“An introduction to modern Romanian philosophy” (Stefan Bolea)

FILOSOFISK SUPPLEMENT, Universitetet i Oslo (UiO)


Translations of extracts from Lucian Blaga, The Divine Differentials, and Emil Cioran, The Twilight of Thought

First of all I must say that my presentation is fragmentary from two points of view. a) Blaga and Cioran are two of the most important Romanian philosophers, but there are other challenging philosophers, like D.D. Roşca (1895–1980), Constantin Noica (1909–1987), Alexandru Dragomir (1916–2002), who would deserve to be mentioned in a historical sketch of Romanian philosophy. b) The translated texts, fragments from Blaga’s Divine Differentials (1940) and Cioran’s The Twilight of Thought (1940) are representative for the styles and the manners of thought of the two philosophers, but they could not cover entirely the amplitude of their works. For example, Blaga expressed himself through wonderful poems, which turned him into a canonical poet of the Romanian culture, (a rare case for a philosopher, we might add) and through important plays that express a deeper understanding of the Romanian mythology. It is the same with Cioran, who not only belongs to two cultures (the Romanian and the French), but wrote such divergent books as On the Heights of Despair (1934), a vitalist portrait of the disintegrating Ego, and The Transfiguration of Romania (1936), a justification of political nihilism. Furthermore, the Norwegian readers should not believe that Romanian philosophy consists mainly of poetry and metaphor; the two translated writers surely could give this impression. The other aforementioned thinkers (especially Noica) are more “hard-core” philosophers, influenced by the German school of phenomenology and treating many Continental themes, while translating into Romanian the Greek original sources.

An important characteristic of the Romanian culture (implicitly philosophy) in the 20th century is that, between the world wars, a sort of Romanian Renaissance took place (roughly between 1920 and 1940). The so-called generation of 1927 gave Romania some of its best writers, some of them achieving international fame and success (Cioran, Eliade and Ionesco). After the Second World War (1945–1989), with the advent of Communism, Romania suffered a relapse to the Middle Ages, from a cultural point of view. Marxism was the dominant philosophy of the time: It was not a genuine, critical or a revolutionary way of thought as we see in Althusser or Žižek, but an imitation of Marxism, that didn’t produce anything valuable. “Capitalist” philosophers like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer or Schelling (to give only a few examples) were not translated, and there were cases of people sent to prison for reading them in original… [Pdf]