The first I knew about Ion Creanga (March 1, 1837 or June 10, 1839 – December 31, 1889) was thanks to Alex. He told me that he was from the period of Eminescu, so a classical, I told to myself, one of the poker of the XIX century of Romania: he, Eminescu, Slavici and Caragiale, which wrote in the Junimea , a literary society (as far as I know) of the conservative association of romanian writers.
Then, I found that Creanga, in fact, was a friend of Eminescu. As the historian Lucian Boia, says Creanga was an "authentic Moldavian peasant" who could be useful as a mirror for the Eminescu's "motill has) a strong root with the countryside. There is no possible, or in fact it was impossible to think about the future of Romania considering that only the cities can decide. So, the question of how incorporating the villages (and their solid traditions) to the modernity is a perpetual debate in the country. In my opinion there was good initiatives (as the one made by Iuliu Maniu) or, going on with the matter of the article, the one that made Ion Creanga in his field.
Creanga wanted to have present that past, that was his present, in his texts. It can be said that in the trio (maybe Slavici could be considered a little bit inferior, according to some critics, as Z. Ornea: "the two [he refers to Creanga and Caragiale] plus Eminescu are their generation's great writers", with Slavici as one "in their immediate succession"), Creanga was the representative of the peasants and Caragiale the one that writes about the urban mobility that was getting born (Caragiale has so many equivalents in the Europe of the moment!)
Before going on, some one can ask me what about Eminescu. For me, it’s a difficult figure. When I started seeing his poems and images everywhere, I thought in the typical boring-like-an-elephant writer, who's only useful for building a nation and with an old fashioned style of writing. I was wrong, obviously. He is a romantic, as he said. He was excessive (Creanga, as you can read in the first link of the article, once saw him with a revolver, trying to defend himself for ghostly enemies). He was jelous, obsessive and without limits. He considered himself Buddhist and conservative, disciple of Schopenhauer and atheist, friend of the people and a solitary man. He died with 39 in a mental sanatory. So, the only opinion I can have about his unlimited presence everywhere is the one that I could have if Lord Byron was the national poet of England or, forcing the comparition, if Arthur Rimbaud was the one of France.
Coming back to Creanga, he incorporated the past in his style, that nurtured in his personality. There are some writers in which is easy separate his life and his works: they are like workers of bureaus, they write from nine to three and then they surf the Net, take a walk, go to the bar with their friends. But there are another writers, probably not better, for sure more suffering, that live according to his texts. Bohemian or outsider, anyway, Creanga was one of them. Not only for his tragicomic figure: in some period of his life he was 120 kg (in his 1.85 cm of height) and suffered from epileptic attacks (Dostoyevsky is always back) but for his fluently about the tradition (not only the religious one, due to his training for priest) and the way he incorporated his background and a satirical way of judging that is compared to Jonathan Swift. Rabelais? Maybe Gargantua. Creanga combined being primitive and ironic: roots and intellect.
The presence of Harap Alb, the magic and that universal stories in which animals are parts in a human dialogue (who can not remember Miorita?), represents how Creanga doesn't want to cut his ties with the soil. Sociologically, phsycologically or in the formal way he played with the language, trough the folk topics and his oral style, his peasant past is present, and made it modern: I mean, inserted in a text can be really be understood for us and that make us learn aspects of the past and that show hidden faces of our present.
I can not share the impression of Dan Zamfirescu, national communist ideologue close to protocronism (another analysis here) who considered that Creanga was equal to, or even more important than Homer, Shakespeare and Goethe. But I can add that Creanga has represented a free voice in the romanian literature. Someone free who has not renounce to his past and that can laugh on it because he is able of laughing on himself:
Not since I born was I as poor as I was poor yesterday and the day before yesterday and last week and last week and throughout life.
That was the answer of Creanga to a person that asks him for money, reproduced by George Calinescu.