Then came the delightful Creanga who, peasant himself, collected from his village and from all around the country all the fairy tales. He was the delight of my childhood and that of many other Romanian children. His stories are full of lost princesses, of faithful princes, of wonderful horses, of dragons, and the wonderful fairies who lend a princess, for instance, a hairbrush which, when she throws it down upon the ground becomes a great forest that comes between her and the wicked dragon who is following her.
In all of these tales the good always overcomes the evil. There are lots and lots of such very exciting and enchanting legends—for instance, about the Haiduc, who is our Robin Hood, and who plays a most romantic and exciting part in our storybooks. Many times I remember, as a child, going through our forest and imagining the Haiduc coming on his great black charger to the rescue of some maiden in distress. Cosbuc wrote stories about country life. He was a man who adored his little village, and although he came to town and stayed there, he was always full of longing for his own village and wrote the most enchanting descriptions of the life of the Romanian peasant.
If that element which has preserved the language, faith, courage, nationality, tradition, all that which is great in the land, is the noblest—then the peasant is the noblest.
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It is on him that we all count; he is the backbone of our country; he is our pride and joy! Also we have an aristocracy which has been very patriotic. An important part of our Romanian development was when, after. World War I my father decided, with his government, to divide the land up amongst the people—among those who toiled and worked it.
He found no opposition from the great landowners, although it meant that their big estates were to be taken from them. Enthusiastically they went with him into it, and together with him they divided up the land among the peasants. I will now come to someone else of whom, of course, you have all heard, and doubtless have all known—surely you have read many of his books—and that is Professor Iorga. Nicolae Iorga was one of the most versatile men, I think, that my country has ever produced; he was chiefly a great historian.
He wrote an enormous number of books. Harvard University has over forty volumes of his work.
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He was interested in politics, especially, I think, from the historical point of view. He was well-versed also in art and architecture, not only those of Romania but of the entire Byzantine world. He will remain one of the greatest authorities on this subject. He had also, one of the most amusing and interesting personalities; he was enchanting to listen to. I have been to many of his lectures; I have gone around the country with him; and I can say that most of what I know, I know from him.
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I think no one could make a class more enchanting and interesting, amusing and full of life, or bring the past so vividly to our minds as Professor Iorga. I will admit that I find his books heavy and tedious in parts; I think that those of you who have read them will agree with me about that, but his name will forever be one of the greatest in Romanian literature and history. Quite of a different type is our great playwright, Ion Caraghiale He was an actor to begin with, and then he began to write his own plays.
He was a satirist—the naughty boy of Romanian literature. He made fun of everybody and everything. He laughed at the new society; he ridiculed the small provincial towns; he poked fun at everybody. And yet his plays are to such a degree amusing, they were written with such humor and art that everyone forgave him and he remains our greatest humorist and playwright.
Because he poked fun especially at the bourgeois class he is admitted by the Communist regime, but I often think he must be turning in his grave now to see how his words are being misused, and I think that if he were alive today the plays he would write would be equally funny but at the expense of quite a different social class. When I think of the bombastic way in which the new order of things speaks, I wish that Caraghiale was able to put it all into a play.
He certainly managed to do so tremendously well with the people and society of his own time, and even to this day his plays have the same amusement which they had then—something which I think will never go out of date. Quite different was our great historical novelist who wrote in the way of Sir Walter Scott—Delavrancea His plays and stories were especially concerned with history—the romance of history, romance in which the historical facts perhaps were not always exactly correct but which certainly portray the atmosphere of the times in the most vivid and colorful and pure language.
Then comes Bratescu Voinesti who wrote lovely stories of the peasant folk. His stories are often tragic.
Also, he was a great student of nature. It is the story of a peasant boy who notices that his cat can make sounds like a bird, so as to catch them. He tells that to everybody about him but nobody believes him. He especially wants to impress the girl he loves, and there is a wonderful scene when he brings her to listen to his cat making these strange sounds. The sun comes out, and the cat stretches out in its warmth and goes to sleep; his girl laughs at him. Finally, the boy hangs himself.
It is the atmosphere of the story that has a special charm. We are now coming into our own century—from the year on. We have Vlahutza , who was a great missionary poet. He writes of the life of the church, the life of faith. Also, in a different way, one of our greatest missionary poets was Nikifor Crainic, who started in a seminary. He never became a priest, but was a theologian. In his poetry he tried to bring out all the beauty and all the depth of the Orthodox Church.
He was a man of peace. He wanted to bring good understanding amongst the people of Romania, of all the different cultures—Hungarian, German, Bulgarian, etc. He was not pro-Russian, and therefore immediately after the entry of the Communists he was hunted down and had to hide for a long time. I remember my great astonishment when I went to the place where he was living in hiding. I had known him before, and it was very tragic to see this man in hiding.
But finally he could not bear it; he said it was against the principles to live in this way, so he appeared again in the open. He promptly disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to him since he was caught. What was the end of Crainic, in what way he met his Master, we will never know, but we know he went serving Him.
One of our greatest poets of today is Lucian Blaga. He is a poet of cosmic mystery. He, also, was very impressed by our legends, and he had a great love and understanding for the deeper side of our thinking. His poems reflect the positive part of Romanian philosophy. He was a man who tried to make it alive and understandable to every man, to make it a real entity in his life. There are many of whom I would like to speak, but it is impossible to mention them all.
I will talk of a man like Bucutza, for instance, who was one of our best novelists. He died in great misery shortly after the war. Then there is another of our poets, Goga—dear to all Transylvanian hearts. He was the great poet of Transylvania; also he was one of our greatest nationalists who fought for the union of all Romania. Another who must be mentioned is Theodor Arghesi.
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He is the poet of contrast of whom it can well be said that from the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step. Sublime or obscene, his work always remains great poetry. We believe him to be in a Communist prison camp, today. There were movements, for instance, like the one for an ethnological museum at the head of which was Professor Mehedintz, who was also a very good writer.
Then we had Professor Sextil Pushcariu, who was compiling a great dictionary and Romanian linguistic atlas. He was still working at it during the war. It was an interesting project and one of very great importance, this listing of all Romanian words, going into their construction and grammar and origin as never had been done before.
Because he was a very ardent nationalist, he was immediately considered a danger under the Communist regime.
He happened to live in the same village that I did; therefore, I was there and saw his sad end. He had a stroke; the Communists came continually to arrest him, but we managed to save him two or three times because he was so ill. I well remember once being called and told that the police had just come again to arrest him.
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I rushed in. We knew that he had high blood pressure, so we immediately cut a vein and began to let blood run. I made as much a mess of it as I could to impress the policemen who came. Of course when they saw both of us covered with blood they departed. He finally died in his own home. You see, Romania had her entire unity—the Greater Romania such as we have it now on a map—only from the end of World War I until Twenty-five years they had of independence; twenty-five years in which to build everything up, and so much had to be done.
We cannot speak of Romanian literature and culture without saying that all education in Romania was free, from the kindergarten right through the universities.
follow There were 30, students in our universities; 6, graduated yearly; 15, had scholarships which consisted of food and lodging, and about 30, high school children were treated in the same way. So that in Romania culture was spreading extremely fast. Because of this, and because our people are very poetical and very imaginative, we had a great amount of writers and poets. I cannot enumerate them all; there simply are too many of them.