and cultures
grew steadily in the Principalities. However, for the kind of direct engagement by a native with a Western travel text, we have to wait until after the
outbreak of the Greek revolution, which led not only to Europe fixing its
eyes upon us but an increased attentiveness by locals to foreign publications about them. In 1826, the Wallachian boyar Dinicu Golescu published
the first account in Romania of a journey to Europe, in his case Hungary,
Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland and Northern Italy. His own book was not
a history of his native land, but an account of his personal confrontation
with what he insistently asserted to be the superiority of European institutions. He encouraged his compatriots to take seriously the critiques of
foreign travellers:
we have come to be ridiculed in the worlds opinion, and foreign pens have
painted us accordingly. But what good will it do us if we want to keep such
things hidden amongst ourselves, and we make believe that they are not
known, when all nations read them, as they are written by people who wish
us ill? It is better for us to know them, to acknowledge them, and make a
determined decision to rectify ourselves...37

In the same year, 1826, there appeared a Romanian translation of Thomas

Thorntons well-known book on the Ottoman Empire, The Present State
of Turkey.38 On account of Golescus clearly expressed views on the need
to pay attention to foreign writers assessments, early scholars naturally
attributed the authorship of the translation to him.39 While this opinion
is no longer upheld by modern literary historians, it remains likely that
somebody from Golescus circle carried out the work, possibly at his instigation or under his patronage.40 The anonymous author of the preface
emphasised the shame of the Wallachians that their country appeared
37Golescu, nsemnare, 29.
38Thornton, Present state. This was not the first Western text about the Principalities
to be translated locally. Earlier, in 1789, General Bawrs Mmoires historiques on Wallachia
had been translated into Greek (then the language of the elite in the Principalities) and
printed in Bucharest as (1789).
39Hane, Un cltor englez despre Romni.
40See Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, llii.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


in the eyes of European travellers to be so badly governed; but justified

the publication of his work by arguing that the European evaluation was
some would reproach me and, I think rather would defame and curse me,
saying: that I thought it was clever to bring to light and publish slanders
against an entire nation. If I were to hear people saying this, or were they to
ask me, I would reply that they have no reason to get upset or angry at me;
for everybody reading it should realise that, that Englishman being a foreigner, and having no personal quarrel with any of the locals, wrote nothing
false about the deeds and customs practised in Wallachia and Moldavia; nor
did he pass over or ignore the excellent natural resources or the wretchedness of the poor inhabitants of those Principalities; but he wrote about the
good things with sweetness and a humble heart; and like a member of a
free nation, he wrote without shame and listed with his pen for ridicule
those things worthy of defamation and jeering. When I read and saw these
things, the quickness of shame overtook me, disgust at the wretchedness of
my nation penetrated me, their shameful deeds, their slanderous things, idiocies, wretched habits, idlenesses, lazinesses, false expectations, sleepiness,
deceit, blunder, theft, rape, punishment, torture and failure to attend to the
beneficial, enlightening teachings and crafts. Seeing all these things told and
written and printed in all the languages of Europe; and most of the libraries
and most of the houses of the Europeans full of such books, and the people
laughing while reading them and poking fun at us, just like we Romanians
do for Gypsies [...] tell me, dear reader, without feigning and with a clean
heart, whether I am guilty because I translated this rather short description
into the language of the Fatherland?41

In other words, at this important time of reform and institutional transformations, local authors were no longer attempting to rebut foregin
travellers denigratory depictions of barbarism but to concur with their
evaluations, indeed using them as a tool with which to promote the cause
of modernization.
Moldavian Writers Develop and Consecrate the Theme, 18371858
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Romanian secular literature and
national history developed to an unprecedented extent. In some aspects
this involved emancipation from the tyranny of being known and written
about from afar. Some historiographers analysed or rejected the information and opinions offered by foreign (not necessarily Western) writers.
41Anon, translators preface to Thornton, Starea de acum, repr. in BRV, 3: 51920.


chapter four

The Transylvanian Romanian scholar Petru Maior, for instance, railed

angrily at foreign historians, accusing them of
pouring the vomit of their pens on the Romanian people [...] seizing any
opportunity to make things up without the slightest evidence, even telling
barefaced lies about the Romanians, even imagining that everybody ought
to believe their delirious fantasies. Furthermore, for some time now, like
donkeys scratching themselves against other donkeys, they pick up slanders
from one another, without bothering to search for the truth, putting them
into print one more time.42

In Transylvania, this discourse was bound up with rivalry between the different nations of that province or of the Habsburg Monarchy more broadly:
Romanian scholars identified enemies of the people among neighbouring nations, rather than among Westerners in particular.43 One argued
that it was because our neighbours [vecini] blackened us first that people
of other lands [strini], who knew us only from what our neighbours had
to say, then filled the world with books in which we were painted in such
humiliating and disgraceful colours that they came to believe their own
In Moldavia and Wallachia, more explicit blame was placed on foreigners, and not just any foreigners: travellers and historians in particular
were singled out for critique. In 1837 for instance, the young Moldavian
nobleman Mihail Koglniceanu, who studied in Berlin and was the first
Romanian to publish a synthetic history of his homelandsignificantly in
French, in other words addressed at a foreign audiencewrote home to
his father about his motives. I do not write to speak ill, but well, against
the lies that foreign travellers write about Moldavia.45 This tradition, in
which Romanian scholars continued the efforts to maintain the national
dignity allegedly tarnished by the superficial observations of foreigners,
was to endure in the modern period. It can often be found alive and well
in the twenty-first century, as Romanian academics continue to question
the image of their country presented in foreign publications.46

42Maior, preface to Istoriia (1812), cited in Zub, Political attitudes, 18, and Mitu,
National identity, 15 (I have emended the translation in conformity with the original).
43See the comments of incai and Budai-Deleanu, cited Mitu, National identity, 21.
44Cipariu, Notia literar [unpublished, c. 1846], cited ibid., 23.
45Koglniceanu, Letter to his father, in idem, Scrisori, ed. Hane, 126.
46See e.g. Mihilescu, Orientalism dup Orientalism. Mihilescu finds a dose of wellorchestrated hypocrisy in the way in which Romania is presented in an English tourist
brochure as an exotic land of contrasts.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame 129

Koglniceanu was part of a group of of younger writers, known collectively as the bonjuriti, on account of their French education and modern
sociability (bonjour!). In the 1830s and 1840s, the bonjuriti began publishing travel sketches, autobiographical fragments, pastiches and novellas in
a series of reviews published in Iai, the provinces capital before Moldavia
was absorbed into the new state of Romania after 1859. They developed
a perhaps more complex approach to negotiating self-identity in the face
of foreign frames, scripts and stereotypes. For instance, in an unpublished
sketch from 1839, essayist and memoirist Alecu Russo described how
reading foreign travel descriptions of his homeland actually relieved the
melancholy that reflecting on his fatherlands sad situation had induced
in him:
If by chance there appeared at Iai a brochure printed in Paris or even in
Czernowitz, entitled Tour en Moldavie, Voyage en Moldavie, Esquisse or any
other similar title, in which the author would use grand and high-flown
phrases to say more or less the following: In a country ignored by Europe, or
at least scarcely known, I have found a people both good and nave, poetic in
their unaltered traditions and also in their savage ignorance [...]. Then, as
though awoken from a dream, we would find even our own land bearable.47

For Russo, being described as good, naive and poetic was somehow
better than not being described at all. Specifically, he used this trope to
try and persuade local writers to avoid producing artificial adaptations
of your scenes from Italy, your Parisian soires, your German fantasies
or imitation comedies and novellas, and concentrate on the suave melancholy and the primitive je ne sais quoi of the Moldavian landscape.
At the same time, there is more than a hint of irony in his portrayal of
the foreign travel text, as Western travellers recourse to grand and high
flown phraseology, and implicitly presumptious titles, is gently mocked,
as is their claim to have personally achieved some unique ethnographic
discovery (I have found) of domestic realities that, for the inhabitants
themselves, bore no hint of the exotic or unfamiliar.48

47Russo, La pierre du tilleul, in idem, Scrieri, 208. See my translation of (and Bracewells introduction to) an extract from this work in Bracewell, ed. Orientations, 1301. See
also Russos Jassy et ses habitants en 1840, in idem, Scrieri, 2378, for an ironic aside about
the fleeting and inaccurate accounts of foreign travellers, among whom he mentions De
Tott, Sestini, Wilkinson and Wolf.
48Eliade, Histoire, 2:viixiii, shows how the Western idea of La Roumanie inconnue
became increasingly absurd as the number of published texts increased.


chapter four

A few years later, in 1848, bonjurist writer Vasile Alecsandri, notable

author of poems, plays, essays, memoir pieces and travel accounts, published a sketch entitled Balta Alb [The White Lake] in a Calendar issued
by the local official newspaper.49 The sketch uses the classic figure of the
foreign visitor to a domestic setting, in the form of a Frenchman travelling
in Wallachia, in order to satirize local mores. Because of the provinces discursive position on the borderline between barbarism and civilization, the
satire actually draws on two, usually separate French fictional traditions.
The first is that of the fictional Oriental traveller to a civilized country,
who is nevertheless able to discern certain shortcomings.50 The second is
that of the Westerner who travels to an exotic location to paint an idyllic,
innocent scene.51 In Alecsandris text, these two traditions are effectively
merged, as the hero, a French traveller in search of the picturesque, finds
both the exotic scenes he had set off to look for, and the shortcomings to
which Alecsandris domestic audience would have been all too alert.
The sketch opens with the narrator identifying himself as one of a
group of friends assembled, and all stretched out on divans, after the
Oriental custom, and armed with long chibouks [pipes], whose output of
smoke produced an effect worthy of a Pashas selamlk. Among the group
is a young French painter, who, having embarked on an Oriental journey,
found himself diverted to Wallachia, of whose existence he had no idea.
But, he says,
I shouldnt complain at all, since, like a new Columbus, I had the pleasure of
discovering for myself these beautiful parts of the world and assuring myself
that, far from being inhabited by cannibals, they contain a most agreeable

an opinion which causes one of the group to express reservations.52 The

rest of the sketch consists of the painters narration of his journey and
arrival in Wallachia. His attention had initially been drawn during his
passage along the Danube, by the wild beauty of the banks of this river
49Alecsandri, Balta Alb, in Proza, 17287.
50On the history of this literary figure, see Dalnekoff, A familiar stranger; Hout, Viewing Europe from the outside; and Anderson, Persian letters. I thank Kate Marsh for drawing
the first of these references to my attention.
51This tradition is popularly represented by Bernardin de Saint-Pierres La chaumire
indienne (1791) which was translated into many European languagesin Moldavia a version appeared in 1821.
52Alecsandri, Balta Alb, in idem, Proz, 172. Cf. Goldsworthys use of the Columbus
trope to describe Byrons discovery of the Balkans at the outset of the nineteenth century
(Goldsworthy, Inventing, 3).

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


betwen the Banat and Serbia.53 This constituted the boundary between
the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, and Alecsandris fictional travellers
description of it is contemporary with the classic one of A.W. Kinglake in
Eothen, who was likewise thrilled to have arrived at the end of this wheelgoing Europe and to see the Splendour and Havoc of the East.54
In faux-naive fashion, Alecsandris (unnamed) fictional French artist
finds himself overcome by a boundless urge to knowledge, and decided
to make a detailed study of this country unknown to me, and of thatto
mecompletely new race of men.55 Most of the piece then centres on
the comedy of such an enterprise. Descending at Brila on the left bank
of the lower Danube, he is greeted by the French consul, who directs him
towards a miracle-working lake of recent discovery, where thousands
gather in search of cures for their illnesses. Hiring a carriage, our painter is
astonished to find it drawn by four small horses, all skin and bones, deeply
marked by the whip, wielded by a wild, bearded, ragged man armed with
a six-foot long flail!. After an alarmingly noisy and bumpy journey, interrupted by losses of both wheel and horse, he finally abandoned the carriage to make the final part of the journey on foot, through a pack of
hungry dogs. The whole experience causes him to completely lose my
train of thought on account of the diverse and contradictory sensations
I underwent in the space of a few hours.56 Arriving finally at the lake, he
was astonished at the European characters, equipages and toilettes.
I couldnt believe I was not dreaming, and reckoned myself in the presence
of some unfathomable phantasmagoria: one that was all the more curious
for displaying so many kinds of contrasts: Viennese balloons, with vehicles
totally unknown to us; French hats and Oriental iliks; morning coats and
anteris; Parisian toilettes with bizarre foreign costumes.57

Despite further hazards and alarms, the sketch ends with the description
of a delightful ball, which is presented as evidence of a completely European society, civilized manners and agreeable dress. In conclusion, the
53Ibid., 173.
54Alecsandri is unlikely to have read Kinglakehis pastiche is modelled rather on
French authors such as Lamartine, or Saint-Marc Girardin. On the importance of French
travel literature on the Orient for the development of the Romanian tradition, see Faifer,
Semnele, 7590.
55Alecsandri, Balta Alb, Proz, 173.
56Ibid., 181.
57Ibid., 18586. This signalling of conflicting European and Oriental fashions was a
classic trope of foreign descriptions of the Principalities, see Djuvara, Le pays roumain;
also Wolff, Inventing, 22.


chapter four

Frenchman declares Wallachia to be a land of wonders and leaves his

assembled audience of boyars to judge the question of whether they are
a part of the civilized world, or a barbarous province.58 Perhaps more
important than the boyars answer to this question is the narrative frame
of the sketch: for onceif only in a fictional worldthe foreign traveller
is made to address his question directly to the travelees, the members of
the described society, instead of talking about them to his compatriots.
A third and (for the purposes of this article) final example of Moldavian reaction to, and subversion of, foreign travellers discourses on their
domestic culture can be found in the work of Moldavian essayist and
travel writer Dimitrie Rallet, who deployed a similar tone when writing
about his own Oriental journey in 1858. His book Recollections and impressions of travel is mainly dedicated to his experiences of Bulgaria, Istanbul
and European Turkey, which he traversed on a diplomatic mission in connection with Moldavias political union with Wallachia after the Crimean
War. But he insisted to his readers that Before I leave Iai, you should
know something about it. And his remarks on the city are situated explicitly against the deficiencies of foreign accounts:
Travellers who never visited it make it a city ravaged by fires, with streets
paved with planks, with oriental customs which, in Malte-Bruns geography
of 1839, we find them cited from Wolf, who wrote in 1798, so if you were to
take him as your guide, you would expect to find turbans and mehterhan
[Oriental percussion music], tambourines and slippers, or even mosques;
despite this, nothing of the kind exists.59

In his turn, Rallet responds with a list of what he considers important

cultural knowledge about his home city, assuring readers that:
the remains of the blazes and the Janissaries can no longer be seen.
that fires are rare and the firemen excellent;
that the main street is paved with stone and the people walking down
it have no recollection of it having been paved with planks of wood;
that the music is completely European, and while it might make you
dizzy, it wont deafen you;
that the courts, despite retaining the name divan, neverthelessjust
like those in other civilized countriesoffer few facilities and many
formalities for their clients;

58Ibid., 187.
59Dimitrie Rallet, Suvenire, 4.

like a member of a free nation, he wrote without shame


that light hats have replaced the heavy round ilik;

that [female] heads have been divested of the burden of those oriental
veils which, while stifling the path of thought, furnished nonetheless an
air of stability and gravity;
that the small Parisian boots look wonderful in place of the Oriental
slippers which forced one to walk with a balanced gait for fear they
might fall off;
that French is spoken naturally, and with a rapidity that can only be
compared en sens inverse with the sluggishness with which the quadrille is danced;
that, just as in Paris, visiting cards are used, often as a way of avoiding
finding us at home;
that, as elsewhere, I might invite you to dinner, not so that you may eat,
but for you to forget your hunger by waiting;
that servants are no longer summoned by clapping ones hands, rather,
a bell is rung;
that without opera glasses, you cant see anyone;
that nobody can live without frequenting distant spa resorts and amassing unpaid debts, or without a great number of accessoriesexpensive
but fashionable, unnecessary, but brought from afar;
in short, that we are civilized!60
It is notable that Rallet, while adopting the traditional strategy of a
domestic writer indignant at the dated and erroneous impressions of
foreign authorities, uses this counterblast mode to foreground what
hean insidersees as the deficiencies of the elite of his own society:
modishness, extravagance, social snobbery. Effectively, he takes the foreign travellers presumed unique right to emit judgements, and reorganizes both the framework of traveller-travellee/author-addressee, and the
subject matter of the topography, the things to be considered noteworthy.
The foreign travellers authority is thus somehow both domesticated and
ironised, at the same time as it offers a licence to criticize. According to
a much later article by Alecsandri on Rallet, this workwhich appeared
in Paris in Romanianwas also translated into French, so apparently its
author sought to address it at least in part to a metropolitan audience,
although no trace of the translation survives, and even to nineteenthcentury Romanians it was very little known.61
60Ibid., 45.
61Alecsandri, Dimitrie Ralet [1882], in Proz, 464.


chapter four

In the space of a century and a half, the perception of the Western traveller
in the Romanian countries grew from a state of relatively indifferent curiosity, to one of fierce indignation, and was then transmuted through the
use of irony and fiction into a bearablenot least because sometimes
comicalfigure, who can constitute the object of satire as well as the
source of reproach. A discourse of ethical outrage or remorse at foreign
pens gave way to an approach using the classic tropes of fiction: irony,
dialogue, free indirect speech, embedded narratives, and so on.62 This led
partly to its ossification, into the kind of classic locution referred to by
Patapievici in the essay quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Further
investigations could trace the later history of this image in Romanian
culture, through both fictional allegories and polemical essays, to understand how foreigners were adduced, adopted, adapted or rejected as generators of ethical authority at Europes edge. Different cases will provide
disparate evidence of both agency and dependency in individual authors
moral self-postitionings vis--vis the imagined West[erner]. Ultimately,
however, it is not a discourse of (conscious or diagnosed) psychological
fragmentation, and in many cases, the foreigners are rendered as baffled
or distraught by their inability to interpret Moldo-Wallachian realities as
the natives. Romanian travelees, then, ceased portraying themselves as
helpless victims of a hegemonic discourse foisted on them from outside,
but as re-addressers of that discourse to different audiences, for different
purposes, while maintaining some commonalities of subject matter.

62For closer identification of specific procedures: Manca, Structura naraiei, 2123;

Ionescu-Ruxndoiu, Naraiune i dialog.

Chapter five

Dinicu Golescus Account of My Travels (1826):

Eurotopia as Manifesto*
If you get off the train at Bucharests Gara de Nord and walk out of the
front entrance, you will see (across the busy traffic) a park, flanked on the
right-hand side by Dinicu Golescu Boulevard. Some distance down this
road there is a statue of Dinicu Golescu. Dinicu owned most of the land
on which the park, the statue and the boulevard are situated. In 1826, he
did something none of his fellow-countrymen had ever done before: he
published an account of his travels.
The structure of the book appears simple. After insisting in his preface
on the popularity and utility of travel accounts in Europe and bemoaning their absence in his home country, Golescu describes his journey and
places visited in Transylvania, Hungary, Austria, northern Italy, Bavaria
and Switzerland. He usually writes about the things he sees in extremely
positive tones. However, he also regularly breaks off at the end of a
descriptive passage in order to criticize the absence or deficiency of such
institutions at home. The text ends with a plea for a general reform of
domestic institutions in a European direction.
Golescus book is very well known in Romania today. Although they
sometimes questioned its literary value, all major twentieth-century
Romanian critics stressed its significance:
The whole of the nineteenth century is in this book.1
The book had four editions in less than a century.2
The transfiguration of this boyar symbolizes our whole revival.3
The most powerful testimony to the crisis of consciousness presented
by Romanian culture in its modern times.4

*In Journeys 6 (2005), 2453 and, revised, in Balkan Departures, ed. W. Bracewell &
A. Drace-Francis (OxfordNew York: Berghahn Books, 2009), 4774. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.
1Eliade, Histoire, 1:214.
2Hane, Histoire, 73.
3G. Clinescu, History, 91.
4Popovici, La culture roumaine, 83.


chapter five

Dinicu Golescus itinerary symbolized our journey through the European world to re-establish the true foundations of our modern social
the most powerful expression of the critical spirit applied to Romanian
society in the 1820s.6
Dinicu Golescus travel journal had a great influence on the Romanian
Dinicu Golescu underwent a significant crisis of consciousness on
encountering the civilization of the West, being forced to acknowledge
that we were behind all the other nations and that the worlds ridicule weighed heavily on our people.8
the oscillating interpretation of Dinicu Golescu between East and West
remains significant at a moment in our history at which the confrontation between two worlds finds its most apt symbol in Account of My
Modern Romanian travellers have cited Golescu as an antecedent;10 cultural commentators refer to his experiences as possible models for interpreting ours, without the need for further explanation.11 A clear cultural
meaning is attached to his personality: he was the man who realised that
European culture was better, and he managed to convey this message of
change, despite his relative age and the considerable difficulties he had
in expressing himself.
Romanians have presented Golescus book and ideas in French,
German, and Italian; the whole text has appeared in German and Hungarian translations. To the English-speaking world he is hardly known at all,
and material is much harder to come by: a subchapter of an older literary
history;12 a one-page extract in a collection of texts on social conditions
in the nineteenth-century Balkans;13 a slightly more extensive extract in
a sourcebook on collective identity in central and southeastern Europe.14

5Bucur, Prefaa, 11.

6Cornea, Originile, 220.
7Antohi, Un modle, 90.
8Zub, Cunoatere de sine, 77.
9Manolescu, Istoria, 157.
10E.g., Pas, Carte; Constantin, Vacana; Marino, Carnete; Blandiana, Cea mai frumoas.
11E.g., Pleu, Chipuri i mti, 227.
12G. Clinescu, History, 914.
13Warriner, ed. Contrasts, 1445.
14D. Golescu, Account.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


Finally, Mircea Anghelescu, the leading scholar of Golescus work, has

published a short but very useful article in English,15 which summarizes
the main conclusions which he presented at greater length in Romanian
in the introduction and notes to his critical edition of Golescus writings.16
My understanding of Golescus travel, writings, experience and ethics
owes much to Anghelescus scholarship. Here, as well as offering one or
two small factual additions, I try to shed further light on the more particular framework of how Golescu used both publishing strategies and
rhetoric about Europe to further certain political interests in 1820s Wallachia. To do this, I begin with a short account of Golescus life in the
general context of the social and intellectual transformations taking place
in Wallachia at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth
centuries. I then focus in detail on the period 18211826; tracing Golescus
geographical, political and editorial steps will, I hope, enable me to convey
what it meant for a Wallachian boyar to travel West at this precise time,
to write about his experiences and also to try to influence contemporary
opinion through publication.17 Finally, I interpret the content of the book:
primarily against the political background, but also in the light of certain
aspects of the books rhetorical structure, which I seek to situate in the
nineteenth-century Romanian literary tradition. I want, then, not only to
find out where Golescu went, and what he wrote; I also want to consider
how he wrote; why he published his account; why he did so when he
did; and what effect his book had on contemporaries. Its a story as much
about the uses of travel writing as about the discovery of Europe.
Account of a Traveller
Dinicu Golescu (Dinicu is an informal diminutive of Constantin) was
born in 1777 into one of the most distinguished boyar families of Wallachia, which was then a tributary province on the Ottoman Empires
northern frontier: it was ruled by princes appointed from the Greek or
Greek-speaking Orthodox elite of Istanbul, but the nobility remained
largely Romanian. The family had been active in Wallachian politics for
over a hundred years: Dinicus great-grandfather Radu had in the early

15Anghelescu, Utopia as a journey.

16Idem, Dinicu Golescu.
17Critics have given little attention to these questions, somee.g. Bucur, La dcouverte,
47even affirming erroneously that Golescus text was published posthumously.


chapter five

eighteenth century attempted to bring the province under Austrian rule,

and pleaded with the Emperor that should this plan fail, the Porte might
at least be persuaded to let Wallachia be ruled by a true Wallachian and
not a Greek.18 But by the end of the century, a relatively harmonious symbiotic relationship had grown up between Romanian and Greek elites,
and Dinicu and his older brother George (Iordache) received a good
education in Greek at the school in Bucharest. Iordache in particular had
links with liberal and enlightened Greek patriots in the Principalities, and
is mentioned in a document of 1797 as being party to a revolutionary plot
alongside the famous Greek patriot Rigas Fereos.19 For his part, Dinicu
married a Greek woman, Zoe Farfara (17921879) renowned for her spirit
and beauty, and testified in his Account that he felt more comfortable
writing in that language.
The public culture of Wallachia was thus dominated by a small Greekspeaking elite who dabbled in secular literature and whose works circulated mainly in manuscript; the few that appeared in book form did so
largely on the presses of the Greek merchant communities in Vienna and
Venice. Iordache Golescu, for instance, published an atlas at Vienna in
1800.20 However, the princes did not neglect Romanian and it was under
their rule that Romanian replaced Slavonic as the language of liturgy and
prayer in the countrys (overwhelmingly Orthodox) churches; Romanian
also remained the language of administration, and, while absorbing a
large number of Greek and Turkish loan words, developed considerably
as an instrument of bureaucratic communication in the period.
Numerous contemporary Western observers referred to the changing
culture of Wallachia in terms of its Europeanness. The philosopher Jeremy
Bentham passed through Bucharest in 1786 on his way to visit his brother
in Russia and noticed a couple of Europeanized boyars, although he
considered the majority of the inhabitants to be vegetables;21 four years
later a French count who had fled the Revolution described the nobility
mixing European grace with that Asiatic negligence which has something
noble and tender about it.22 A Scotsman, William Macmichael, found the
combination of Oriental and European manners and costume to be irresistibly ludicrous. The boyar looks like a grave Mahometan; but speak to
18Abramos, Golescu and tirbei, Memorandum, 208.
19Elian, Bizanul, 2967.
20BRV 2: 4201.
21Bentham, Correspondence, 3:438.
22Salaberry, Voyage, 1156.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


him, and instead of the pompous and magnificent sounds of the Turkish
idiom, he will address you in tolerable French, and talk of novels, faro, and
whist.23 Many other British and European travellers echoed their comments.24 Such characterizations were not especially specific to Bucharest:
similar comparative terms had been used by the Comte de Sgur and the
Prince de Ligne about eighteenth-century Russia.25
Occasional echoes of this language can be found in Greek and Romanian documents from the late eighteenth century onwards.26 Reservations
were also formulated, such as those of the monk Gregory of Rmnic writing in 1798:
[T]he Rumanian land [...] is located in a select part of Europe, has a healthy
and fine air, and neighbours upon peoples who pride themselves on and
rejoice in the philosophical sciences, all these being easy means to bring up
the sons of this our own Fatherland to the high standards of the other Europeans in many sciences. But even so, the Romanian inhabitants of this Godprotected land did not often spend time in those [countries]. They, since
receiving the light of Orthodoxy, have busied themselves rather with the
establishment of the faith in their own land [...] they have so little dependence upon, or need for, superficial intelligence, in order to attain the qualities attributed by geographers to Europe; but are always supported by the
undefeated arm of Holy care.27

But at least a dozen writers in the decade before Golescus travels were
published made reference to the intellectual, social and economic benefits of enlightened Europe.28
One significant aspect of the Romanian idea of Europe, missing from
the otherwise excellent accounts given by the Romanian scholars I have
just cited, is the place of Russia. But it is quite clear that in this period,
Europe meant as much Russia (which in 1826 established a protectorate
lasting until the Crimean War) as contact with Britain or France. Supposedly the very first favourable evocation of European civilization in modern Romanian culture, in Metropolitan of Moldavia Gavriil Callimachis
1773 preface to his translation of Empress Catherine the Greats Nakaz
[Instruction], only referred to the Academies of Europe to note their
23Macmichael, Journey, 83; cf. also Jianu, Women, 212.
24Djuvara, Le pays roumain.
25Wolff, Inventing, 22.
26Examples in Camariano-Cioran, Les Acadmies, 801, 222, 330, 578.
27Preface to Triod, in BRV 3: 4067.
28Duu, National and European consciousness; idem, Europes image; Georgescu,
Political ideas, 403; Marino, Littrature roumaine, 1048.


chapter five

Fig. 3.A Wallachian boyar, c. 1830. Watercolour by Russian artist R.G.A.I.,

Romanian Academy Library.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


astonishment at the achievements of the Russian army.29 Twenty years

later, the boyar historian Ienchi Vcrescu described the next Russian
occupation of Wallachia as bringing Europe to that province (along with
the slightly disappointing news, given that he held princely ambitions,
that in Europe they dont make absolute princes).30 Eufrosin Poteca, a
monk who took some students to France and Italy under the patronage
of the Metropolitan of Wallachia in 1820 affirmed that: Peter the Great
was the glory of Europe, to be praised for his goodness whereas Napoleon,
the scourge of Europe, is to be praised for his wickedness.31 In 1825 the
poet Barbu Mumuleanu, in a fairly clear reference to Russia, argued
that Romanians should imitate not just western Europeans, but also
easterners.32 And when a Russian army again invaded the Principalities
in 1828, their Minister Plenipotentiary General Pavel Kiselev presented the
result as bringing these provinces into the great European family.33 As we
shall see, Golescu was very much party to this Russian connection.
In March 1821 a rather disorganized group of insurgents under the leadership of Alexander Ypsilantis, son and grandson of Phanariot princes of
Wallachia, invaded the Principalities from Russia, claiming that powers
support and asserting that Long ago the people of Europe invited us to
imitation.34 The ostensible aim was the establishment of an autonomous
Christian state from some or other of the European possessions of the
Ottoman Empire. Although in the medium term this movement was successful, leading to the establishment of an independent Greece by 1830, the
short-term effects in Wallachia were fairly disastrous. Claims to have the
support of Russia were disavowed by Tsar Alexander I; Romanian insurgents in Oltenia (western, or Little Wallachia) who had initially engaged
to collaborate with the Greeks turned against the movement and, under
the leadership of Tudor Vladimirescu, resisted Ypsilantis in the name
29BRV 2: 202. Georgescu, Political ideas, 40, called Callimachi the first Romanian to
admire Europe as the source of culture and light. Hitchins, The Romanians, 140, attributes
Georgescus words to Callimachi and backdates them to 1733. Both occlude the Russian
30Vcrescu, Opere, 261.
31Bianu, ntii bursieri 423.
32Mumuleanu, Preface to Caracteruri [Characters], in BRV 3: 466.
33Hurmuzaki, Documente, Supl. 1, iv: 359.
34Proclamation, translated in Clogg, ed. Movement, 201.


chapter five

of the people. Tudor was killed and Ypsilantis fled to Austria; an Ottoman army eventually occupied both Moldavia and Wallachia. Golescu
was heavily involved in these events, apparently acting as an intermediary between the Greek and Romanian elites and the insurgent peasantry
(Tudor had occupied his house in Bucharest). His band of Gypsy musicians, playing at the head of the Greek army, were among the few survivors of the Ottoman onslaught at the battle of Drgani which put an
end to the sorry revolt.35
Golescu fled to Kronstadt in Habsburg Transylvania (todays Braov,
Romania). This was the traditional place of refuge of the Wallachian elite
in times of instability. Here a series of political groupings formed: some
under the influence of the Russian consul, an excitable Greek named
Pinis; some inclined to seek support from Austria; a few remaining independent.36 In April 1822, a group was summoned to Silistra on the Danube
to negotiate with the Ottoman authorities; from there they proceeded to
Istanbul, where one of their number, Grigore Ghica, was appointed Prince.
This provoked outbursts of criticism from the Kronstadt group, including
Dinicu and especially his brother Iordache, who wrote a series of excoriating satires on Ghica and his associates.37 Dinicus signature is to be found
on a memorandum addressed to the Tsar from August 1822 and on a letter addressed to Ghica in November of the same year, politely refusing a
request to come home, pleading lack of funds.38 But he clearly remained
of the Russian party, and indeed travelled to that country from Kronstadt
in February 1823, according to a note by the Prussian consul.39
The French consul noted in May 1825 that a boyar called Golescu went
down on his knees to beg with the prince to be allowed to send his two
sons to the Institut Lemoine in Paris, and was given a passport only as far
as the Austrian border.40 This could be Dinicu, but could equally well refer
to Iordache, whose presence in Bucharest is attested in this period and
whose sons did indeed receive a Parisian education. Meanwhile, Dinicu
says in his book that he travelled from Braov, not Bucharest; he and the
35Documente privind istoria Romniei. Rscoala din 1821, 5:318, 436.
36See the letter in Greek, August 1821 Documente, 1821 2: 32731, with Romanian translation. As it is signed K.G., Golescu himself may well be its author.
37I. Golescu, Scrieri; cf. Hurmuzaki, Documente, 16: 105192; Revoluia 1: 46670; and
Iakovenko, Moldaviia i Valakhiia, Letter 27.
38Vrtosu, 1821, 141, 16772; Documente privind istoria Romniei. Rscoala din 1821,
3: 1303, and 5: 347; Iakovenko, Moldaviia i Valakhiia, Letter 31.
39Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 211.
40Ibid., 17: 1718.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


other exiled boyars were awaiting the accreditation of the Russian consul
Minciaky by the Porte before returning, which had still not happened by
June 1825.41 His will, from November 1825, does not give a place of composition.42 Around this time, alongside a group of known Russophiles, he
signed a letter of condolence to Tsar Nicholas I on the death of the latters
brother and predecessor, Alexander I.43 In early 1826, he announced the
establishment of a school on his estate at Goleti, and invited prospective
pupils to present themselves by May. He appears to have been in Pest in
May, and in Braov in August 1826.44 In June, according to a report by the
Russian emissary Liprandi, he was involved in a plot to rouse the frontier
soldiers of Oltenia against Ghica.45
Dinicus book itself offers only sparse details about the precise timing of
his travels.46 As the title states, he was on the road in 1824, 1825, and 1826.
The narrative is divided into sections: the first and longest treats places in
Transylvania, Hungary, Austria and Habsburg Italy (17). A second, much
shorter section notes three separate routes to Pest, and mentions trips to
Mehadia in the Banat of Temesvar, and to the Szkely region of eastern
Transylvania. However, he refers to being in Pressburg (todays Bratislava,
Slovakia) in September 1825, and in Mehadia in 1824, which means he is
not recounting his travels in the order in which he undertook them (85).
The third section describes how in the year 1826 I travelled again from
Braov to Bavaria and Switzerland (103). In this last section, he mentions
being on the way back home from Vienna on 20th November. Anghelescu
suggests that Golescu undertook this last journey after having submitted
his account of the first two to the censor, whose stamp of approval is
dated September 1826.47 As the account of the third journey is relatively
short, this is not impossible.
Nor has the question of why he went West been fully answered. The
standard literary histories write that he went in 1824 to place his sons in
educational establishments in Geneva and Munich, but Golescu himself

41Ibid., 10: 2723; I. Golescu, Scrieri, 56; Acte i fragmente 2: 70613.

42D. Golescu, Scrieri, 34951.
43Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 599.
44Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, xxx.
45Documente privind istoria Romniei. Rscoala din 1821, 3: 354, and 5: 3589; cf.
Iakovenko, Moldaviia i Valakhiia, Letter 51; Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 3614; Vrtosu, 1821,
22230; Georgescu, Din corespondena, 21018.
46References to Golescus Account are given in-text and are to Anghelescus modern
critical edition: D. Golescu, Scrieri.
47Angelescu, Dinicu Golescu, xxx.


chapter five

ascribed only his 1826 journey to this motive.48 Others are certain that
his trip to Italy had a conspiratorial purpose involving links to Italian
secret societies.49 This possibility is not to be excluded, but cannot be
documented either. In Geneva and Munich, Greek emigrs and students,
and local Philhellenes prepared to support young Wallachians, have been
identified.50 In Italy, similar groups existed in Pisa, where some Romanians were also studying,51 but Golescu did not visit this city.
This was a time of exceptional political tension in the Principalities
and indeed throughout the Near East. In March 1826 Russia presented the
Porte with an ultimatum to withdraw their troops from the Principalities,
or face war; a position which was accepted only in May. In November the
Treaty of Akkerman confirmed Russias mandate to act as protector of the
rights of the Christian inhabitants of the Principalities, and required that
the prince be elected with the consent of the boyars rather than at the
whim of the Porte. As this was not the case for Ghica, he was reluctant to
make the provisions of the treaty known.52 It was Golescu who had the
treaty published, together with extracts from previous treaties upholding
Wallachian rights, a fact which was remarked upon in Bucharest and elsewhere, as we know from a minor boyars diary which has been preserved.53
The Russian ambassador-in-waiting to the Porte finally left to take up his
post in Constantinople at the end of 1826: passing through Bucharest, he
was showered with complaints and protests from the boyars, which he
nevertheless chose not to take further.54
Reconstructing Golescus activity in the last three years of his life is
no easier than for earlier periods. In 1827 he apparently set up a literary
society, which met in his house in Bucharest, and sponsored a Romanianlanguage newspaper which appeared for a few numbers in Leipzig.55 Also
in 1827, Golescu published another work at Buda, his translation of the
Elements of Moral Philosophy of the Greek scholar Neophytos Vamvas, later
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Athens. In May the following
year the Principalities were occupied by the Russian army, and a military quarantine set up: a couple of letters have survived from Golescu to
48G. Clinescu, History, 91.
49Stan, Gndirea i activitatea; Lsconi, Postfa.
50Pippidi, Hommes et ides, 295314; Kotsowilis, Die griechischen Studenten.
51Marcu, Athnes ou Rome.
52Georgescu, Din corespondena, 22930.
53Andronescu, nsemnrile, 51; Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, 42931 notes other echoes.
54Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 385409; Georgescu, Din corespondena, 4954.
55Cristea, Faima Lipsci.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


Professor Thiersch in Munich informing the latter that unforeseen circumstances have prevented him from travelling to Germany that year.56 At
the end of the year he managed to get Russian support for the publication
of a journal in Romanian in Bucharest, Curierul rumnesc [The Romanian
messenger]. The first number appeared in April 1829: the journal lasted
twenty years and made a decisive contribution to the permanent establishment of a public literary culture in Romania. Golescus travel book is
mentioned in the first issue.
The following year, it was noted that Golescu had compiled a statistical
map of Wallachia, including:
all the counties and their demarcations, the towns, districts and ports both
in the uplands and on the Danube, the quarantines, the livestock exchange
markets, the paths, the sub-lieutenancies, the villages, families, priests, deacons, boyars, sons of boyars, company men, pandour soldiers, foreigners,
gypsies, Armenians, and Jews, monasteries, metochs, domestic and dedicated sketes, lakes, fisheries, sawmills, wine presses, rivers, streams, brooks,
fairs, weekly markets, minerals and the productions of each county.57

This is probably the same as the Russian statistical map produced in

1835.58 Ironically for one who had awaited the arrival of the Russians
with such high hopes, Golescu was killed by something unexpected they
brought to the Principalities: cholera. On 5th November 1830, his death
was announced in the newspaper he had helped establish. His brother
Iordache was appointed Grand Logothete [Chancellor] of Wallachia in
his stead.59
A Travellers Fortunes
The idea of the whole of Romanias modernization being caused by a
travel text can of course only be read symbolically. If we wanted to take
it literally, we would have to propose and accept something like the following scenario:
Golescu travels, and is astonished by the West;
he consigns his impressions to writing;

56Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, 3624.

57BAPR 1:567.
58Giurescu, Principatele Romne.
59BAPR 1:567, 1170.


chapter five

he publishes his book;

people read it and become aware of their countrys shortcomings;
as a result, they implement modernizing policies;
then they suffer identity traumas on account of the rupture between
the old world which represented their traditional culture and the new
world they are trying to join.
Even if we were prepared to admit this very schematic view of the relationship between travel, writing, reading and action, it would be pretty
much unhistorical in Golescus case because of a small fact, overlooked
in most histories of Romanian literature and culture: few people appear
to have read Golescus book at all in the seventy or eighty years since it
was published. Between 1826 and the critical rehabilitation undertaken by
Pompiliu Eliade in 1905, there are barely a dozen references to Golescus
Account.60 A second edition did not appear until 1910: this was prepared
by the bibliographer Nerva Hodo, who had married an indirect descendent of Dinicus, and by his own account, had great difficulty persuading a
publisher to accept the project.61 Only one author of a nineteenth-century
Romanian travel text actually seems to have had a detailed knowledge of
Golescus work.62
If this were not enough, one can draw attention to the fact that a tendency to consider oneself inferior in relation to neighbouring countries,
and a desire to reform, were not particularly new elements in Romanian
culture. Numerous statements from Romanian chroniclers of the early
eighteenth century evinced a strong consciousness of inferiority to Western (or at least neighbouring) countries.63 In 1818, eight years before
Golescus book was published, the teacher George Lazr declared at the
opening of the Romanian school in Bucharest that the Romanian language
and their people had been left weaker, lower down and more ridiculed
than all the other languages and peoples on the face of the earth.64 The
idea that Golescus text substantially influenced subsequent generations
60Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, xlxli, 3557.
61Hodo, ntroducere, lxlxi.
62The Moldavian Ion Ionescu, a pioneer of Romanian ethnography, discusses the
Account in a letter of 1849 to the Wallachian liberal C.A. Rosetti (Bodea, 1848 la romni,
2:1138); I am grateful to Angela Jianu for this reference, hitherto overlooked by analysts of
Golescus book. Still, what interests Ionescu is Golescus analysis of the Romanian peasantry, not his account of Europe.
63See chapter 3 above.
64Bogdan-Duic and Popa-Lisseanu, Viaa i opera, 20.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


cannot be sustained. Most scholars simply affirm it as part of the received

wisdom: others actually mispresent the evidence to buttress this claim.65
Despite generations of historians insisting on the complexity of processes
of change, it is always seductive to have them represented by an individual actor, with a good story to tell. The idea of a journey, a text and an
uvre of historical achievement have become inextricably interwoven.66
An Alternative Route
Part of the problem may lie with the assumption that a travel account
and in Golescus case, we have little other documentation about him from
his own penprovides sincere and unbarred access to the itinerary of
its authors life and mind. But although predicated upon the idea of an
exceptional experience, its purpose is not necessarily to record and convey emotional states. As numerous scholars have noted, travel writing
may often function as a pretext for ethical or aesthetic digression, and
has affinities with the sermon, the essay and the romance as well as the
log book.67 Critics have also compared Golescus text to the fable, and
commented on the way in which its author prefers the exaltation of an
exemplary ideal to the banalities of a general narration.68 Another has
observed that introductions to Romanian books in this period do not discuss the content of the writings, but, at a general level, eulogize the moral
consequences of reading them.69
In his preface, then, Golescu does not tell us why he travelled, or when,
but rather concentrates on why he has taken account of what he has seen,
and why he is giving an account of it to his people.
Europe makes her nations happy through the communication of goodness
gathered through the travels made by some nations in the lands of others,
and through publishing them in books.
Europe is full, as of other things, so of such books. There is no corner of
the Earth so overlooked, no country, no city, no village unknown to a single
65Thus Berindei, Die Reisen, 126 cites the historian Nicolae Iorga (an authoritative
figure in Romanian culture as saying Golescus book had a necessary influence on the
spirit of an age. What Iorga actually said in 1910, in a review of the second edition, was
that he hoped the book would influence the spirit of the twentieth-century age, not having
been read by previous ones.
66Cf. Grivel, Travel writing, 2567.
67Fussell, Abroad, 20215; Hall, Emergence; Nemoianu, Displaced images.
68Iorgulescu, Firescul, 20; Ioncioaia, Viena, 416, 427.
69Hana, Idei i forme, 254.


chapter five
European, so long as he knows how to read. But we, in order to know our
country well, have to obtain this knowledge by reading some book written
by a European. There are a great number of histories of the Romanian Land
in Europe, written in her languages, and in the Romanian language, but still
by foreigners; while there is no mention of one made by a native of this
land [...] When many of the noble youth of our Fatherland, after having
completed a course of studies in enlightened Europe, have returned to the
Fatherland, we can obtain from them many translations of books into the
national language, as a means towards enlightenment, ornament, and
the good organization of our Fatherland. It is time for us to wake up, like
good landlords who when they go out of their houses acquire things for
themselves but also for their fellow householders; so we, gathering good
things either by reading good and useful books, or by travelling, or by
encounters and gatherings with men from the enlightened nations, should
share them with our compatriots and plant them in our land, in the hope
of a hundredfold yield, and that we too may obtain from our descendants
the gratitude heard by those of our fathers and grandfathers who left to us a
good thing either discovered by themselves or taken from others. (4)

The relationship between travel, social communication, and patriotic

improvement is stressed; more particularly, that between travel books and
the public good. Travelling is, it turns out, really no different from reading:
they are both mere means for the attainment of improving knowledge.
But although Golescu criticizes his people for having neglected this genre
of writing, he situates his own text within an already existing native tradition of literary culture, which he links back in time to the fifteenth-century
Prince Vlad the Impaler and ultimately to Cyril and Methodius, the creators of the Romanian word (4)for, unlike some of his Romanian contemporaries, Golescu saw nothing unnatural in the use of the traditional
Cyrillic alphabet. Moreover, despite his insistence on the European travel
writing tradition, he cites no specific works that he used as a model. The
first Romanian travel text thereby becomes both a borrowing from Europe
and a continuation of an identifiable preexisting cultural tradition.70
The focus of Golescus text oscillates throughout between two principal objects. There are descriptions of places, ostensibly in the order
in which the author has travelled through them, with not infrequent
notes on routes, distances, means and conditions of travel, etc. Interspersed with these, there are what Golescu calls separate discourses
(Cuvntri deosebite), in which he praises some institution or practice
encountered abroad, often going on to criticize its Wallachian equivalent.
70As Duu, Sintez i originalitate, 231 showed.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


By summarizing briefly the content of these discourses or homilies, I

hope both to give an idea of the kinds of things that caught Golescus
attention, and to enable an understanding of their rhetorical function
within the economy of his text as a whole:
the gratifying manifestations of mutual honour and love between sovereign and people at the coronation of Francis II at Pressburg (1819);
the sights of Vienna, architectural, aesthetic, civil: their superiority to
home (21);
the citys internal messenger service, its superiority to domestic arrangements: how useful this intra-urban post would be in our country, so those
who come awaiting replies need tremble no longer in doors and hallways,
or come twenty times after a single piece of business; despatchees would
no longer have to be told come tomorrow at such-and-such a time and,
on coming, find that the boyar had left long ago (reproach me not, Brother
Reader, where you find the truth, but hold your tongue until you find a
false representation or some custom which is also followed in other parts
of the enlightened world, and whose practice in our country is therefore
nothing outlandishand then, and only then, may you reproach me)
Viennas philanthropic institutions (267);
its hospitals (278);
its schools (28);
how the above should be entrusted to the state, not the church, or at least
to a church working for the Fatherland (3033);
how the monarch nods to the people; its difference from the custom at
home (34);
how the Viennese women dont make abusive use of luxurytheir dress
is relatively similar to that of lower people, unlike at home (356);
how a poor merchant at Baden (outside Vienna), through patient and
applied hard work, made a small fortune for himself; followed by a long
description of the unjust treatment of the peasantry in Wallachia, and a
disquisition on the nature of patriotism and its absence at home (4658);
the neat clothing of the field labourers around Graz, compared to the
ragged clothing at home (60);
how at Vicenza even peasants go to the theatre to improve themselves,
unlike in Bucharest, which, although a much bigger town, has only one
theatre and the performances are in German. How an Englishman he met
in Vienna found this situation ridiculous. His shame (7071);
the Romanians of the Banat of Temesvar. Like us but happier, because
they are working in a better system (7980);
how good the baths at Mehadia are, built at the Empresss personal
expense. We havent yet become enlightened enough to make such
things for the public good (81);
the idea of wealth: wealth of the community is the best kind, rather than
the wealth which creates social inequality (825);


chapter five
how people dress; the equal terms on which different social classes greet
each other (879);
the domestic economy admired during a visit to a country cottage (978);
how no buildings or institutions endure in Wallachia compared to Switzerland (100);
how a peasant in Altsttten knows to distinguish Kronstadt in Transylvania from Kronstadt in Russia. Golescu compares this to a letter he
received in 1824 from the logothetes Chancery in Bucharest addressed to
Mehadia, Transylvania (inaccurately, for Mehadia is not in Transylvania
but in the Banat of Temesvar) (103);
the excellence of the inns in Europe (1056);
the University of Geneva, the superiority of their system of education to
ours (10811);
the benefits of factories and the disadvantages of exporting raw materials
end: and from here, going back straight to Vienna, and having nothing more to write about the journey, I imagine that I ought to consider
myself guilty for not finishing by praising a second time the agreeable
and peaceable life of the Viennese, the beauty of the many walks around
Vienna and the continuous lighting, from evening until day, in the whole
of the park surrounding the fortress of Vienna.
And as hope remains with every man who finds himself still upon this earth,
I too had hoped, and entertain the idea that the time will surely come when
my Fatherland, I do not say in a few years, will exactly resemble the great
cities that I have seen, but at least the first step will have been taken to bring
all peoples towards happiness, which step is only Union for the common
good, as I have said many times. (116)

Cuvntri (from cuvnt, word) means discourses in the sense of speeches,

and they have the quality of spoken harangues, a kind of orality influenced both by the almost universal fact of illiteracy in Wallachian society,
and by the study of ancient rhetoric so integral to elite education in the
Golescu also appeals a great deal to exclamation, to the authority of personal experience, to the testimony of emotion, and to general principles
of behaviour or social harmony. He is aware that his habit of breaking off
his description in order to speak about his home country may sometimes
irritate the reader, or that his strictures may appear excessive: he excuses
or justifies himself several times. But he insists on them: I have digressed
greatly from my description of Vienna, but my soul was also greatly embittered on seeing the happiness of other nations (21). The description
71Duu, Les livres, 7083; Diaconescu, Luvre littraire; Anghelescu, Utopia, posits
Xenophon and Fnelon as potential models.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


itself thereby becomes somewhat demoted, a mechanical succession of

observed facts, a kind of Russian roulette of annotations which may or
may not trigger long moral disquisitions: if it doesnt, it descends into virtual meaninglessness. Barthes has written about the orientalist writing of
Pierre Loti in terms of its approach to incident, as a technique for suggesting the languidity of the eventless East: what may barely be noted:
a kind of degree zero of notation, no more than it takes to write merely
something;72 Golescus writing, in contrast, is full of noted somethings, but
only some of them turn into incident and cause discourses. His travels
from descriptive to discursive mode are remarkably abrupt:
Returning from Geneva, I didnt follow the same road, but in order to see
more things in Switzerland, as well as those famous Rhine Falls and to go
further into the Duchy of Baden and the Kingdom of Wrtemberg, I took
a different route from the Morat station going through Aarberg, where the
River Aar passes, and where the boundary runs between the Cantons of Bern
and Solothurn, which latter has a population of 47,800 souls; Solothurn, a
large town, through the middle of which the River Aar runs, with bridges
for the communication of the townsfolk; Wiedlisbach, a fortified town; Der
Mhle, a fort; Olten, a town on the side of the river Aar, which passes on a
standing bridge [an aqueduct]; Aarau, a town in which cloth factories are up
and running; Wildegg, where there is a factory for printed textiles.
Separate Discourse
This multitude of factories can be found in all European provinces, for with
these factories each government benefits its people, for that reason they
give a variety of incentives to those who establish factories, rather than the
reverse, for the princes to take their money because they have factories. (111)

And at the end of a discourse, he switches equally abruptly from sermonizing mode to the most minutious materialities of transportation:
May the merciful Lord turn his eyes towards these people, turning wicked
hearts into merciful ones, money-hungry ones into generous ones, and those
overcome by bad habits into virtue.
From Vienna to Trieste there are the following stops, which I couldnt
take much notice of, for both when I went and when I returned I travelled
by Ailwagen, which runs without stopping day and night, pausing only at
preestablished places for lunch and dinner. (58)

The word Ailwagen (German Eilwagen, express coach) is then glossed in

very great detail in a footnote two pages long.

72Barthes, Le degr zro, 173.


chapter five

As for the idea of Europe, it is not in fact the principal object of Golescus attention. He does not define it specifically. Nevertheless, it is worth
reconstructing his usage of the term, if only to understand where travel
books come fromfor, as already noted, Europe is full, as of other things,
so of such books (4). What are those other things Europe contains? The
references are in fact rather incidental, for instance to a course of studies in enlightened Europe (4); to the noble orders, distributed in all of
Europe (50); to the need to serve the fatherland, as it is served in all
Europe [...] and then each and every one of us will attain true honour and
happiness, and the people will in a few years not fail to reach the same
level as the other nations of Europe (52); Thiersch, that Professor famous
in all Europe (95).73 One might be tempted to conclude that Golescus
Europe is not so much a place as a series of abstracted ideas: order, civilization, and particularly social harmony. It is clear, however, that he builds
this idea on his conception of place. Despite his relatively positive assessment of Hungary and Transylvaniathe social virtues he mentions are,
apparently, already present in the Saxon villages around Kronstadthe
does not describe anything as European until at least halfway through his
description of Vienna.74 I have already pointed out that Golescus manner of composition involves placing all his data concerning a given town
in a given section, irrespective of the order of travel in which he came
by it (Fassel distinguishes between travel texts which describe routes in
longitudinal sections and those more particularly dedicated to describing
places in cross sections).75 And although he makes conscientious notes
on his route, and the conditions of his journey, Golescu is principally concerned with cross-sections of towns, which form the basis of his chapter
structures: they become objectified and distinct, like the reigns of kings
in an old chronicle.
Compared to this, Golescus Fatherland, the ostensible object of his
love and the comparative referent for his accumulation of knowledge,
has no concrete specificity: he refers to it in terms of its poor condition,
not its topography. At one stage he even asks Where is that corner called
the Fatherland? (57) He attributes the question to that noted father
Kone, whom Anghelescu has identified with the German educationalist
73Thiersch, Friedrich Wilhelm 17841860, German classical scholar and philhellene,
professor of ancient literature at the University of Munich.
74Georgescu The Romanians, 108, citing page 65 of the 1915 edition, says Golescu speaks
of that other Europe. I could not trace this.
75Fassel, Die enzyklopdische Donaubeschreibung.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


J.H. Campe, but who must surely be the patriotic poet Carl Theodor
Krner, author of the very popular song Mein Vaterland (1813), which
begins, Wo ist des Sngers Vaterland? But whereas Krner had given a
rousing answer,76 Golescu says that when he asked the citizens of Wallachia this question, then, the man of the people burst into tears; the boyar
judge knitted his eyebrows and kept a dark silence; the soldier cursed
me; the courtesan whistled at me; and the government tax farmer asked
me this word patrie, is it a kind of rent, or what? (57). It is as if another
element of Wallachias frequently attested inferiority were its failure to
coagulate into a real place. For instance, Golescu gives a description of
Kronstadt at the beginning of his book ostensibly as if it were the first city
he arrived at, although he later reveals Kronstadt as having been his point
of departure. He was describing the city for a Wallachian audience, but
he had not come to it from Wallachia as part of his journey: It is describable because other and exemplary, not because travelled to. The point of
writing about abroad, then, becomes to create models for the Fatherland,
which, Golescu hopes, I do not say in a few years, will exactly resemble
the great cities that I have seen (116). His problem, then, is not to topographize Wallachiaothers in this period were engaged in that task, and
Golescu would later continue their work77but to create the terms on
which it could exist.
It is a political question, more than an ontological one. For Golescu, the
question asked of Montesquieus imaginary Oriental travellers in France,
How can one be Persian? would not have been especially meaningful: he
is not particularly prone to doubting the integrity of his own psychic identity.78 Golescu has been identified with the anonymous boyar mentioned
by a French observer in 1821 as saying We are never ourselves, and Do we
always have to be looked upon as not belonging at all to the great European

76Wo edler Geister Funken sprhten,/ Wo Krnzer fr das Schne blhten,/ Wo starke
Herzen freundig glhten,/ Fr alles Heilige entbrannt,/ Dar war mein Vaterland! Krner,
Werke, 16. Cf. Anghelescu, Dinicu Golescu, xxiv.
77Notably the Greek-language works by Dimitris Philippidis, Geographia tis Roumounias (1816) and Konstantinos Karakas, Topographia tis Vlahias (1830).
78The analogy with Montesquieu was made by M. Clinescu, How can one be a
Romanian?, who argued that the fascination with the West causes a crisis in self-identity
in modern Romanian culture; cf. idem, How can one be what one is?; Alexandrescu,
Identitate n ruptur; Roman, Fragmented identities. A historian of Greece has referred to
cultural schizophrenia (Clogg, The Greek mercantile bourgeoisie, 90); Ottomanists to
cultural dualism (Fortna, Education, discusses the fortunes of this concept). The term
ambivalence popularized by Bhabha, Of mimicry and man, is as Young, White mythologies has shown, really a rather static and indiscriminately applied concept.


chapter five

family? Although this is not impossible, the idea of personal inauthenticity or fragmented identity does not emerge clearly anywhere in Golescus
Account.79 Now that scholars of Romanticism no longer consider the idea
of profundity as obligatory when describing the Western selfthe notion
of internal depth served as only one of many models of subjectivity during the Romantic period80then perhaps writers from marginal cultures
could be let off from being described as fragmented if the description
doesnt fit the personality. In fact I am not sure we should speak about
Golescus personality so much as about his persona, for the represented
self is always already oriented towards an audience.81 He describes his
great shame on discussing the Bucharest theatre with an Englishman in
Vienna, and admits to having personally committed a great error in maltreating the peasantry, but these are precisely conditions which require an
integral self to assume them. Rather than positing a split consciousness,
then, perhaps it is better to compare Golescus literary and political stratagems to the double consciousness of Persian Occidentalist writers of the
same period, whereby Persianate ethical standards were used to evaluate
European cultural practices and European perspectives were deployed for
the censuring of Indian and Iranian societies.82
Golescu is considerably more veiled in his direct references to the present state of Wallachia. He has good words for the Prince: now that the
Princedom has been entrusted to the hands of a native ruler, his Majesty
Gregory Ghica Voevod, and the National Schools have been established
[...] the time has come for us to awaken (18). However, an apparently
apolitical collection of proverbs which Golescu published at Buda at the
same time contained very pointed criticisms which could easily be read as
addressed to Ghicas government.83 Golescu also may well have sponsored
the translation of parts of the British traveller Thomas Thorntons Present State of Turkey (1807), which offered a damning critique of the system
79Pippidi, Identitate, 1191.
80Henderson, Romantic identities, 163.
81Jrgen Habermas, in Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, 35; cf. Elliott, The literary
82See Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran, xii. In a much older usage, the black social
theorist W.E.B. Du Bois saw that the term need not imply fragmentation or loss: he wrote
that the Negro longs to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. Du Bois,
The souls of Black folk, 4. On the origin and destiny of this concept in African-American and
Latin-American cultural theory see respectively Reed, W.E.B. DuBois, 97125 and Mignolo,
Local histories/Global designs.
83Duu, Livres de sagesse, 7083.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


under which Wallachia was ruled: the anonymous author of the preface
emphasised the shame of the Wallachians that their country appeared to
European travellers to be so badly governed, but justified the publication
of his work by arguing that the European evaluation was correct.84 In his
Account Golescu makes exactly the same criticisms of Wallachia as the
anonymous translator of Thorntons Present State:
[O]n account of this [luxury], we have been hit by poverty and the extinction of families, we have come to be ridiculed in the worlds opinion, and
foreign pens have painted us accordingly. But what good will it do us if we
want to keep such things hidden amongst ourselves, and we make believe
that they are not known, when all nations read them, as they are written
by people who wish us ill? It is better for us to know them, to acknowledge them, and make a determined decision to rectify ourselves, protecting
our Fatherland from these fires and conflagrations, for luxury and unlawful
appropriation have wiped us off the face of the Earth, depriving everybody
of any of the slightest honesty that might belong to a nation. (29)

These can be read in terms of a wider impatience with Ghicas rule which
opposition boyars sought to contest by referring to a European model. For
instance, Iordache Golescu used the idea of the Europeans reproach when
chastising Ghica for not supporting education in the national language in
1823: Foreigners founded these schools and established their revenues,
and, now that a native reigns over our nation, we are trying to keep the
place in the ignorance, darkness and barbarism for which the Europeans
rightly reproach us!.85 Dinicus Account is full of such protests, directed
less explicitly but still clearly enough against the status quo: The schools
which, under the pretext of improvement, have been ruined in recent
years, for which I would have taken up my pen against the foreigners, did
I not know that they had plenty of assistance from the natives (31). This
is in fact a quite specific reference which would have been understood at
the time to refer to the widespread scapegoating of foreigners, particularly
Greeks, that the Ghica regime had more or less systematically undertaken.
In a supplication presented in Turkish to the Grand Vizier in 1822, Ghica
and his boyars promised to abolish and ruin the Greek schools in order
to stop the disorder at its root.86 The idea of expelling all the Greek
boyars and the ones of Albanian and Bulgarian race from Rumelia since

84Anon, preface to Thornton, Starea de acum [1827], repr. in BRV 3: 51920. See above,
ch. 4 for more detail on this section.
85Cited in Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 248.
86Mehmet, Aciuni, 76.


chapter five

those of Greek race had occasioned so many betrayals, that it is not right
that princes should be named again from among them was proposed in
a telhis (report) by the Grand Vizier and approved by the Sultan.87 The
latters ferman (edict), nominating Ghica, cast the exiles of Kronstadt as
the Greek party in contrast to the native boyars,88 although in fact each
group contained both Greeks and Wallachians. This official xenophobia
was then echoed by a number of lesser writers in Wallachia in 1822 and
1823.89 Many of Golescus critiques implicitly or explicitly unmask this
cheap nationalist rhetoric and make it clear that the exploitation of the
Principalities was the fault of both natives and foreigners (20). Elsewhere
he states that luxury and idleness, not foreigners, are the enemy of the
fatherland (57).
Passages like the following also suggest a more urgent impatience with
the present state of affairs, than a merely general interest in awakening can explain. He asserts that, now that there is a native prince, there
should be no more hanging around but an immediate embrace of enlightenment (53), and later:
Oh, most powerful father of all nations! Will this dark cloud, full of trials
and wickedness, never lift from above the Romanian nation? Will we not
be absolved once and for all of all our wants? Will we not be worthy to see
a ray of light pointing us towards general happiness? But what am I saying?
A ray? See, the whole light has shown itself, sent by the most merciful God,
through the most powerful protector and defender of our Fatherland who
awaits from us but a small and simple actI mean unionfor public happiness, for, with this, all satisfactions will come. (112)

In other words, he was not some unworldly middle-aged Oriental gentleman who suddenly took it upon himself to have a look at life in the West,
but an astute and active political strategist pursuing a clear oppositional
line to a hesitant and fragile regime. The idea of a travel text having political stakes was very widespread in European culture: Swift had satirized
the crude functionalism of such a conception in Gullivers Travels. In Germany and Russia, the genre of travel had been exploited by ambitious
young men not only to convey models for correct appreciation of sentimental and literary experience of the West but also as a stick with which
87Ibid., 667.
88Documente privind istoria Romniei. Rscoala din 1821, 5:1445.
89Naum Rmniceanu, Izbucnirea i urmrile zaverei; Zilot Romnul, Jalnic cntare;
Lazr, speech on Ghicas arrival, in Bogdan-Duic and Popa-Lisseanu, Viaa, 2945; memoranda in Vrtosu, 1821, 11740, 15861, 178222; Mumuleanu, Plngerea.

dinicu golescus account of my travels (1826)


to beat the present regime and advance ones own ambitions.90 It would
soon spread further eastwards: in the same year as Golescu published his
book, an Arab travelled from north Africa to France and subsequently
composed an account which was considered to be a veritable repertoire
of reforms.91
But did publication raise consciousness? As already noted, echoes of
Golescus Account in nineteenth-century Romanian culture are remarkable by their absence. Books and essays on Europe appeared in Turkish, Arabic and even Georgian in the 1830s and 1840s, advocating reform
and justifying travel accounts by reference to their utility for the fatherland.92 But subsequent Romanian travel publications in book form are
few before 1860, and do not particularly deal with western Europe: there is
an account of a journey to Moscow on official business in the early 1830s,93
and another to Constantinople in 1844.94 Most of the travel sketches in
Romanian periodicals in the 1830s and 1840s treat domestic scenes: they
are busier constructing the fatherland than describing abroad.95 Some private letters and diaries from the 1820s and 1830s described the West, but
in nothing like the tones used by Golescu: although favourable overall,
they were also sometimes quite critical, and also made full use of the relatively free intimacy of the epistolary mode, not always seeking to come
to global judgments about Europe.96 This provides further evidence that
Romanian encounters with the West at the beginning of the nineteenth
century need not necessarily be interpreted in terms of a psychological
crisis. Golescus account is not representative: his publication of it might
be, but rather in terms of political strategy than naive acceptance of European models.
90Stewart, Die Reisebeschreibung; Knopper, Le regard du voyageur; on Russia, Roboli,
The literature of travel; Jones, Opposition.
91At-Tahtw, Lor de Paris, 16.
92E.g., Sadik Rifats Essay Concerning European Affairs from 1837, the product of an
embassy to Vienna; and Mustafa Samis Avrupa Rislesi (1840), both discussed by Berkes,
Development, 12832. An earlier Ottoman instance is Ebu Bekir Ratibs Vienna embassy
narrative of 1790, discussed by Findley, Ebu Bekir Ratibs Vienna Embassy narrative.
93Asachi, Jurnalul.
94Codrescu, O cltorie.
95Later Romanian travel accounts are listed in BAPR 1: 108991 and 2, 12178; and in
BIR 2, i: 6270, 44960. Mihai, Orizonturi spaiale, has published some hitherto unknown
96See e.g., Soutsos, Mmoires, 456; Briloiu, in Hurmuzaki, Documente, 10: 6289;
Filipescu, in Eliade, Histoire, 1:26583; Poteca, in Bianu, ntii bursieri; and Poenaru, in
Potra, Petrache Poenaru, for a range of contemporary Wallachian approaches to the West
in the 1820s.


chapter five

Golescu, then, turned his experience into a public textwhat Dipesh

Chakrabarty, discussing the various modes and uses of patriotic Indian
autobiographies, has called a transition narrative.97 However, despite his
fervently-proclaimed Europhilia and his clear proclamation of his shame
and error, there is no reason to see Golescus writing self as colonized
by European imperialist frameworks. To give just one further example,
although he proclaims the exemplarity of European travel accounts, he
does not seem to have followed any particular European model. Just as
scholars have begun to appreciate that not all non-Western forms of autobiography are derivative of Western types of self-expression,98 so we can
see Golescu as using a variety of both domestic and foreign rhetorical
devices in the service both of cosmopolitan patriotism and of personal
ambition. To conclude, his text tells us less than we might wish to know
about Romanian identity at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We
may or may not wish to read the literary criticism as symptomatic of
twentieth-century dilemmas (as Kiossev has done for the interpretation
of the Bulgarian fictional traveller figure Bai Ganyo).99 I have focused here
instead on the way that rhetorical manoeuvres and the use of the particular persona of the traveller intertwined with publishing plans and political
ambitions to produce a cultural construct even more complicated perhaps than that of the Romanian subject: I mean the travel book.

97Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, 3034.

98Reynolds, Interpreting the self.
99Kiossev, The debate.

part three

Myths and discourses of the nation

Chapter six

National ideology between lyrics and metaphysics:

the political writings of Mihai Eminescu
In English-language studies of Romanian nationalist ideology, the name of
Mihai Eminescu, Romanias national poet, crops up regularly, and he is
almost invariably cited as one of the precursors of the extremist nationalism of the twentieth century.1 Actual analyses of what he wrote are harder
to find.2 In this chapter I shall attempt a detailed review of Eminescus
political journalism and some of his literary compositions with a view
to clarifying his conception of the Romanian nation. I shall look first at
the origins of his thought both in earlier Romanian writings and in German philosophy (particularly Schopenhauer); and then go on to place
his writings in the particular social and political context in which they
were written, distinguishing between aspects of Eminescus nationalism
which are common to many Romanian writers, and not just to him, and
particular aspects which he alone stressed, which are unique to his work
and thought and which subsequently became central tenets of Romanian
nationalist ideology.
My intention is not to come up with any new theory of nationalism; nor
would a study of Eminescu be the best way to do so, if one believes Ernest
Gellners assertion that we shall not learn too much about nationalism
from the study of its own prophets.3 Nor do I wish to treat Eminescu as
a pure ideologue. In the context of this thesis, the interest lies largely in
attempting to show how certain socio-political ideas and literary forms
served to work together to reinforce each other status and prestige within
1 E.g. Weber, Romania; Fischer-Galai, Myths; Shafir, From Eminescu to Goga;
Ioanid, The sword; Verdery, National ideology, 15764; Almond, Rise and fall; Gallagher,
Romania. Eminescu exegesis ranks as a heavy industry in Romania (see the massive bibliography in Opere 17) but discussion of his political ideology was a taboo subject under
communism. An older laudatory studyMurrau, Naionalismulis well-documented
but intellectualy uninteresting.
2The only documented examination of Eminescus political writings I know of in
English is Oldson, A providential anti-semitism, 11522, which concentrates exclusively on
Eminescus anti-semitism, which, as this chapter will show, was not the only dimension
of his xenophobia. Butarus interesting study reached me just after the manuscript had
been finalized.
3Gellner, Nations and nationalism, 135.


chapter six

the Romanian cultural field described in previous chapters. An analysis

of Eminescus writings in the context of literary production of his own
time is useful not only because it avoids the kind of interpretive foreshortening which makes Eminescu either the prophet of Romanias future, or
the root of all subsequent intolerance in Romanian history. Written texts
by their nature can and will be re-read in contexts totally different from
those in which they were composed: admirers of Eminescu have included
the feminist Sylvia Pankhurst and the dramatist Eugne Ionesco as well
as the extremist Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and dictator Nicolae Ceauescu. But this does not render the particular world in
which his writings were produced irrecoverable; indeed, it is necessary to
examine this context in order to establish why Eminescus ideas took the
form they did.
Early Life and Education
Born in 1850 in Northern Moldavia, the son of an estate administrator and
lesser boyar, Mihai Eminescu was sent at the age of eight to the German
National-Hauptschule in Cernui [Czernowitz], the capital of the Austrian
province of the Bukovina, and subsequently lodged there at the house of
Aron Pumnul, professor of Romanian language and literature, for whom
he worked as librarian.4 Pumnul, a Transylvanian who had played an
active role in the Romanian cultural movement up to and during the year
1848, had fled to the Bukovina following the suppression of the national
uprising in that year: the province was something of a place of exile, being
far removed from centres of agitation, but also a meeting place for Romanian paoptiti or forty-eighters from different provinces.
The concerns of the Transylvanians constituted a continuation of the
work of their eighteenth-century predecessors, who had established the
Roman origins of the Romanian language and begun to produce grammars
and dictionaries enabling Romanian to be taught in schools and seminaries. The group were influenced not only by this native tradition and by
leaders of the Orthodox and Uniate churches, but also by Western political

4The best biography is Clinescu, Viaa, also available in French. In English there is
a chapter on Eminescu in idem, History, 371403; or the more recent presentation by
Mihilescu, Eminescu. Eminescus journalism and political writings are collected in Opere
913. A representative and more convenient one-volume selection is Eminescu, Scrieri
politice, ed. Murrau. (Hereafter SP).

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


and philosophical ideas. They were familiar with the metaphysics of Kant,
and interpreted him in progressive, nationalist terms: using his ideas to
criticise organised religion and create for themselves a secular tradition
of political action and public educationpartly as a weapon in a struggle
against the clergy, who up until then had dominated intellectual life and
were seen by the Imperial Government as the only Romanian representatives worth dealing with; but also as an instrument for social change and
as the basis for ideas of progress and claims for freedom for man to exercise his reason as one of the group, Gheorghe Bariiu, put it.5
Aron Pumnuls contribution to this movement included a work entitled
The independence of the Romanian language, which Eminescu knew,
and which provided a succinct definition of the term nation (naiunea):
The nation is comprised of a people of the same blood, the same customs
and which speaks the same language. The people is the body of the nation,
while the language is its soul. Therefore, just as a body without soul is dead,
so is the nation dead without language. Nationality is the God-given, eternal, innate and inalienable right [of a people] to make use of her language
in all the necessities of life: in the house, in church, in school and in

The influence of Pumnul, and the use by Eminescu of ideas of individual

autonomy in defence of national improvement and civil rights is evident
in the earliest of Eminescus writings. His first published poem was On
the Death of Aron Pumnul and represents Romanian youth gathering
in unison around their masters grave. Moreover, Eminescus definition
of nation derived fairly directly from that of Pumnul, with the addition
of claims for a territorial basis for a nation: the Romanian people is, he
says, a nation of men, tied, through tradition, customs and language to a
patch of land which we can, with undeniable title, call our country.7 His
definition stayed more or less the same throughout his writing life, and
he insisted that all the relevant conditions be fulfilled: it was not possible to be part of the Romanian nation only by dint of language, or birth,
for these characteristics could apply to sinister Greeks or to unpatriotic
Francophile students.8

5Hitchins, Studies, 7189. On the influence of the 1848 generation on Eminescus early
thought: Zub, Eminescu, 1319.
6Pumnul, Neatrnarea limbei romnesci [1850], 192.
7apud Jucan, Mihai Eminescu, 25.
8Eminescu, Echilibrul [22 apr/4 mai and 29 apr/11 mai 1870], SP, 88; cf. idem, Ptura
suprapus [29 Jul 1881], SP, 354.


chapter six
From Liberal Nationalism to Conservatism

The early belief in progress and enlightenment, as justified by reference

to Kant, is demonstrated in the polemical articles with which Eminescu
began his journalistic career in the Budapest paper Federaiunea. In S
facem un congres [Lets hold a congress], he called for the democratic
wishes of the Romanians of the Habsburg Monarchy to be respected,
for their equal federal rights to be considered alongside those of other
national groups, and for an elected representative of the Romanian nation
to communicate the peoples will to the Emperor. In Echilibrul [Balance],
published in the same year, he argues that the sciences ought to present
works belonging to the nation, whereby she can contribute to the enlightenment and advancement of mankind and that legislation should be the
application of the most advanced idea of right in relation to the requirements of the people. He uses the philosophers terminology to reject the
transcendental right of kings to rule, and says that
the rights and laws which are to govern over us, are immanent to us, that
is immanent to our requirements, our lifewe have only to request them
from ourselves. That we are being stopped from exercising them, does not
change their essence at all.9

Eminescu had by this time begun to study in Vienna, and was beginning
to engage in first-hand study of Kant and German idealistsindeed his
article shows signs that he is keen to parade his knowledge of the (to
him) new philosophy: the conclusions he draws, however, and the general emphases, are in tune with the liberal nationalism of the generation
of 1848. Inalienable human rights, constitutional liberties, the progress
of mankind, practical demands: Eminescus beliefs do not yet bear the
hallmarks of his later (and highly conservative) interpretation of the German metaphysics. They also indicate a favourable disposition towards
French ideasnot only are his appeals couched in the language of
French-revolutionary idealism, but he also explicitly mentions the influence of France on Romania, and considers it to be based on recognizable
superiority and individuality. There are, admittedly, traces of Romantic
language-theory to be found at this early stage: he writes that the measure of civilization of a people today is; a sonorous language, suitable for

9Eminescu, Echilibrul, SP, 85; 86; 92.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


e xpressing notions through sound, thoughts through order and logical

emphasis, and sentiments through ethical emphasis.10
Such views, then, would by no means make Eminescu unique or even
very innovative within the Romanian context. These types of statement
are worth noting nevertheless in order to show a certain current of civic
thought which he flirted with and then rejected. Indeed, early proposals
of Eminescus, for instance the universalist notion that a peoples civilization consists especially in the development of those general human
tendencies, which are unquestionably those of all men, be they large or
small, rich or poor,11 were even sometimes attacked as being not nationalist enough.
Eminescus career as political writer and journalist was interrupted after
1871 as he pursued his university career in Vienna and Berlin, with the
financial support of the Iai literary society Junimea. Although he failed
to obtain the doctorate expected of him, his Junimist patrons found him a
series of posts, first as a schools inspector in Iai and Vaslui counties, then
as librarian at Iai University. Titu Maiorescu also found him a research
grant to track down documents relating to Romanian history in Prussian
and Galician archives, but Eminescu wasted the money on a philosophical
pilgrimage to Knigsberg. This little-known biographical episode tells us
a lot both about his disdain for documentary approaches to history and
his discomfort at being dependent on Maiorescu for work.12 It was only
in 1876when the Conservative government fell and he was sacked on
(probably trumped-up) charges of having misappropriated booksthat
Eminescu returned to journalism. He was then entrusted with the editorship first of Curierul de Iai (from 1876 to 1877) and then, in Bucharest, of
the partys main propaganda organ Timpul (until 1883).
Eminescus political writings inevitably bear the influence of his Junimist patrons,13 notably that of Maiorescu, whose attacks on the superficiality of existing Romanian cultural models constituted the keystone of
the groups ideological position. Maiorescu had called for Romanian assertions of nationality to be tempered within the limits of truthfulness and
Eminescu gave support to this apparently radical position; he also, however, defended Maiorescu against charges of cosmopolitanismon the
grounds that a non-national viewpoint is impossible: The individual who
10Ibid., 84.
11 Ibid., 88.
12Cernovodeanu, Eminescu traductor.
13See the detailed discussion in Ornea, Junimea, 52865.


chapter six

truly desires to work for society cannot do so in the name of a humankind

which does not exist other than in its concrete partsin nationalities.14
In private, however, he was prepared to admit to a friend that the Romanian people does not existthere exists only the possibility to form it.15
Other aspects of Maiorescus writings were taken up wholesale by
Eminescu: for instance the formers assertion that Our only real class is
the Romanian peasant, whose reality is suffering16 found its echo in Eminescus statement that There remains to us but a single positive class, off
whose back all of us livethe Romanian peasant.17 This position, combined with the belief that the peasant represented the true nature of the
Romanian essence, was to form the basis of Eminescus political thought,
which he was to sustain throughout his life.
This was not the only conservative, Junimist position which was open
to Eminescu, as can be seen from a brief examination of another member of the Junimea group, Petre Carp. Carp, although an aristocrat and
initially a defender of landed interests, did not approve of such a stance,
and accepted the consequences of the constitutional changes Romania
had undergone:
All serious Conservatives should have given their consent to the completed
deed; they should have admitted the social revolution, the democratisation of society, as an irrevocable given...It was merely a misfortune that
democratisation here took place from the top down, and not the other way

He argued that there were other positive classes besides the peasant,
citing the artisan class and the class of leaders, to be selected on merit
rather than lineage.18 Eminescu, however, rejected both Carps attitude
to democracy, and his analysis of class structures: he refuted the continuing independence of the artisan and the rze [free peasant], blaming their demise on democratic nationalism: The history of the past 50
years, which many call a national regeneration, could with better reason
be called the history of the annihilation of the free peasants and artisans.19
These classes did not go on to form a stable bourgeoisie, but have aspired
to nobility and become lesser gentry; or worse, have sought jobs from
14Eminescu, Naionalii i cosmopoliii [ms., 1871] in Torouiu, SDL, 4, 8591.
15Reported by Ion Slavici, Amintiri, 43.
16Maiorescu, n contra direciei de astzi [1868], in Critice, 1:151.
17Eminescu, Influena austriac [1876], SP, 136.
18Lovinescu, Istoria civilizaiei, 2:1119.
19Eminescu, Influena austriac, SP, 128.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


the state, and formed a plebs scribax or proletariat of the pen-nib. Here
we see Eminescu explicitly rejecting the modernising aspects of Carps
conservatism, and adding a distinctly pessimistic reading of Maiorescus
theory of culture and of the peasant class.
From Kant to Schopenhauer
Metaphysical philosophy as a basic for Romanian Conservative thought
was not new, as we have seen, and certainly Maiorescus theory of form
without essence is partially derived from Kantian distinctions between
the essential and the merely sensational categories. However, Eminescu
made particular use of post-Kantian ideas which, although not unknown
to the Junimea circle, constituted a distinct development and advance on
Maiorescus theories. The main German influence on Eminescus thought
was Schopenhauer. This may seem a strange choice for an east European
nationalist: after all, Schopenhauer rejected any possibility that his metaphysical system should be used to promote nationalism:
It should be remarked in passing, that patriotism, when it wants to make
itself felt in the domain of learning, is a dirty fellow who should be thrown
out of doors. For what could be more impertinent than, where the pure and
universally human is the only concern, and where truth, clarity and beauty
should alone be of any account, to put into the scales ones preference for
the country to which ones own valued person happens to belong, and then,
with that in view, do violence to truth and commit injustice against the
great minds of other nations in order to puff up the lesser minds of ones

However, such statements did not impede the adaptation of Schopenhauers

thought by nationalists all over Europe.21 This was particularly characteristic
of the disillusioned generation of post-1848 Europe, for whom the earlier
idealists held less and less allure, and who were acutely attracted by a philosopher whose system seemed to have partially anticipated both the new
psychology of Nicholas Hartmann and the developing discourse revolving
around evolutionary theory and the struggle for existence. Eminescu was
no exception to this.

20Schopenhauer, Essays and aphorisms, 229.

21 See e.g. Kelly, Herzen vs. Schopenhauer. Perhaps the most notorious of nationalists
who have taken inspiration from Schopenhauer was Benito Mussolini. See Nolte, Three
faces, 616 n. 221.


chapter six

As Bryan Magee has noted, however, the difference in philosophical

method between the idealist Fichte and the pessimist Schopenhauer is
not as great as their political differences. Fichtes completion of Kants
work depended on the union of the real (noumenal) and apparent
(phenomenal) worlds in the I. This is not in fact irreconcilably different
from Schopenhauers solution to the same problem, which also saw the
phenomenal and the noumenal as products of the ego, but in the form
of will and intellect. Fichte used this union of the self and the other to
develop an ideology of the sovereign state uniting the individual and the
ethnic community. In the individuals mind dwells a love for the whole, of
which he is a member, for the state and the fatherland, and he will destroy
any other selfish emotion. Schopenhauer, on the other hand, saw the will
as unwholesome and destructive, unable to be mastered by man; he pessimistically advocated the repression of the wills desire, and, as we have
seen, believed that the counterpart of the ego was a pure universalism and
not at all, as Fichte had proposed, a closed political unit.22
In fact Eminescu takes ideas from both philosophers. The influence of
Fichte and the idealists entered his work precisely where Schopenhauer
fails to be of use to him, mainly when dealing with questions of the nation,
of political economy, or of history. Thus Eminescu presents the interior
history of peoples as a struggle between the state and individualism. He
sees the struggle as coming to a conclusion in the harmonization of separate interests: The state however, as a higher form of the same principle
[i.e. individual interest], does not see in classes distinct individuals, but a
complex of social organisms, an individual: the nation.23 The reconciliation of state and individual in an organic, integrated national community
seems, in this early work, to be pure Fichte. Yet Eminescu would have
denied his influence, and in fact advised his younger Junimea colleague,
Ioan Slavici, to forget Fichte and Hegel and start from Schopenhauer.24
What was it about Schopenhauers philosophy that particularly
attracted Eminescu? Firstly, of all the post-Kantian metaphysicians, Schopenhauers was the most reactionary. Schopenhauer vigorously opposed
the actions of the 1848 constitutionalists in Frankfurt, and defended the
idea of property: both these were causes dear to the heart of Romanian
Conservatives. Eminescu realised that he could use Schopenhauers ideas

22Magee, Schopenhauer, 24754.

23Eminescu, Influena austriac, SP, 1189.
24G. Clinescu, Opera lui Eminescu, 340.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


to present Maiorescus forms without essence attack on foreign culture,

in such a light that the metaphysical argument could not be interpreted
as liberal. He wrote excitedly to Maiorescu:
The philosophy of right, of the state, and of history are appropriate only in
Schopenhauer, and moreover, the key to a true exposition of these ideas is to
be found in his metaphysics...I believe I have found that which unlocks the
problems of these matters, by grouping the opinions and systems of proof
which accompany each phase of development in opposites surrounding the
atemporal in history, law and politics; but not in the evolutionary sense of
Hegels ideas. For in Hegel thought and existence are identical. Here, not so.
The practical interest for our nation, would consist, I believe, in sweeping
aside all the theoretical justifications for importing foreign institutions.25

By adapting Schopenhauers conception of the will, Eminescu was able to

reject developmental ideas of the force of history. He could use this to
attack those who believed that Romanias alignment with Western institutions was not a superficial and inappropriate borrowing of forms, but
part of an inexorable historical process; he could also counter with the
proposal of an anti-republican, anti-constitutional, aristocratic state. After
all, the problem with organic communitarian models, from a conservative
agrarian viewpoint such as that of the 19th century Romanian Conservatives, is that they leave no justification for the hierarchical orders of society: Fichtes ideas, it is true, were unpalatably republican. Schopenhauer,
on the other hand, looked much more appealing:
A constitution embodying abstract justice would be a wonderful thing, but
it would not be suited to beings such as men.
...The monarchical form of government is the form most natural to
man...republics are anti-natural, artificial and derive from reflection.
...The only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and
noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by
mating the most magnanimous of men with the cleverest and most gifted
women. This proposal constituted my Utopia and my Platonic republic.26

Eminescu took these ideas and put them fairly directly into his own
Nobody, apart perhaps from ignorant gazetteers, can sustain any more that
freedom to vote, assembly and parliament are the foundation of a state.
Whether they are or not, the state has to exist and is subjected to certain

25Letter to Maiorescu, 5 Feb 1874, in SDL 4:1001.

26Schopenhauer, Essays, 152, 153, 154.


chapter six
natural laws, fixed, stubborn, and consequently undefeated. The distinction is, that in constitutional life the struggle for existence of the social
groups who have little book-learning, gains resonance; whereas in the absolutist state that struggle is regulated by a much higher power, that of the
monarch....While in neighbouring states a beneficent absolutism held
sway...here the Voevods hands were tied...27

Schopenhauers influence shows through not only in the advocation of

absolute monarchy. It is apparent too in Eminescus belief that the struggle
for existence (Schopenhauers concept of the will to live foreshadowed
the Darwinian idea) provides no justification for optimistic laissez-faire
positivism, but corresponds rather to an unfathomable and maleficent
force. Thus, discussing the evolutionary idea, Eminescu rejects Spencerian
interpretations of the theory, and criticizes Darwins optimism:
Against the scepticism that could result from the struggle-for-existence
theory, he aligns the assertion that in the end superiority will be victorious...For a long time we have considered modifying the theory of the struggle for existence in view of the cases in which decrepitude and parasites
come to exploit and master the healthy, powerful elements.28

This pessimistic view of evolutionary theory derives fairly clearly from

Schopenhauer, who wrote of natures unambiguous declaration that all
the striving of this will is essentially in vain. If it were something possessing value in itself, something which ought unconditionally to exist, it
would not have non-being as its goal.29
Much has been made of Eminescus pessimism, both by his detractors
(some of whom assume that because of it he cannot have been a worthy nationalist);30 and by his admirers, who frequently quote one passage
where he bemoans that fact that Schopenhauer revealed to us the necessity of living amidst institutions which seem to us untruthful, and made
pessimists of us. In this conflict we frequently lose the joy of living and the
desire for struggle.31 This passage may not necessarily act as proof that
27Eminescu, Icoane vechi i icoane nouI [Timpul, 11 Dec 1877]; SP, 165; Influena
austriac, SP, 127.
28Eminescu, Teoria pturii suprapuse [Timpul 6 Aug 1881]; SP, 363.
29Schopenhauer, op. cit., 54.
30E.g. Ghica, Convorbiri economice, in idem, Opere, 2:324; Hasdeu, Noi n 1892, in
idem, Scrieri, 2:1323. Maiorescu was attacked in Parliament for his alleged pessimism and
Schopenhauerianism, and Eminescu defended him. Timpul, 8 feb & 9, 11 apr 1878 (Opere,
10:436, 757); for the context, Vatamaniuc, Eminescu, 25564.
31 Cited by Clinescu, Opera lui Mihai Eminescu, 2:109. Rusu, Perspective, has argued
that Eminescus appropriation of Schopenhauerian pessimism was at the superficial,
intellectual level, and that the poets profoundest, most authentic trait was an optimistic

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


Eminescu rejected Schopenhauers pessimismin the same article he

attacks Comtes positivism, the empty and barren phraseology of Hegel
and the pretence of Fichte and Schleiermacher to resolve the problems of
the universe with meaningless abstractions.32
Moreover, although pessimism would seem at first to be an inappropriate quality for an officially-sanctioned national prophetafter all, what
use is a prophet who brings no good news?Eminescu managed to combine the role of doom-monger with that of emblem of his people in certain remarkable ways. After all, the role of national ideology is not always
simply to eulogize the nation, but also to mobilize it at specified moments;
and this is often achieved by conjuring up images of the endangered, victimized and even martyred nation. Not only well-known poetic examples
from the nineteenth-century, like the Serbian propagation of the Kosovo
legend, or the image of Poland as the suffering Christ of Nations serve
to illustrate this: for example, a perceived threat of annihilation could be
seen as crucial for mobilizing both American and Soviet national sentiment during the Cold War. Eminescu saw his role as pointing out the
deficiencies of the Romanians as much as enumerating their special virtues. This is perhaps particularly true of his political writings, where there
was less stylistic room for the compensating virtues of lyrical expression
or wry hurmour, such as may be found in his literary writings. Thus, in
his short fable Kant he was able to make gentle fun out of the pretention
that high-flown philosophy might have relevance to the immediate needs
of the average peasant, as the tales protagonist expounds the metaphysical doctrine to bemused locals in a village tavern. But in his journalism,
as we have seen, the lyrical framework falls away, and the pessimism is
no longer poetic, but accompanies explosive warnings of what will happen to the fatherland should his words go unheeded. Lying behind the
apparently apolitical statement about the meaning of his most celebrated
poem, Luceafrul [The Evening Star, 1883] that he is immortal, but lacks
good fortune,33 is the same vision, this time ethnically politicized, applied
to the Romanian people:

enthusiasm. But in his Juvenalesque satire Scrisoarea a doua [The second letter, 1881], Eminescu declared emphatically that his disgust was a quality of his inner soul, which could
not by reconciled by the superficial action of his intellect [i dezgustul meu din suflet s-l
mpac prin a mea minte./ Dragul meu, crarea asta s-a btut de mai nainte.]
32Heitmann, Eminescu, identifies Hegel as a principal source for Eminescus thought.
But the latters repeated attacks on Hegel render this rather questionable.
33Cited by Walker and Popescu, Introduction, xxxvi.


chapter six
Our peasant is the same as fifty years ago, but the burden he bears is tenfold.
He carries on his back: several thousand landowners (at the start of the century a few tens), thousands of waged employees (at the start of the century
a few tens), hundreds of thousands of Jews (at the start of the century a few
thousand), tens of thousands of other foreign subjects (at the start of the
century a few hundred).34

Death and Rebirth

Nevertheless Eminescu was fascinated by death, and took much solace from the ideas, derived by Schopenhauer from oriental religion, of
metempsychosis, namely the transference of the soul into another body,
and palingenesis, the decomposition of the individual in which the will
alone persists and, assuming the shape of a new being, receives a new
intellect.35 Schopenhauer saw only the conscious intellect as mortal,
whereas for him the metaphysical will was essentially indestructible;
Eminescu took this idea of immortality of the will, and used it to develop
a nationalist theory of history positing continuity with Romanias glorious past. His poem Doina [1883] describes Stephen the Great, fifteenthcentury ruler of Moldavia, rising from the grave and coming to the aid of
his people, who have been overrun by strangers; likewise The Third letter
[1881] ends with an invocation to Vlad the Impaler to return and round up
the frivolous youth, who with their foreign habits, claim to rule the nation.
The novella Poor Dionis [1872] describes a poor peasant child, lost in the
streets of Iai, who, finding himself magically attracted to a book filled
with geometry and metaphysics, is transported back into an earlier incarnation as a monk in the time of Prince Alexander the Good. This fantastic
narrative was just one of the forms in which Eminescu displayed his ability to weld the magical logic of the traditional fairy tale with a remarkably
modern historical logic of national destiny, through the figure of the hero
with (scientific) supernatural gifts whose adventures take place in historical time, not in mythical lands. Such fictions were a substantive advance
in the imagining of continuity, placed on a new psychological plane.36
This trope of Romnia rediviva derives, then, not from Christian sources,
but from markedly modernist European currents of thought. Admittedly,
34Eminescu, Influena austriac; SP: 144.
35Schopenhauer, Essays, 73.
36Eminescu, Poor Dionis; for an interpretation see Close, From the familiar to the

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


Eminescu did not explicitly militate against Christian theologyalthough

he did write a poem entitled Eu nu cred nici n Iehova [I dont believe
in Jehovah, 1876], and extensively explored Eastern religious thought. But
the originality of Schopenhauers metaphysics, and its usefulness for Eminescu, lies partly in the fact that he can claim the immortality of the will
to belong to himself as an intellectual genius, rather than to a Christian
saviour. He can also substitute Romanian national figuresor, as in the
poem Rugciunea unui dac [A Dacians Prayer, 1879]a localized paganismfor the saints of the Orthodox church.
Moreover, Eminescu was able to make use of a small loophole in Schopenhauers system to argue that his own genius was immortal. Schopenhauer was generally extremely careful to point out that the noumenal
will which directed the course of the world could not be apprehended
by mans intellect: the intellect is physical, not metaphysical. Intellect
is generally apportioned according to purpose; thus men have a much
greater intellect than do animals, because
the endless augmentability of his needs has made necessary a much greater
degree of intellect. Only when this is exceeded through an abnormality does
there appear a superfluity of intellect exempt from service: when this superfluity becomes considerable, it is called genius. Such an intellect will first of
all become objective, but it can even go on to become to a certain degree

This was a favourite passage of Eminescus, and he used its strictures

about the limited apportioning of intellect to argue against the creation
of a modern industrial state:
Nature gave man limited power, sufficient only to sustain himself and his
family...and a little more. From this tiny surplus of the producers homestead, the whole of the nations civilization must live. If we use this surplus
to feed foreign ideas, institutions, and forms without essence...38

To himself, however, he awarded himself the God-given role of genius:

the God of genius drew me from the people, just as the sun draws up
a golden sun from the sea of bitterness.39 This allows Eminescu to sustain a belief in the immortality of his intellect and his poetry, as well as
his will: it permitted him to argue the indestructibility of anti-democratic

37Ibid., 5960.
38Eminescu, Icoane vechi i icoane nou (V) [Timpul, 21 Dec 1877]; SP, 205.
39See Lovinescu, Istoria civilizaiei, 2:3951.


chapter six

c onservatism, as well as the continuity of blind will which we cannot

apprehend or master:
I have said in more than one sentence that whoever desires the healing
of the evils which plague our country, will become, to a greater or lesser
degree, conservative, and any reform that is to be introduced into our laws,
for it to be good, it will have to be conservative...even the few laws of value
in the present Parliaments and in those past, are conservative, with all the
power of the word, and have nothing to do with the social contract of JeanJacques Rousseau. From the Liberal point of view, this law is a heresy...40

It would have been possible for Eminescu to have come to such conclusions independently of a reading of Schopenhauer: nor is it necessary to
make Schopenhauer responsible for Eminescus nationalism: the latters
statement that feeling for the fatherland is so great in [Schopenhauers]
eyes, that on the scale of human virtues sacrifice for the fatherland comes
close to full sanctity constitutes a demonstrable falsehood. However, the
fact that his conservatism is so often metaphysically expressed, the fact
that it was so explicitly anti-constitutional, and anti-contractual, and the
fact that he backed up this view with a pantheistic belief in continuity
and avatars of the willall point to Schopenhauer as Eminescus natural
antecedent in political philosophy.41
Medievalism and Folk Metaphysics
There were other historical models available to Eminescu from Romanian history, but he did not select them. For instance, Eminescus contemporary, A.D. Xenopol (18481920) who likewise studied in Berlin under
Junimeas auspices, also produced a critique of contemporary Romanian
society based broadly on the forms without substance argument, and
attacked many facets of Romanias development, from the inadequate
legal framework to the anomalies of the education system. But he did not
propose a wholesale rejection of modernity: rather, he argued that we
should direct our efforts towards attacking the misapplication of these
principles, and not against the principles themselves.42

40Eminescu, Triumful principiilor conservatoare [Timpul 14 Oct 1879]; SP, 2567.

41 The subsequent evolution of ideologies of rebirth in Romanian right-wing thought
has been the object of studies by Turda, Conservative palingenesis, and Iordachi, Gods
chosen warriors.
42Xenopol, Studii, 211.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


Eminescu had no such words for constitutionalism: he quoted proudly

the fact that up until the Phanariots we had no code of lawa sign, that
it wasnt necessary. Stephen the Great, on the other hand,
knew how to smash to pieces the Turks, Tartars, Poles and Hungarians,
knew a little Slavonic, had several rounds of wives, drank deep of the old
wine of Cotnar, and once in a while chopped off the head of a boyar or the
nose of a Tartar prince...What did he bother his head with ideas, the way
our gazetteers do, what did he know about the intellectual finessings of our

Eminescus own mediaevalism, then, was not communal-democratic but

essentially authoritarian in temper. It can justifiably be said that he was
innovative in the Romanian political context, in pointing out some of the
key problematic issues of modern democratic consentthat the intimate
assembly of the ancients is no longer possible in a mass society; that the
governed and the governors may become mutually alienated; that modern institutions are at best a pale imitation of ancient symbolic forms.
But however incisively he asked the questions, he could not offer realistic
solutions: even in his retrospective idealisation of mediaeval Moldavia,
the people disappear from view and only the forceful power of the autocrat is stressed.
Just as there is folk-poetry says a character in one of Schopenhauers
dialogues, and in the proverbs, folk-wisdom, so there has to be folk
metaphysics.44 Eminescu was a folk-metaphysician par excellence: but
his treatment of death in poetry can be said to be metaphysical in a way
that departs significantly from the folksy. The theme of passivity in the
face of death is generally considered to be a staple of Romanian folklore,
especially as exemplified in the ballad Mioria [The Ewe-Lamb], in which a
shepherd faces death calmly in spite of the fact that the ewe-lamb he tends
warns him that his companions are to betray him. Yet, as G. Clinescu
has pointed out, the shepherd does not sing of death in its proper sense,
his representation of it is not in the slightest ecclesiastical; he has, in a
word, not a shadow of a notion of the metaphysical process.45 In a most
lucid analysis, Clinescu goes on to demonstrate how Eminescu is able
to work his philosophical concerns into poems that, in their rhythm and

43Eminescu, Din abecedarul economic [Timpul, 21 Dec 1877]; SP, 201.

44Schopenhauer, Essays, 96.
45Clinescu, Opera lui Eminescu, 2:403.


chapter six

subject-matter appear folkloric and naturalistic. When Eminescu writes

lines like
Only man is changeable,
Upon the earth a wandering race
But we can keep our place,
As we were so we remain:
The sea and rivers course
The world and its dusty plains,
The moon and the sun we remain
The wood and the water-source.46

it is clear that he is not just identifying ventriloquially with the forms of

nature, but with the stylised Romantic symbols of his nation. The woods
are brother to the Romanian, he said in another poem in a folkloric metre
and tone. As Clinescu further remarked, there is in Eminescus poetry a
fine conjunction of popular mythology and philosophy of annihilation,
in a form which appears linear, but which nevertheless is a sophisticated
The themes of death and rebirth, aligned with folkloric themes, appear
again in songs sung by members of the right-wing nationalist Legionary
movement in inter-war Romania:
Legionaries do not fear
That you will die young
For you die to be reborn
And reborn to die
Death, only the Legionary death
Is a joyful wedding for us.48

The link between Eminescus folclor savant (as Clinescu termed it) and
the lines quoted above, is unmistakable.
While I do not wish tediously to repeat what is already well-known
that Codreanu, the Legionary movement founder, admired Eminescu
fanatically, and took inspiration from hima couple of points are worth
noting in this connection. First of all, that the legionaries cult of sacrifice
in the name of the nation came not only from Orthodox theology, nor
yet from concepts of fatality in Romanian folk literature, but also, and
46Eminescu, Revedere, cited ibid., 404.
47Ibid., 407.
48Weber, Romania, 5145. My theory would seek to modify Webers description of
Codreanus mystique as akin to a cargo cult, and put the emphasis back on local roots
(but not strictly folkloric or popular-religious ones).

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


ossibly predominantly, from Eminescu himself. Secondly, the nihilist

intellectuals who supported the movement, did not need to go abroad to
find ideas to justify an anti-democratic, conservative, antisemitic nationalist movement with a cult of death and an ideology rebirth; in the writings
and personality of Eminescu, it had been part of the Romanian tradition
for nearly fifty years before the foundation of the Legion of the Archangel
Michael in 1927.
As for Eminescus antisemitic pronouncements they too are well-known;
but, unlike many other aspects of his nationalism hitherto covered, they
are neither unique to him nor are they particularly egregious when compared to the opinions of many of his contemporaries. He saw them as in
general incapable of industrial work. However many Jews there might be
in a town, we wont find them working either in factories or in workshops.49
He also described them as a parasite element of middlemen, whose activity does not reduce the cost of exchange of products, but increases it....
They, as a commercial element, are absolutely damaging in all countries.50
His solutions to the Jewish question ranged from creating conditions for
assimilation to encouraging emigration: but, he added in one article,
with the lax organisation we suffer today, with the corruption instituted
mainly by the administration, even the best and most nationalist solution
would be nothing but a palliative against an acute symptom, rather than the
particular medicine to cure the organic disease we suffer from.51

In other words, although unquestionably antisemitic, he did not instigate

violence against the Jews, nor advocate enforced expulsion: his articles
fairly consistently argue for the problem to be treated by the reorganization of the general economic system, rather than by direct interventionist

49Eminescu, Teoria compensaiei muncei [Timpul, 20 Oct 1881]; SP, 368. On the
sources for Eminescus socio-demographic analysis of the Jewish question, and their questionable character, see Cernovodeanu, Probleme de demografie.
51 Eminescu, Soluia problemei sociale [Timpul, 17 Jul 1879]; SP, 250. This line of argument is again borrowed from Maiorescu, who criticized Liberal economic policy, and
accused the Liberals of trying to manipulate anti-semitism to cover up for their political
shortcomings. See Maiorescu, Contra coalei Brnuiu, in idem, Critice, 2:2045. But Eminescu did not follow Maiorescu in advocating the fundamental ideas of humanity and
liberalism against the excesses of the day.


chapter six

policies against Jews. The period in which Eminescu wrote saw frequent
ravaging of synagogues, burning of Jewish houses, arrests, forcible expulsions from Romania, and several murders caused by racial incitement.
The motivation for this seems to lie at least partly in medieval notions
of Jews as killers of Christ, rather than scientific theories of race: the 1868
sacking of a Galai synagogue apparently started following a rumour that
Christian blood was being used in Jewish rituals. Eminescu did not generally use language of this kind. Nevertheless, he did advocate on occasion
the withdrawal of Jews licences to sell spirits which policy was frequently
implemented, and often led to Jews being arrested as vagrants and then
forcibly deported.52
Eminescu, then, despite his tendency to home in on the ethnic
dimensions of many other issues, saw the question mainly as a politicaleconomic one. The large number of his pronouncements on the subject
is partially, but not exclusively, explicable by the fact that he was editing
a political weekly at a time when the Western Powers assembled at the
Congress of Berlin made recognition of Romanian independence conditional upon the admission of Jews to Romanian citizenship. This characteristic of Eminescus writings on the Jews has led some commentators to
rebut the charge that his attitude towards the Jews is primarily ethnic in
content.53 It is, however, a common feature of antisemitic discourse that
it claims a basis in some extra-racial qualityin this case, economicsin
order to appear to provide autonomous proof of the veracity of the ethnic characteristics under discussion, and thus to bolster the plausibility of
the racial argument. It is true that Eminescus writings on Jews are by no
means exceptional in the context of the age. But he himself protested vigorously on at least one occasion when he was accused of philosemitism.54
Yet another critic, William Oldson, has constructed an interesting thesis around Romanian anti-semitism, arguing that Romanian politicians
and writers of the nineteenth century were not racists of a fanatic nature,
but that they developed a peculiar variation on the antisemitic discourse,
neither humanitarian nor doctrinaire. This discourse was primarily elaborated for the purposes of countermanding the Western Powers resented
insistence that Jews enjoy citizenship rights as a condition of the independence granted at the Congress of Berlin (1878): its principal component
52A detailed account of the Jewish question surrounding the recognition of the Romanian state in Kellogg, Road, 3961.
53Ciornescu, La pense politique, 7; in more nuanced form, Heitmann, Eminescu.
54Eminescu, Reflectare [Curierul de Iai, 7 Jul 1876], in Opere, 9:14950.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


was an argument that the Eastern Jews to be found in Romania were not
of the same grade of civilization as urban Jewry settled in the West. This
was not, Oldson maintains, an argument from race but from cultural characteristics and lifestyle: it involved rationalizing the arguments against the
Jews in a style less impeachable by the West. He concludes that Romanian
anti-semitism, though brutal and intellectually shallow, was providential
for the Jews in that its vagaries and divergence from the modern norm
allowed them to survive. He points Eminescu up as an apostle of ethnic nationalism, but concludes that he was more of a xenophobe than a
physically violent fanatic.55
This is not an unreasonable assessment, but it is important, I think,
to note that Eminescu did make very emphatic use of such concepts of
race such as were current in the 1880s. If the word racist to describe
a pseudo-scientifically legitimated course of political action had not
yet been invented, the idea of race was common currency throughout
Europe.56 Moreover, it is not hard to find instances of Eminescu specifically using the concept of race to attack the rationalist line of argument.
Nevertheless, he inverts the points of reference by making racism a Jewish
Whenever the Israelite question is discussed, the Romanian writer is terrified lest he be seen to interpret it as race hatred, as national or religious
We are accustomed to look at matters in a more natural manner. [...].
They came into our country not as friends, nor as men seeking their daily
bread, but as enemies; as a foreign race they declared war upon us, to the
death, using instead of knives and pistols, drink falsified with poison. [original emphasis].57

It is clear, then, that Eminescus writings did much to validate the use of
the argument from race when discussing the Jewish question, and that
he was keen to adapt relatively new European scientific writings in this
direction. If one is to distinguish between race as a generalized concept
within nineteenth-century anthropology, and racism as a later, pseudoscientific legitimation of segregation and antipathy, one could say that
Eminescu took the former as his starting point, but led the argument a
long way towards the latter position.
55Oldson, A providential antisemitism, 163; 121.
56Hobsbawm, Nations and nationalism, 1079, locates the 1880s and 1890s as the key
period in which scientific groundwork of racism gained ground.
57Eminescu, untitled article, [Timpul, 1 Nov 1881], in Opere, 12:389.


chapter six

Eminescus anti-foreigner rhetoric emphatically does attain violent

pathological degrees when it comes to Greek Liberals. He developed what
he called the theory of the superimposed layer to attack these parvenus
who, through their similarity in religion, managed to intermingle with
Romanians, to deceive them and become their masters: and, for their plan
to succeed better, they bought up all our national instincts.58 He came
to blame them, and only them, for the foreign domination of Romania,
for the perceived false forms of culture that he had previously accused
French-educated Romanians of instituting, and for the conditions of the
Romanian peasant:
the reins of true mastery have escaped from the hand of the autochthonous element and fallen into foreign hands...our own people, exploited
wickedly, impoverished, diminishing numerically and without a clear consciousness of what should be done...We have, then, a layer superimposed
upon this people, a kind of sediment of pick-pockets and coquettes, risen
from the admixture of oriental and occidental scum, incapable of truth and

Eminescu goes on to apply scientific ethnological theories of race:

Comparative cranioscopic studies would be of use, and the youth of the
medical faculty would do some good, comparing the cubic capacity of a
true, daco-romanic skull with the confines of those sunken hollows in which
resides the intellectual sterility of the red party.60

Everything must be Dacianized from now on, he insists, and ends on an

apocalyptic note: for the presently dominant generation (i.e. the Liberal
foreigners), the genius of the Romanian people is a book bearing seven
What to conclude after this? Eminescus outburst is all the more peculiar considering that there is virtually no evidence of an influx of Greeks
into Romania at this stage of its history: the community was, rather, on
the decline. One could explain it in terms of the immediate political circumstances, as a way of returning journalistic fire against the Liberals
who, being essentially Bucharest-based and lacking support in Moldavia, had adopted a vigorously antisemitic line to attract support there. In
exchange to this insult to his native Moldavia, Eminescu tried to paint

58Eminescu, Ptura suprapus [Timpul, 29 Jul 1881]; SP, 351.

59Ibid., 3534.
60Eminescu, Teoria pturii suprapuse [Timpul, 6 Aug 1881]; SP, 358.
61 Eminescu, Ptura suprapus [Timpul, 29 Jul 1881]; SP, 352, 356.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


the southern province of the Romanian kingdom as awash with its own
foreign element, the Greeks. The Liberals had successfully attacked the
Junimist politician Petre Carp for his philosemitism, and Eminescu was
trying to attack the Red party, as he called it, by associating them in the
same way with a foreign element.62
At least part of the explanation lies in a symptomatic exasperation with
the entire mechanisms of constitutional government, which, after five
years of supporting the out-of-office Conservatives, had reached breaking
point. While a fixed philosophical vision gave great force to his lyric creations, it could be said to have soured his political outlook irremediably.
The world of political action was merely phenomenal; it had no metaphysical basis and could be rejected at will. This led him to the paradoxical position of denying the reality of Romanias hard-won independence.
Eminescu frequently attacked sovereignty together with liberty, equality
and fraternity: the failure of the newly-created national state to conform
to his organic vision of what it should be led him, in heated moments like
these, to reject the Romanian state absolutely.63
A related factor was the contradiction contained in Eminescus conceptualization of the peasant, presented as the carrier of the undying Romanian essence. Metaphysically the peasant was (and often still is) seen as
some kind of symbol of transcendent wisdom, the thing in itself, the id; this
belief was held not because the peasant was (like outer space), unknowable, or because (like God) he knew everything; but because nobody did
happen to want to know about him, and nobody would give him anything
much to know.64 Moreover, Eminescus strong sense of historyof past
offences against the Romanian nation living on in the presentrequired
him to defend the peasant not just against real threats but also against
the injustices that the Phanariot Greeks had allegedly perpetrated against
the autochthonous population. This anti-Phanariotism had been a staple
of the 1848 generation, and showed itself to be a remarkably deep-seated
element of Romanias historical mentality.65 Eminescu never reconciled
the contradictions of a high authoritarian politics with an often deeply felt
identification with the class who suffered most in 19th century Romania.

62Ornea, Junimea, 2539.

63E.g. Eminescu, Icoane vechi i icoane nou, II [Timpul, 13 Dec 1877]; SP, 182: See
what a wretched state we have reached as a result of sovereignty, liberty, fraternity, equality and the rest!
64See Chapter 1 above.
65See Lemny, La critique.


chapter six

A final point worth bringing in is that Eminescus sense of threat to

his ethnic nation, and the perceived absence of any political mechanism
to defend himself, makes him argue as though he were part of a minority himself, whereas in fact he belonged to an ethnic group forming a 90
percent majority in his particular state. George Schpflins comments in
an article on the east European situation over 100 years later are remarkably relevant:
This history of having been deprived of power has contributed to majority
national behaviour under post-communism, in that majorities behave as if
they were in mortal danger of extinction...Where a community has lived
with the sense of threat, it will go on looking for external dangers, whether
they exist or not: indeed, they will create them and sometimes end up victims of a self-fulfilling prophecy, that the feared threat actually becomes a
real one.66

The difference between the nineteenth-century situation and the contemporary one described by Schpflin is that the party in power in Eminescus
time was as vigorous and xenophobic, as ethnically nationalist, as Eminescu himself; unlike the Communist governments of post-1945 eastern
Europe, the red (Liberal) party of the Romanian 1870s and 1880s did not
ostensibly suppress the national ideal. But the outcome, a set of public
identities marked by deep fissures and contradictions, was essentially
the same.
Perhaps the most enduring Romanian symbol of the kind of nationalism Eminescu advocated, is his own life. Titu Maiorescus mythologization
of him in a posthumous edition of his poems makes Eminescu sound like
his own view of the Romanian nation:
His ostensible life-story is easily told, and we dont believe that in its entire
course any external incident would have had a very significant influence
on him. What Eminescu was, and what he became, is a result of his inborn
genius...His pessimism was not the limited complaints of an egoist unsatisfied with his own fate, rather it was etherealized under the calmer from of
a melancholy for the fate of mankind in general.67

Eminescus own dramatization of himself as a poet can be seen in his

account of the symbolic meaning, as he saw it, of The Evening Star, his
greatest poetic achievement: The allegorical meaning I gave [The Evening Star] is that, although genius knows no death, and its name escapes
66Schpflin, The communist experience, 197.
67Maiorescu, Poetul Eminescu.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


from simple forgetting, on the other hand, on earth he can neither make
anybody happy, nor be happy himself. He is immortal but lacks good
fortune.68 Part of the symbolic image of Eminescu as poet and national
symbol consists in presenting him as some kind of Goethean polymath:
Friendless in his lifetime and made fun of, Eminescu becomes after his
death, through an equally violent exaggeration of [his] cult, the prototype
of all the human characteristics and virtues.
History? Eminescu.
Political Economy? Eminescu.
Pedagogy? Eminescu....
Eminescu too has become, in the absence of a true criticism, the beginning and end of each and every disciple, the supreme authority, the allknowing one.69

This sense of Eminescu as somehow prototypical, a poetic incarnation of

the indestructible will of his people, derives at least partly from his own
work. Even if it is not the only possible interpretation, it cannot easily
be dismissed as a wilful manipulation of his legacy to promote whatever
national ideology happens to suit the moment. Moreover, I would suggest that it is this very process of metaphysical systematizinginvolving
aspects of reincarnation; an attempt at timeless rather than developmental interpretations of historical forms; together with a reading of traditional
fatalism in terms of sacrifice and rebirththat constitute the essence of
Eminescus contribution to ideological forms of nationalism in Romania.
The content of his work, as opposed to the form, is not something
whose importance I would wish to disparage, still less explain away; but
I would argue that most of the subjects he dealt with were on the political
and literary agenda prior to his arrival on the scene. The image of the peasant as the only positive class and the carrier of the material and spiritual
burden of the nation, comes to Eminescus work from Maiorescu. Antisemitism was not Eminescus private property but something he shared
with Ion Brtianu, Ion Ghica, Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Koglniceanu,
Dimitrie Bolintineanu, Ion Creang, Ioan Slavici and most other literary
and political figures of his time. Authoritarian anti-liberal sentiment is as

68Clinescu, Opera, 1:263.

69Ibid., 335. Elsewhere Clinescu spoke out against exaggerated symbolic readings of
his life: see his Mihai Eminescu, 1:3356. But as Ioana Prvulescu has shown, neither he nor
other critics have successfully evaded the temptation to interpret Eminescu in terms of his
own symbolic system. Prvulescu, Luceafrul poeziei romneti; see also Hitchins, Mit
i realitate, 28695; Both, Mihai Eminescu; Mihilescu, Eminescu, 86.


chapter six

old as the hills, while its revival and articulation in the late nineteenth
century coincided with Eminescus entry into public life owes something
to him, it should be stressed that he was the servant of this movement
rather than its master. But the establishment of the image of Eminescu as
a poetic emanation of the profound will of the Romanian people was irresistible, especially to a generation whose infatuation with the significance
of literature was such that a liberal spirit could declare, typically, that literature was the only form of life in which we have produced something
by ourselves.70 It became natural, then, to interpret Eminescus writings
in terms of his own poetic mythology, and the same aura was more or less
critically extended to all his writings, which could become a kind of true
gospel of Romanian nationalism.71
It could be argued that, since Schopenhauers thought had been known
in Junimea circles prior to Eminescus interpretation of it, then this
aspect of his work was not original either. Maiorescu himself seems to
have been aware of Schopenhauer at least since 1861, and other Junimists,
Vasile Pogor for instance, got to know the philosophers writings well.
But nobody except Eminescu among the Junimea group seems to have
grasped the potentiality of the mystical, palingenetic nature of the indestructibility of the will. Pogors own memoirs describe the consternation
which the introduction of these ideas caused when Eminescu read his
story Poor Dionis to Junimea in 1872.72 Nobody then could have imagined
that the story of a poor peasant boy in a fleece hat who imagines himself
reincarnated in the court of a Moldavian prince, could possibly become a
prototypical Romanian story: but then they were not to know of another
peasant boy in a fleece cap who would imagine himself as the practical reincarnation of all ancestral bravery and wisdom from the Dacian
kings onwards to Romanias feudal princes and the more recent fighters
for national independence,73 and who happened to be the leader of their
Eminescus nationalism, then, was conservative, authoritarian, ethnically motivated, and based, as one astute critic has recently pointed out,
on the awareness of the irreversibility of the break with the fundamental

70Xenopol, Studii, 182.

71 Or so the 1941 editor of Eminescus political writings, Ion Creu, described them (Oldson, A providential antisemitism, 116).
72On the introduction of Schopenhauers thought into Romania, Ornea, Junimea, 158ff.
Pogors account of this reading is reprinted in Eminescu, Proza literar, 33740.
73Gallagher, Romania after Ceauescu, 58.

national ideology between lyrics and metaphysics


class, which constantly nourished a mauvaise conscience patriotism from

which they attempted to escape by inventing a theory of returning in illo
tempore.74 In many respects this was quite typical of many European
nationalisms of the period in which Eminescu was writing. The unique
appeal of his interpretation of Schopenhauer, however, and the very artistry of the poems in which these ideas took form, has ensured that Eminescu became one of the most deeply-embedded lodestones of Romanian
nationalist ideology.

74Patapievici, Cerul, 101.

Chapter seven

Ion Luca Caragiale:

The Tall Tale of the Romanian Nation*
In a lecture delivered in Paris in 1948, Mircea Eliade offered a theory of
national literary traditions whereby each nations literature is defined
in terms of two polar opposites: Any genuine culture is polar; that is, it
appears in antonymic and complementary spiritual traditions. Thus, a
national literature depends not on a monolithic linear inherited canon,
but on a play between two opposites within it: Dionysus and Apollo in
Greek culture, Dante and Petrarch in Italy, Rabelais or Montaigne versus
Pascal in France, Meister Eckhardt or Goethe as against Wagner or Nietzsche in Germany, and so on.1
For Romanian literature, Eliade acknowledges Eminescus uniqueness, but cautions that his work cannot represent the Romanian spiritual
phenomenon in its entirety. Alongside Eminescu, we have to mention
Caragiale.2 Very broadly speaking, the Eminescians embody conservatism, a romantic view of history, an emphasis on rural indigenous traditions, emphatic lyricism in their attitude towards nature, women and
love. Caragialians, on the other hand, stand for a critical cosmopolitanism, an inferiority complex versus the Western society, an ironic view of
Nature, the ridiculing of patriarchal customs, and so forth.
This is interesting not only in the way it relativizes the idea of striving to
create a unified national canon of literaturean ongoing enterprise today
even in the developed Western nationsbut also because it is a useful,
and as far as I am aware, largely unnoticed, starting point for a discussion
of the role of language in the development of nationalism. Most theorists either point to the importance of a unified national literature if they
want to argue in favour of linguistic nationalism; or will describe a state
of polyglot chaos artificially unified by non-linguistic factors, often political and economic. Examples of the former abound, particularly among
literary critics and writers who see themselves as working for the nations
good by dint of the fact that they guard or protect its language. The latter
*Unpublished: developed from a paper given to Narrating the Nation conference,
School of Oriental and African Studies, London, October 2001.
1Eliade, Two Romanian spiritual traditions, 1629.


chapter seven

position might be illustrated by the instrumentalist approaches of theorists like John Breuilly or Eric Hobsbawm, who argue that planned language construction is merely an instrument of power politicians who have
their own, and not their peoples interests, at heart: How else, except by
state power, could Romanian nationalism insist in 1863 on its Latin origins...by writing and printing the language in Roman letters instead of
the hitherto usual Cyrillic?3
Both schools make the mistake of assuming that the invention of a literary tradition either succeeds or fails, that there is no halfway stage; and
that linguistic nationalism is only in evidence where there is an attempt
to construct a pure, monoglot language and literature. An exception is
Hobsbawms suggestion that
the heritage of sections, regions and localities of what had become the
nation could be combined into an all national heritage, so that even
ancient conflicts came to symbolise their reconciliation on a higher, more
comprehensive plane. Walter Scott thus built a single Scotland on the territory soaked in the blood of warring Highlanders and Lowlanders, Kings and
Covenanters, and he did so by emphasising their ancient traditions.4

Which is all very well except thatas Hobsbawm points out elsewhere,
but not hereScott failed to unify the Scottish nation either politically or
culturally. Hobsbawm might have been nearer the mark had he posited
a model of Scottish literary culture with, say, Robert Burns, as a vernacular nativist opposite pole to Scotts national epic; or, if that sounds too
much like socialist realism (the view of Scott as an unhealthy bourgeois
and Burns as a proletarian prophet coloured Soviet images of Scottish
literature for a long time), one could propose the quadrilateral description of Scottish culture as put forward by Alistair Gray.5 Perhaps theorists
of nationalism, in attempting to treat the subject on a world-wide scale,
dont have time to treat the problematics of national identity within a language, and concentrate only on the validity or otherwise of the debating
positions of those engaged in conflict between languages.
To return to the Romanian instance: in the period leading up to and
immediately after the creation of an independent state in 1878, the Romanian language was still far from codified. Not only were there many grammatical and orthographic irregularities, but also arguments continued as

3Breuilly, Nationalism and the state; Hobsbawm, Nations and nationalism, 1123.
4Ibid., 90.
5Gray, The Scottish archipelago.

ion luca caragiale


to the degree of Latinity which Romanian did or ought to contain. Dictionaries and etymological works published in the period show the tortuous
and difficult nature of this process: I. Massim and A.T. Laurians Glosariu
Roman published in Bucharest in 1871 goes as far as placing words of nonLatin origin in a separate, appended volume from the main body of his
dictionary.6 The traditional wisdom (and the best-known to students of
nationalism) justified Romanian social and psychological unity by the fact
that, as Eminescu put it:
There is perhaps no other nation numbering twelve million people whose
constituent parts are as little differentiated as the Romanian one. The language is possibly unique in knowing hardly any dialects; popular customs
are the same.7

Yet claims of this sort do not represent the only tendency of the period.
Attempts to prove a Latin origin for the language not only differentiated
Romanian from her Slavic and Hungarian neighbours, but provided a
cultural link with the West. This link, however, created problems of its
own: with the dominance of French as a secondary language of education,
arguments arose among the Latinists as to what extent words could be
borrowed from French, which was a Latin language but, problematically,
a foreign one. Thus it can be seen even from a brief and incomplete summary that the difficulties for Romanian literary nationalists did not end
simply with the issuing of an edict changing the alphabet from Cyrillic
to Latin.
The contribution of the playwright and storyteller Ion Luca Caragiale
(18521912) to the political linguistic debate was, in explicit terms, short.8
But he represents the opposite pole from Eminescu in that he praised the
Romanian language not only for its unity but for its variety:
The Romanians today are a people of over ten million souls in all, with
one and the same language, which (boasting aside) is extraordinarily
beautiful...a possession all the more original for being a medley of ancient
6Laurianu & Massimu, Glosariu.
7Cited by Jucan, Mihai Eminescu, 23. It should be noted, however, that Eminescu
did not advocate a Latinist linguistic purism. While asserting the Romanian languages
superiority and the solidarity of its dialects, he would have opposed scientific attempts
at cleansing it of its vernacular elements. French and Greek neologisms upset him more
than anything.
8I have used Caragiale, Opere. In English there is a short informative monograph by
Tappe, Ion Luca Caragiale. Tappe also translated some of Caragiales stories in a bilingual
edition: Schie i povestiri / Sketches and stories. Some of his plays are translated in Caragiale, Lost letter.


chapter seven
inheritances and acquisitionsGreek, Slavonic, Oriental and otherall
stamped with its undeniable seal of nobility, a Romance, Latin seal, which
proves it their true and indisputable owner.9

This represents an unusual appreciation of the heterogeneity and complexity of a language, in contrast to the prevailing monolinguistic propaganda of the day; yet, as the above quotation shows, Caragiales argument
need not represent either an unpatriotic stance or a sense of inferiority
towards Western cultures.
His fiction, too, although it frequently parodies and ridicules linguistic forms, does not simply attack the shortcoming of the Romanian language; just as his satires on minor officialdom and provincial high-lifers,
on what Hobsbawm calls the lesser examination-passing classes often
draw ones attention to the serious problems of communication, social
life and administrative government in the new state rather than indulging
in purely negative caricature. Telegrame is a short narrative presented
exclusively in the form of telegraphic correspondence between a small
town lawyer trying to expose a scandal in the local prefecture, and the
Prime Minister and King, who delegate replies via the newly-founded
ministries. The lawyer and the other provincial correspondents write in
a bastardized Moldavian telegraphese; the Bucharest officials respond in
the Frenchified Romanian which was then the high fashion. Two points
can be made. Firstly, the political object of the satire can be read not only
to be the absurd pettiness of the local scandal itselfcorruption, nepotism, absenteeism, drunkenness and sexual infidelity are all targetedbut
also the weakness and arbitrariness of the young structure of government,
which demands that redress of such wrongs can be dealt with only by
petition to the King or Prime Minister. Likewise in the linguistic satire,
where both the vernacular of the provincials and the cosmopolitan idiom
of the capital are satirized equally: no distinction is drawn between them
in point of silliness. Yet because of the dual nature of language in storytellingbecause, in Bakhtins formulation, language is both represented
(here, as an object of laughter) and representing (the means by which language is ridiculed)10Caragiale can demonstrate the vigorous potential
of the language at the same time as he mocks the various deformations
of it.

9Caragiale, Moral i educaie [1889], cited by Tappe, Ion Luca Caragiale, 95.
10Bakhtin, From the prehistory of novelistic discourse.

ion luca caragiale


Caragiales imitation of both regional dialects and official forms of discourse is remarkable for its comprehensively wide range of targets. Proces
Verbal [Procedural Report] represents the procedural memoranda of
police authorities dealing with a housing dispute; Un pedagog de coal
nou [An educationalist of the new school] targets professors and linguists, and similarly appropriates their discourse; Five Oclock mimics
the conversations of would-be high society at a Bucharest tea-party (English customs, French language, Romanian petty jealousies); High Life tells
the story of a provincial journalist who writes glowingly of the prefects
wife when she appears at a charity ball, but is let down by a typographical error when the article is published, causing his flattery to be debased
into insult; Urgent... again uses official correspondence to illustrate the
failure of a local authority to provide winter fuel in a girls school. Regional
dialects of Romanian are similarly given full representation: O Fclie de
Pate [An Easter Torch] has a Moldavian setting, while La Hanul lui Mnjoal [At Mnjoals Inn] uses Muntenian forms to full effect; Un pedagog de coal nou parodies Transylvanian philologists, while, as we have
seen, the unique linguistic oddities to be found in Bucharest are not left
untouched. In this way, Caragiale was able to build up a complete panorama of the multifarious languages, and political modes of discourse, prevailing in the newly independent state. To put it more succinctly one could
say, paraphrasing Dickens, He do the Romanians in different voices.
Curiously, however, although he has of course been recognized by his
compatriots as a comic genius and as the founding father of a certain satirical tradition, this is almost never seen explicitly as contributing explicitly
to an idea of the Romanian nation. Though the concept of caragialism
became a familiar trope to describe an absurd Romanian situation, and
Caragiale himself is a celebrated figure in literary history, he does not
appear in discussion of the Romanian national idea with anything like
the frequency of Eminescu or Nicolae Iorga, or other figures at the traditionalist, peasantist pole of Eliades dichotomy. Indeed, Eliade himself, in
the lecture alluded to above, does not even properly discuss the cosmopolitan element of the Romanian tradition, but merely reduces his treatment of it to a discussion of the Romanian expatriate community which
he links back to the nomadic pastoral traditions of Romanian shepherds,
who need to become aware of the mission history asks of them.11

11Eliade, Two Romanian spiritual traditions.


chapter seven

However, one could just as well argue that Caragiale was vital to the
establishment of the Romanian literary language as a tool of nationbuilders to the extent that he recognised and reconciled the diversity of
the Romanian language, and saw the way that heterogeneity can produce
uniqueness in a language. Bakhtin comments on the way that nations can
objectivize their linguistic consciousness only through consciousness of
anothers tongue; that the Roman literary languagethe ancient pure
source that contemporary Romanian scholars were trying to obtain
achieved its stylised uniqueness only through the pervasive relationship
it maintained with earlier, seemingly definitive Greek forms.12
Similarly, Caragiales formal borrowings in the realm of storytelling
Hanul lui Mnjoal shows the influence of Poe, while Curiosul pedepsit
[The Curious Man Punished] is a paraphrase of one of Cervantes contes,
and Kir Ianulea takes its theme and plot from Machiavelliset up zones
in which the diverse Romanian dialects could interanimate each other
(to use Bakhtins word), as well as spaces for the vernacular narrative traditions could play out their differences from, and similarities to, Western
In this sense Caragiale set up frameworks and spaces for dialogical
debate, without which the Romanian literary language, and indeed its
identity, would not have matured in the way it did. Walter Benjamin writing of the Russian storyteller Nikolai Leskov, aphorizes that The storyteller is the figure in which the righteous man encounters himself.13 For
Romania, Caragiale was the figure in which the young national language
encountered itself for the first time.
The Profundity of the Superficial
The encounters described in Caragiales sketches and tales often remain
simply that: incidental contacts, rather than discoveries or revelations.
His characters frequently fail to grasp themselves, or find themselves
confused or even deranged by the unfamiliarity of their surroundings:
far from learning from experience and emerging better and wiser, these
newly enfranchised people seem to discover only that they are unable to
comprehend the world they inhabit. In Cum devine cineva revoluionar
i om politic [How somebody becomes a revolutionary and a politician],
13Benjamin, The storyteller, 107.

ion luca caragiale


the tale is told of a country boy who comes to town to study for the priesthood; sent one evening by his landlord to fetch coal, he becomes en route
embroiled in a political demonstration, and is arrested for hurling the
said coal at a cordon of mounted policemen. The narrator ends by linking the sacred catechism the boy set out to learn, with the new secular
faith he meets with, by accident as if by holy destiny, in an alley behind
the National Theatre:
Can one really compare the modest career and humble activity of a poor
dear village priest, with the career and activity of a citizen of the capital,
who is called once a year, as by clockwork, every spring, to determine the
political course of the Romanian kingdom?14

The same path of descent from high expectations to the depths of failure is
described at greater length and psychological detail in Dou loturi [Two
lottery tickets]. Mr. Lefter Popescu and his wife have lost two winning lottery tickets: Mr. Popescu must pay ten percent of the winnings to an army
captain who lent him the money to buy them. He and his wife undergo trials and torments of greed; cause to be harassed an old-clothes woman said
to have purloined them; fail to show at work; eventually Mr. Popescu loses
his job. On clearing his desk before leaving, he finds the ticketsbut the
numbers are inverted, each winning in the other lottery. Then, as now, the
lotteries are proclaimed in the name of the nation and the advancement
of civilization: the beneficiaries are the Company for founding a Romanian University in Dobrogea, at Constana and the Association for the
foundation and endowment of an Astronomical Observatory at Bucharest. But no such enlightenment dawns upon Popescu (whose Christian
name is Eleutheriu, liberation, but shortened to Lefter, penniless) and
his wife. Nor yet upon the reader. Caragiale first stages a respectable ending with Mrs. Popescu taking the holy orders, and her husband wandering
the streets of the capital, muttering vice versa! A word
vague as the vagaries of the vast sea which beneath its unfrowning surface
conceals in its mysterious rocky depths innumerable ships, shattered before
they could reach harbour, lost for ever!
But...as I am not one of those [respectable and self-respecting] authors,
I prefer to tell you straight: after the row at the bank I dont know what happened to my hero and Mrs. Popescu.15

14Caragiale, Opere, 1:240.



chapter seven

Eric Tappe rightly defends this ending against charges of artistic irrelevancy: there is a good deal to be said for the gently frivolous conclusion to a story which was otherwise on the point of getting itself taken
too seriously.16 But there is more to it than that. The apparently offhand
closing remark masks a disturbing observation about what actually happens to people who are shipwrecked on the rock of lottery greed: they
become unknown and forgotten. Just as the Popescus are unable to find
true happiness owing to their material lust and sloth; just as Romania will
not attain enlightenment through endowing hasty institutions with the
income of greed (on the last page we glimpse a Fire Service Observatory,
a possible social inferno in place of the proposed astronomical heaven);
so Caragiale offers us not even catharsis or expiation as an ending, but
unknowingness of a bitterly trivial nature. This obliquity in conclusion
is characteristic of many of the best modern short storiesJamess The
Turn of the Screw, Joyces An Encounter, Herman Melvilles Bartleby.
But whereas these last examples invariably invest their endings with a
certain cosmic resound, pleading with the universalAh, Bartleby! Ah
humanity!Caragiale simply shrugs off his ignorance; insouciance as the
true horror.
The Limits of Epiphany
Even when Caragiale does treat more substantially religious types of
knowledge, there is no sense of the characters discovering themselves
or arriving at wisdom. One of his greatest tales, O fclie de Pate
(An Easter Torch), gives a highly atmospheric and gruesome rendering
of an attack on a traumatized Jewish innkeeper in a marshy Moldavian
village. Leiba Zibal has moved from Iai, where he lost his job as a tavern
keepers servant because he fainted at the sight of blood, and moved
to Podeni. In his turn he also has to lay off his servant, an idle, dishonest worker who threatens him back: Wait for me on Easter eve, mister:
well crack our painted eggs...Ill be closing your account too, let me
tell you.17
Leiba goes at once to tip the ominously cheerful subprefect, who scorns
the Jews fears but warns him to guard against the wicked poor of the
village. Easter night comes around: the mail-coach brings word that the
16Tappe, Introduction to Caragiale, Sketches and stories, 15.
17Caragiale, Opere, 1: 55.

ion luca caragiale


inn-keeper at the post before has been mauled by a hooligan. Two medical students aboard the coach are discussing the incident in the light of
the modish scientific theories of the day:
Atavism...Alcoholism and its pathological consequences...Congenital
vice...Deformation...Paludism...And neurosis! So many conquests of
modern science...And the case of reversion!
At the case of reversion, the coachmans eyes bulged; and in them shone a
profound admiration for the conquests of modern science.18

Later that night, Leiba hears his tormentors drilling through his door; in
his delirium he ensnares the arm which comes through the hole, fixing
it to a post. But horror strikes, to the chime of the Easter Sunday church
bells, as he is moved to revenge by cruelly burning, with an Easter torch,
the murderous arm. A crowd gathers.
Leiba Zibal, said the innkeeper in a lofty tone and a broad gesture, is off
to Iai to tell the rabbi that Leiba Zibal is not a Jew...Leiba is a goy...For
Leiba Zibal has lit a torch for Christ.19

While the ostensible content of this grotesque tale is, as one critic has
suggested, the ingenious cruelty of the man deranged by fear20; its true
subject is knowledge and what one does or does not learn from it. The
knowledge of Christs resurrection revealed in church that night is travestied into the passion suffered by a non-believer, persecuted into awareness but unlikely to survive his conversion. Leibas own recourse is to the
letter of the law, as he pays protection to the subprefect; but the law offers
him no redemption for his tribute, merely bidding him be silent, lest he
awaken a desire to transgress in bad and poor men. Let down by his usual
observancehe lives by the maxim he who pays well is well guarded
Leiba is overtaken by his irrational imaginings, until he is transformed
at the end into a scientist who seeks by mixing elements to catch one
of natures subtle secrets, which has long eluded him. The medical students, blinded by the light of modernist scholarship and theories of racial
stereotypes, are oblivious to the bloody violence of the attack they have
witnessed. Yet none of these systems of belief can halt the onset of yet
another sacrifice in the night of traditional religious festival. Caragiale
may have gone some way to unifying the Romanian language; but he can
18Ibid., 60.
19Ibid., 68.
20Ibid., editors introduction, xxii.


chapter seven

only describe, not reconcile, differences in belief. All we are left with at
the tales end is a morsel of old advice:
And the man set off slowly eastwards, up the hill, like a sensible traveller,
who knows that on a long journey one does not set out at a hurried pace.21

Reflected in the closing proverb is a further remarkable aspect of this

tale, also found in much of Caragiales work, namely the great attention
paid to the effects of travel on perceptions of time, and on the spread
of information. Many of the types of knowledge that are juxtaposed in
O fclie de Pateand the news of the savagery in the neighbouring
villagecome to Podeni by mail coach. Leiba himself marks time by its
arrival and departure: he is in fact obsessed by it, and treats it almost
religiously. His wifes remark: Leiba, here comes the coach; I can hear the
bells, sets it against the bells of the church, which the rest of the villagers obey. In Leibas obsession with transport-time, one is reminded of the
Lilliputians attempting to ascertain the purpose of their captive Gullivers
And we conjecture that it is either some unknown Animal, or the God that
he worships: But we are more inclined to the latter Opinion, because he
assured us...that he seldom did any Thing without consulting it. He called
it his Oracle, and said it pointed out the Time for every Action of his Life.22

At another point, Leiba sees that Podeni is a bad place for an inn, since
the building of the railway, which makes a wide detour of the marshes.
He yearns for the railway which would bring trade; in others of Caragiales tales, such as C.F.R. [Romanian Railways] and Accelerat nr. 17 [Fast
Train no. 17], trains form the setting for tales of danger and attack, and
themes of mistaken identity. They also bring about disturbing changes
to ones perception of time and space: in the latter story, two men enter
a compartment and sit out two-three kilometres in silence. Time is
described by a unit of linear distance, while conversation stops. Here, as
throughout Caragiales uvre, we get a sense of something strange and
distorting about railways: here one has to bear in mind not only their
effect on time-space perception, but also the fact that, in the Romania of
the 1870s and 1880s, they operated as a kind of symbol for foreign domination of commerce, as well as for fear of invasion.23 Elsewhere the modern
invention is represented as a kind of debased national religion: in O zi
21Ibid., 68.
22Swift, Gullivers travels, Book One, Ch. 4.
23Kellogg, Road, 6874.

ion luca caragiale


solemn [A Solemn Day] the mayor of a provincial town becomes

obsessed with getting his towns name, in red letters like a saints day, on
the timetable plate of the Bucharest-Berlin express. Railways and mailcoaches bring connections, news and trade, and in O fclie de Pate,
unspeakable fears: they will not, however, bring wisdom. To achieve that,
Leiba Zibal has to set out on foot at the end of the tale.
Conclusion: The Tale as Symbol
The fleeting, apparently repetitive nature of Caragiales work might be
summed up by this image of mechanized movement. He himself was
criticized for excessive foreshortening, foreignness and dependence on
stereotype. To G. Clinescu, Romanias foremost literary historian, he was
a Thracian who does not represent us totally; he only exaggerates one of
our meridional notes.24 But he knew what he was doing with his types;
they are utterly unlike the reversion to type of the racial theorists. Lying
behind the many repetitions and reappearances of stock characters, there
is always an acknowledgement of their provisionality, their irreconciliability, and, supremely in O fclie de Pate, of their dangerous consequences.
Titu Maiorescu quite missed the point when he asserted that Leiba Zibal
is the archetype of the Jew.25 It is the tale itself which is the type; and
its genius lies in its ability, as Benjamin also wrote, to seize hold of a
memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.26 It is hard to say whether
Caragiale realised whether, in the figure of the Jew, he was grasping one
of the key tragic subjects of the century to come; but the unhappy failure
to understand what such an encounter meant in the modern world, the
impossibility of gleaning any wisdom from it, is only true to the internal
logic of this most luminous Romanian tale. He may have reconciled the
Romanian language, but he could not do the same for the cultures image
of Gentile and Jew, peasant and cosmopolite.27 His work is the portrayal
of those misunderstandings and the measure of those distances between
24Clinescu, History, 842.
25Maiorescu, Contraziceri?, Critice, 2:309. Maiorescu probably made this comment as
a cheap shot against his rival and Caragiales friend, the Jewish social theorist and literary
critic Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, to whose criticisms this article was a response, and
whom Maiorescu and his circle nicknamed Leiba.
26Benjamin, Illuminations, 247.
27On stereotypes of Jews in Romanian popular culture, see Oiteanu, Inventing the Jew.

part four

At the verbal frontiers of identity

Chapter eight

Eugen Ionescus selves, 19341960*

The Critical Heritage
Among students of modern theatre and literature, interest in Ionescus
work has, almost inevitably, declined in recent years. This is partly a
common pattern in critical reputations of writers, which often suffer in
the few years following their death but may be revived either by publication of new writings or documents, or reevaluations in the light of a
new cultural context. We could also invoke a general reevaluation of quite
of lot of the canon of modernism in recent yearsmuch more critical
approaches to both the politics and the poetics of writers as diverse as
TS Eliot, Samuel Beckett, the surrealists, in fact more or less the modernist project as a whole. In Ionescus case in particular, we perhaps ought to
see this as a continuation of various critical reservations about his work,
first formulated in fact in the late 50s and early 60s. Paradoxically, this was
precisely the time when his popular reputation was at his highest and he
was establishing himself as a clear contender for classic status in post-war
theatre. I will elaborate on these details later on.1
Interest in Ionescus life, on the other hand, has increased considerably. In some ways the major story of 1990s writing on Ionescu was not
so much critical revaluation but bringing to light of biographical material
concerning his early years and also republication of some of his Romanian
works. Since 1989 there have been three monographs on the subject of

*Unpublished, developed from a talk given at the Centre for Study of Central Europe,
UCL, January 2002 at the kind invitation of Dr. Tim Beasley-Murray. The widely-publicized
work of Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, Loubli du fascisme, published shortly afterwards, has
a title almost certainly less appropriate to Ionescu than to her other two subjects, Eliade
and Cioran. Laignel-Lavastines work was subject to severe criticism by Petreu, Metoda
francez, while Ionescos daughter questioned both their work in a 2003 memoir (Ionesco,
Portrait). Writing in 2007, Quinney, Excess and identity seems unaware of the recent controversies; Bejan, Criterion Association, 2835 and 31921 offers brief but useful treatment
of some aspects.
1For earlier criticism see Laubreaux, ed. Les critiques; Hughes and Bury, Eugene Ionesco;
Leiner et al., Bibliographie 1980; Subsequent criticism can be surveyed in the series Contemporary literary criticism, vols. 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15, 41, 86.


chapter eight

Ionescus early years.2 Ionescus first full length book Nu (Bucharest 1934)
had already been translated into French as Non and published by Gallimard in 1986. The Romanian original came out in a new edition in 1992 in
the new political conditions; and a fairly extensive collection of Ionescus
journalistic and critical writing from the 1930s was published in the same
year under the title Rzboi cu toat lumea [At war with everybody].3
In contrast, the three monographs published in English since 1989 on
Ionescus theatre pay remarkably little attention to the Romanian aspects
of his career; dont particularly regard what happened to Ionescu in Romania or what he did there as being a major motor for most of his creative
production; and when they do, they tend to interpret Romanian inspiration for his work in schematic and already established ways.4 The same
goes for the only biography of Ionescu yet to have been written, which
contains numerous inaccuracies and indeed internal contradictions as to
both the chronology and the general context of Ionescus life in Romania.5
Those with some familiarity with Ionescus life and work and/or some
familiarity with the general state of research on cultural and political history of 1930s Romania will know that, in the latter context, Ionescus name
is very frequently invoked in terms of the judgements he is said to have
made on the ludicrous conformism and imitativeness of Romanian intellectuals, through the allegorical medium of drama in his play Rhinocros,
which was first performed in October 1959.6 Rhinocros is set in a small
provincial town in which all the main actors turn into rhinoceros with
one exception, Brenger, who is seen as the solitary individual resisting a
mass process of conversion to an ideology as ridiculous as it is contagious.
Ionescu himself said that
the purpose of the play was specifically that of describing the process of a
countrys Nazification, as well as the confusion of the individual who, naturally allergic to contagion, has to watch the mental metamorphosis of his
collectivity. In the beginning, rhinoceritis was a kind of Nazism. Nazism
was, in large measure, in the period between the two wars, an inven-

2Ionescu [no relation to Eugen], Les dbuts littraires; Cleynen-Serghiev, La jeunesse littraire, and Hamdan, Ionescu avant Ionesco. An earlier, article length study was Tudoric,
Les dbuts. See also Teodorescu-Regier, From Bucharest to Paris.
3Ionescu, Rzboi cu toat lumea.
4Lamont, Ionescos imperatives; Lane, Understanding Ionescu; Gaensbauer, Ionescu
5Plazy, Eugne Ionesco.
6An earlier version was published as a short story in Lettres nouvelles (Sep 1957) and
reprinted in Ionesco, La photo du colonel.

eugen ionescus selves, 19341960


tion of the intellectuals, fashionable ideologues and semi-ideologues who

propagated it.7

And both Romanian and Western critics, as they become gradually more
familiar with the situation in Romania in the 1930s, where substantial portions of the intelligentsia acted in the name of that peculiar local variant
of fascism, the Iron Guard, and have also known that one of the few distinguished and talented Romanian intellectuals not to sell out in this period
was Ionescu himself, have had no trouble in giving Rhinocros an autobiographical interpretation.8 One which not only has come to override
other possible interpretations of the play, but also became a key reference
point, almost a shorthand term for denoting the dynamics of Romanian
cultural politics not just in the 1930s but also in the 1990s.9
This interpretive narrative, it is clear, makes the author of Rhinocros
the sole lucid representative of a nation gone mad, the only rationalist
in an irrational milieu which he eventually transcended, left and judged
from the outside and from posterity. In other words, from being a fully
paid-up insider in what has been called the Romanian generation of angst
and adventure, Ionescu took a formal and rational decision, when he saw
the moral framework of this world collapsing around him, got a bursary
to Paris in 1938, stayed there, became a leading light in the theatre of the
absurd in the 1950s, and then at the end of that decade Rhinocros was
first performed in Germany in 1959, providing the definitive and damning
judgement on the society that he had left twenty years earlier, to which
he no longer felt he had any formal ties.
What I propose to do here is to use some littleknown biographical
details about Ionescus career to show not only that this is not the only
possible reading of Rhinocros, but also that Rhinocros is not the only one
of Ionescus works in which his Romanian experiences played a significant role. To some extent I want to explore the possibility that Ionescus
Romanianness, and something that is even less known, namely his Jewishness, was a constant preoccupation of his and played a central role in his
treatment of major human themes such as identity, the absurd, stigma,
trauma. I hope at the same time to avoid falling into that other trap
7Ionesco, Notes on Rhinoceros, in Notes et contre-notes, 183; in the preface to American
school edition of Rhinocros (ibid., 176), Ionescu claimed to have been inspired by writer
Denis de Rougemonts description of Hitler in 1938; but he also denied that the play was
about any one ideology but about the way ideological systems in general destroy humanity.
8Knowles, Eugne Ionescos Rhinoceroses; Clinescu, Ionescu and Rhinoceros.
9Shafir, Rinocerizarea Romaniei; Genaru, O nou rinocerizare?


chapter eight

familiar to anybody who has studied major European artists of the twentieth century who have an east European origin, namely attributing their
success, their profundity and their global significance etc., to that particular origin.10
I will concentrate on the period from 1934 to 1960, in other words from
the date of publication of Ionescus first book through his experiences in
Romania in the second half of the 1930s, departure for France, the writing
and staging of what are still his most famous plays, The Bald Primadonna,
The Chairs and The Lesson in the early 1950s, through the first production
of Rhinocros and its initial critical reception in 1960.
Romanian Naysayings
The authorised standard versioni.e. that prepared in close collaboration
with Ionescu himself and presented in 1991 by Emmanuel Jacquart in the
preface to the Pliades edition of Ionescus Thtre complethas it that
Ionescu was born on the 26th of November 1909 in Slatina, a small town
in southern Romania and named for his father, also called Eugen Ionescu,
a lawyer by training and subprefect of Slatina. His mother, Thrse Ipcar,
was the daughter of a French railway engineer, originally apparently
from the Pyrenees and working in Romania.11 When Ionescu was about
one or two years old, the family moved to Paris and his father enrolled
for a doctorate in law at the Sorbonne. Five years later, Eugen Ionescu
senior returned to Romania, broke off relations with his family, collaborated with the German occupying regime and married another woman,
while his first wife apparently believed that he had been killed in the war.
The young Eugen therefore grew up in France, partly looked after by his
mother, partly living in childrens homes and refuges for war orphans in
the French countryside, a period of alternately idyllic and traumatic memory evoked numerous times in Ionescus later autobiographical writings. It
was not until the early 1920ssome time between 1922 or 1924that his

10Students of Romanian culture would be familiar with the cases of Constantin Brancusi, Tristan Tzara, Paul Celan, Emil Cioran and Mircea Eliade, to mention only the best
11More recent evidence, published by the genealogist Rdulescu in Adevrul literar i
artistic 485 (14 sep 1999; reprinted in Rdulescu, Genealogii, and summarized in Petreu,
Ionescu n ara tatlui) shows that both Ionescus parents had Romanian citizenship and
his Frenchness depended on a great grandfather, Emile Marin, for whom a French origin
remains uncertain. Ionescos daughter adds more detail in Ionesco, Portretul, 2932.

eugen ionescus selves, 19341960


father reappeared on the scene, successfully claimed custody over his children and Eugen, his sister and his mother returned to Romania. Eugens
relationship with his father was stormy and hateful: by the age of seventeen he had moved out of his fathers home and was living with a sister
of his mother. His mother by this stage was working as a secretary for the
National Bank of Romania.
An immediate consequence was Ionescus immersion in literature as a
form both of rebellion and of escape from his oppressive father who has
determined that he should become a bourgeois, a magistrate, a soldier,
a chemical engineer. From 1927 until 1938, Ionescu published extensively
in a variety of Romanian modernist reviews and established himself,
to use the clichd language that he was so fond of demolishing, as the
iconoclastic enfant terrible of Romanian avant-garde criticism, while at
the same time graduating in French literature from Bucharest University
and earning his living as a high school teacher. His first book, Nu (No),
was published in 1934, when he was 24, and attempted a radical demonstration of the pointlessness and arbitrariness of literary criticism by
giving alternately eulogistic and damning readings of the most prestigious
Romanian writers of the time: the poets Tudor Arghezi and Ion Barbu and
the novelists Camil Petrescu and Mircea Eliade. On Mircea Eliades first
novel, Maitreyi, set in India, Ionescu first wrote that
Do you realise that Maitreyi is following the architecture of Greek tragedy?
The unreal is ceaselessly brought to life and with innumerable methods in
each phrase, in each scene, in each episode...
...a wealth of details, pure, ingenuous, miraculous, accompanied by attention which transfigures them.
...Maitreyi is a tragedy in the classic sense of the word. (12830)

Only five pages later, Ionescu changes tack and gives a totally derisory
account of Eliades careerist posturing:
Mircea Eliade has attempted to create literature and has not succeeded. He
wanted to be a great leader and he was taken at his word, although all he
does is stand on the spot and waves his arms around in the wind or, at most,
he is an indicator of the wrong roads. The proof that they are the wrong
roads? He has found people to follow him.
Not managing to be anything, he wanted at least to go to India. Eliade
went as far as Constana, he returned secretly to Bucharest and spent three
months shut up in his attic. He constructed an alibi for himself and he wrote
the novel Maitreyi, which however for the careful reader, is the clearest
proof that he has never been to India.
Maitreyi is indeed an imitation of pre-Romantic and exotic French fiction
of a hundred or a hundred and twenty years ago...(133)


chapter eight

Ionescus conclusion was that

you can like any book if you want to; you can dislike any book if you want to.
I am convinced of the uselessness of literary criticism, just as I am convinced
of the metaphysical insignificance of literature. (115)
The critic is a stupid animal...The stupid man is the one for whom realities are opaque. The literary critic is obliged to be stupid. (141)
If God exists, there is no point in paying attention to literature. If God does
not exist, there is still no point in paying attention to literature. (200)12

Having demonstrated textually the idiocies and inconsistencies of most

critics, Ionescu then gratuitously and for good measure insulted them
personally: Mircea Vulcnescu eats seven cakes. Petru Comarnescu plays
sport. Tudor Vianu is fat. Nichifor Crainic enjoys a drinkin a kind of
reductio ad absurdum of literary analysiss failure to offer philosophically
rigorous distinctions between text and context. At the end of this exercise
in deconstructionwhich in many ways went further than the French
surrealists who had merely declared in January 1925 that we have nothing to do with literature but when necessary we are capable as anyone
else of making use of it, whereas Ionescu took the death of literature for
granted and seems to be trying to hasten the death of criticism toowhat
is perhaps surprising is that this demonstration does not provide a springboard for the denunciation of metaphysics or the search for meaning in
life, but on the contrary, a reassertion of their fundamental importance
in contrast to the stupidity, inutility and insignificance of either reading,
writing or speaking. Long passages of logical argument are interspersed
with fragmentary diary notes:
I am going to die. I am going to di-ie. I am going to di-i-ie. I am going to
di-i-i-I-ie. Emposibel! (140)

O Lord God! My part of paradise! My part of paradise! Have I lost forever
my part of paradise? O Lord God, I dont want to be melodramatic and I
dont want you to believe that I am seeking, through contrast, a Romantic stylistic effect (of the Venus and Madonna kind). But I love you from

12Such an attitude to literature may have stood behind Ionescus later statement that
I dont make literature. I make something completely different: I make theatre (Concerning Rhinoceros in the United States, Notes et contre notes, 185). Cf. Ciorans remark
to Ionesco that History is just bad theatre (recorded by the latter in Prsent pass, pass
prsent, 78).

eugen ionescus selves, 19341960


somewhere, sometime. The memory of which lights is torturing me?...Cant

you see how I am rolling around? How I hold my hands out in ignorance?
How I walk on muddy roads, on roads which forever turn back on themselves? How I dont have the power to take any road at all? (159)

Thus, the unmasking of most literature as deceptive, petty and pointless

does not lead to a dismissal from a materialist point of view of human
spirituality as mere superstructure, but on the contrary, underlined the
importance of what Ionescu calls, here and later, our hunger or our search
for the absolute.
Ionescus approach to Romanian identity in Nu is in some ways similar
to that adopted vis--vis literature. Not that a Romanian spirituality might
not exist, but that it is basically minor, inadequate, irrelevant to larger
questions at hand.
I know that a nation cant be thrown away as one might throw away a shirt
or a sock. But it can be got over. To get over it does not in the least mean
to give upbut to include / to manage. To be only autochthonous, only
national, means in effect to be putting your shirt on top of your jacket.
It is only because we are so obsessive about our authenticity and our
specificity that we are so completely inauthentic and unspecific. But we can
only rediscover ourselves by abandoning ourselves. (149150)
In the final analysis we arent even particularly aware of what abstract
Romanianism, with no relation to any cultural reality whatsoever, we might
be betraying. (161)

Ionescus disdain for Romanianness was partly related to considerations

of the geography of cultural capital:
in the extremely fortunate instance that I would become the greatest Romanian critic, Aldous Huxley will still seat me among the artists of Lapland and
Latvia. To be the greatest Romanian critic!this still means being a poor
cousin of the European intellectual world (57; cf.197)

He took a ridiculing approach to this problem tooI am to die without having played a role on the European stage, which will be destroyed
without my help!but on the other hand recommended the direct and
continued apprenticeship of Romanians to French culture:
with our Romanian way of being we cant exist culturally, because culture
is ante-Romanian [i.e. predates Romania as an idea]. We should follow in
the footsteps of the cultured Western countries, for it is not Western culture
that will move after us, but rather we will be subordinated to it: it cannot
renounce itself. (150)


chapter eight

The discovery that literature cannot answer spiritual or metaphysical

questions was to Ionescu not liberating but terrifying. But on the other
hand he warned,
dont get caught up in the game of taking your seriousness too seriously.
I myself have been tempted to do so from time to time. But when, 28 years
and 2 months from now, I will take up criticism again, a sentiment of the
ridiculous which inspires and has inspired me will prevent me from committing such humoristic acts. (167)13

Snapshot of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Frenchman

Twenty-eight years and two months later, Ionescu published his first work
of critical prose in French, Notes et contre-notes. His prediction in Nu, that
if I were a Frenchman I would be a genius seemed to have come true.
Since 1950, his plays The Bald Primadonna, The Chairs, and The Lesson
had gradually overcome the initial mystification and sometimes outright
hostility of the French critics and public, and were generating similar
controversy in London and New York.
One of the most interesting of these controversies unfolded in the columns of The Observer in 1958 when the English critic Kenneth Tynan, who
had been one of the critics to have fought hardest to establish Ionescus
reputation in Britain, began to express reservations. In an article entitled
Ionescu, a man of destiny?, Tynan continued to praise Ionescu for his
entirely legitimate personal vision, presented with much imaginative daring and verbal ingeniosity. However, he found Ionescus refusal of the real
and the social dangerous and accused him of claiming a role as some
kind of Messiah of meaninglessness, thereby neglecting the moral responsibility of the artist to society. He posited the examples of Brecht, Sartre,
and Arthur Miller in contrast.14
Ionescu replied vehemently by denying that he had any Messianic pretentions, even in the realm of the absurd; and surprised the public by in
fact rejecting any social mission for the theatre or for literature or art of
any kind.
As for the concept of reality, it seems to me that Mr Tynan only recognises
a single mode of reality, that called social, the most exterior one, as I see
13Further analysis of Nu in Teodorescu, Nu, Nu and Nu.
14Tynan, IonescoA man of destiny? (Observer, 22 June 1958), trans. J.-L. Curtis in
Ionesco, Notes, 6971.

eugen ionescus selves, 19341960


things, and ultimately the least objective, insofar as it is, in fact, subject to
impassioned interpretations. Precisely for that reason I believe that certain
writers such as Sartre (author of political melodramas), Osborne, Miller etc.,
are the new boulevard dramatists, representing a conformism of the left,
which is just as lamentable as that of the right. These writers offer us nothing
which might not already be known through political works and speeches.15

When distinguished members of the theatrical world and intelligentsia

(Orson Welles, Philip Toynbee) rushed to support Tynandefending particularly the social function of theatre and the nonconformism of Miller
Ionescu had recourse to a ridiculising device already familiar to readers
of Nu:
I withdraw all the bad things I had to say about Arthur Miller. Mr Toynbee
judges the latters dramatic work according to the ideas held by Mr Arthur
Miller himself about dramatic creation. I thought this was merely a favourable prejudice. I was wrong, doubtless. I will therefore judge the work
favourably...according to the photograph of Arthur Miller, published in
The Observer. Indeed, Mr Miller looks like a fine lad. Therefore, I admire
his work.16

These were the kinds of arguments which animated the reception of Ionescus work in the late 50s and could be seen as a background to the writing
and staging of Rhinocros: the attempt to draw distinction between art
and ideology, the conformism of the right and the left; the ludicrousness
of judging individuals morality according to their personal appearance.
Biography and the Penury of Identity
I propose to conclude this paper by examining Ionesco from a different
angle, namely using some biographical information about his activity in
Romania in the 30s and 40s and then staying true to the Ionescian spirit
by denying that any of these readings are neccesary, while maintaining
all are possible.
In 1938 Ionesco got a scholarship to Paris to do a doctorate on The
themes of sin and death in the poetry of Baudelaire.17 Also in this period
15Ionesco, The role of the dramatist [1958] in idem, Notes, 723.
16Ionesco, Le cur nest pas sur la main, Notes, 88.
17In one of the last interviews before his death accorded to Figaro magazine in 1993,
Ionesco mentioned that he owed this post to the help of historian and Institut franais
official Alphonse Dupront (see the Italian translation in Ionesco, Lassurdo e la speranza,
102). However, Romanian critic Petru Comarnescu mentions Ionescus presence together


chapter eight

he contributed some memorable travel reportage to the Romanian press

many of us would like to die with France. The end of France will be the
end of Europe18but was forced to return to Romania in June 1940. He
left again in June 1942, never to return.19
Some details on this final period in Romania can be gathered from the
journal of the Romanian Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian, recently published in Romania and now available in translation:
15 June 1940: E.I., returned from Paris, is saying alarming things.
8 January 1941: E.I. is struggling to leave the country as soon as possible,
to flee.
10 February 1941: E.I., easily drunk after a few cocktails [Saturday morning]
suddenly sets off talking to me about his mother. That she was Jewish, I had
known for a long time, from rumoursbut it was a closed subject between
us two. Dizzy from drink, the guy starts to tell everything as if with a certain
sigh of relief, as if it had weighed on him, as if it had been suppressed. Yes,
she was a Jew, she was from Craiova, her husband abandoned her with two
small children in France, she remained a Jew until her death, when he
Eugenbaptised her with his own hand.... Poor E.I.! What a torment, what
a torture, what hidden corners, for such a simple thing. I would like to have
told him how dear he has become to mebut he was too drunk for me to
start getting sentimental with him.
26 March 1941: E.I. came round again yesterday morning, desperate,
hounded, obsessed, unable to bear the thought that maybe they will throw
him out of the educational system. A healthy man, who suddenly discovers
that he has leprosy can go mad. E.I. has discovered that neither the name
Ionescu, nor an incontestably Romanian father, nor the circumstance of
having been born Christiannothing, nothing, nothing can cover up the
curse of having Jewish blood in his veins. We, with this dear leprosy, got
used to it long ago. To the point of resignation and sometimes to the point
of a certain sad, discouraged pride.
22 June 1942: E.I. left yesterday. A miraculous occurrence.20

with his wife in Paris as early as August 1937; Comarnescu was able to borrow money from
Ionescu which suggests the latters circumstances were less than disastruous. Comarnescu,
Jurnal 19311937, 165, 1689, 172. Further memories of Ionescu in Paris, this time from 1939,
in ora, O via-n buci, 7285, 393401.
18Ionescu, Scrisori din Paris, I, 13 Nov 1938, repr. in Rzboi cu toat lumea, 2:215; later
Ionesco acknowledged that during that time, we were living off the myth of France.
Prsent pass, pass prsent, 164.
19On Ionescos activity in the Romanian consulate in Vichy France, see the contrasting
analyses of Laignel-Lavastine, Loubli, 34962; and Stan, Survie, as well as the commentary
of Ionesco, Portrait, 8697. None cites the fascinating dossier published by Cioculescu,
Eugen Ionescu, showcasing a polemical exchange between Ionesco and Magyar philologist Lszl Gldi.
20Sebastian, Jurnal, 283, 287, 3034, 317, 457.

eugen ionescus selves, 19341960


What this remarkable evidence shows us is not only something of Ionescus

inner torments and obsessions, but also a bizarre reversal of the hitherto
accepted ideas about Ionescus relationship with Romanian society. Not
that he did not resist fascism and attempt to avoid getting involved with
it at all costsSebastians journal provides ample evidence of thatbut
that inability either to integrate into Romanian society or to come to terms
with his (or his mothers) Jewish identity constituted an equally severe
trauma in Ionescus life.21 In the play, the rhinoceros are distinguished by
their rough skin and their huge horns. Both Sebastian and the rabid antisemitic literature published in Romania in the period referred to Jews as
lepers; antisemites also spread the idea that Jews may be recognised by
their distinctive noses.22 Indeed, it would be possible to re-read not only
this play but a number of other works by Ionescu in the light of the attitudes he adopted towards both his Romanian and his Jewish heritage. He
stayed closely in touch with the former, but made only the most oblique
references to the latter in the whole of his French-language writings and
public statements.23 In the late 1970s, he told his friend Sanda Stolojan:
I wonder where I am from...I was born in Slatina, but I am not sure that
I come from Slatina...maybe I am from Iai...or rather...perhaps I am
Bulgarian...I think I am Bulgarian...24

Ten years later Emmanuel Jacquart was told by Ionescu that I was born
guilty, predestined to culpability.25
However, as Ionescus own daughter observed in response to a number
of interpretations that attempted to valorize these piece of evidence, such

21In Pass prsent and other memoiristic writings, there are muted and ambiguous
references to Ionescos ethnic identity, but a much greater emphasis falls on intellectual
22Oiteanu, Imaginea evreului, 3745. Oiteanu reproduces a German caricature from
the end of the nineteenth century representing the Jew as a type half-way between man
and animal, surrounded by neighing horses.
23In an interview given in 1989 Ionesco said of Jewish traditions in Romania that They
played a very important role in my personal history, insofar as they were religious, but
in a religion related to other religions, to Christianity for example. But also that It was
very late when I became aware of them, and as a reaction against the antisemitism which
reigned in Romania. in Hubert, Eugne Ionesco, 234, 235. Studies on religious aspects of
Ionescos thought (the best ones are Heitmann, Ein religiser Denker; and Egerding, Eine
religise Wende Ionescos) pay no particular attention to Ionescos Jewishness, of which
neither appears to have been aware. Indeed it seems to have been little discussed in any
work before the publication of Sebastians diary.
24Stolojan, Au balcon, 94.
25Interview with Jacquart, 30 sep 1985, introduction to Ionesco, Thtre complet, xxiii.


chapter eight

a critical approach risks partaking of a reductionist, ethnicist logic.26 The

fact that he was aware of and took an interest in his personal origins is
not reason to attribute to them a pivotal interpretive role. Ultimately the
relationship between an artists work and his personal history might be as
significant or as trivial as that which Ionesco ironically adduced between
Arthur Millers dramaturgy and the impression created by his photograph.
But the impulse to investigate and seek meaning in literature or biography, while always liable to charges of triviality or arbitrariness, can testify
toif not satisfydeep personal needs, an attempt to seize hold of a
part of paradise in the face of an overwhelming fear of death.27

26Ionesco, Portrait, 26.

27Mircea Vulcnescu considered the hankering after a part of paradise (cit. supra)
to be the most important aspect of Nu. Ionescu later described Vulcnesus reaction to
be remarkable [formidabil], a sign that he sensed the books tragic element. Ionescu,
interview, May 1986, in Lovinescu, ntrevederi, 132.

Chapter nine

Beyond the Land of Green Plums:

Romanian culture and language in Herta Mllers work*
When Herta Mller won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009, the Swedish judges citation summed up her achievement as having succeeded in
depicting, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose,
the landscape of the dispossessed.1 A landscape can be either a mental, interior state or a real place, and might be further understood as the
depiction of a complex relation between these two observable but often
hard to reconcile realities. Perhaps part of the intensity of Mllers writing
derives from this expression of peoples identification with, but also their
need to demarcate themselves from, the places they inhabit.
A second ambivalence confronted critics and pundits who sought to
interpret and categorize Mllers work: that of her national identity. Again
according to the Nobel judgeswho presumably went by her ethnic origin and the language of composition of most of her works, Mller was
a German writer.2 However, going by the citizenship she bore until she
emigrated to Berlin at the age of thirty-four, and also by the setting and
subject matter of most of her works, Mller was linked to Romania: in
fact one of the earliest volumes of criticism introduced her as a Germanlanguage Romanian intellectual;3 while another described her as the
Romanian-born writer.4 As Valentina Glajar has shown, intellectuals in
that country have variously appropriated Mller for the Romanian cultural pantheon, or take a more reserved, sometimes even hostile position
vis-a-vis her claim to represent Romanian realities.5
More broadly Mllers quite complex relationship to Romanian culture
and language has been frequently remarked upon by both journalists and

*In Herta Mller, ed. B. Haines & L. Marven (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
Reprinted by permission of the publishers. Thanks especially to the editors for their
encouragements and generous sharing of references.
1Olsson, Presentation speech.
3Eke, Einleitung, 8.
4Stock, Nachwort, 123.
5Glajar, Presence.


chapter nine

scholars, but more analytical approaches are harder to find.6 Analysis of

this problem could take a number of directions, and to be comprehensive,
would have to treat many facets of what is already a very extensive body
of fictional and autobiographical work, as well as innumerable essays and
interviews. The present chapter confines itself to three major aspects.
Firstly, I will sketch out the socio-historical context of the German community in the Banat region of Romania, in order to enable a more precise
understanding both of the world Mllers work describes, and the milieu in
which she began her literary career. Secondly, I will analyse the question
of Mllers attitude to the Romanian language and its influence on her
both as manifested in her work, and as explicitly discussed in interviews
and statements she has made on this question. Thirdly, I comment on
Mllers 2005 Romanian-language work Este sau nu este Ion, paying attention to various stylistic and linguistic aspects which can be considered significant in terms of a broader attitude to Romanian culture. If I leave aside
other important areas, such as the reception of Mllers work in Romania,
and the cultural representation of Romanian characters in her fiction, it
is with the knowledge that other scholars have already made important
inroads in surveying these topics.7 As with the case of Ionesco, so with
Mller: it is perhaps advisable to stress that Romanian culture, language
and politics may not be the most central topics of her uvre: indeed, her
critical attitude to the environment in which she grew up focuses as much
on the local, German village milieu as on the Ceauescu dictatorship.8
The Land of Green Plums
Mllers work is sometimes promoted abroad, for instance in English, as
being about Romania. For example, the English translation of Mllers
Der Mensch ist ein groer Fasan auf der Welt was given the subtitle A surreal tale of life in Romania today.9 Also perhaps significant is the title used
for the English translation of Herztier, namely The land of green plums.

6Glajar, Banat-Swabian, Romanian and German; eadem, The German legacy, 11620;
Cooper, Herta Mller. One of the few critics to deal analytically with linguistic aspects is
Predoiu, Faszination und Provokation, 1837.
7For the former, see Glajar, The presence; for the latter, a start has been made by
Krause, Das Bild.
8As Haines, Marven and Moyrer have all observed (Haines, The unforgettable forgotten; Marven, In allem ist der Ri; Moyrer, Die widerspenstige Signifikant).
9Mller, The Passport.

beyond the land of green plums


This, while less geopolitically explicit, suggests a reading of Mllers fiction in a topographical key, especially as the dustjacket blurb wastes no
time in telling the reader that the book is set in Romania.10 Similarly, the
English translation of the work Ausreiseantrag by Mllers former husband Richard Wagner, was given the subtitle A Romanian story.11
It is important to note that these labels Romanian or in Romania are
not those of Mller herself, and form a striking contrast to her own referential practices. In fact she uses the term Rumnien extremely rarely; indeed,
it seems that she goes to some lengths to avoid it, referring instead to an
unspecified Land. For instance, in Herztier the character Lola is described
as coming from the south of the country [aus dem Sden des Landes].12
In Reisende auf einem Bein the opening scene depicts the border of the
other country [die Grenze des anderen Landes].13 In Der Fremde Blick
Mller describes the fact that I came to Germany from another country
[weil ich aus einem anderen Land nach Deutschland gekommen bin] as
a fundamental motivation (Begrndung) conditioning her world view,
without mentioning the name of the country in question.14
This might have various implications; in the first instance, it perhaps
enables the reader to view the narrative from the perspective of an insider,
for whom mention of the countrys name would be superfluous. In the
second, it might suggest that the specificity of the particular country from
which she came is irrelevant to what Mller wants us to think of as a
universal experience. A third possibility is that Mller, while conscious of
her outsider status, became irritated at the assumptions native Germans
made when she told them her country of origin.15 Whichever might be the
case, it is worth trying to resume some key aspects of the history of the
country. And since in German Land, like the English country, can refer
either to a national state or a province, the historical context I seek to provide is not an overall history of Romania, but makes close reference to the
Banat region where Mller grew up and where much of her prose is set.

10Mller, Land of green plums.

11Wagner, Exit.
12Mller, Herztier, 9.
13Mller, Reisende, 7.
14Mller, Der fremde, 5. This differs from earlier statements, e.g. Mller, Der Teufel sitzt
im Spiegel, 122, where she writes more explicitly Als ich aus Rumnien wegging [When I
left Romania].
15Mller talks explicitly about this experience in Der Knig, 1769.


chapter nine
Modern Romania and the Banat Germans

Romania is, according to its 1923, 1948 and 1991 constitutions, a unitary
national state, but a relatively young one on the European map. Independent in a first, smaller variant in 1878, the present country is largely a creation of the post-World War I Treaties (Versailles, Trianon, St. Germain)
of 19191920, and consists of a series of territories conglomerated from
the dissolved and dismembered Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian Empires.
The description once given it by a French writer, as the crossroads of
dead empires, is not inapt; and the tension between former regional or
imperial identities and the efforts of a centralizing state constitutes a
basic factor of its history, albeit one which has impacted differently on
different regions and groups.16
German influence on, and settlement in, territories now forming part
of Romania, are processes with a long history. The oldest communities
were those established in Transylvania in the early Middle Ages.17 The
territory of the Banat, from which Mller comes and where much of her
work is set, had a somewhat different history of settlement. It was under
Ottoman rule through the early modern period to 1716, when it was conquered by the Habsburgs; only after this date did German settlement and
colonization take place. The establishment of German communities in the
Banat in some ways resembled a colonial enterprise, involving establishment of German habitation structures and administrative programmes in
a land previously viewed as alien but which had been brought into the
fold of Habsburg possessions in the wake of the second Siege of Vienna in
1683.18 The Banat was also important as a military frontier facing Ottoman
territorythe south of the province had a special military status until the
1850sand as a source of economic extraction, being rich in metals and
minerals. It was for these reasons that historian Jean Brenger described
the Banat as the Habsburgs true colonial adventure.19 It should be noted
that the colonization process was not exclusively an ethnic German
16Romier, Le carrefour des empires morts.
17For recent overviews in English see Evans, Austria, Hungary and the Habsburgs, 209
27: Koranyi, Between East and West, 1221.
18Jordan, Die kaiserliche Wirtschaftspolitik; Roider, Nationalism and Colonization;
Thomas, Anatomy.
19Brenger, History, 88. The Habsburg experience has been largely overlooked in the by
now extensive literature on German colonialism, e.g. Ames et al., eds., Gemanys colonial
pasts or Perraudin & Zimmerer, eds. German colonialism. But see Ruthner, Central Europe
Goes Postcolonial; and Wolff, The idea of Galicia, as well as my Chapter 2 above.

beyond the land of green plums


project. For instance, the colonist who established Mllers native village
of Nitzkydorf in the 1780s, Count Krisztf Niczky, was of mixed Slavic
and Hungarian background (albeit educated in Vienna and Pressburg).
Other colonists were of Slavic, Italian or other ethnic origin. German was
therefore possibly less important as an ethnic identity than as a generalized language of education and culture alongside, and gradually supplanting, Latin. Demographically, Germans were always outnumbered by
Serbian and Romanian populationsas well as a large number of other
ethnicitiesand after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in
1918 the territory was divided on ethnic principles, the majority going to
Romania, a smaller, more Westerly part to Yugoslavia.
In contrast to the Transylvanian Germans, who were largely Lutheran
and called themselves Sachsen (Saxons), the Germans of the Banat (in
fact of the wider middle Danube region), were largely Catholic and called
Schwaben.20 The majority of the population was of relatively modest
means and cultural outlook, living in villages dispersed across the province, with a greater or lesser connection to the urban centres. The pre1918 capitals of Vienna and Budapest had been several hundred miles to
the northwest; the post-1918 one, Bucharest, was even further away to the
east. And although the first ever newspaper to have been published on
Romanian territory had appeared in the Banat, and in German,21 the local
literary traditions, whether in German, Romanian, or the provinces other
languages (Serbian, Yiddish, Magyar, Romanes), were not extensive, characterized more by heterogeneity than by sophistication. However, the territory featured notably in German-language writings as a somewhat exotic
frontier zone, and the local populations of Serbs, Romanians and Roma
were depicted as benighted, uncultured savages.22
The post-1918 period therefore constituted something of a shock to the
Donauschwaben, as they found themselves ruled by the Romanians who
hitherto had been largely regarded as a Bauernvolk. Moreover, the position
of the Donauschwaben as a distinct group was diminished as their territory
and population was divided between Romania, Serbia and Hungary. Many
still lived in villages and neither needed nor wanted to learn the official

20In broader German-language discourse the terms are prefixed with a location,
Siebenbrgen-Sachsen and Donauschwaben respectively. The terms Sachsen and Schwaben
are to be understood conventionally and do not imply a literal designation of Saxony or
Swabia as places of origin.
21Neumann, Cultura din Banat.
22See ch. 2 above.


chapter nine

language of the new state(s). In Romania, they formed a constituent part

of what were now labelled Rumniendeutschen, although this label arguably remained an artificial construct right up until the gradual dissolution
of these communities in the period from the 1940s to the 1990s.23 The
severest blow to the Donauschwaben communities was occasioned by the
forced deportations of many, first to Siberia immediately after the war,
and later to the Brgan plain region in the east of Romania for periods of
up to twenty years. This was justified by the Soviet and Romanian authorities as a reprisal for the collaboration of some Romanian Germans with
the Nazis during the wartime period (a real phenomenon, but one later
generalized to all Germans, and dominating the attitude of the Romanian
authorities to the German population during the Communist period). It
was only in the relative thaw of the 1960s that German-language literary
culture in the Banat was revived to an extent in local publications affiliated to the official structures of literary production, closely controlled by
the Communist state. Most of the literary works produced conformed to
the moulds either of traditional German Heimatdorf literature, or of the
teleological optimism characteristic of Socialist-Realist literature.
Herta Mllers generation, born in the early 1950s and schooled in the
late 1960s, had not experienced the trauma of war and deportation except
indirectly. They were also perhaps the first to accept the existence of the
Romanian state for the foreseeable future, and therefore to engage with
it in a more sustained way, particularly as the late 1960s and early 1970s
witnessed a general liberalization of cultural production and increased
dialogue between groups. Higher educational institutions were among the
most important vehicles of this engagement, and thus it was that she and
many other Germans attended the University of Timioara (established in
1962), where she graduated in German and Romanian literature in 1976.
For their part, the Romanian authorities, while continuing to maintain
an implicit equation between Germans and Nazis, also had an interest
in pursuing a more generous policy towards minorities, especially ones
who, unlike the Hungarian minority of Transylvania, aroused no irredentist fears but were also monitored from abroad.24 Mllers literary generation can be seen as part of a thaw which subsisted from roughly between
the return of the deportees in the early sixties, and the acceleration of
23Predoiu, Faszination und Provokation, 1319, gives a good overview of the debates
surrounding this concept.
24On the more favourable attitude toward German than toward Hungarian in official
Romanian culture: Cooper, Towards a multinational concept, 2312.

beyond the land of green plums


emigration in the 1980s and 1990s.25 They also situated themselves in

opposition to conventional ideas of Rumniendeutsche Literatur, even
sometimes claiming explicitly to be anti-rumniendeutsch.26 Attacks such
as these were directed at traditional Heimat literature, and in some cases
implicitly at aspects of the system, but not at Romanian language and
culture per se, which play a significant role in Mllers work.
Mller and the Romanian Language
The evidence for a dominant Romanian-language literary influence on
Mllers work is somewhat diffuse. There is no single writer or school
that can be said to have left a decisive imprint on her style or themes.
Instead, there are a number of writers or artists whose work is either used
or alluded to, sometimes in somewhat oblique ways. But before treating
these writers, it may be useful to consider Mllers own statements concerning the Romanian language. This is not only a matter of access to
certain cultural influences, but also of important ways in which learning
Romanian made her think about language in general, and what most critics consider to be a key aspect of her poetics, namely the relation between
words and things.
An important early statement on this topic was made by Mller in a
1998 interview with Brigid Haines and Margaret Littler. Asked to expand
on various earlier and somewhat elliptical statements about the possibilities afforded her by bilingualism, Mller replied:
The difference is really that German is my mother tongue, whereas I acquired
Romanian much later. By the time I started to really speak Romanian and
have my everyday life unfolding in it, I was already fifteen and living in the
city. Up till then I had only learnt Romanian three hours a week as a foreign language in a German-language school. It was neither a second mother
tongue, nor a foreign language, as one lived in it. A kind of familiarity established itself, which had something in common with a mother tongue, was
very similar to it, but all the same, I never learnt, for instance, to write in
Romanian, and it didnt occur to me to try.27
25Predoiu, Faszination und Provokation, 1940, gives a detailed periodisation of Banat
German literary production since 1945. For an insiders view of some of the generational
contexts, see Wagner, Die Aktionsgruppe Banat.
26This term is used by Sohns, 13.
27Mller, Gesprch, 15. Predoiu, Faszination, 183, already drew attention to a similar
statement in Mller, Hunger und Seide, 3637: Diese Muttersprache und diese Landessprache, es waren zwei, und so ganz verschieden. Und einander so fremd [This mother


chapter nine

Mller goes on to discuss the ways in which, in bilingual regions, a writer

composing in one language will often have the other in their mind. She
emphasizes in particular the contrastive relationship between German
and Romanian:
Had the languages been closely related, for instance like German and English, there would not be such a contrast as in the case of a Romance-Slavic
language and German. This Romanian is, in its sensuousness, and in its way
of looking at the world, utterly distinct; and I was thus able to appropriate
this mode of perceiving the world.

Mller describes this as an incredibly profitable experience for a writer

(als Schriftstellerin profitiert man unglaublich davon).28
It should be first noted that the category Romance-Slavic language is
not a generally used one, and would be contested by many Romanian
scholars. Although it has significant Slavic vocabulary, Romanian is usually classified as a Romance language.29 This is sometimes seen as a matter
of a superimposed layer (like, for instance, Arabic vocabulary in Castillian, or Latin in English); in other aspects the Slavic component may be
But while Romanian is of course not a Germanic language, there is little
in its intrinsic structure which places it in absolute opposition to German.
On the contrary, Romanian and German have features in commonfor
instance, the inflection and gendering of nounswhich English lacks.
Mller refers frequently not to grammatical features but rather to idioms,
particularly metaphor and its function in describing or grasping reality.31
Mller expanded on the theme of differing linguistic contexts and their
effect in framing our relation to the world and our perception of it, in
her 2003 essay In jeder Sprache sitzen andere Augen [Every language
contains a different pair of eyes], one of her most extensive meditations

tongue, and the national language, were two different things, and so completely distinct.
So alien to each other too].
28Mller, Gesprch.
29The usually very critical Lucian Boia claims, somewhat exaggeratedly, that no linguist
will contest the fact that the Romanian language is of Latin origin (Boia, Romania, 29).
30For a discussion see Petrucci, Slavic features; for some statistical analysis of Romanian lexicon by language group, see Kellogg, The structure of Romanian nationalism. On
the politicization of this issue at various stages of Romanias history, see e.g. Drace-Francis,
Making, 1812; Deletant, Rewriting the past.
31Specifically, she refers to die Sprachbilder, die Metaphorik, die Redewendungen
(Mller, Gesprch, 15).

beyond the land of green plums


on language.32 In this chapter the same concept of linguistic difference

remains, only it is applied more frequently to the differences between the
German dialect of the Banat and formal literary German, than to those
between German and Romanian. For instance, Mller draws attention to
the dialect term for an undomesticated grape vine, Tintentrauben, the ink
vine, so called because the colouring of the grape easily stains the hand
that touches it.33 Again, the assumption is that the Eastern word has both
an increased vividness or sensuousness, and a greater pregnancy of meaning. This fits in with a broader set of ideas about the East and the West,
as well as the city and the village: In the language of the villageor at
least so it seemed to me as a childeverybody around me saw words as
lying directly upon the things they were supposed to describe.34 The idea
that words might be distinct from things, and in fact a tool to organize the
world from outside it, is cast as a Western heresy:
To this day I think a lot without using words, I have found none, not in
village German, nor in city German, nor in Romanian, nor in East or West
German [...]. Only in the West did I come across the notion that language
could be used to bring order to confusion.35

What is initially advanced here on the basis of contrasts between dialect

German and urban, Western German is then considered in a triple comparison between the former two and Romanian:
In the village dialect you say: the wind GOES. In High German, as spoken
in schools, you say: the wind BLOWS. And for me as a seven-year-old, that
felt as if the wind got hurt. And in Romanian you say, the wind HITS, vntul

The roots of the distinctions, then, appear to be geocultural rather than

linguistic. However, later in the same text Mller returns to the idea that
it is grammatical aspects of German and Romanian that distinguish the
two languages, giving the example of the different genders used for the

32Mller, Der Knig, 739. For an interpretation of this work see Moyrer, Die widerspenstige Signifikant.
33Mller, In jeder Sprache, 9.
34In der Dorfspracheso schien es mir als Kindlagen bei allen Leuten um mich
herum die Worte direckt auf den Dingen, die sie bezeichneten. Ibid., 7.
35Mller, In jeder Sprache, 14.
36Mller, In jeder Sprache, 24. NB also that Mller, although publishing in 2003, gives
the pre-1990 spelling of Romanian vntul, which is now spelt vntul following orthographic


chapter nine

word for lily (in German, die Lilie is feminine, as opposed to masculine
Romanian crin):
In German its a matter of a Lilly-lady, in Romanian youre up against Mister

Although Mller has given several examples from different semantic

areas, this is not actually a constant feature differentiating the two languages. For instance, rosemary is masculine in both (G. rosmarin, R. Rozmarin, actually a direct loan from German); while marigolds are feminine
in both languages (G. Ringelblume, R. glbenea), as are the generic words
for flower (G. Blume, R. floare). Likewise, in an earlier text where Mller
drew attention to the fact that the German word for fear [Angst] has one
syllable, whereas Romanian fric has two, she might have noted that they
are both feminine.38
Moreover, while Mllers considerations on language partake of an
essentially modernist poetics, they also perhaps draw on some older
received ideas about the nature of the Romanian language. These can be
found both among outsiders, and among even quite traditional Romanian
writers. For instance, a theory of the sensuousness and expressivity of
the Romanian language was advanced by folklorist and dramatist Vasile
Alecsandri, in the preface to his Folk Poems of the Romanians, published
in 1852:
The Romanian is a born poet!
Endowed by nature with a sparkling imagination and a sensuous spirit, he
discharges the secrets of his soul in the form of harmonious melodies and
improvized poems.39

Who has not, upon striking up a brotherly conversation with the plain
dweller, been struck by his notions and judgements, and taken great pleasure in listening to his speech, adorned as it is with original tropes? For
Does he wish to speak of a good fellow? He says: he is as good as his
mothers breast.
37Ibid., 25.
38Mller, Der Teufel, 37. NB also that fric is not peculiar to Romanian, being originally
Greek () and present also in Albanian (frik).
39Alecsandri, Poezii populare ale romnilor, 11. Heitmann, Imaginea romnilor, 2938,
suggests this Romanian self-image might have been influenced by a longer tradition of
German ascriptions of a poetic sensibility to Romanians.

beyond the land of green plums


Of a tall, handsome man? He is as tall as a spruce and handsome as the

month of May.
Of a wicked man? He has crossbred guts.
Of an ugly man? What an ugly father he had.
Of a stupid man? He thinks that all birds that fly, are for eating.
Of a smart one? He can pull the devil out of the ground.
Of a beautiful woman? Shes a piece of the sun.
Of a petty official? A man with a thousand lei on his chest but only threepence in his pocket.
Of a young man with white hair? He caught an early snowfall.40

Such demonstrations became a relatively common trope in Romanian

literary ideology, as critics propounded the view that the language was
endowed with an exceptional degree of expressivity.41 These occasionally involved contrasts with German language and culture, sometimes
seen as more rational, less figurative: Alecsandri, for instance, notes
Romanian peasants making fun of Germans who spent a freezing winter in Moldavia complaining inexplicably that they were hot (based on
a confusion of German kalt, cold, with Romanian cald, hot).42 In some
ways Mllers affirmations appear to show the influence of this kind of
thinking about language (specifically about a particular language); in others, of course, they may be considered part of a wider current of thinking
about languages power, especially through metaphor, to suggest images
or sensationswhat in German is known as Bildlichkeit, and in Romanian as plasticitate.43 Another factor is the more striking effect submerged
metaphorical phrases can have on non-native speakers of a language. For
instance, while the literal sense of bate as beating in a phrase like vntul
bate might appear striking to someone acquiring the language, a native
Romanian-speaker would unlikely to be strongly conscious of it.
Literary Influences
Romanian literature has a tradition of somewhat saccharine descriptions
of rural life, in approximate consonance with German Heimatdorf literature. This kind of writing has customarily been accorded space in the
40Alecsandri, Romnii i poeziile lor, 1001.
41See esp. Caracostea, Die Ausdruckswerte; the Romanian version, Expresivitatea limbii
romne, went through several editions.
42Alecsandri, Romnii, 100. For more on Romanian popular and literary stereotypes of
Germans, see Dumistrcel, Germanul n mentalul rural romnesc; Zub, Einleitung.
43On Bildlichkeit as a defining attribute of literary texts, Markiewicz, Limits, 6.


chapter nine

literary canon as taught in schools and universities. Notions of appropriate literature often involved the assumption that a relatively positive
depiction of national life (more specifically, rural life, posited as representative of the nation) would emerge from it. It is notable that in the
Securitate reports compiled about Mllers literary production, she was
castigated for negativism: nothing positive appears in it, wrote Voicu
about her debut collection Niederungen, in March 1983.44
On the other hand, there were modernist and avant-garde movements in
early twentieth-century Romania. The best-known exponentsincluding
figures such as Tristan Tzara, founder of the Dadaist movement; surrealist poet Benjamin Fondane; and absurdist playwright Eugne Ionesco
sought and in some cases found their fortune abroad, most commonly
in French culture. Perhaps the most notable example from Romania
was Paul Celan, who grew up in Czernowitz in Romanian Bukovina and
emigrated to the West. But before he did so, he also carried out some
translations of prose and verse into Romanian. A version of his celebrated
work Todesfuge, was entitled in Romanian Tangoul morii, death tango as
opposed to death fugue.45
Mller almost certainly had knowledge of all these writers works, as
well as their life trajectories. For instance, the latter title might have influenced that of Mllers Drckender Tango [Oppressive Tango], just as the
title of Ionescos well-known play Le roi se meurt [The King dies] forms the
starting point for Mllers Der Knig verneigt sich und ttet [The King takes
a bow and kills]. In both these cases, however, Mllers direct engagement with her predecessors seems to be on the level of playing with titles,
rather than composing a full-blown intertext or commentary.
Mllers work also shows the imprint of writers lesser known outside
Romanian literary circles. Notable among these was Gellu Naum (1915
2001), who had helped establish a surrealist poetry circle in 1940s Romania, and also published fiction and a number of translations.46 An extract
from Naums 1941 poem Lacrima [The tear] constitutes the epigraph to
Mllers Herztier:
I had a friend in each little piece of cloud
in fact thats how friends are when theres so much fear in the world
44Voicu, Nota (16 March 1983) For more details see Glajar, Presence.
45For a subtle analysis see Felstiner, Paul Celan, 289, 4250.
46In English there are Naum, Poems; My tired father; Zenobia; and Vasco da Gama and
other pohems.

beyond the land of green plums


mother too said its normal and that she wouldnt have me become a friend
i should think rather of something serious47

In the front matter of Herztier it is specified that the translation of Naums

poem used for the epigraph is by Transylvanian German poet Oskar Pastior (Mllers lifelong friend whose experiences form the basis of the plot
of her most recent novel, Atemschaukel).48 The status of the poem is questioned in a tense scene where the Securitate agent, Captain Pjele, forces
the narrator to read the passage out loud. Pjele asks Who wrote that?
The narrator replied Nobody. Its a popular song. Then it is the property
of the people.49
The interplay between the avant-garde and folk music is reiterated in
an interview Mller gave in 2007:
Somebody asked me today what it was that I have learnt from the avantgarde and I answered I learned a lot more from folk songs. When I first
heard Maria Tnase she sounded incredible to me, it was for the first time
that I really felt what folklore meant. Romanian folk music is connected to
existence in a very meaningful way. However, German folklore was not at
all inspiring for me.50

The work of singer Maria Tnase (19131963) also features in Herztier and
elsewhere in Mllers work, and can be considered a significant Romanian
intertext, if not influence, upon it.51 Like Naums poetry, Tnases work
appears in connection with Tereza, the friend of the narrator who turns

47aveam cte un prieten n fiecare bucic de nor / de fapt aa sunt prietenii cnd e
atta spaima pe lume / mama spunea i ea c e normal i c nu accept s m fac prieten /
mai bine ma gndi la ceva serios; Naum, Lacrima, 512. Cf. Mller, Herztier, colophon
48Pastiors translations were published as Rede auf dem Bahndamm; Oskar Pastior entdeckt Gellu Naum; and Naum, Pohesie. As these all postdate Herztier, it seems Mller may
have had access to them in a manuscript version. Predoiu, Faszination, 1834, suggests
that Pastior was a significant influence on Mllers more general ludic engagement with
Romanian vocabulary, citing the formers volume Das Hren des Genitivs.
49Mller, Herztier, 104; cf. Land of green plums, 945. NB piele means skin or leather
in Romanian, possibly referring to the characteristic leather jacket of the Securitate officer;
in the German the orthography was modified to Pjele to aid pronunciation.
50Mller, interview with Radio Romania International, 18 July 2007, at http://www.rri
.ro/arh-art.shtml?lang=1&sec=13&art=4641 [accessed 18 March 2011].
51For Mllers own account of her engagement with Tnases work, see Herta Mller,
Welt, Welt, Schwester Welt. In October 2010 she presented Tnases work at a concert
at the Literaturhaus, Stuttgart: for details see http://www.literaturhaus-stuttgart.de/event/
[accessed 1 August 2011].


chapter nine

out to be a Securitate informant. Terezas clothes, bought on numerous

foreign trips, arouse the envy of her work colleagues; they thought: for
everything Tereza wears, it would be worth fleeing.52 Following which,
they begin to sing the words of a Tnase song, in fact a traditional curse
on a fleeing lover:
Who loves and leaves
May the Lord punish him
May the Lord punish him
With the step of the beetle
The whistle of the wind
And the dust of the earth.53

And as the narrator explains, the song had a double meaning: while it
expressed the hope of the women to flee, the curse was addressed to
Tereza.54 This provides a classic example of how, particularly under
regimes of censorship, apparently apolitical works can have their meaning radically transformed by the disposition of the audience to read them
in an allegorical key. Taken together, the examples of Mllers adaptation
of Naums and Tnases lyrics also show her concern with problems of
artistic property, circulation of motifs in public and private spaces, and
tensions between production and consumption of literature in a politically and economically controlled society.
Original Works
More recently, Mllers engagement with Romanian has gone beyond attitudes to language, or passive absorption of literary influences. In 2005 she
published a book of eighty-five Romanian-language verse collages, Este
sau nu este Ion. This was issued in a print-run of 1500 copies by the wellknown Iai-based publisher Polirom, and accompanied by a CD of the
author reading the verses, recorded in July 2005 at the Romanian section
52Sie dachten: Alles was Tereza trgt, ist eine Flucht wert. Herztier, 118.
53The Romanian words of the song are Cine iubete i las / Cine iubete i las /
Dumnezeu s-i dea pedeaps / Dumnezeu s-i dea pedeaps / Triul arpelui / Cu pasul
gndacului / Vjitul vntului / Pulberea pamntului. It is worth accessing one of the
many versions available on the internet to appreciate the dramatic orchestration [e.g.
Tnase, Cine iubete]. The phrase triul arpelui [the snakes slither] is omitted in the
version in Herztier.
54Die Melodie sangen sie fr sich und die Flucht. Der Fluch des Liedes galt aber
Tereza. Ibid. Mller plays on the similarity between Flucht flight and Fluch curse, just as
in Celans Todesfuge death fugue, there is a hint of Romanian fug flight.

beyond the land of green plums


of the Berlin-based international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. At around

the same time her earlier German-language collages, Im Haarknoten
wohnt eine Dame (2000) appeared with a Romanian translation in parallel
text, with funding from the Goethe Institute and the Romanian Ministry
of Culture.55 Rumour has it that Mller cut up copies of a somewhat scurrilous Bucharest publication, Plai cu boi,56 and rearranged them on cardboard. The poems are generally written in a simple syntax and vocabulary,
with many colloquial phrases. One of them bids Adio, patria mea cu din
i, cu din a [Farewell to my fatherland with the spelt with an i, and the
spelt with an ], making reference to an orthographic peculiarity of socialist Romania, whereby the letter in the countrys name Romnia and a
substantial number of other words was replaced with an (e.g. Romnia),
allegedly to de-emphasize the countrys Latin heritage. The name of the
country was officially changed to Romnia after 1965, while other words in
were not changed back to until after 1991.57 The poem emphasizes the
unorthodox (for a Latin language) vowel sounds of Romanian:
, ru, b, d-mi nite bani s m st
B, tu m parc vd c la d
Hai b, dnsul pr n gt cine m
Ct l mngii mnc srm
B, m vr o sptmn
pn mi d zahr m.
O s fie ginrie.

The text, extremely hard to render into English,58 gives the impression of
incompletely overheard conversation, and gives as much emphasis to the
phonetics of Romanian as to semantics: notably palatalized consonants
55Mller, Im Haarknoten wohnt eine Dame / n coc locuiete o dam.
56Plai cu boi (20012008) was the main publication of former Romanian dissident Mircea Dinescu, now a wealthy media personality; the title, meaning upland with oxen and
considered a characteristic Romanian landscape, is an obvious play on Playboy.
57E.g. basic words like sunt I am, cnd when, ct how much, all of Latin origin, were
spelt snt, cnd and ct. For an account of these orthographic changes, see Deletant, Rewriting the Past. The consonants indicated by and represent Slavic influence on Romanian
(before the mid-nineteenth century Romanian was spelt with a Cyrillic alphabet, in which
these sounds were represented by the letters and ).
58Very approximately Oh, terrible, hey, give me some money so I can this guy / Hey,
you me I can almost see that guys giving / Hey, him hair in the throats a dog, man / As
you stroke it it eats wire / Hey, ill thrust myself in for a week till he gives me sugar. Itll be
chickenshit. Collage no. 40 partakes of a very similar poetics: B, / secet / Mitic /
pierdut vac / cutat geab m, / nu gsit / trezit oprl, / mic/ ndoielnic, / tare fric /
omort [Ohhhhhh, / drought/ Mitic / lost cow / waste time looking man, / not found /
woke up small / dubious / lizard, / scared shit / killed]


chapter nine

(e.g. ts, sh), short vowels, such as the and discussed above. There
is also some alliterative play on diacritically marked letters, a feature of
Romanian which is thus strongly emphasized.59
In another sequence, Mllers target is not the everday, conversational
phonetics of Romanian but the rather pompous registers of bureaucratic,
journalistic prose:
Dar, in general, pe plaiurile noastre, cobortoare
cnd un animal moare nu conteaz din ce cauz de boal,
ori necat ingheat intoxicat clcat abandonat legat
evadat oricum uscat sau balonat m, Doamne, nu
de foame romnul se complace a savura corpolena
de Animal postum susmenionat.60

The repetitive accumulation of past-participial endings inat, as well as

stock phrasesin general, conspires to savour, above mentioned
usually of Romance origin, satirize a stilted, impersonal, somewhat selfsatisfied register.61 It also captures well a certain tendentious attempt to
give universal value to the particular, as the sentence first claims to treat
something in general, before confining it to in our lands, and then to
Romanians. But while adopting a playful attitude to the language, the
collages also achieve a colloquial register, and confirm Mllers affirmation that her starting point, despite an only average grasp of Romanian,
was the daily language I learnt when working for the car factory.62
On visiting Romania in 2010, Mller was asked, by a journalist perhaps
keen to elicit a sympathetic quote, whether she felt happy and at ease in
Romania. Her widely-quoted reply was that it was no significance whether
she felt at ease there, but rather whether the permanent residents did.63
While this deflated the interviewers expectations of flattery, it also struck
59Cf. the phrases in Tnases earlier-quoted song: triul arpelui.
60Approximately But, in general, on our lands, descending / when an animal dies irrespective of the cause of illness, / or drowned frozen poisoned trampled abandoned tied up
astray or bloated, Good God, not of hunger Romanians conspire to savour the posthumous
corpulence of above-mentioned animal.
61This is something that can also be detected in Ionescos work, especially the satire
on pedagogical and philological discourse in La leon.
62Mller, interview with Radio Romania International, cit. supra. Cooper, Herta Mller, 493, has gone so far as to claim that her dexterity with the Romanian language and
ability to appropriate and destabilize it suggest that it is as much a part of her identity as
her so-called native tongue German.
63Treaba Romniei nu este ca eu s m simt acas. Ar fi bine dac nu tiu cte milioane de romni s-ar simi acas [Its not Romanias job to be making me feel at home.

beyond the land of green plums


a chord with Romanians who, paradoxically, understood that their home

country was not a place where many people felt at home. In this sense,
and in others, Mllers engagement with Romanian seems to work in two
contrary but equally productive directions. On the one hand, there is a
tendency towards defamiliarization, considering the language (and indeed
the country) as being totally different from German norms. On the other,
there is a quite complex familiarity with Romanian experiences, including with intimate and often unanalysed aspects of its language, literature,
folklore and other cultural traditions. In this sense, Mllers glosses on
the local question of relations between two linguistic and cultural groups
assumed to be at odds with one another, become an important bridge
to larger ones such as the relation between words and things, language
and place, the present and the past, personal experience and collective

It would be good if millions of Romanians felt at home]. Statement at press conference,

Bucharest, 27 September 2010, quoted in Herta Mller despre lucrurile bune.

part five

east-westism in the cold war age

Chapter ten

Sex, Lies and Stereotypes:

Images of Romania in British Literature, 19452000*
General Considerations
Knowledge operates at different levels, and when undertaking to examine
the images different peoples have of one another, it would be a mistake to
imply that such pictures are either evenly composed or uniformly imagined by all members of a particular people.
This is particularly true of British images of Romania in the last fifty
or so years. On the scholarly level, interest in Romania is apparently
extremely healthy: a recent academic bibliography of writings in English
on Romania enumerated close on a thousand books or articles, the comfortable majority of which were published in the last fifteen years.1
On the everyday level, however, the presentation of Romania in Britain
is considerably less consistent. A short analysis of articles featuring Romania in the main section of the London Times over the last three years
(19961998: see Appendix) shows an average of around 30 articles per
year, dedicated to an unusual selection of subjects. The launch of a new
Romanian helicopter may make the news if it is named after Count Dracula; the visit of the President of the United States was considered noteworthy only for the fact that he mistook the Romanian revolutionary flag
for a Latin American poncho; of ten articles treating Romanian politics
published in 1996, five featured the former tennis player Ilie Nstase; all
two articles on the Romanian economic situation in 1998 concerned the
sale of former President Ceauescus possessions in order to raise funds.
Orphanages, Gypsies, drug-trafficking and murders all get a mention. If the
Romanian football teams participation in the 1998 World Cup made any
impression, it was perhaps caused less by their (purely fortunate) victory
over England, than their players propensity to anoint their faces with a
* In Romanian and British historians on the contemporary history of Romania, ed.
G. Cipianu & V. Tru (Cluj University Press, 2000), 87100. Reprinted by permission of
the publishers. Among more recent treatments, Hammond, British images, brings some
new sources to light.
1Siani-Davies & Siani-Davies, Romania.


chapter ten

magic potion made up of holy water, basil, olive oil and honey (accompanied by the sign of the cross three times);2 or even their superstitiousstrategic dyeing of their hair blonde in the midst of the tournament. A
good portion of the comedy programme They Think its all Over, which was
screened by the BBC for light therapeutic relaxation after the intensities
of the Cup Final, was dedicated to the special guest, Ilie Nstase, who was
asked to explain the inner motivation of the Romanian fan who, it was
reported widely in the press, submerged his head underwater in his bath
for up to 4 hours a day in order to bring his team good luck.
An acclaimed historical synthesis published in 1996, Norman Daviess
Europe, despatches Romania in similarly garish colours. This encyclopaedic work of over 1,300 pages finds little to say about Romania except
that it produced Dracula, the Iron Guard, a folkloric death wish, Nicolae
Ceauescu and Stephen the Great. Romania has been aptly called the
North Korea of Eastern Europe, Davies summarizes, a closed country
acutely aware of its inferiority, excessively proud of its dubious record,
and instinctively given to acting as mediator between other Mafia gangs.3
Such unthinking generalizations are unfortunately all too common in
British history writing. Indeed, they may be said to be more prevalent in
the intellectual circuit of British public opinion than the general market:
even the most lightweight guide books have no interest in striving for
the elegant and offensive one-off judgement, and tend to produce a more
balanced picture.4
But in between the groves of academe and the gimmicks of the mass
media, a surprisingly substantial number of literary works on Romania
has been published over the last half century. Occasionally they play the
role of presenting scholarship to a wider public; many more of them are
concerned with depicting everyday life in the country in some detail; in
general they gain their legitimacy through a claim to special experience.
As they generally claim to avoid an interest in the purely historical or diplomatic, and often tend to stress what is interesting to the foreigner rather
2Romanians take shine to England. Ive advised them to anoint their goal net as
well, [Iulian] Bonea [football lover and renowned druid] said, which will prevent the
opposition from scoring.
3Davies, Europe, 1105.
4The situation in general and reference works on history differs little in its super
ficiality from that in works of literary criticism (which have been surveyed critically by
Marino, Pentru Europa, 8898). See e.g. the entry for Romania in Fernndez-Armesto, ed.
Times guide, which refers to demented Transylvanian peasants overtaken by visions of

sex, lies and stereotypes


than to the native, their relevance to the scholarly student of Romania may
at first seem reduced. But one only has to consider the playwright Eugen
Ionescus words on stumbling across a chance reference to Romania in an
English novel of the 1930s, to realise the pressure exercised within Romania by such apparently innocent allusion:
Huxley puts Romanians among Letts and Lapps.
Consequently, this means that, in the extremely happy event that I
become the greatest Romanian critic, Huxley will still situate me alongside
the artists of Latvia and Lapland. To be the greatest Romanian critic!this
still means you being a poor cousin of the European intelligentsia.
What sad circumstances have forged for Romania this walk-on role in

Similarly, the entire direction of U.S. Foreign policy regarding intervention in the Bosnian crisis of 1993 is rumoured to have been reversed upon
President Clintons perusal of an American travel account of life in the
Balkans, Robert Kaplans Balkan Ghosts, which apparently convinced
the President that the ethnic problems of the region were the irremediable product of ancient hatreds, and that the Wests assistance would be
worthless. We must conclude that despite the fact that travel literature
has long since lost its position as the sole purveyor of information on distant lands, or as the central database for philosophical anthropology, its
importance in shaping mentalities (of the individual or of the general)
has by no means disappeared. Indeed, one critic recently defined British
writing on Southeastern Europe in general in terms of an imperialism of
the imagination, such were its alleged effects.6
Quantitatively, one can enumerate nearly forty books of travel and
reminiscences; around a dozen biographies, mainly of royal personages
or of dictators; and six or seven works of fiction. What follows, then, is
not a systematic book-by-book treatment of all literature dealing with
Romania, but a first attempt to examine a few themes which recur within
British images, and to suggest directions for further research. I have tried
to look at themes beyond the obviousvampires, political instability,
Balkanismwhich have already received a degree of attention, even if
their explanation is by no means complete.7 This has led me to examine
problems of sexuality, art, history and what one might call the literarization
5Ionescu, Nu, 57. The novel referred to is Huxleys Point Counter Point. Huxley was
widely read in interwar Romania: for details see Dimitriu, Huxley. See also Ch. 8 above.
6Goldsworthy, Inventing Ruritania. See also Golopenia, Clichs.
7Nandri, The historical Dracula (still in many ways the best article on the subject).


chapter ten

of Romania. The emphasis is on works in the mainstream of the British

book market: although there is no really scientific measure of the influence of a given text on public opinion, I have tried to take account of
a works popularity or prestige, when assessing its potential for creating
longer-term models or stereotypes. I have not ventured to look at images
produced on television or the mass media generally, although such a study
would certainly prove interesting.
It also matters whether a narrative is presented as historical or fictional.
Some writers of travel accounts are prone to dramatize their allegedly
empirical adventures, thus promoting a register of exoticism (which
is nevertheless claimed as a Romanian reality) while novelists have
attempted a fly-on-the-wall style pretending to the status of political
reportage. These degrees of fictionality obviously influence the reception
of images in the literary sphere, and need to be taken into account too.
Sex, Lies and Stereotypes
The great Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga once remarked that the good
thing about the British in Romania, as opposed to the French, is that they
dont imagine that all the local women are ready to run from one end of
the country to the other and make love to them, simply in order to obtain
the latest fashion magazine or a bottle of Paris perfume.8 This statement
is perhaps only comparatively true. It is not for me to judge whether the
British are vainer than the French: but at the same time there is no denying that sex plays a significant role in British-Romanian relations, or at
least in the British imagination of them. Two memoirs of pre-war Romania published in the 1980s stress the sexual invitingness, which is made to
seem part of nature: Patrick Leigh Fermor recalls rolling in the Transylvanian haystacks with some suitably bucolic peasants;9 while Ivor Porter in
Bucharest remembers
One Sunday morning I walked to the outskirts of the town...I approached
two young women leaning on a fence, the next moment, one of them had
pointed her breast and was squirting milk at me and both were in fits of
laughter. I walked on, dumbfounded. For the rest of the day I kept asking
myself whether this had been a gesture of high spirits or an unfriendly act

8Iorga, Ce datorim crii englese, 8.

9Leigh Fermor, Between the woods and the water, 12930.

sex, lies and stereotypes


directed against a Western intruder. I invented a great deal of political and

moral gobbledegook to sooth my wounded puritanical soul.10

Of the six or so fictional works treating Romania, at least five have as a

major plot feature Anglo-Romanian relations of a particularly close kind.
Olivia Mannings Balkan Trilogy (19601965), certainly the best-known of
these works and the one closest to classic status in the public acception,
revolves around a British Council official, Guy Pringle and his wife Harriet, and the tribulations of their early married life in the Bucharest of
19391940. As Romania moves from dictatorship to dictatorship, and away
from nominal Allied guarantee into the arms of the Germans, the marriage of Guy and Harriet is threatened by the formers liaison with one of
his pupils, the self-pitying and self-promoting Sophie Oresanu. According
to the narrator,
she had the usual Rumanian face, dark-eyed, pasty and too full in the cheeks;
but her manner of seating and holding herself demanded from her the deference due to a beauty. Now that her self-importance was justified, there was
a flaunting of this demand.11

Guys interest in her begins as a gesture of sympathy (she is short of

money and the victim of political oppression within University circles),
but ends up being a risk to the interests of his marriage. It is in the nature
of fiction for the political to be sublimated into the personal. Whether the
leading British characters casual and risky affair should be regarded as an
allegory for the dangers awaiting British political policy, and the need not
to be fooled by pasty-faced dark-eyed nations flaunting their importance
and demanding attention to the detriment of British domestic interests,
is a matter for debate;12 but the image of Romania represented physically,
either as a sexual enticement or a threat, is perhaps characteristic of
British novelists approaches.
Further significant fictions with major Romanian themes did not to my
knowledge appear until after the revolution of 1989. All British novelists
writing about an alien culture have to overcome the problem of making their plot relevant to the preoccupations of their British readership:
10Porter, Operation autonomous, 4. Hammond, British literature and the Balkans, 77,
commenting on my interpretation, finds it overstated, but the examples he proceeds to
adduce seem rather to support my case.
11Manning, Great fortune, 241.
12Cf. Maurice Peartons assessment of Britains agreement to guarantee Romanias
frontiers in March 1939 as a sudden, and to that degree uncharacteristic, response to a
Romanian initiative. Pearton, British policy, 89.


chapter ten

and those who have depicted Romania in the 1990s have addressed this
difficulty largely by treating love relationships between Romanians and
Westerners. Bel Mooneys narrative of 1993, Lost Footsteps,13 features a
Romanian woman, Ana Popescu whose only son was the result of an affair
with a visiting American archaeologist in the 1970s. In 1989, she has her
son taken to Frankfurt where he arrives alone and is registered as a refugee seeking asylum. The novel chronicles her dramatic suffering following
her own failure to escape, and, after the revolution, her Odyssean wanderings in the West in search of her escaped child. The novel is largely narrated through the eyes of the principal Romanian character: the British,
French, German and American characters are viewed ambiguously. British Council officials in Bucharest indulge in questionably sincere flirtation; desire is always hampered by economic considerations and national
interests. Romania is portrayed synecdochically as a helpless, victimized
woman, equally let down by the sympathetic but uncommitted West and
the brutal, abusive man that is the communist state.
Paul Baileys Kitty and Virgil describes the intense and poetic love
between a Romanian refugee poet and an Englishwoman working in publishing in London. The name of the principal Romanian character indicates not only his Romanness but his status as a kind of modern guide to
the underworld. On the romance is superimposed a second theme common to many writings, fictional or otherwise, on Romania: its portrayal
as a kind of nether region of Europe, a Bermuda triangle of the mind, a
place that concentrates all ones anxieties about unnamable dangers and
the darkness of the unknown as one literary traveller put it.14
Perhaps the most interesting take on the idea of Romanian-British relations as being inevitably tinted with romance and subterranean danger is
the novel by Alan Brownjohn, published in 1997, The Long Shadows. The
protagonist, Tim Harker-Jones, is drawn to Romania when researching the
biography of his dead novelist friend, Philip Carston, who, it emerges, had a
powerful emotional attachment to his Romanian translator and portrayed
her in his novel A Time Apart (which she may have helped to co-author)
about a woman from an unspecified east European country visiting England. The biographer visits Romania several times both before and after
1989, but is unable to establish the exact nature of the relationship,

13Mooney, Lost footsteps. The title is an (acknowledged) borrowing from the earlier
escape memoir by Silviu Crciuna, Lost footsteps.
14Hoffman, Exit into history, 232.

sex, lies and stereotypes


which the translator angrily refuses to divulge. Meanwhile, a former British Council official who was party to the novelists visit to Bucharest and
to Trgu Alb (the provincial capital, where the translator lives), has written a play dramatizing the novelist and translators relationship as a passionate and tragic love affair across the Iron Curtain. Thus a variety of
perspectives is achieved on the representation of Anglo-Romanian sexual
relations: it is quite possibly a spiritual affair, but the average liberal mind
would still prefer to cast it as a dramatic sexual entanglement and/or an
act of political defiance. Indeed, the whole question of interpretation and
stereotype is problematized throughout the novel, and to some extent can
be said to constitute its subject.
Another thing all these writers have in common is a tendency towards
literarization of Romania. Also characteristic in this respect is a littleknown short story by one of Britains best-known contemporary writers,
Julian Barnes, entitled One of a kind. A British writer claims to have a
theory about Romania, that it can only produce one genius in any field:
Eminescu in poetry, Ionescu in drama, Enescu in music, Brncui in sculpture, Nstase in tennis, and Ceauescu in communist dictators. He asks
his migr Romanian interlocutor whether there is an equivalent novelist,
and the reply is that there was one great novelist, his childhood friend
Nicolai Petrescu but he was prevented from writing freely under Communism, and produced only one great work, a megalithic epic that was
a tacit comment on the megalithic culture that produced it. The migr
and the novelist had a pact that he would write no more after the success
of his solitary masterpiece. However, the English writers visit to a conference in Bucharest brings the migr bad news: his friend has caved in and
churned out several sequels in order to please the rgime.15
In some cases (Barnes and Brownjohn), the paradoxes of Romanian
literary production under communism are wittily and poignantly treated.
Elsewhere, this literarization is perhaps a product of foreign writers difficulties in representing a little-known culture, both in terms of their own
immersion and familiarisation, and in attempting to convey a particularly
Romanian set of symbols and aesthetic references to their Anglophone
audience. Thus Bel Mooneys Romanian characters cherish memories
of Oltenian rugs or peasant horas, Moldavian monasteries, folklore and

15Barnes, One of a kind.


chapter ten

Mircea Eliade.16 Paul Baileys novel works through a similar stock code
of cherished cultural items by which his poet hero sets store: he quotes
Romanian literature to his lover, teaches her Romanian words and proverbs, and waxes lyrical about the Transylvanian spring and the Village
Museum in Bucharest.17 Romantic, but less than realistic.
This is perhaps less the result of a trend towards postmodernist interest in the problems of textualitynone of the novels under discussion is
particularly innovative technicallythan of a vague sense of admiration
for east European intellectual life in British culture, not always backed
by a deep understanding of the context that produced it. It is certainly
a change from older representationsnineteenth-century English travellers tended to be thoroughly disdainful about literary culture in Romania;18
and Olivia Manning captures an old-school clich well by having one of her
English characters (Inchcape, the director of the British Council in Bucharest) pronounce casually: Theyre quick. But all Rumanians are much of
a muchness. They can absorb facts but cant do anything with them. A

16Mooney, Lost footsteps, 156 (rugs & horas); 193 (folklore); 236, 346 (monasteries); 421
(Mircea Eliade); 464 (Miori). Romanian womens poetry such as is available in English,
from Hlne Vcrescu to Ana Blandiana, is extensively quoted.
17Bailey, Kitty and Virgil: Oltenian carpets, 26, 33; Ion Creang, 26, 1648, 204; plum
brandy, 35, 43; icons, 26; Lucian Blaga, 29; Eminescu, 50, 147, 181ff. (lead character has an
argument with his father over Eminescus nationalism), 251; Mioria, 51, 146, 251; Bacovia,
62, 72, 111, 2512; Roman ancestry meditated upon, 845 (Virgil), 125 (Marcus Aurelius), 262
(Trajan), and passim; Village Museum, 268 (What is not savage in our history is enshrined
there, the lead character tells his lover); Dracula, 113 (Stoker angrily refuted); Romanian
words, 43, 76, 106, 111, 118, 133, 150, 152, 232; Romanian sayings, 116, 120, 154, 186 etc. English
characters quote Hamlet (140) and King Lear (23), and recommend The Hound of the
Baskervilles (112); wicked Hungarian, 146 (accuses Romanians of being thieves and peasants); a folk legend, 185; Russian Skoptsy cab-drivers in Bucharest, 197; Brancui, 237. On
the other hand, Virgil also likes good old English hymns, and the poetry of George Herbert.
Baileys fictional poet has the usual experiences recorded in intellectual exiles memoirs:
when interrogated by the Securitate, he is made to discuss American literature, just as in
Maneas On Clowns, 86; also like Manea (xi) he treasures folk tales as an antidote to Communist ideology.
18The British consul in Bucharest in the first decade of the nineteenth century,
William Wilkinson, averred that an early propensity to learning and literature receives
but little encouragement and had a low opinion of the local versifiers: If any are able to
talk familiarly, though imperfectly, of one or two ancient or celebrated authors, or make
a few bad verses that will rhyme, them assume the title of literati and poets, and they
are looked upon by their astonished countrymen as endowed with superior genius and
abilities (Wilkinson, Account, 129), while in 1877 Berger (A winter, 2112) remarked rather
unjustly that There is no intellectual life whatever here. No conversazione, no scientific
meetings, no lectures, no libraries, no public galleries. And even if there were, there is not
a soul who would go a stones throw for any one of them.

sex, lies and stereotypes


lot of stuffed geese, I call them. An uncreative people.19 Fortunately, this

last prejudice is less in evidence these days: but it seems partially to be
being replaced with one of Romanians as mysterious hyperintellectuals,
which is explained by the joint legacy of communism and peasant origins.
If Alecsandris invented proverb of the 1850s, The Romanian is born a
poet, is less quoted in Romania itself, it remains a thriving myth outside
Romanias borders.
All these fictions are supported by, and sometimes draw their detail
from, the more numerous and popular genre of travel accounts. Thus
some of the circumstantial detail in Olivia Mannings trilogy can be traced
to earlier books on Romania: her descriptions of life on the Prut in 1939
surely owe something to Sacheverell Sitwells book, Roumanian Journey,
published in 1938; in both cases the landscape is Chagall-like, full of empty
horizons, naive painted shop signs, mixed races. Likewise Manning follows Sitwell in describing Sinaia as having a characteristically Russian
feel.20 Elsewhere in her fiction, Manning consciously seeks to debunk the
idyllism and peasant-worship of her predecessors, notably Hall, Sitwell
and Patmore, and indeed the protagonist Harriet Pringle remarks at one
stage on how little the rose-tinted view of Romania propounded in travel
books corresponds to the world she encounters. On the other hand, a
book like Patrick Leigh Fermors Between the Woods and the Water, which
is a memoir, fifty years after, of a journey from London to Constantinople
undertaken in 1934, is very conscious that the territory that he is describing owes much of its mystique to earlier representations in fiction:
how closely the geography of Austria-Hungary and its neighbours approximated to the fictional world of earlier generations! Graustark, Ruritania, Borduria, Syldavia and a score of imaginary kingdoms, usurped by tyrants and
sundered by fights for the trone, leap into mind: plots, treachery, imprisoned
heirs and palace factions abound and, along with them, fiendish monocled
swordsmen, queens in lonely towers, toppling ranges, deep forests, plains
full of half-wild horses, wandering tribes of Gypsies who steal children out
of castles and dye them with walnut-juice or lurk under the battlements and
melt the chatelaines hearts with their strings.21
19Manning, Great fortune, 40.
20Manning, Spoilt city; Sitwell, Roumanian journey, 2224. Goldsworthy also remarked
on the similarities, Inventing, 197. One might also note that the surname Oresanu she
gives to Guys Romanian lover may well be drawn from Starkies Raggle-Taggle, 28392,
which features an encounter with a finance inspector with that name (which is usually
spelt Oreanu, not Oresanu).
21Leigh Fermor, Between the woods, 170. A similar point about Sitwells claims to be
covering unknown territory is made by Ogden, English travel writing.


chapter ten

Despite this profuse citation of literary modelsSaki, Anthony Hope,

Herg, the Hungarian novelist Maurus JkaiLeigh Fermor claims that
the territory he covered was immeasurably old, and at the same time
brand new and totally unknown.22 Being unknown thus becomes one
of Romanias best-known characteristics. Dracula is not explicitly mentioned, but local belief in vampires is affirmed, and their polyglot names
are cited for effect, in a style similar to that of Bram Stoker.23 Leigh Fermors Transylvania is a rose-tinted land, full of Anglophile Hungarian
counts, robust Romanian peasants dressed in white, and long-haired
Gypsies whoimprobably in the 1930s, for the practice died out almost
completely in the late nineteenth centuryare still panning for gold in
the flowing streams.24 This selective antiquarian evocation is designed
partly to commemorate the uniqueness and diversity of a world that disappeared with the arrival of communism; but cannot always serve for a
reliable picture of the past.
Leigh Fermors book is one of the most cited by subsequent writers,
who have grown in number since 1989, although he himself is said to
have been so disgusted after his visit to Bucharest in 1990, that he found
himself unable to write the projected third volume of his travels, covering the ground between the Iron Gates and Istanbul, via Wallachia and
Moldavia.25 As the country received more and more foreign visitors since
the revolution, it is perhaps more difficult for writers to be claiming to
describe the unknown. Instead they may assert a familiarity, derived

22Leigh Fermor, Between the woods, 11.

23Ibid., 124: [Count] Istvn...took me to see an old shepherd, who unfolded tales
of spirits, fairies and werewolves. (Priculici, akin to the Slavonic vrkolak, were named;
they were vampires. And stafi and strigoi, who sounded like a mixture of evil spirits and
ghost; and witches too, if strigoi, like the Italian strega, come from the Latin stryx). All the
country people thereabouts believed in these supernaturals and dreaded them. Cf. Stoker,
Dracula, 7: I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many
nationalities in the crowd; so I quietly got my polyglot dictionary from my bag and looked
them out. I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were OrdogSatan,
pokolhell, stregoicawhich, vrolok and vlkoslakboth of which mean the same thing,
one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either were-wolf or vampire.
(Mem., I must ask the Count about these superstitions).
24For the disappearance of this trade, see Achim, 523, 1234. Contemporary accounts
e.g. Sitwell, Roumanian journey; Hopp, In Gipsy camp; Starkie, Raggle-Taggle; Bercovici,
Story of the Gypsy; Popp Serboianu, Les Tsiganeshowever romanticized, do not claim to
record washers for gold.
25Mentions of Leigh Fermor in Murphy, Transylvania, 12; Crane, Clear waters, 313, 327;
Russell, Prejudice, 57, 81, 111. Perrie, Roads that move, broadly follows Leigh Fermors route.
For the discontinuation of his trilogy, see Lewis, Kindred spirits, 2736.

sex, lies and stereotypes


nevertheless from the same stock of older images. I did not get to Romania until 1994, writes the veteran traveller Jan Morris,
but I felt I knew them well already. They were Frenchified Latins, peculiarly implanted among the Slavs of the East, and they were famously raffish,
intriguing, high-flown, unpredictable and unreliable. At first it seemed to me
that most of their conversations concerned tunnels [...] Louche but devout,
often elegant in a feline waywith women tram-drivers smoking on the
job, and headscarved baboushkas sweeping leaveswith vulpine sellers of
medicinal roots and peasants in high fur hatswith cinematic rogues, coats
over their shoulders, trying to cheat you with financial transactionswith
slyly evasive bureaucrats and delightfuly cynical historianswith conversations bafflingly opaque, and memories almost fictionally improbablethe
Romanians struck me as a cavalcade of everything I thought of as most
unchangeably Balkan.26

Morris deliberately blurs the line between what he may have observed
personally and what might be a foreigners prejudices, a technique which
allows him to project a learned familiarity with the exotic as compensation for the brevity of his encounter. Still, his attitude is at least more
favourable than certain other travellers, such as V.S. Pritchett, whom
Romania annoys almost from the beginning. Adam Nicolson, on an 1985
visit, found the Romanians personal attitude offensive, and remarks that
Personality matches a chute into barbarity on the other side, without
perhaps considering that the construction of personality is an intrinsic
trait of the genre he is practising. Jason Goodwin, on foot in 1991, merely
found that the language set my teeth on edge.27
Over twenty accounts were put out by mainstream publishers in the
years 19852000, although most of them were episodes of more widelyspread travels covering the Balkans or eastern Europe as a whole. Indeed,
such is the pressure of the market in Britain that many of them have
to make their journeys more interesting by choosing eccentric means
of transport: on foot (Jason Goodwin, Nick Crane, Peter OConnor); by
bicycle (Dervla Murphy, Georgina Harding, Brian Hall, Giles Whittell); by
donkey (Sophie Thurnham); even carrying a pig (Rory Maclean). Others
follow the length of the Danube (Guy Arnold), or the Carpathian mountains (Crane).
Some of these accounts are indeed rather superficial, and the historical detail paraded is frequently off-beam: one traveller describes the
26Morris, Fifty years, 151.
27Pritchett, Foreign faces; Nicolson, Frontiers, 208; Goodwin, On foot.


chapter ten

Phanariot rulers of Wallachia and Moldavia as being Islamic Greeks;28

another thinks that Budai-Deleanus iganiada (The Gypsiad, circa 1800)
is acknowledged as the first poem written in Romanian,29 and practically claims to have discovered, single-handedly and against the will of
obstructive historians, the allegedly unknown history of Gypsy slavery,
which is not only mentioned in numerous Romanian history books of the
Communist period, but even by other better-informed British travellers.30
A recent and well-received history of Constantinople refers to Stephen
the Great, Prince of Wallachia, another thinks he is Transylvanian; a third
refers to Iai as his capital city.31 A visitor to the Bukovina in 1991 thinks
the traditional gateways and windows of the peasant houses are evidence
of Brncoveanu style.32 And a biography of Princess Marthe Bibesco,
published in 1997, locates the town of Turnu Severin in Bessarabia.33
Admittedly, the British reading public may not be excessively demanding
when it comes to such detailbut many of these accounts, particularly
the ones written by journalists and which often function in lieu of more
serious political overviews, both claim prestige on account of the arcane
knowledge set forth and refer to history as an explanatory factor in contemporary developments, often with the same irresponsibility as the local
politicians themselves. This carelessness with facts invalidates the conclusion of one traveller, that If it was English to want data, then it was
Romanian to make do with rumours, myths.... Myths add drama to dull
old data, and drama feeds the Romanian soul. It is in fact frequently the
imprecision of many of the English authors that creates this perspective;
just as the attribution of passivity to the Romanian is often the product of

28Gardner, Curtain calls, 73.

29Fonseca, Bury me standing, 175. The first printed poem (i.e. leaving aside the question
of oral poetry and song of doubtless much older date) in Romanian is generally acknowledged to be Stihuri pentru stema rii (Verses on the Countrys Coat of Arms), probably
by the Metropolitan Varlaam, published in his compilation The Romanian Book of Teaching at Iai in 1643.
30Ibid., 17486; but earlier mention in Nicolson, Frontiers, 209.
31Mansel, Constantinople, 149; Gardner, Curtain calls, 83; Russell, Prejudice, 64.
32Drysdale, Looking for Gheorghe, 75. Brncoveanu style is actually an ornate late
17th-century local variation on Ottoman and Venetian baroque styles, found in Wallachian monasteries and country houses; revived at the turn of the 20th century and called
33Sutherland, Enchantress, 36. This error was at least picked up by a reviewer, Noel
Malcolm in the Sunday Telegraph, who rightly pointed out that this was like saying Southampton is in Scotland.

sex, lies and stereotypes


the position of the foreign describer rather than an objectively observable

Other travellers, however, seek to ridicule this telescoping approach to
history, such as the hiker Nick Crane, who speculates, on hearing that the
ancient Dacians communicated with their deity by ritually throwing messengers onto a cluster of spears, as to whether this explains the vigour
with which Romanians have adopted the public telephone.35
Elsewhere, one tends to meet with a good deal of generalization along
the same lines from traveller to traveller. Numerous writers feel obliged
to mention Ionesco and Dadaism, as some kind of invariable explanation
for the parts of Romanian life they dont understand.36 In other accounts,
intellectual life is richly reported and opinions presented for the reader
to judge: such subjects as Romanian Protochronism,37 or the relation of
the intelligentsia38 and the clergy39 to political power are given a nuanced
treatment, and not all writers fall into the trap of allowing a single encounter to stand for an entire national characteristic.
It is tempting from a specialists perspective to find evidence in these
contradictions of a derogatory, even pernicious representation of Romanian life. But such an interpretation would be the victim of the partiality
it seeks to criticise. A classic case of this can be seen in the various academic debates arising over the real nature of the Bucharest portrayed by
Olivia Manning. Many travellers cite this work as a sumptuous evocation
of a lost 1930s paradise;40 specialists in Romanian history, on the other
hand, have seized upon it as a legitimate rebuff to the myth of The Paris
34Herzfeld, Anthropology, 49ff. An acute analysis of theories of Romanian passivity by
Deletant, Fatalism and passiveness.
35Crane, Clear waters, 299300.
36Barnes, One of a kind; Russell, Prejudice, 125; Mooney, Lost footsteps, 318, 432;
Drysdale, Looking for Gheorghe, 80, 156, 170; Brownjohn, The dark shadows, 321, all cite
Ionesco and/or Dadaism as something originally and characteristically Romanian; Daniels,
Wilder shores, prefers reference to Gogol (88), Lewis Carroll (77 & 106) and Kafka (81), but
the connotationsa cruel, mad, fictional worldare similar, as they are for Chamberlain,
In the Communist mirror.
37Daniels, Wilder shores, 98100.
38Daniels (for the late 1980s); Hoffman (for 1990) are both valuable in this respect.
39Murphys encounters with Orthodox priests, for instance (Transylvania, 1134) suggest a discrepancy in the degree of support given to the Ceauescu rgime by the clergy
at rural and lite levels; Runcimans memoir of visits to Romanian Patriarchs under communism is sensitive to the different attitudes of Patriarchs Justin (19771986), and Teoctist
(1986present day) (A travellers alphabet, 12939). This book is also well worth consulting
for reminiscences of such figures as Queen Marie, Marthe Bibesco and Nicolae Iorga in
the 1930s.
40Drysdale, Looking, 54; Daniels, Wilder shores, 801; Hoffman, Exit, 256.


chapter ten

of the East, dwelling instead on its portraits of dirty, dusty boulevards and
starving peasants.41 But surely one of the novels virtues is the fact that it
represents many Bucharests: the prejudices of both Romanian and English characters are dramatized, and counterpoint each other continuously.
When British characters criticise the locals and attribute to them qualities
of laziness and dishonesty, counter-examples are brought to bear. Some
of the Romanian characters are casually anti-semiticbut not all of them
behave in this way. Some idealize the peasantry (Guy), others (Drucker,
Dobson) condemn them as idle beasts. If we see a Romanian character is
portrayed as lazy, gluttonous or dishonest, Manning the novelist does not
seize upon this as truth but for the fact that the behaviour conforms to
an image held by a Westerner: Yakimov was delighted to observe that she
did everything a woman of Oriental character was reputed to do.42 In this
case, as in many of the more sophisticated works on Romania in general,
prejudice is represented rather than simply perpetuated.
Beyond the weak historical explanations and the tendency towards
generalization, then, the more intelligent writers are able to illustrate the
diversity of opinions on Romanias identity and its future without declaring a definitive and damning verdict of their own. Many accounts are
written up within an inevitably fragmentary and subjective viewpoint,
but benefit at the same time from the spontaneity of direct contacts and a
position of detachment.43 In conclusion, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one
may say that if there is one thing worse for Romania than being written
about by the British, then that is not being written about. It is to be hoped
that future travel accounts and fictional portrayals are able to build on
the diversity and plurality of their predecessors representations, and that
a more sophisticated and consistent picture will prevent Romania from
returning to being a marginal blur on the retina of the Western vision.

41Boia, Istorie i mit, 215; Veiga, Istoria Grzii de Fier, 282, cites Mannings novel as
factual evidence of poverty and desperation among the peasantry in 1939; Deletant, introduction to Marea ansa, likewise sees Mannings vision as a negative one, and provides
some possible explanations.
42Manning, The great fortune, 202.
43Cernovodeanu, Image de lautre, 585.

sex, lies and stereotypes


Table 5.Articles in The Times about Romania, 19961998.

Index title



Article about




Bombs & explosions






Defence/Aircraft &






Economic Situation








Food & Drink






Volunteers praised
Blue Peter Romania Appeal funds
New life-forms in Mangalia cave
Ill-treated bears
16 workers killed at military airfield in
all orphanages/adoption/child-smuggling
learning patterns among Rom. orphans in
Arms contracts; NATO expansion
Helicopter to be named after vampire;
NATO expansion 5.
British to help train Romanian army
Ceauescus old clothes go to leper colony
British trucks have drugs planted on
them in Rom.
Sale of Ceauescu artefacts to boost
Internet project; student describes
summer teaching (THES)
Minority language problems (THES)
Ditto 5 (THES); Hun. lang. issue cd.
endanger govt (as Politics).
103 illegal immigrants caught entering UK
Retracts 1997 statement that Tkes was
informer (see Politics)
Five Romanian prisoners die drinking
methylated spirits
Romanian membership of Francophone
Criminals develop lice to avoid jail










Romania angered by Dracula centenary

President urges citizens responsibility for
street children
Swarm of bees causes closure of national
Contestatory letter following feature on
Nina Cassian
Traffic policeman stops thieves with toy


chapter ten

Table 5 (cont.)
Index title



Article about



National Flags


Nuclear Energy


Politics &






Race relations



Rom National Opera

Royal Family



Sexual Offences


Special Reports




Switzerland, rels. w.




Travel & Tourism






British aid worker in manslaughter charge

after road accident; Constana human
rights lawyer decapitated
Clinton mistakes revolutionary flag for
First Romanian nuclear power station
4 re. elections; 5 re. Ilie Nastase; Caramitru
is made minister
NATO expansion 5 (as Defence); King
Michaels return 3; Lszl Tkes said
to be Securitate informer; (letter) ousted
British Conservative govt. should be sent
to Romania.
Hun. lang. issue (cf. Education); Ciorbea
resigns; Vasile PM.
Causes of Gypsy exodus to Britain
BBC Radio helps Romania devise soap
Programme + letter praising performance
Princess Margaritas marriage + 3 letters
re. her royal status
Essex vicar arrested in Bucharest
suspected of paedophilia
Economic investment supplement + 3
contestatory letters
Rom. & Bul. Students join Erasmus
mobility scheme (THES)
Swiss ambassadors liaison w. Romanian
Mata Hari
Paintings stolen in 1969 from Brukenthal
Museum found in US
Unspoilt countryside; article follows travel
writers tracks
Ceausescu lifestyle holidays; trips to
Peoples Palace
Volunteers praised (as Aid and Charities)
U.K. Foreign Secretary to visit Balkans;
King Michael pleads for Romanias entry
into NATO + letter (all as Politics)
Prince of Wales visit 2; British training
(as Defence)

UK, rels. with

sex, lies and stereotypes


Table 5 (cont.)
Index title



USA rels. with



Article about
Hilary Clintons visit + photo
Clinton visit (as Politics/NATO); Poncho
gaffe (as National Flags)

Source: The Times Index. Reading, UK: Primary Source Media, 1996, 1997, 1998. The index
covers the following publications: Times (daily newspaper); Sunday Times (Sunday newspaper); The Times Literary Supplement (weekly review); The Times Educational Supplement
(a weekly supplement for teachers & the educational profession); The Times Higher Educational Supplement (a weekly review for university lecturers & the higher educational
profession). The circulation of the Times and the Sunday Times is near to a million whereas
that of the supplements is nearer 50,000. This Index by no means covers all references to
Romania, but rather records articles in which Romania is a principal subject of the article.
From the Times itself only the main news section (home & foreign, leading articles, letters, obituaries and some other parts) is indexed, and not sport, business, features. Thus
the footballing reference cited in the second paragraph of this article was not found in
the Index. The literature heading contained for 1998 a letter contesting the comportment
of the Romanian poet Nina Cassian under the Communist regime, but not the original
article, a feature on Cassian, which provoked the letter. Of 39 articles on NATO accession
recorded for 1997, 6 featured Romania specifically and in detail; others may have included
incidental or summary mention of the country. In this sense the survey I have undertaken
is not completely representativebut offers a rough guide to what one newspaper and its
supplements considered newsworthy and characteristic of Romania in recent years.
More recently, Siani-Davies, Tabloid tales has analysed the British popular presss reaction to the 1989 revolution; and good critical surveys of the German and Dutch print media
have been made by Salden, Kriminell, corrupt und rckstndig, and Bosma, Onbekend
makt onbemind.

Chapter eleven

Paradoxes of Occidentalism: On Travel and Travel

Writing in Ceauescus Romania*
Can we talk about a unitary Romanian image of the West in the Cold
War period? Any investigation of the image of the other needs to specify the range and nature of sources, as well as the limits of the source
base. The few existing studies on Romanian views of the outside world
under the communist regime tend to treat the early (pre-1965) period and
stress the negative light in which the West was portrayed in official propaganda as against an idealised private view.1 The most detailed study
of ideology in Ceauescus Romania, while offering a highly complex and
nuanced interpretation, maintains nonetheless that in 1970s and 1980s
Romania to be against the regime had become synonymous with being proEuropean, whereas Ceauescu and those in factions more or less allied
with him ranted against Western imports and the Europeanising obliteration of the national soul.2
Here I use a previously neglected type of source, namely published and
unpublished accounts of travel to western Europe and the wider world in
the period 19481989, to suggest a slightly different line of thinking about
the public image of the West in late communist Romania.3 Short of a complete survey, I have laid emphasis on establishing a base of materials so
that research may develop in different directions henceforth. Examination of several of these accounts suggests that the pronounced development of a strong national ideology under Ceauescu was not necessarily
incompatible with writing extensively about western Europe or even with
the production of a pro-European discourse, often by the same writers.
Although there are detailed bibliographies of the communist period,4
there is no detailed guide to travel literature published in Romania from
*In The Balkans and the West, ed. A. Hammond (Aldershot, 2004), 6980 and then in
In and out of focus, ed. D. Deletant (Bucharest, 2005), 183200.
1Onioru, Vin americanii!; ru, Caricatura i politica extern.
2Verdery, National ideology, 2.
3The theme has become less neglected since first publication of this chapter: see e.g.
Guentcheva, Images of the West; Bracewell, New men, Old Europe; and some studies in
Pteri, ed. Imagining.
4Popa, Ceauescus Romania; for a general guide see Deletant, Romania, 2617.


chapter eleven

1948 to 1989. Perhaps more seriously, there are not to my knowledge any
recent scholarly studies of the legal framework and sociological practice
of travel during this period.5 However, information extracted from other
bibliographies may give us an idea of the number of travel accounts published in different years; of the kinds of places travel writers went to; and
the kinds of things they said.6 Thus, a bibliography of recommended works
for public libraries issued in 1964 contained a limited number of books of
reportage and accounts of journeys, dedicated almost exclusively to highly
favourable descriptions of the countries of the Communist Bloc.7 Examples
include the Soviet travels of major prose writers like Mihail Sadoveanu,
George Clinescu, George Oprescu, Cezar Petrescu, Zaharia Stancu and
Geo Bogza;8 established socialists like Scarlat Callimachi, and Dumitru
Corbea;9 or younger figures like Victor Brldeanu, Ioan Grigorescu,
A.E. Baconsky, and Traian Coovei.10 Others issued Pages from Korea;
Notes from the Bulgarian Peoples Republic; On the Margin of the Gobi
Desert or reported from Cuba, the free territory of America.11 Poland was
considered The Phoenix Bird by Ioan Grigorescu but Portugal appears
hardly to have been considered at all let alone Great Britain or Holland.12
Although the quantity of travel books published was relatively small, it
was clearly considered a significant genre with a major didactic function
to play as all important Romanian writers practised it, including poets
such as Tudor Arghezi, Nina Cassian, Demostene Botez and Tiberiu Utan.13
5Some miscellaneous but valuable first-hand observations from different perspectives
in Hale, Ceauescus Romania, 1068; Neuberg, Heroes children, 89, 1156, 329; Deletant,
Ceauescu and the Securitate, preface. On micul trafic, i.e. legal small-trade border crossings: Chelcea & Lea, Romnia profund, 191207; on the German exodus: Hartl, Zum
Exodus der Deutschen; on forcing dissidents to emigrate: Scarfe, Dismantling.
6My basic source for this period is the fortnightly bulletin Bibliografia R.S. Romania;
Bibliografia literaturii romne. See also Gafia & Bnulescu, Scriitori romni contemporani.
7Gafia & Bnulescu, Scriitori.
8Sadoveanu, Caleidoscop; Clinescu, Kiev, Moscova, Leningrad; idem, Am fost n
China nou; Oprescu, Jurnal; Petrescu, nsemnri; Stancu, Cltorind; Bogza, Meridiane.
Clinescus fraternal travel writings are conspicuously absent both from the 17volume
edition of his Opere put out in the 1960s; and from the 1978 anthology of his travel writing
entitled nsemnri de cltorie. This gives an idea of how such early Russophile texts were
already being marginalized by editorial strategies under Ceauescu.
9Callimachi, Un cltor; Corbea, Anotimpuri.
10Brldeanu, Aerul tare; Grigorescu, Scrisoare din Moscova; idem, nvinsul Terek;
Baconsky, Cltorii; Coovei, Dimensiuni.
11Porumbacu, Drumuri i zile; Nedelcu, nsemnri; Ru, La marginea deertului Gobi;
Popovici, Cuba.
12Grigorescu, Pasrea Fenix.
13Arghezi, Din drum; Cassian, Dialogul vntului cu marea; Botez, Prin U.R.S.S; Utan, Kaimazarova.

paradoxes of occidentalism


Their topographical compositions attemped to establish an aesthetic geography favouring the Communist Bloc and ignoring the West. The spirit
of the era may be said to be encapsulated in the lines written by the poet
Eugen Jebeleanu:
O thought, thy wing
Beats only towards Moscow.14

Only those holding senior positions in the field of culture were able to
publish accounts of the non-communist world. Thus in the mid-1950s
Mihai Ralea (18961964, a literary critic and philosopher who had been
Arts minister in the early communist government of Petru Groza, subsequently Romanian ambassador in the USA and France, Vice-president of
the Grand National Assembly and President of the Romanian National
Commission for UNESCO) published a book of travels about the Far West
of the Americas15 and another work on France.16 The latter, although
more a series of philosophical reflections on Frances historical destiny
(revolutionary, of course, rather than the sick man of the West) drew
extensively on Raleas personal experience and emphasized his access to
first-hand knowledge.17 Likewise Horia Stancuson of socialist-realist
novelist and then director of the National Theatre Zaharia Stancuaired
his impressions of Scandinavia.18 Eugen Frunz, politician and director
of the review Flacra [The Flame], published an account of a trip to
West Germany in 1959.19 Demostene Botez, a leading poet and director
of the review Viaa Romneasc [Romanian Life], issued a book of verse
dedicated to Romanian-Bulgarian friendship entitled Rainbow over the
Danube20 and published further poems about Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in his 1958 volume Prin ani [Through years], as well as a whole book on
his Soviet travels;21 but also managed to have his impressions of Marseilles

14Gndul, aripa ta /Bate doar spre Moscova. Jebeleanu, Zboar gnd (1953).
15Ralea, n extremul occident.
16Idem, Cele dou Frane. A French edition, entitled Visages de France and prefaced by
Roger Garaudy, was published in Paris in 1959.
17Shortly afterwards Raleas impressions of Egypt, Holland, England and Spain (undertaken before the communist takeover and published as Nord-Sud in 1945) were re-edited
in his selected writings: Scrieri din trecut.
18Stancu, Cltorind prin rile Nordului.
19Frunz, Oameni i cri.
20 Botez, Curcubeu; idem, Prin ani.
21 Idem, Prin U.R.S.S.


chapter eleven

from the late 1920s published in a French review22 while his Carnet23 of
1961 contained verses inspired by a trip to Paris. Alexandru Siperco, Romanias representative on the International Olympic Committee, published
travel notes on Sweden, France, Italy and Mexico in 1959;24 two years
later, senior literary critic and Director of the Romanian Academy Library
Tudor Vianus Jurnal included a description of a visit to Vienna as well as
ones to Moscow and New Delhi.25 This limited demarcation of access to
and permission to describe the West obviously led, within the intellectual
sphere, to a privileging of travel, which became marked out as a source of
authority and a badge of significance.
So things were changing, but slowly, in conformity with the partial
opening up of Romanian foreign and economic policy towards the West
in the 1960s. In 1956 the Youth Publishing House [Editura Tineretului]
inaugurated the series n jurul lumii [Around the World], dedicated to
works of reportage and travel, with the work Meridiane sovietice by the
classic socialist writer Geo Bogza; but soon afterwards it began to publish
books first about the non-aligned world (e.g. Nicolae Moraru on South
America,26 or Raja Nicolaus notes on India);27 then works about western Europe28 and the United States,29 although Romanian readers had to
wait until 1966 for a travel book about Yugoslavia.30 As for the big sister,
France, by 1967 a Romanian-American commentator was able to observe
that There are no political dangers connected with the restoration of
the French image.31 One of the first book-length accounts of America,
22Idem, Marseille il y a trente ans. In 1965 the volume from which these impressions
were drawn (n cutarea mea) was republished in idem, Chipuri i mti.
23Idem, Carnet.
24Siperco, Note de drum.
25Vianu, Jurnal, 969.
26Moraru, n lumea contrastelor.
27Nicolau, Strbtnd India.
28Stancu, Cltorind; Siperco, Note de drum; Popescu, Drumuri europene.
29Sidorovici & Brucan, America; Grigorescu, Cocteil Babilon. Several chapters of the
latter were reprinted in Grigorescus Zigzag pe mapamond, which also covered Indonesia, Cyprus, Poland, Greece, the Caucasus, France and India. Grigorescu went on to front
a popular television programme Spectacolul lumii [The Spectacle of the World] with
numerous accompanying books; in 1998 he became Romanian ambassador to Poland.
He reworked and extended his account of his American travels in Dilema american, but
using much of the original copy: comparison of this relatively favourable text with the
original 1963 version would make an interesting exercise.
30Brldeanu, De la Dunre la Adriatica. Several other relatively favourable descriptions of Yugoslavia appeared shortly afterwards: Arghezi, Pai prin lume, 23361; cf. Porumbacu, Drumuri i zile, 4773; Plopeanu, Secvene iugoslave.
31Fischer-Galai, France and Rumania, 114.

paradoxes of occidentalism


Ioan Grigorescus Cocteil Babilon, although it provided strong critiques of

automobile culture, the race question, U.S. foreign policy and the urban
slums of New York, revealed that after the Soviet train,...the American
train is possibly the most comfortable in the world (79) and that Coca
or Pepsi-Cola are cold drinks which, although frequently and unilaterally
evoked at home as liquours of damnation, have nothing wicked about
them (152).
The change in attitude and geocultural orientation was evident in the
publication strategies of a conformist writer like the poet and essayist
A.E. Baconsky. In 1968 Baconsky published two volumes entitled (in the
original) Remember, which were extremely similar in appearance but quite
different in content. The first was subtitled Jurnal de cltorie [Travel
Journal] and reprintedwith modificationssome of his previously published description of Korea, China, the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. The
second was subtitled Fals jurnal de cltorie [False Travel Journal] and
described Florence, Rome, Venice, Paris, Salzburg, Graz and Vienna. The
idea of a text falsifying generic conventions had been used by Romanian
avant-garde writers in the 1930s such as Eugen Ionescu32 and Benjamin
Fondane33 to imply the inadequate representational possibilities of traditional forms and, on a more metaphysical level, a crisis of the real. (It was
later used in an ironic sense by the writer Costache Olreanu in a book
about not going anywhere in particular).34 Here, Baconsky claimed that he
did so because his two months spent in the West were not a journey, but
an interior adventure.35 He appeals to a subversive avant-garde practice,
with the possible implication that he would like to tell the reader more
but that circumstances do not permit; but also allowing the interpretation
that an account of the West could not be as realistic as a description of
the East.
It certainly raised pointedly the question of which cultural hemisphere
would dominate the construction of epistemic value: a burning one for
writers and well as politicians if they wished to continue to publish.
Meanwhile, around the same time, former proletcultist poet and cultural commissar Mihai Beniuc stopped publishing eulogies to the Soviet
Union and produced instead two volumes of topographical verse about
32Ionescu, Fals itinerar critic, in idem, Nu.
33Fondane, Faux trait desthtique.
34Olreanu, Fals manual. I was unable to consult Pdureanus Discuii din priviri
False note de cltorie, to discover what was false about these travel notes.
35Baconsky, Remember. Fals jurnal, 7.


chapter eleven

Transylvanian locations: In the Cuc Valley (1959) and The Apuseni Mountains (1965). His rather hackneyed 1967 poem Apusuri, rsrituri [Wests,
Easts] summed up much of the sense of ambiguity and shifting points of
referentiality of the decade:
West, Easts, stars...
Movement below, movement above
And I, moving between them,
Lost and gone.
What the outcome will be, fate will decide!36

Whatever hand fate may have had in deciding the course of events, the
approximate scholarly consensus is that, following a relative thaw from
the mid 1960s, the Romanian Communist leadership under Nicolae
Ceauescu attempted to exercise increasingly repressive methods of symbolic control through a stronger nationalist discourse from the early 1970s,
and entered a phase of extreme isolation from the rest of the world during
the 1980s.37 One might then expect that the production of accounts of the
world in late Communist Romania would follow this pattern, and that
fewer descriptions of the West would appear, alongside possibly negative
caricatures of the capitalist world.
What is curious is that the number of books published in Romania
describing voyages to foreign countries, including the West, suffered no
decline in the 1980s.38 It may not have became automatically easier or
more fashionable to write about western Europe as time went by: indeed,
what happened more precisely was that Romanian travellers continued
throughout the 1970s and 1980s to visit, write about and publish accounts
of a wide number of countries, including Thailand, Canada, Australia,
Greece, Scandinavia, Turkey, Italy or Britain while the Eastern Bloc
countries received considerably reduced treatment.39 I mentioned earlier

36Apusuri, rsrituri, 57. The title may also be translated as Sunsets, sunrises, possibly
containing reference to Beniucs fluctuating career, as he was demoted in 1965 from his
post as President of the Writers Union.
37By scholarly consensus I mean that the analyses of Verdery, National ideology,
98134; Deletant, Romania, 145ff; Shafir, Romania; and Gabanyi, The Ceauescu cult, do not
seriously differ over periodisation, although they may offer different types of explanation
for what happened.
38This affirmation is based on approximate counts of titles I have extracted from
Bibliografia R.S. Romnia. Cri.
39I have not systematically researched images of the other produced in newspapers or
television in communist Romania but a short time spent browsing the periodical publications bulletin, Bibliografia R.S. Romnia. periodice i seriale, suggested to me that focus on

paradoxes of occidentalism


that the traveller Ioan Grigorescus 1961 work The Phoenix Bird was about
Poland; in 1970 the same author published Inflammable Phoenix which
described a flight over the North Pole and to Japan.40
In 1973 a specialist publishing imprint, the Editura pentru turism was
set up within the central state system, changing its name to Sport-Turism
in 1975 and producing a large number of works on internal and foreign
travel and tourism as well as auxiliary works like language manuals and
regional histories. The average annual output for book-length accounts
of foreign lands by all publishers in the Socialist Republic was about 20
books, a small proportion of the total market but enough reading matter to keep an enthusiastic public quite busy. This period also saw the
reprinting or translation for the first time into Romanian of such classics of world travel writing as Captain Cook, Sterne, Casanova, Alexander
von Humboldt, Dickens, Charles Darwin, Jules Verne, Antoine de SaintExupry, Ilya Ehrenburg or Francis Chichester. There was an emphasis
on exploration which to some extent fitted within the confines of communist reverence for progress and science but also enabled a focus on
Western travellers. Moreover, an academic discourse on Romanian travel
writing reemerged for the first time since the 1930s, with critical surveys
and anthologies being produced;41 and even, in 1985, a historical dictionary of Romanian travellers and explorers.42
The explanation behind this apparent anomaly may be simpler than at
first meets the eye: the success of Ceauescus personality cult depended
heavily on the idea that under his leadership the country had found a
place in the world order and its topography and culture were comparable to the traditionally great civilizations.43 As the Romanian Communist Party programme of 1975 put it, The RCP will most consistently work
for broad cooperation among all European states, based on full equality,
mutual observance of independence, non-interference in internal affairs
and mutual advantage.44 Strategies for inserting Romanian cultural
the Communist bloc was stronger at newspaper level than on the level of monographs, and
slightly more favourable. Obviously further research may refine or alter this conclusion.
40Grigorescu, Fenix inflamabil.
41Hilt, Cltori i exploratori; Zalis, Scriitori pelerini; Tebeica, Romni pe apte continente; Sngeorzan, Pelerini romni; Borda, Cltorie; Anghelescu, Cltori romni n
Africa; Cazimir, ed. Drumuri i zri; Berindei, ed. Cltori romni paoptiti. Critical study
of the subject had been inaugurated by Iorga, Romnii n strintate; and Potra, Cltori
42Borda, Cltori i exploratori.
43The interpretation of Gabanyi, Ceauescu cult, 879; and Brnzeu, Corridors, 1011.
44Programme of the Romanian Communist Party, 203.


chapter eleven

products into a context of global significance varied: some might write

about the West in order implicitly to declare its inferiority to Romania,
while others might, through a sophisticated appreciation of Western culture juxtaposed with a treatment of Romanian themes, suggest lines of
comparability or even ways to imitate or learn from the West.45 Apart
from anything else, this travel writing received its legitimacy from the
travel patterns not only of the elite of cultural commissars but also from
that of Ceauescu himself, who made no fewer than 103 official foreign
visits during his first 17 years in office, to places as far apart as Washington
and Pyong Yang, as Zaire (where he was awarded the National Order of
the Leopard) and Luxembourg (where the Order of the Golden Lion of
Nassau was conferred upon him).46
But the travel writers themselves took a more sophisticated approach
than simply motivating their activity and their discourse in these terms.
Obviously, in a culture where formal and severe limitations on foreign
travel operated, there could be little open discussion of how the author
had managed to make it abroad; discussions about buying tickets, changing flights or being met at airports tended to be framed in a tone of curiosity which nevertheless did not make such contexts appear unusual.47
More often texts or sections of text open with epigrammatic generalities
about the place visited, with an insouciant air, as if people talk like this
all the time, for instance about Italy:
All summer long Italy belongs to the tourists.48
The gigantic prism of Italy has managed to refract all the worlds landscapes, the Peninsula decanting the symmetries of an anthropomorphic
Sicily is the southern pole of Italy just as Venice represents its northern
45A good description of general strategies for discussing the West, present in most
domains of cultural production under Ceauescu, and a materialist reading of the stakes
of the argument, in Verdery, National Ideology, 17982. More particularly on the idea of
Romanias image in the West, Rosts, Internal Perception.
46Gabanyi, Ceauescu cult, loc. cit. Documentation is available in the 2volume publication by Ceauescu, O politic de pace.
47Such discussions tend to be met with more frequently in accounts that present
themselves in private diary mode: e.g. Giurescu, Jurnal de cltorie; Marino, Prezene
48Novceanu, Noaptea, 13.
49Balaci, Jurnal italian, 5.
50Paler, Drumuri prin memorie, 15. In Naples, however, Paler admitted that to operate
mechanically with the notions North and South becomes dangerous here. Naples refuses
categorization (96).

paradoxes of occidentalism


Or about Britain:
Unlike Rome, which does not hide its age, London and Paris appear, on first
contact, to be capitals of the 19th century.51
I once defined travel in Italy as an archetypal journey in which analogy
and generalization constitute the most important operations that experience has to work with.
What distinguishes travel in England from all other travel is, I would
say, precisely the absence or rather the inutility of such operations or
Whenever I am in London, my steps lead me to the Tate Gallery. For this
haven of art on the banks of the Thames, I have nurtured, ever since my
adolescent years, a secret and endless love.53

As many of the authors of such texts were professional academics abroad

on a more or less formalised exchange schemes, these gambits of abstraction reinforce their professional status as arbitrators and definers of such
matters, while the fact of travelling both provides the opportunity for the
summoning of empirical evidence and confirms the success of the intellectual in having arrived somewhere. Such examples indicate the intelligent
mixture of an apparently open, confessional subjectivity with the implicit
engagement in a series of civilizational comparisons within a framework of
assumed knowledge. They also, of course, reinforce the categories within
which comparison is undertaken, particularly that of national character.
Elsewhere, however, cultural difference is asserted against comparability,
in another opening in the philosophical register:
Cities look different from each other not because they are placed differently
in a geographical sense, nor because their parks and buildings follow different styles, or because their history was different in each caseall these are
nothing but negligible consequences or insignificant premises: towns do not
look alike because each one of them has a different, ineffable soul, which
cannot be compared.54

Despite herself, however, this well-travelled author, Ana Blandiana, is

indulging explicitly in a comparative exercise. The poetic prose pieces
anthologised in her 1987 Cities of syllables juxtapose miscellaneous
51Duu, Modele, imagini, priveliti, 166.
52Dumitrescu-Buulenga, Periplu umanistic, 159.
53Arsenescu, Chipuri, imagini, priveliti, 75.
54Blandiana, Orae de silabe, 25. These texts were published earlier under the notquite-candid title of Cea mai frumoas din lumile posibile (The best of all possible worlds),
which plays on not one but two ambiguities: 1) which the best of all possible worlds might
be; 2) whether the irony of Voltaires famous phrase should be upheld or withheld.


chapter eleven

thoughts on cities from Washington, Santa F and Philadelphia to Paris,

Venice, Messina and Madrid; but also on Romanian locations such as Alba
Iulia, Hui, and Bucharest, with much more reduced mention of Communist Bloc cities (about six pages on Russian cities, half a page on Prague,
and another on a town in Czechoslovakia whose name the author cannot
remember).55 Blandiana includes a meditation on the difference between
America and Europe (criterion: different attitudes towards grass in the
urban environment)56 but the East-West divide within Europe is not
alluded to whatsoever.
Other writers use this technique of juxtaposing travels inside and outside Romania, or within and without the Communist Bloc, to induce a
notion of the normality or even the splendour of the former. For instance,
journalist tefan Berceanu, in a volume significantly entitled Towards the
Good Regions, interleaves acounts of a visit to a Rembrandt exhibition
in Paris in 1969 with a holiday in the Romanian town Rmnicu Vlcea,
which latter enabled Berceanu to sense the process of transformation and
becoming of our nation.57 After Rome, Berceanu goes to Bucharest; after
Paris, to the Romanian seaside; the eternal return. Likewise, Ceausecu
eulogist Adrian Punescu described his journey to Vienna but also praised
the Romanian countryside in his work From Brca to Vienna and Back,
Brca being the Bessarabian village in which he was born.58 But then he
had a high example to follow: Nicolae Ceauescus younger brother Florea,
also a journalist, published a book in 1982 entitled Travelling through the
world which opens with an essay in praise of the recently-built Bucharest
metro, followed by enthusiastic accounts of the treasures of Uzbekistan,
Slovenia, Prague, Thuringia, the Rhine Valley, Madrid, China, North Korea
and Mexico.59
It is true that Florea did write other books concentrating more particularly on the communist bloc;60 but this was not the general trend and
the mixture of communist and non-communist locations was far more
common. Other examples include one-time President of the Journalists
Union Nestor Ignats Travellers Album, which takes us to Mexico but

55Blandiana, Orae, 324, 889, 1267, 1378, 1634; 534, 1567.

56Blandiana, Orae, 967.
57Berceanu, Spre bunele trmuri, 24.
58Punescu, De la Brca la Viena i napoi.
59Ceauescu, Drumeind prin lume.
60E.g. Popasuri n Balcan; Izbnda n step; Magistrala Baikal-Amur.

paradoxes of occidentalism


also to Mozarts Vienna, to Paris but also to Dubrovnik;61 or the highlyreputed poet Gheorghe Tomozeis Travels in a Hot-Air Balloon, in which
you can read about Hollywood, Berlin, Bruges, the Holy Land, Bulgaria,
Czechoslovakia, Italy, Russia, West Germany, Yugoslavia, Paris, Hungary,
Poland, Greece, and finally Romania, ending with a section on Ipoteti
(the Moldavian birthplace of national poet Mihai Eminescu) seen from
the cosmos.62 Similarly, linguist Alexandru Rosettis Journeys and Portraits
covered Greece, India, Israel, the U.S.A., Albania, Africa, and Brazil as well
as France, Britain and Germany.63 It was as if the Cold War did not exist
in Romania and globalization had arrived early: an ideological position
which sat well with Nicolae Ceauescus protestations of independence
and claims to have surmounted the EastWest divide.
It is to this aspect of Ceauescus ideological posturing that veteran
traveller Ioan Grigorescus rather oblique reflections, on the occasion of a
visit to the Great Wall of China, surely refers:
I see once more the Great Wall of China, this dragon of stone placed to
straddle the mountains, following only the peaks, avoiding the valleys, and
I understand the worthlessness of walls erected between peoples, just as the
iron curtain or the bamboo curtain have proven flimsy. We no longer need
walls or curtains between men. People need to communicate; nothing is
more contrary to human nature than xenophobia and isolation.64

Different travellers gave different and more or less veiled explanations

for what they were doing. According to the literary critic Adrian Marino,
writing after the fall of Ceauescu about the tone he adopted in his travel
texts published in the 1970s, the ostensibly unruffled mode was a potentially subversive strategy:
to lead, as far as possible, a normal intellectual life, independent and active,
in harsh conditions of controlled culture and repression is one of the hardest enterprises to undertake in any totalitarian regime in the world. [...]
to introduce and maintain, in other words, a minimum European spirit

61Ignat, Din albumul unui cltor. The contrasts are put in evidence on the books dust
jacket which bears images of a Breughel painting, Quetzalcoatl, some unlocalizable fishermen, and the city of Dubrovnik.
62Tomozei, Cltorii cu dirijabilul.
63Rosetti, Cltorii i portrete. This edition collected a series of Rosettis travel publications from 1938 to 1973, which enjoyed at least five editions in the communist period
(Definitive edition, 1983).
64Grigorescu, Al cincilea punct cardinal, 402. Cf. Programme of the Romanian Communist Party, 204: Europe cannot be divided; it must remain a single entity, in order to ensure
peace and security.


chapter eleven
in Romania in conditions of isolation, autarchy, anti-Europeanism, antiintellectualism, ruralization, egalitarianism and Ceauist chauvinism.65

Which is all very well except that the regime was sometimes staunchly
pro-European. For nationalist writer Iosif Constantin Drgan (1917
2008, expatriated in Italy but one of the closest collaborators with the
Ceauescu regime), it was a proud achievement to be European in 1979,
and not so much in conflict with the regime as proof of its self-declared
To feel in Europe as if in a native land, without spiritual and cultural frontiers, to militate for the the realization of an international community in
which peoples may determine their own fate; this is the ideal for which the
author of these volumes strives, and the reason for transcribing his existential experience.66

It is clear then, that over the course of forty years the ideological use to
which travel literature was put changed considerably. From fairy-tale
socialist realism, where the selection of destination and the immediate
tone in which it is described provide simple and transparent indicators of
the texts purpose and position, to the paradoxes of a regime which was
profoundly isolationist but nevertheless found it in its interest to produce
relatively favourable accounts of the West.
It might be objected that travel literature is an obscure genre with little
public impact. We can gauge a certain amount from the print-run figures
which appear (not in all cases) on the final page of Romanian books of
the period, and they are surprisingly large in some cases: while a book by
academic Alexandru Duu which mixed travel sketches with essays on the
history of mentalities appeared in only 3,600 copies, other more popular
works about western Europe or the United States enjoyed runs of twenty
or even thirty thousand copies.67 These are impressive figures, particularly
for a genre that rarely found its way onto school literature syllabi and may
not have had a separate section in public libraries.
In a world where foreign political reportage was limited and diplomats
memoirs a non-existent genre it would be tempting also to speculate on
the social significance of the reception of these texts: what were the readers made to think, and did they act differently? The importance of ideas
65Marino, Evdri n lumea liber, 6, 8.
66Drgan, Europa Phoenix, left dustjacket flap.
67Grigorescu, Cocteil Babilon (26,160 copies); Novceanu, Noaptea...(20,160); Marino,
Prezene romneti (21,000); Tudorans novel La nord de noi nine had a run of 30,000.

paradoxes of occidentalism


about the West among actual and potential emigrs from Romania was
remarked as early as 1980 by Ion Vianu, who described the image of the
West as a mythe-espace, as distinguished from temporal utopias such as
the idea of the Golden Age.68 More recently, an influential commentator
has noted that
the desire to flee beyond the iron curtainfor economic, political or spiritual reasonsmodelled not just the destiny of those fleeing, but also that
of those who stayed at home, torn between the fear of risk, prudence in the
face of the unknown, and the dream of travelling undisturbed in the paradise of the civilized countries69

It is of course hard to know whether the books were actually read, and if
so how. In the course of my research I spoke to a number of Romanians
who had grown up under Ceauescu, and who recalled the experience
of reading works about western Europe by writers such as Blandiana,
Romulus Rusan70 or Eugen Simion71 as either an escape or a surrogate; my
argument here has been a variation on this, namely that such texts played
the ideological role of asserting that Romania was not an isolated or disadvantaged culture, and that this may have encouraged acceptance of the
status quo. (One may also add that Ceauescu was aided in the creation
of this illusion not only by Romanian travel writers but also by Western
diplomats and politicians who saw fit to shower compliments on the dictator during the period of his political rapprochement with the West in
the 1970s).72 Such an argument may also explain some of the anomalies
of post-communist Romanian culture, such as the fact that even extreme
right-wing parties pronounce themselves in favour of Romanias European integration.73 Debates on the efficacy of propaganda are not always
easily resolvable. But if, as Gail Kligman has argued, The widening credibility gap paralleled the increasing divide between the Party/State and

68Vianu, Le mythe de lOccident.

69Pleu, Chipuri i mti, 249.
70Husband of Ana Blandiana: author of travel books about the United States and the
Mediterranean such as America ogarului cenuiu; O cltorie spre marea interioar.
71Literary critic identified with an aestheticist, so-called apolitical stance, since 1994
President of the Romanian Academy; author of Parisian journal Timpul tririi, timpul
mrturisirii [A time to live, a time to bear witness].
72British, American and French diplomatic courtship of Ceauescu in this period is
well documented: see Percival, Britains political romance; Harrington & Courtney,
Tweaking the nose of the Russians; Stolojan, Avec de Gaulle.
73See the statement of nationalist party Romania Mares pro-European foreign policy
on their website at: http://www.romare.ro/prm_ext.html (accessed on 2 October 2002).


chapter eleven

its population, one is tempted to place travel writers on the side of the
Party/State rather than on that of the population, particularly given that
they were the ones who had travelled and could form judgements as to
the comparative position of Romania in Europe and the World.74
One might further note, that unlike fiction or poetry where an author
has a degree of manuvre to disguise critiques in the form of allegory or
fable, travel accounts in the contemporary world make a claim of veridicity on the reader; there is possibly less scope for oblique or implicit collusion between reader and author. In other words writers appeared to
be engaging their readers in something politically subversive, i.e. reading
favourable accounts of the West; but this either implicitly bolstered the
regime (when favourable accounts of the West were juxtaposed with eulogies of Ceauescus Romania) or alienated readers (private identification
with the West as abdication of responsibility for the domestic situation)
or deceived them (by making them perceive freedom of travel as a reward
for the cultured, rather than an appanage of the loyal). Further research
may help us answer these difficult questions of reception: for the time
being, however, it is clear that it was quite possible to print favourable
first-hand accounts of western Europe and America in Ceauescus Romania; that such books were reproduced in large quantities; and that these
accounts did not necessarily work against the regimes interests.

74Kligman, Politics of duplicity, 118; the discussion here is about different types of ideological material but may be applicable to the case of travel literature too.

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Aar, River151
academies15, 42, 139
Romanian15, 121n20, 254, 263n71
of Mining, Schemnitz68
of Siena79
Academia Mihilean47, 103
Actium, Battle of17
Addison, Joseph78, 94
afterlives, literary834, 133, 146, 183, 201
agriculture 11, 1421, 26, 345, 38, 401, 46,
4851, 547
Akkerman, Treaty of144
Alba Iulia67, 260
Albania 261
Albanians49, 118, 124n33, 155
Albanian language72, 222n38
Alecsandri, Vasile523, 111n66, 1303,
183, 2223, 241
Alexander I, Emperor of Russia141, 143
allegory90n97, 134, 1823, 202, 226, 264;
see also fable
Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliothek
alphabets, scripts108n54, 148, 1889, 227
Alt-Zedlisch [Star Sedlit]68
Altsttten, Switzerland150
America(s)73, 76, 789, 253
Cuba dubbed free territory of252
North73, 79
South73, 254
see also United States of America
Latin89n95, 154n82, 233
Native64, 85, 87, 118
US citizens83, 235, 238
Ammianus Marcellinus51
Anghelescu, Mircea912, 98n27, 137,
143, 152
Animals37, 43, 67, 1012, 173, 228, 211n22
cows20, 345, 102n38, 227
dogs74, 131, 227

donkeys128, 243
horses111, 131, 211n22, 241
humans as223, 89
livestock42, 67, 145
pigs35n71, 125, 243
see also birds
Annual register (London)78, 83, 85
Anthimos the Iberian [Antim Ivireanul],
Metropolitan of Wallachia38
anthropology85, 105, 179, 235
antisemitism89n93, 17782, 197n25, 211
Apuseni mountains256
Arabs105, 118, 157
Arabic books120
language157, 220
Aragon, historians from87
Arduino, Giovanni7980
Arghezi, Tudor205, 252
Armenian language22
Armies, see Military service; Soldiers; Wars
Arnold, Guy243
Asachi, Gheorghe32, 478, 57, 157
fertile plains of105
negligence imputed to138
see also East, Orientalism
Asturia, historians from87
Aurelian, Roman Emperor51
Austrian Empire, Austria-Hungary725,
81, 86, 8890, 106, 108n52, 1246, 135,
138, 1423, 162, 241
Austrian Danube Company104
see also Habsburgs; Vienna; Salzburg
Azumabad [Patna]78
Baconsky, A.E.252, 255
Baden, Grand Duchy of151
Ba Ganyo, fictional Bulgarian traveller158
Baia, battle of (1467)37



Bailey, Paul238
Baini [Baine, Muenia commune,
Bakhtin, Mikhail190, 192
Blcescu, Nicolae502, 54
Balkans, Balkan peoples7, 64, 66, 116,
136, 243, 248
Balkanism4, 235
Occidentalism of118
see also Ottoman Empire; Rumelia
Balkan Trilogy (novel)237
Banat of Temesvar34, 647, 7180, 878,
124, 131, 143, 14950, 2149
German dialect of2212
Bansk tiavnica, Slovakia689
Barbu, Ion205
Bariiu, Gheorghe53, 163
Barnes, Julian239
Barthes, Roland151
Bartram, John79
Batten, Charles102
Baudelaire, Charles209
Bavaria126, 135, 143
Bawr, General F.W.126n38
Beniuc, Mihai2556
Bentham, Jeremy125n33, 138
Berceanu, tefan260
Brenger, Jean216
Berger, Florence240n18
Berlin75, 80, 1089, 124, 128, 197, 213,
227, 261
Congress of58, 178
University of108, 165, 174
Bermuda triangle, Romania compared to
Bern98n51, 151
Bessarabia244, 260
Bhabha, Homi116, 153n78
Bibesco, Marthe, Princess244
Bielski, Martin21
Birago, Freiherr Karl von106
birds: sparrows74
Bishops 202, 38, 125n33, 125n35
metropolitan bishops42, 47, 139
Brldeanu, Victor252
bitterness, embitterment44, 150, 173
Black Sea18, 723, 98, 105
Blandiana, Ana240n16, 25960, 263

Blue Peter Romania Appeal, mismanaged

Boaistuau, Pierre25
Bogoyavlenski [Theophany] Monastery
Bogza, Geo252
Bohemia689, 767, 80, 86
Mining and Minting Directorate68
nobiliary registers of (Landestafeln)68
Royal Society for the Sciences69
Boia, Lucian200n29
boyars/boiers see nobles
Bolintineanu, Dimitrie183
Bolliac, Cezar54
Born, Ignaz von6790 passim
Brcz, Jzsef113
Borrow, George109
Boswell, James967
Botez, Demostene2523
Bracewell, Wendy112
Brncoveanu, Constantin, Prince of
[brncovenesc], architectural style244
Brncui, Constantin204n10, 239, 240n17
Braov [Kronstadt]1423
Bratislava see Pressburg
Brtianu, Ion183
breast(s)46, 82, 222, 236
Brecht, Berthold208
Breuilly, John188
Bright, Richard68, 83
Britain see United Kingdom; England;
British Council23740
British culture, literature, people6, 76,
923, 95 112n68, 113n72, 23349 passim
prone to inebriation120
as travellers117, 139, 154
British Library82n68
Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu248
Bucharest15, 2930, 48, 5051, 55,
57n160, 115, 11921, 126n28, 135, 1389,
142, 1446, 14950, 154, 165, 180, 18991,
193, 197, 217, 227, 229, 23640, 242
as Paris of the East2456
Gara de Nord135
University of205


Bucovina see Bukovina

Buda14, 144, 154
see also Pest; Budapest
Budapest164, 217
Budai-Deleanu, Ion89, 128n42, 244
Bukovina89, 162, 224, 244
Bulgaria31, 132, 2523, 255, 261
Bulgarians66, 104, 118, 155
fictional, putative158, 211
Burns, Robert188
Bsching, Anton Friedrich77
Byzantium, see East Roman Empire;
neo-Byzantine style
Caesar, Augustus18
Caesar, Julius2021, 59
Caesar, Octavius17
Clinescu, G.1756, 183n69, 197, 252
Callimachi, Scarlat252
Cantemir, Dimitrie, Prince of
Moldavia40, 72
Caragiale, Ion Luca18797 passim
Cardinal, Roger91
Carol of Hohenzollern, Prince (18661881)
and King (18811914) of Romania58,
Carp, Petre1667, 181
Carpathian mountains1112, 243
carpets, Oltenian240n17
Carra, Jean-Louis29, 1216
Carroll, Lewis245n26
Casanova, Giacomo257
Cassian, Nina247, 249, 252
Castilian language24, 220
castles, fortresses35, 38, 1056, 150, 241
Catherine II The great, Empress of
Cato the Elder17
Ceauescu, Florea260
Ceauescu, Nicolae116n1, 162, 214, 2334,
239, 245n29, 2478, 25064 passim
Celan, Paul204n10, 224, 226n54
censors, censorship43, 143, 226
Ceres, Roman goddess19
Cernui / Czernowitz / Chernivtsi100,
129, 162, 224
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de192
Chagall, Marc241


Chakrabarty, Dipesh158
Charles VI, Emperor of Austria138
Charles, Prince of Wales248
Chesarie, Bishop of Rmnic125
Chichester, Francis257
China255, 260
Great Wall of261
Chishull, Edmund77n47, 1201
Christianity, Christian countries, customs,
people, thought32, 65, 120, 141, 144,
1723, 21011
see also Eastern Orthodoxy; Greek
Catholic Church; Jesus Christ;
Protestantism; Roman Catholic
Church; Society of Jesus; bishops;
monks; priests
Cioran, Emil201n*, 204n10
Ciorbea, Victor248
Ciornescu, Alexandru125n323
city, cities18, 73, 1056, 147, 150, 25960
and language25, 219, 221
Moldavian, virtues of1323
synonym for Christian West32
Clarke, Edward Daniel83
Clary von Altringen, Karl Ignaz, Graf75
classical legacy, sources1724, 47, 73,
88n88, 96, 124
see also Greece; Latin; Rome
Clinton, Bill233, 235
Codreanu, Corneliu Zelea162, 176
Codrescu, Teodor1038, 114, 157
Cola (Pepsi, Coke)255
civilization, notions of1, 156, 24, 31, 46,
63, 105, 123, 1303, 136, 139, 152, 1645,
173, 179, 193, 259, 263
colonization64, 2167
colonialism see imperialism
Columbus, Christopher130
Comarnescu, Petru206, 209n17
Communism, as ideology240n17, 257
as regime2, 161n1, 218, 23844, 25164
Communist Bloc2523, 260
Comte, Auguste171
Conservative Party of Great Britain248
of Romania1659, 181
Conservatoire national des arts et metiers,
Constantinople45n117, 1046, 113, 144,
157, 241, 244
see also Bosphorus; Istanbul



Romanian56, 169, 216
Cook, Captain James76, 83, 257
Corbea, Dumitru 252
Cornea, Paul97
Comani village100
Coovei, Traian252
Costchel, Valeria35
Costin, Miron3840
Costin, Nicolae22, 37n81, 40
Cotnar (wine)175
country, countryside17, 47, 204, 248, 260
meaning of word112
see also landscape; village
Crainic, Nichifor206
Craiova210, 247
Crane, Nicholas243, 245
Creang, Ion183, 240n17
Creu, Ion184n71
Critical review (London periodical)77
Cuc Valley, Prahova county256
Cuciur Forest [Kuchuriv], Bukovina100
Curierul de Iai (newspaper)165
Curierul rumnesc (newspaper)145
Curious Account of Wallachia6590
Curtea de Arge, Cathedral58
Cuza, Alexandru Ioan, Prince56
Cyrillic alphabet, script108n54, 148,
1889, 227n57
Czech Republic68
see also Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Hungary, Habsburg Monarchy
Czernowitz see Cernui
Dacia24, 51
Dacians1821, 24, 111, 173, 184, 245
Dacia litterar (periodical)49, 107
Dada, movement224, 245
Dalmatians89n96, 124
Dante Aligheri187
Danube1921, 2428, 32, 53, 55, 589, 72,
98, 1036, 108n53, 119, 1301, 142, 145, 217,
243, 253
Darwin, Charles170, 195, 257

daughters see women

Davies, Norman234
death38, 69, 95, 142, 178, 206, 233, 247
by axe blows39n90
by cholera145
by decapitation248
by guillotine122
by hanging67
by impalement67, 74
cult of17277
early54, 176
of literature206
poem about163
Delius, Christoph Traugott73, 80
Der Mhle151
Deutsche Welle227
diaries, journals72, 93114 passim, 144,
157, 206, 258n47
Dickens, Charles191, 257
digression, interlude, interpolation,
interruption734, 100n134, 106, 111,
123, 147
Dinescu, Mircea227n56
Dionisie Lupu, Metropolitan of
discovery, as concept2, 13, 129
of Balkans130
of Europe2, 16, 137
of landscape112
Dniester, river65
Dobrogeanu-Gherea, Constantin197n25
Dracula, Count (fictional)233
Drgan, Iosif Constantin262
Drgani, Battle of (1821)142
Drago, founding Prince of Moldavia103
Dragoslav the pig-herder35n71
dress, clothing, costume28, 29n54, 39,
45, 489, 578 77, 103, 120, 125, 1313,
138, 149, 207, 226
drinks: coffee102
plum brandy240n17
spirits102n38, 178, 247
wine74, 145, 175
drunkenness37, 102, 120, 190, 195, 206,
Dupront, Alphonse209n17
Duu, Alexandru262


East, Orient4, 24n42, 578, 85, 88, 94n11,

103, 1303, 138, 151, 190, 2556
Jews of179
Near144, 157
Oriental reputation246
Paris of [i.e. Bucharest]2456
religious thought of1723
sensoriality of language in, imputed
Slavs of243
see also Orientalism
East Roman Empire (Byzantium)34, 41,
East-West divide63, 136, 221, 255
crossing of5, 261
see also Iron Curtain
Eastern Bloc, see Communist Bloc
Eastern Orthodox Church42, 47, 578,
88n91, 991001, 104n45, 120, 125, 1379,
149, 162, 173, 176, 1956, 245n39
monastic rules100
see also Romanian Orthodox Church
Eastern Europe, see Europe, Eastern
Eckhardt, Meister187
Economic conditions, systems11, 16,
4852, 55, 139, 150 168, 1758, 238, 2478,
studies, theories, writings46, 48, 57,
98, 183, 226, 233
Economies of knowledge, political63, 122
Edirne, see Adrianople
Editura pentru turism / Editura SportTurism 257
Editura Tineretului254
Education22, 47, 67, 89, 96, 103, 10911,
129, 138, 1424, 146, 150, 152, 155, 1623,
174, 191, 2178, 2478
of peasants42
of women108n54
see also academies; Enlightenment;
schools; seminaries; students;
Egyptians69, 86
Ehrenburg, Ilya257
Ehrler, Johann Jakob75, 83n69
Eliade, Mircea187, 191, 201n*, 204n10,
205, 240


Eliade, Pompiliu146
Eminescu, Mihai17, 33n66, 16185
passim, 187, 189, 191, 239, 240n17, 261
Emperors see Alexander I; Augustus
Caesar; Catherine II; Charles VI; Joseph
II; Leopold II; Octavius Caesar, Marcus
Aurelius; Maria-Theresa; Nicholas I;
Napoleon; Peter II; see also Sultans
empires, in general59, 634, 87
Romania at crossroads of216
see also imperialism; see also individual
England30, 767, 253n17, 259
football team loses to Romania233
libraries of83
English culture, language, people22n22,
24, 71, 76, 80, 823, 89, 93, 11921, 127,
149, 154, 2145, 220, 23546 passim
as prudes2356
tourist brochure128n46
Enlightenment6391 passim, 122, 148,
156, 164
see also Republic of Letters; secularism
enthusiasm91, 171, 257
epistolary genre724, 86, 97n22, 98n28,
1089, 1235, 157
errors, categorical233
factual1242, 244n33
interpretive188, 233
ethnography20, 98, 105n46, 107, 129,
and empire59, 6390
Eufrosin Poteca141
Europe16, 2133, 53, 85, 93, 126, 13542,
14658, 172, 179, 204, 260
Academies of140
Central14, 87, 125n34, 136
curiosity, European65, 121, 123, 126
discovery of2, 16
dress103, 125, 131, 138
eastern12, 14, 30, 35, 72, 81n63, 85, 116,
141, 167, 204, 234, 243
(history of term636, 879
as inadequate113
as hyperintellectual240
as nonspecific setting238
as victims182)
end of, predicted210
as family of nations1534



Great Powers of55

inns of, excellent150
intelligentsia of235
languages of22, 130
media of71
mines of75
music of130
nationalism in167, 179, 185
plains of, fertile105
position of Romanians in or in relation
to15, 21, 53, 106, 121, 1289, 134,
146157, 18990, 204, 216, 234, 238,
251, 257, 2624
relations with non-Europeans63, 89
southeastern65, 136, 235
see also Balkans
southern57, 113n74
spirit of1213
as synonym for Russia139
time standard108
urban, industrial 112n72
Western2, 1112, 32, 34, 104, 116, 141,
European integration12
exile18, 30, 32, 73, 108, 1423, 156, 162
fable22, 267, 147, 171, 264
facts, factuality20, 69, 967, 108, 1512,
240, 244
fairy tales172, 262
Farfara, Zoe [Zoe Golescu]138
fathers see men
Federaiunea (newspaper)164
Ferber, Johann Jakob [Johan Jacob]
734, 767, 7981
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb1689, 171
fiction22, 49, 66, 90, 111n66, 130, 1907,
205, 2145, 23641, 264
taken as fact246
see also lies; facts
Fielding, Henry935
Filimon, Nicolae49, 98n27
First World War204, 216
fishing23, 26, 45, 261n61
Flag, mistaken for poncho233
flowers101, 120, 222
Fondane, Benjamin224, 255
food, meals15, 50, 67, 74, 95, 99101, 151
see also drink
Forster, Georg76
Fortis, Abb66, 78, 80
Fortuna, Goddess18

Fourmennois, Gabriel25
France79, 81, 108, 139, 141, 153, 157, 164,
187, 204, 210, 253, 263n72
Consul of142
Frankfurt64, 168, 238
Franz-Joseph, Emperor164
Frtui village100
Freemasonry6970, 86, 144
French cigarettes49
French culture, education, language,
people2n8, 12, 24n43, 2533, 48, 53, 71,
802, 89, 93, 10810, 111, 122, 12533, 136,
138, 142, 153, 162, 164, 180, 18991, 2028,
211, 216, 224, 236, 238, 243, 253n16, 254
Fridvaldsky, Jnos76
Friedel, Johann83
Frunz, Eugen253
Galata, Istanbul106
Galai1034, 106, 178
Galitsyn, Andrei100
Gldi, Lszl210n19
Galicia (Austrian)72n27, 165
gardens1012, 106
Gavriil Callimachi, Metropolitan of
Moldavia139, 141n20
Gellner, Ernest14, 161
Gender, awaits further analysis6
but see marriage; men; sexuality; women
Geneva10911, 1434, 1501
Gentoo see Hindu
Georgian language157
German culture, language, people5,
14n12, 15n13, 33n67, 43, 6990 passim,
93, 105, 118, 136, 149, 1513, 156, 1612,
164, 167, 21329 passim, 238, 249
Romanian Germans [Rumniandeutsche]
21621, exodus of252n5
Swiss Germans1245
Germanic peoples20, 32
see also Goths; Saxons; Suevi; Swabians
Germany24, 108, 145, 156, 187
West203, 215, 237 253, 261
fantasies of129
occupation of Romania by, 19161918204
see also Holy Roman Empire; Prussia
see also Dacians
Ghica, Alexandru Dimitrie, Prince of
Grigore IV Ghica, Prince of
Wallachia1424, 1546


Ghica, Ion183
Gibbon, Edmund18, 76
Glajar, Valentina213
Glaserhtte [Sklen Teplice]69
Glasgow, University of96
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von66, 912
Goethe Institute, Bucharest227
Gogol, Nikolai245
Golden Age45, 263
Golescu, Dinicu45, 98n26, 102n39, 1167,
126, 13558 passim
Golescu, Iordache138, 142, 145, 155
Goodwin, Jason243
Gray, Alistair188
Gray, Thomas478
Graz149, 255
Great Britain see United Kingdom
Greceanu, Radu11821
Greece254, 256, 261
independence of140
polysemy of122
revival of121
Greek Catholic Church162
Greek Church, see Eastern Orthodoxy
Greek culture, language22, 34, 423,
153n77, 18792, 222n28
Greeks3, 5, 19, 39, 43, 66n11, 118, 124n22,
13744 passim, 1556
cultural schizophrenia of153n78
scapegoating of155, 180
Gregorian calendar104n45
Gregory, Bishop of Rmnic [Grigore
Grellmann, Heinrich Moritz88
Grigorescu, Ioan252, 254n29, 255, 257,
Griselini, Francesco [Franz]80, 83
Grosswardein [Oradea]82
Groza, Petru253
Gruber, Tobias73
Guevara, Don Antonio, bishop of
Guadix217, 31, 40
Gypsies878, 127, 142, 233, 2412, 244,
Habsburgs, Habsburg Monarchy42,
645, 70, 80, 82, 87, 89, 119, 128, 131,
1423, 164, 216
see also Austria


Hacquet, Balthasar73
Haeckel, Ernst195
Haenke, Thaddus [Tade, Tadeo]73
Haines, Brigid219
Hall, Brian243
Hall, Donald241
general (civil, national, public)43n107,
456, 14950, 152, 156
unattainable183, 194
Harding, Georgina243
Hauterive, comte d [Alexandre Maurice
Blanc de Lanautte]2730
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich1689,
Heimatdorf literature218, 223
Heliade Rdulescu, Ion48, 108n27
Herbert, George240n17
Herder, Johann Gottfried32, 66,
Hermannstadt [Sibiu]67, 76 125n35
Herodotus19, 21
Hindu [Gentoo]78
history, analysis vs. narrative84, 967,
cultural17, 98n28, 122n24
curated57, 240
definitions of7, 206n12
depicted visually57, 101
economic11, 52n143, 64
literary15n15, 99, 102, 122, 126
material vs. representational64
national107, 114, 1278, 136, 148,
16574, 1813, 191
political124, 202
regional215, 257
of science70
historians20, 21, 30, 32, 38, 43, 99100,
accused of being obstructive244
foreign, vilified128
poets as50
travel writers as945, 1225, 126n38,
History of Charles V (Robertson)109
Hitler, Adolf203n7
Hobsbawm, Eric188, 190



Hodo, Nerva146
Holland see Netherlands; United Provinces
Holy Roman Empire87
Hope, Anthony242
Horace [Quintus Horatius Flaccus]1820
Horatian aesthetics778
Hortis, Samuel ab756
Huber, Austrian Consul106
Humboldt, Alexander von87, 257
Hume, David76
Hungarian culture language, people3,
14, 43, 57, 70, 756, 89n96, 118, 136, 175,
189, 2178, 240n17, 241
costume28, 67
Hungary37, 6472, 767, 82, 87, 126, 135,
143, 152, 217, 261
see also Austria-Hungary; Transylvania;
Huxley, Aldous207, 235
Iai4950, 55, 103, 106, 108n54, 110, 129,
1323, 172, 1945, 211, 226, 244
Academy of42, 47, 103
Junimea [Youth] Society of165
Theatre in49
Metropolitan cathedral58
University of165
see also Curierul de Iai; Socola
Idealists, German164, 1678
identity, thematized112
authorial93, 1235
crisis of146, 153n78
fragmented116, 1534, 182
and memory113
national3n10, 188, 213
peasant1259 passim
positioned vis--vis another134
Romanian, passim; Spanish87
self-presentation of89n95, 91114
passim, 1167, 125, 13560 passim

various but not salient125, 20912

see also nationalism
Ignat, Nestor2601
imperialism, colonlialsm234, 27, 59,
6390 passim, 93 1123, 116, 118, 158, 235
see empires; Europe
India85, 87, 154, 205, 254, 261
Indians64, 158
see also Americans, Native
Institut Lemoine, Paris142
Ioncioaia, Florea107
Ionescu de la Brad, Ion56, 989, 126n62
Ionescu, Eugen [Eugne Ionesco]162,
20112 passim, 214, 224, 228n61, 235, 239,
245, 255
Ionescu, Eugen senior204
Ionesco, Marie-France201n*, 2112
Ionescu, Thrse, ne Ipcar204
Iorga, Nicolae7, 28n51, 36, 46, 147n65,
191, 236, 245n39
Ipsilanti see Ypsilantis
Iron Curtain239
see also East-West divide
Iron Gates242
Israelite Question see Jewish Question
Istanbul88n91, 121, 132, 137, 142, 242
see also Bosphorus, Constantinople,
Galata, Pera, Scutari
Italian culture, language, people27, 71,
7980, 82, 136, 209n17, 217, 242n23
secret societies144
Italy21n30, 31, 57, 73, 77, 7980, 92, 98n28,
102, 129, 187, 254, 256, 2589, 2612
Northern126, 135, 141, 1434
Moldavian, so-called46n121
James, Henry194
Jebeleanu, Eugen253
Jerusalem, Patriarch of120
Jesuits see Society of Jesus
Jesus Christ53, 178, 195
Christ of Nations, Poland as53, 171
Jews3, 5, 88, 145, 172, 1947, 203, 21012
Jewish Question1779
see also antisemitism
John I Albrecht, King of Poland38
Johnson, Samuel76


Jkai, Mor [Maurus]242

Jones, Captain, fictive adventurer67, 85
Jones, Sir William85
Joseph II, Emperor6972, 75
Journal Encyclopdique (periodical)123
journals see diaries; newspapers and
journalism, journalists30, 110, 124, 16185
passim, 191, 202, 244, 260
satirized191, 228
see also newspapers
Jove [Jupiter]1819
Joyce, James194
Junimea [Youth], literary society
Justice, Elizabeth79
Justin, Patriarch of Romania245n39
Kaliningrad see Knigsberg
Kant, Immanuel1634, 1678, 171
Kaplan, Robert235
Karlsburg [Alba Iulia]67
Kaunitz, Wenzel Anton von88
Keysler, Johann Georg77
Khan of Crimea [probably Qaplan II
Kiev [Kyiv]100
Kinglake, A.W.131
kings and queens see Carol I, John I
Albrecht, Louis IX, Marie, Michael I
see also emperors and empresses
Kiossev, Alexander158
Kiselv, Count Pavel D.141
Kleeman, Nicolaus72
Kligman, Gail263
Koczian, Anton73, 80
Koglniceanu, Mihai4950, 556,
99100, 102, 1079, 1289, 183
Klesri, Samuel76
Kolowrat-Krakowsky, Count Leopold69
Knigsberg [Kaliningrad]165
Korea, North234, 252, 255, 260
Krner, Carl Theodor153
Kosovo legend171
Kk Kaynarca, Treaty of71
Kule-Kapsi watchtower105
La Fontaine, Jean de267
Laignel-Lavastine, Alexandra201n*
Lammenais, Hugues-Flicit Robert


landscapes, scenery57, 87, 91114 passim,

120, 12930, 227n56, 241
language, ideas of 25, 323 , 58, 1624,
21923, 243
history of325, 85, 220
literary523, 1389, 144
polyglossia187, 242
spoken, vernacular225, 48, 52, 58, 87,
118, 139, 146, 150, 18890, 21923
Lapland207, 235
Latin1314, 1821, 24n43, 35, 40n93,
578, 76, 82, 119n14, 18890, 220, 242
Latinism, Latinity15, 25 323, 217, 227, 243
see also America, Latin; Roman
alphabet; Romance languages
Latvians, see Letts
Laurian, August Treboniu15, 21, 189
law, law codes28, 3842, 56, 68, 123, 164,
16970, 1745, 204
lawyers190, 204
Lazr, Gheorghe146, 156n89
Leask, Nigel79
Legionary movement176
Leigh Fermor, Patrick236, 2412
Leipzig58, 64, 69, 713, 82, 84, 144
Leopard, National Order of (Zaire)258
Leskov, Nikolai192
Lever, John67, 85
Lvi-Strauss, Claude105
Liberal Party, Romanian177n51, 1802
liberty, ancient28
lies, lying, slander, calumny24, 1278,
149, 23546
Ligne, Charles-Joseph, prince de139
Linnaean classification system82
applied to monks69
Lion, Golden, of Nassau, Order of
Liprandi, Pavel143
Littler, Margaret219
Lombroso, Cesare195
London20, 57, 64, 667, 71, 76, 789, 82,
85, 90, 121, 208, 233, 238, 241, 259
see also Tate Gallery; Times newspaper



London Magazine78
Loti, Pierre151
Louis IX the Saint, King of France
Louvre Museum57
Love, abandoned226
between sovereign and people149
economically motivated, imaginary236
of the fatherland17, 54, 149, 168
as political allegory23840
Lovinescu, Eugen2
Machiavelli, Niccol192
Maclean, Rory243
Macmichael, William1389
Madrid109, 260
Magee, Bryan168
Magyars see Hungarians
Mahmud II, Sultan156
Maior, Petru14, 128
Maiorescu, Titu16570, 177n51, 1824,
Maitreyi (novel)205
Malcolm, Noel244n33
Malte-Brun, Conrad132
Mandar, Thophile82
Manning, Olivia237, 2401, 2456
Marcouville, Jean de25
Marcus Aurelius, Emperor22, 24, 240n17
Margarita of Romania, Princess248
Marie of Romania, Queen245n39
Marin, Emile204n11
Marino, Adrian2612
Marmara, Sea of106
Marriage50, 68, 86, 104n42, 138, 237, 248
early age of among Romanians67
Massimu, Ion15, 21, 189
Maurerfreude, die69
Mavrokordatos family22
Mavrokordatos, Konstantinos, Prince of
Wallachia and Moldavia28, 402
Mavrokordatos, Nikolaos, Prince of
Wallachia and Moldavia22n34
Mavrokordatos-Firaris, Alexandros27
Mediterranean Sea263n70
Medieval period see Middle Ages

Mehadia143, 14950
Melville, Herman194
memoir genre956, 110, 115, 12930, 158,
184, 201, 204, 211n21, 214, 236, 238n113,
240n17, 241, 245n39, 262
memory, personal105, 11014, 197, 210
nostalgic92, 23942
traumatic204, 207
bad and poor195
as brothers108, 138, 1423, 145, 260
capable of swearing oaths48
clothing of67
as fathers50, 72, 108, 128, 204, 205, 210
fighting17, 21, 37, 145
as great-grandfathers137, 204n11
not for sale41
as sons38, 40, 104, 108, 119, 1413, 145,
162, 238, 253
thieving swineherds35n71
young156, 223
see also soldiers
Merin, John Baptist77
metaphysics1634, 169, 1725, 181, 183
Metternich steamboat106
Mexico254, 260
Michael I, King of Romania248
Michelet, Jules3033, 52n143
Michelson, Paul E.114
Mickiewicz, Adam53
Middle Ages, Medieval period11, 28n51,
35, 74n35, 102, 114, 216
middle classes, bourgeois: European112n72
derided by Ionesco205
non-formation of in Romania1667
Middle East120
Midy, Emmanuel-Adolphe103
migration26, 177, 213, 219, 226, 252, 263
Military Frontier, Habsburg73, 216
military service35, 38
Miller, Arthur2089, 212
Milocco, Benedetto80
Mines, mining, mineralogy6877, 80, 83,
86, 110, 145, 216, 242


Minciaky [Minchaki], Matvei Iakovlevich,

Russian diplomat143
Mioria [The Ewe-Lamb], ballad175,
Moldavia, Principality of passim;
Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Metropolitan of42, 47, 139
Moldavians21, 27, 32, 3641, 467, 49,
52, 55, 99, 103114, 1234, 12733, 146n62,
184, 190
landscape, setting57, 98, 1112, 191,
194, 261
Moldovia monastery99
Monastery of the Caves, Kyiv100
monks46, 86, 99, 139, 141, 172
Monnet, Antoine Grimoald802
Montaigne, Michel de187
Monthly Review, periodical77
Mooney, Bel23840
Moraru, Nicolae254
Morat, Switzerland151
Morlacks66, 78
Morris, Jan243
mothers see women
mountains23, 26, 32, 34, 37, 47, 52, 57,
75, 86, 91, 97, 105n46, 106, 10912, 243,
256, 261
see also Alps; Apuseni; Carpathians
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus6970, 261
Mueller, Joseph73
Mller, Herta56, 21329 passim
Mumuleanu, Barbu Paris141
Munchhausen, Hieronymus Carl Friedrich
von, Baron76
Murphy, Dervla243, 245
museums and galleries240, 248
see also Brukenthal Museum; Louvre;
Tate Gallery; Village Museum
music69, 115, 132, 225, 239
see also song
Muslims; Phanariots erroneously identified
as1389, 244
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of
narration, order of93114, 143, 1512


narrative22, 55, 79, 84, 14752

of adventure667, 72, 76, 84, 172, 236
embedded111, 1302, 134n61
fantastic72, 76, 84, 129, 172
importance of 4, 114
ontological status of236
performed through actions30
point of view215, 2389, 246
short1907, 202n6, 239
of transition158
vernacular50, 192
see also allegory; description; digression;
fable; fairy tales; fiction; history;
memoirs; travel accounts
narrators93n8, 1302, 2256, 237
Nash, Richard84
Nstase, Ilie2334, 239, 248
nations, ideas of, discourses of passim
definitions of163
dignity of; including the peasantry44
inferior but precious112
unified14, 16, 168, 187, 189
young192, 216
nationalism, nation-building14, 59, 156,
16185, 240n17, 256, 2623
cultural2, 14
language and33, 148, 155, 163, 18790,
Naum, Gellu2246
Neam county, Moldavia110
Negruzzi, Constantin4950
Neo-Byzantine style (architecture)70
Netherlands 252, 253n17
newspapers and periodicals43, 55, 67,
69, 7582, 1235, 130, 145, 157, 1645, 217,
2334, 2479, 257n39
Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia143
Nicolau, Raja254
Nicolson, Adam243
Nietzsche, Friedrich187
Nitzkydorf/Nichidorf, Romania217
Nizam i-Cedid (reformed Ottoman



nobles, nobility, boyars29, 347, 4256,

68, 103, 109, 113, 119, 126, 128, 132, 13756
passim, 166, 169
criticized44, 47, 52, 149, 153
see also savages, noble
Nova acta eruditorum (periodical)69
Noyes, James83
Nuovo giornale dItalia (periodical)76
OConnor, Peter243
Obertyn, Battle of21
Observer, newspaper2089
Occidentalism1178, 154, 25164 passim;
see also West
Odobescu, Alexandru33, 54, 57
Oerlemans, Onno95
Olreanu, Costache255
Oldson, William1789
Olten, Switzerland151
Oltenia [Little Wallachia]141, 143
rugs239, 240n17
traveller from98n28
Oprescu, George252
Oradea [Grosswardein, Nagyvrad]82
Organic Regulations107
Orient see East
Orientalism34, 64, 88, 123, 138, 151
see also Balkanism
orphans19, 103, 204
orphanages233, 247
Orthodoxy see Eastern Orthodoxy
Ottoman Empire40, 578, 723, 76, 99,
102, 104, 11920, 126, 131, 137, 141, 154,
175, 216
see also Porte, Sublime; Rumelia
Sultans; Turkey
Paget, William, 6th Baron Paget11820
painters, painting91, 101, 1301, 248, 261
Paler, Octavian258n50
Palm Sunday101
pandour soldiers145
Pankhurst, Sylvia162
Paoli, Pasquale96
Paris30, 64, 82, 98, 108n52, 109, 129,
133, 142, 187, 2034, 20910, 236, 2545,
of the East (i.e. Bucharest), see
Bucharest; Treaties of (Versailles,
Trianon, St. Germain)216
Treaty of (1856)55
World Exhibition (1867)57
see also Institut Lemoine; Journal de
Paris; Louvre Museum; Sorbonne

Parks, George R.91
Prvulescu, Ioana183n69
Paoptiti, 1848-ers162
Pastior, Oskar225
pastoral literature, European47
German218, 2234
Patapievici, Horia-Roman1157, 134
Patmore, Derek241
peasants, peasantry1159 passim, 82, 113,
146n62, 14950, 154, 166, 1712, 1804,
191, 1947, 223, 234, 236, 23946
uprising70n16, 142
Pera, Istanbul106
Pest [Budapest]143
Peter II The Great, Emperor of Russia
40n95, 72, 141
Petrarca, Francesco [Petrarch]187
Petrescu, Camil205
Petrescu, Cezar252
Petru chiopul [Peter the lame], Prince of
Philippids, Daniil [Dmtrs]43, 153n77
Photeinos, Michael41
photographs58, 249
and identity209, 212
Physikalische Arbeiten, periodical73
Physikalische Bibliothek, periodical76
Piatra Neam110
Pinis, Russian consul in Bucharest142
Pippidi, Andrei667
Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini)20
Plai cu boi, scurrilous Romanian
Platon, Archimandrite101
Pliny the Elder20
Poda von Neuhaus, Nicolaus68
poets, poetry1719, 32, 467, 50, 523,
978, 111, 130, 141, 153, 16285 passim,
201, 205, 209, 213, 2256, 244, 249, 2523,
2556, 259, 2261, 264
Romanians typecast as31, 129, 2225,
as first historians50, 94
Pogor, Vasile the Elder46
Pogor, Vasile184
Poland12, 37, 58, 65, 171, 252, 254n29,
257, 261
army of378
King of38
Polish language, people21, 35, 118, 175
Porte, Sublime46, 104, 138, 1434


Porter, Ivor236
postcolonialism34, 645, 113
questioned116, 158
post-communism3, 12, 182
Prager gelehrter Nachrichten, journal69
Prague689, 87, 260
Pratt, Mary Louise117
Pressburg [= Bratislava, todays Slovakia]
143, 149, 217
priests368, 41, 59, 120, 145, 163, 193,
245n39, 248
printing, print culture
Pritchett, V.S.243
Protestants20, 120, 217
Archives of165
Consul of142
public sphere, reading public6970,
7884; 934, 121, 138, 145, 1489, 208,
2346, 244, 257, 262
Pumnul, Aron1623
Putna monastery100
Puttenham, Thomas24
Pyong Yang258
quarantine106, 1445
Quinet, Edgar323
Quinezu, Emanuel59
race22, 248, 255
British consul discounts importance
racism1556, 17781
Radio Romnia Internaional225n50
Radu de la Afumai, Prince of Wallachia
Raicevich, Ignaz Stefan89n96, 1245
Ralea, Mihai253
Rallet, Dimitrie98n27, 1323
Raspe, Rudolph Erich767, 81
Raynouard, Franois33
rzei (free peasants)166
Realzeitung der Wissenschaften, Knste und
der Commerzien, journal69
Redriffe [Rotherhithe]95
religion, of Romanians13, 67, 1001, 176,
17880, 1947, 211, 245


critique of163, 173

see also Christianity; Eastern
Orthodoxy; Enlightenment; Hindus;
Jews; Muslims; priests; Protestants;
Roman Catholicism; secularism
Rembrandt van Rijn260
Republic (work by Plato)169
Republic of Letters65 et seq., 122
Revue des deux-mondes, periodical32
Rhine21, 24, 26
Falls, Valley151, 260
Rhone Valley111
Rigas Fereos [Velestinlis]138
Rmnicu Vlcea260
bishopric of125, 139
Robertson, William76, 78, 85
see also Gypsies
Roman alphabet188
Roman Catholicism, Catholic Church70,
74, 80, 217
Roman Empire18, 25, 27, 48, 76;
Romance language(s)323
Romanes language217
Romania, passim
Academy of15
Arts Minister of253
as woman2378
Conservative Party of1659, 181
coast of18, 105
Communist Party257, 261n64
Constitution of56, 169, 216
mention by name, avoidance of215
Ministry of Culture227, 248
National Bank of205
National Commission for UNESCO253
National Theatre of193, 253
Orthodox Church of245n39
Romnia literar (journal)110
Romania Mare [Greater Romania
Romanian language327, 524, 70n16,
78, 87, 104, 10810, 138, 148, 155, 1625,
187, 195, 197, 2134, 217
Herta Mller on21923, 2269
hybridity/polyphony of18892
independence of 162
Latinity of15, 27, 33, 58, 162, 18990, 220
orthography, scripts108n54, 148,
1889, 227
Slavic elements in33, 220
sonority of1645
perceived to be derided146
actually derided243



Romanian-Bulgarian friendship253
Romanticism25, 303, 91114
passim, 174, 187, 2056
and language164
and profundity154
Rome19, 228, 92, 255, 25960
Rosetti, Alexandru261
Rosetti, C.A.301, 50
Rosetti, Maria30
Rougemont, Denis de203n7
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques29n53, 96, 1223,
European Turkey30, 98, 132
Rumyantsev-Zadunaiskii, Count Pyotr
Runciman, Steven245n39
rurality see countryside; landscape;
peasants; villages
Rusan, Romulus263
Russia, Russian Empire12, 55, 59, 65, 79,
88, 99100, 119, 121, 13845, 150, 216
army of71, 141, 2601
consul of45n117, 1423
protectorate over Principalities107
see also USSR
Russian culture, language, people3,
42n102, 48, 87, 105, 118, 1423, 156, 192,
influence on Romanian language978
see also Skoptsy
Russophilia143, 2523
Russo, Alecu103, 10714, 129
Sadoveanu, Mihail252
Said, Edward3, 64, 116
St. Cyril148
St. Demetrius106
Saint-Exupry, Antoine de257
St. John the Evangelist101
St. Methodius148
St. Panteleimon 102
St. Petersburg99101, 121
Saki [H.H. Munro]242
Santa F260
Sartre, Jean-Paul2089
Saul, George, serdar of Moldavia1245
ignoble4, 18, 29, 578, 79, 85, 196, 217
ironized noble122, 129
noble289, 66, 78

Saxons, Transylvanian
Scandinavia253, 256
Schemnitz [Bansk-tiavnica]689
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst171
schools42, 103, 106, 143, 155, 1623, 165,
191, 224
of mining87
see also academies; education;
seminaries; universities
Schopenhauer, Arthur161, 16774,
science6872, 122, 139, 164
and racial theory17880, 195
Communist reverence for257
Scotland76, 79n54, 87, 188
Scots83, 138
Scott, Sir Walter188
Scutari [skdar]106
Sebastian, Mihail2101
Second World War218
secularism, anticlericalism, atheism69,
86, 1634, 173, 193
Securitate2246, 240n17, 248
Sgur, Louis-Philippe, comte de139
seminaries423, 1623
Serbia356, 65, 73, 131, 217
Serbian language, people31, 78, 118, 125,
171, 217, 242n23
Seri-Pervas steamboat104
sex, sexuality23546 passim
see also love
shame see stigma
Shanin, Theodor13
Sherman, Stuart93
Sibiu67, 76, 125n35
Simion, Eugen263
incai, Gheorghe434, 128n43
iperco, Alexandru254
Sitwell, Sacheverell241
Sklen Teplice [Skleno], Slovakia69
Slavic language, language group, linguistic
features337, 138, 175, 18990, 220,
227n57, 242n23
Slavici, Ioan168, 183
Slavonic see Slavic
Slavs57, 217, 243
slaves, enslavement23, 72, 76, 78, 82,


Slovak Republic, Slovakia69