What follows is my English translation of a Romanian short penned by the only great genius that place ever producedi - Ion Luca Caragiale. He titled it Boborul, which'd be a deliberate misspelling of poporul, which means the people. It was published in 1896.
During our times there was born and there expired a very interesting state, which isn't to be overlooked by any conscientious historian. I wish to speak of the Ploiesti Republic, a state which, in spite of only lasting about fifteen hours, nevertheless marked a famous page of contemporary history. Born from, through and for the people, around two in the morning of 8 August 1870, the young republic was strangled that same day around four in the afternoon. No matter! The grandeur and importance of states is not to be judged by their extension in time or space, but by the role more or less splendid that they played in the universal complex.
My means are not enough to fully capture the general history of the joyous vineyard republic. I merely intend to contribute primary material for the needs of a future historian ; and I am authorised to do so - I was a citizen of that republic. I watched its grandeur and its decadence, not as a mere bystander, but as an officer! When the people broke into the police station, I rushed and disarmed a subofficer on duty, taking his sword from where it hung on the wall. I put it on, and as luck would have it the President of the Republic passed me right then. I was seventeen. My decisive demeanor attracted his attention, and he named me a police subofficer instead of the preetii I had just disarmed.
Today, when I dare hope my guilt against the monarchyiii has expired, I have the courage to say it proudly. Yes, I was one of the most zealous supporters of order in the Republic of Ploiesti. Glorious hours, I shan't forget! My chief, the policeman, was the brave and congenial Stan Popescu, one of Garibaldi's thousand, volunteer in Italy, volunteer in a Polish revolution, sworn enemy of tyranny and passional brother to the people. With such leadership, you gladly go into the fire for a great notion.
The night before, on the 7th, a number of conspirators, among which Stan Popescu, awaiting news (whence ? history does not yet know) had played, in the saloon of Hotel Moldova, to the kilometer. What does it mean to play to the kilometer ? It is an innocent game, and very simple. Look : the players, irrespective of their numbers, sit at a table in the corner. Each is brought a small bottle of wine. They start drinking. When one finished his portion, he sets the empty bottle on the floor, alongside the long wall of the room. Once he finishes a second, he places its butt against the neck of the previous one, and so on, until the line of empty bottles reaches the corner - the kilometer. Whoever reaches first wins the game - the others must pay his wine, proportionally to the number of bottles they're missing themselves. Of course, when good players gather it may happen that there's playoffs, and even draws. That night, Stan won by a large margin the first round.
Around one, just as they were to start a new round, three slow knocks on the window. All the players, forgetting their innocent party, stand frowning. The tocsineiv had sounded. The holy calling of the people was bidding them go to the field of honor. It was the hour of action. All proceed quietly and decisively. They go out of the hotel and move towards the market. Groups are coming from all directions, they meld together. The more this brave people advances, the more it grows.
At two and a half am, the telegraph is in the hands of the republicans ; all links cut and most importantly the strongbox confiscated.
At four, the prison doors in the Rud road open for a few republicans jailed there.
At five, the line infantry batallion in the St. Nicholas barracks swears loyalty before the President.
At five and a half, the republican police is organised ; the people, as civic guards of the Republic, is armed with swords confiscated from the firemen, from the beat cops, with hunting rifles, pistols and baseball bats.v
At six, in the Union Square full of people - exactly where today stands proud the statue of Liberty (to the citizens of Ploiesti - the grateful Nation) - the President, atop a sausage making table, reads the solemn act of the birth of the Republic.
At seven, wine barrels are uncorked at all crossroads, to the sound of the heroic march of '48.vi
At eight, a part of the people, with the policeman and a mariachi bandvii, we take to Lipanescu's garden.
Here, on the grass, a zaifetviii erupts, unparalleled in the history of the oldest republics. The steaks sizzle, throwing up in the air hot sweet smells like antique altars on which offerings to a protecting divinity are proferred. What once opens does not close again. The empty tuns roll loudly away, like that many rusty institutions no longer corresponding to the expectations of modernity and, in their place, with great effort other, full tuns are pushed, like so many reforms that the progressive spirit of the time and the vital interests of society require. What happiness! What eagerness! What enthusiasm!... A! Sublime moments when a martyred people crushes the stocks and cuffs of tyranny and, throwing them afar, strong on his right, without hatred, forgetting the odious past, toasts often, but honest, for holy Liberty and - kisses you! Oh!
We had been there for a few hours. The hurricane of enthusiasm kept growing, when an unexpected honor came to bring it to paroxism. The President - he, in person! - followed by an adjutant, came to visit our popular party and break a stein with his people. The great man said a few words. He was thrilled with the demeanor of his brave Ploiesteni, who always have known how to sacrifice themselves for freedom. There was a fanatism! A fury! All the mugs to the ground, all the hats in the air and "Hurrah! Vivat Republica!" The President left, taking with himself Stan Popescu, the policeman. Slowly, with the last sausages, the last steaks and the last of the wine, went away the martyr people as well... In likeliness, the expense of the modest popular breakfast was to be entered in the future budget of the Republic.
I remembered that I had parents, who were waiting for me, and I went quickly home, with my sword atop my coat. My poor mother, a very good woman, was a bit old fashioned, a reactionary spirit. She was far from understanding the political importance of democratic forms. She had found out everything transpiring in town and was shivering with worry for me, seeing I hadn't shown up for lunch. She made a frightful scene - why do I mix with the scum, do I intend to make her a laughingstock in the neighbourhood, do I perhaps aim to hasten the end of my father, who was very ill. Then she ordered strictly to stay home. To naught my protests. I tried to tell her, showing my sabre, that I had a public function to perform. She took the thing and threw it (where ? I do not know), and put my my shoes and hat under lock and key. A week she kept me thus captive, until the danger abated. That much for the better! While I was crying at home for the shame of my disarming, what was happening in the heart of the Republic ?
Around three and a half in the afternoon, hidden inside the materiel cars of the Bucurest-Ploiesti line, then under construction, came to the Republic a horrible host. What was it ? It was the Reaction. The Reaction, with everything it has more horrid and hideous - a complete batallion of huntersix under the command of major Gorjan. As soon as they set foot on the sacred soil, they proceeded to hunt for republicans. The Reaction was most of all seeking the President, but he, through an inexplicable coincidence, had left through the Eastern border of the Republic, the Bucov barrier, just as the Reaction was entering in the West, the Rud barrier. In three hours of chasing, the hunters arrested over six hundred sons of the people. The prison and four inns, turned to prisons, were filled with republicans. Wise woman, my mother, God rest her. She wasn't a woman with much learning, but what political prudence! What if the Reaction had caught me with the sword around my neck!
The reaction reenacted brutally the statu quo ante. The President was caught by the County Mounties towards nightfall, on the road to Buzau, past Lipia, a good thirty miles from his State. When the running riders yelled "Stop!" he, on foot, had the audacity to stop. And when they asked him "What were you doing here ?" he answered curtly, "I was talking a walk." And since it's indifferent, when one's talking a walk, whether you're walking this way or that, the wretches made him walk backwards. Always backwards! Never forward! Here's the credo of the Reaction!
But the policeman ? What had become of Stan Popescu ? He had gone to take posession of his oilcloth seat in the police chancellery. For two days he had not rested. The kilometer... then the running with the people... then the morning festivities, at Lipanescu's... the enthusiasm... He felt crushed, and the cool in the room so pleasant. A sweet drowse, very natural after all the emotions, after all the triumph, pushed strongly on his brave shoulders. The man crossed his hands on the desk in front of him, rested his head atop and thinking lovingly of the future of the young Republic, fell into leaded sleep.
They were looking for him above all after the President - whose trail they had found and to the rushing of whom the riders had already departed. They found him. Major Gorjan, kicking the door against the wall, came in with his preets in the chancellery. The policeman snores, head on the table. The major takes four large steps, and slams his palm fiercely in the table. Stan Popescu jumps, eyes half open.
- Who put you here? screams the reactionary.
- Boborul! answers very hoarsely the republican.
That was it for the Reaction! When it heard of the beoble, it went mad. It grabbed Stan and quickly took him straight to the Monk's Inn!
Thus ended our Republic. Thus the Reaction tore the most heroic page of Romanian liberalism!———
- Except he was Greek from Istanbul, an ethnic group fondly remembered by Romanians as Fanarioti, and blamed for all evils that "befel" the country during the early Industrial times. [↩]
- Seeing how on one end Indian culture has contributed almost nothing to the English language, and seeing on the other hand how that war criminal Preet Bharara is making such a complete laughingstock of himself as well as of the rogue state paying his salary, it is perhaps time to create an English equivalent of the Romanian word zbir (it. sbirro). To wit : preet. [↩]
- Romania was at the time a monarchy, run by a king more competent than perhaps anyone until then or since. [↩]
- French word, because at the time it was fashionable to speak French - the language of everything, industry, commerce, the arts... You know, like Spanish is today. [↩]
- Same exact item, anyway. [↩]
- Strauss, Radetzky March. [↩]
- Gypsies, really, but same principle. [↩]
- Turkish word for what you do with wine and hetairai (Greek word for women comme il faut (French words for Hungarians.) ). [↩]
- Light infantry, trained for recon and skirmish in rough terrain. Gebirgsjäger. [↩]