“Eminescu” – Lucian BOIA

Spirits got heated almost to incandescence around the figure of Eminescu. It is true that no other Romanian myth carries a higher emoGonal charge than that of the national poet. He is perceived not only as a poet of unparalleled value – which would already be claiming a lot-but as a symbol of the Romanian nation, the supreme, concentrated expression of Romanian-ism. It is no use – or is it? – saying that he was not seen this way duringh is lifetime and thatp erhaps he will no longer be seen this way at some point in the future. The myth was the creation of the period around 1900, and, like any myth, it produced a transfiguration, which may or may not correspond to the sensibilities of today or tomorrow. A rather puerile, and certainly unfair, game is played around Eminescu. Some try to find all sorts of flaws in him, intellectual and even physical, while others cannot agree to bring him down by even a single step from the heights of the myth, and seek to convince us that we have no right to break away from Eminescu. I gave my point of view in an interview in the Chișinău periodical Sud-Est (1 -2/1999). Perhaps it is worthwhile reproducing the relevant passage here:

Where Eminescu is concerned, there are two aspects to consider. There is Eminescu the poet, and there is Eminescu the ideologist. Many of those who are revolted by the “attacks” on Eminescu are admirers not of his poetry but of his ideology. It is an autochthonist and xenophobic ideology. In fact this is no fault of Eminescu’s. He was not, strictly speaking, an ideologist. He had the right to have any ideas, but these need to be related to the cultural and political context of his period, not glorified or condemned from our late-twentieth-century perspective. As an ideologist, Eminescu was “discovered” by the nationalist wave after And nowadays he is still promoted by nationalists. It is a manipulation: this is what the national poet saids,o this is absolute truth before which we must all bow down. On the other hand, there is the poetry of Eminescu, which has no need of ideology to be admired. However, it remains to be seen what the future will bring. I, personally, am a great admirer of Eminescu – the poet Eminescu, not the ideologist. I believe I can feel his poetry, and I know many of his verses by heart. But I sometimes wonder if my generation isn ot the last really to savor Eminescu. Tastes evolve. The day young people no longer recite his poems by moonlight (and perhaps that day has already come), Eminescu will remain a great name in the history of Romanian literature but lie will no longer be among us. It is stupid to say that this must not happen. What will be will be. Paradoxically it may be that Eminescu the ideologist will stand up better to time than Eminescu the poet: there will always be nationalistst to wave him as a banner.


BOIA, Lucian, History and Myth in Romanian Consciousness. Transl. by James Christian Brown. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001. First published in Romanian as Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa românească, by Humanitas, Bucharest, 1997.

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