European Year for Innovation and Creativity

Mihail Sebastian or the knock, knock of oblivion



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This article could be about the german minorities. Not only about Nikolaus Lenau, for saying one of the classical, but on the two big suns: Paul Celan and Hertha Müller. For instance, it could be have written how Paul Celan has in his biography all the past of Europe: he was born in a jew family german speaking in a village that was part of Romania  and that nowadays is from Ucraine. How his poetry is in the limit, in the limit of the possibility of explaining yourself, in the limits of language or in the end (and resurrection) of history, in the limit of a fight for the language, where the words shine mirrors. Or how Hertha Müller, the 2009 Nobel Prize, described Niţchidorf, the village where she was born (more little than Covasint) with a mixture of poetry and analysis, with an style that, according to Jaime Menchén, is, word after word, an 'essay to find the best metaphor'. Why not writing about them? Maybe because they are, in fact, German speaking writers? Perhaps.

This article could be about Hongarian or Gypsy literature in Romania, but I haven’t found any information about them, and they are really difficult to find them translated (Anyone can help me?)

This article could be, as far as I’m living in Covasint (Arad), about a village called Nadlac, relatively close, and his ties with Slovak literature in Romania, his Congress of Slovak literature around ten years ago, discovered to me thanks to Cornel Ungureanu (via a newspaper that Jennifer Fasching bought in Timisoara) and his works about Banat as 'the center of the periphery of MittleEuropa'. Yes, this could be an article dedicated to Ondrej Stefanko, why not? 

But this article will be dedicated to Mihail Sebastian (October 18, 1907—May 29, 1945). He is the writer in Romanian language who I know better. His diaries, rescued for the oblivion were rediscovered for us, foreigners, in 1996 and they have created a great debate around the world. And probably, he is the writer that has provoked more debates in the Romanian intellectual world. The last, was due to a polemical book of Marta Petreu written directly against him (see the part titled: 'Evolutii controversate: Studiul Marta Petrei') and, in my opinion, correctly rejected by Laszlo Alexandru, in every thesis: There has not been a right wing extremist Sebastian , there was no rejection of democratic culture or to Europe in his articles, the newspaper Cuvintul was not year every year a newspaper at the service of Nae Ionescu, but a place with different points of view, etc.

Anyway, a 'character assassination'?

Anyway,  the book won an important prize in Romania. Maybe because the conditions that have permited a book like this been published without embarrassment are the same that gave a prize to the author: There are people that want to hear lies. An absurd and typical mistery.

Why is Sebastian important? Again with the symbols: he was a jew in a period in which being one was terrible. He survived (although he died in tragedy), and wrote a diary, no so well known as the Anne Frank one (is it necessary a link?) but better known as the one of Emil Dorian . In that one, it can be seen his mix of (sensual) analysis (Descartes!) and (analysis in) sensuality (Proust!, Proust!), according to the Romanian Carlos Monsivais Ortega y Gasset, George Calinescu. Sebastian has opened, at least to me, the way a minoritiy felt Romanian ('Cum am devenit huligan'):

'I was born in Romania, and I am Jewish. That makes me a Jew, and a Romanian. For me to go around and join conferences demanding that my identity as a Jewish Romanian be taken seriously would be as crazy as the Lime Trees on the island where I was born to form a conference demanding their rights to be Lime Trees. As for anyone who tells me that I'm not a Romanian, the answer is the same: go talk to the trees, and tell them they're not trees'.

I agree: Not all finishes with Sebastian. For a normalization of the past and minorities, at least, an important step  was done. There are (there have been) others writers with more success, like Norman Manea or others that write specifically about the Romanian jews, like Leon Volovici or Jean Ancel. Writers close to the avant-garde, that can be read in the article on Lovinescu (Ilarie Voronca, Benjamin Fondane, etc). Or maudits, as we will see in the article on Alexandru Vona. But there is more to do: By the way, in Braila, the place were Sebastian -and Nae Ionescu- were grown.