Re-reading is the most powerful tool...
Ion Luca Caragiale is one of the few blessed authors I re-read without count, whenever, for no particular reason. The deed is in itself pleasant, which constitutes the driver, but it is in subsidiary informative, because successive lecture allows the slow, methodical peeling away of salient points that lose their salience through repetition only to make room for others, just as remarkable in their own way if not as loud about it.
Consider in this vein the strange situation of Caragiale's own personal relations. He had a number of women in his life, and they produced a number of children. One of them, Mateiu Caragiale, an aspiring writer of dubious value (deeply favoured by all Romanian-speaking anal children as some sort of patron saint), he could never get along with. Aside from all this, and before any of it, he also had a friend. A great friend, that best friend of youth : Mihai Eminescu.
Now let's read together, first, Caragiale's own description of his meeting his friend Eminescui and then Mateiu's hint at his relationship with his fatherii. Here we go :
Și-mi povesti cum găsise într-un otel din Giurgiu pe acel băiat — care slujea în curte și la grajd — culcat în fîn și citind în gura mare pe Schiller.
În ieslele grajdului, la o parte, era un geamantan — biblioteca băiatului — plin cu cărți nemțești. Băiatul era foarte blînd, de treabă, nu avea nici un vițiu. Era străin de departe, zicea el, dar nu voia să spună de unde. Se vedea bine a fi copil de oameni, ajuns aci din cine știe ce împrejurare.
Actorul îi propuse să-l ia sufler, cu șapte galbeni pe lună, și băiatul primi cu bucurie. Își luase biblioteca și acuma se afla în București. Seara trebuia să vie la directorul lui — astfel puteam să-l văz. Eram foarte curios să-l cunosc. Nu știu pentru ce, îmi închipuiam pe tinărul aventurar ca pe o ființă extraordinară, un erou, un viitor om mare.
În închipuirea mea, văzîndu-l în revoltă față cu practica vieții comune, găseam că disprețul lui pentru disciplina socială e o dovadă cum că omul acesta trebuie să fie scos dintr-un tipar de lux, nu din acela din care se trag exemplarele stereotipe cu miile de duzine.
Deși în genere teoria de la care plecam eu ca să gîndesc astfel — că adică, un om mare trebuie in toate să fie ca neoamenii — era pripită, poate chiar de loc întemeiată, în speță însă s-a adeverit cu prisos.
Tînărul sosi. Era o frumusețe! O figură clasică încadrată de niște plete mari negre; o frunte înaltă și senină; niște ochi mari - la aceste ferestre ale sufletului se vedea că cineva este înăuntru; un zîmbet blînd și adînc melancolic. Avea aerul unui sfînt tînăr coborît dintr-o veche icoană, un copil predestinat durerii, pe chipul căruia se vedea scrisul unor chinuri viitoare.iii
Now for the son :
Urasc scrisorile. Nu stiu sa fi primit de cand sunt decat una, de la bunul meu amic Uhry, care sa-mi fi adus o veste fericita. Am groaza de scrisori. Pe atunci le ardeam fara sa le deschid.
Asta era soarta ce o astepta si pe noua sosita. Cunoscand scrisul, ghicisem cuprinsul. Stiam pe de rost nesarata plachie de sfaturi si de dojane ce mi se slujea de-acasa cam la fiecare inceput de luna; sfaturi sa purced cu barbatie pe calea muncii, dojane ca nu ma mai induplecam sa purced odata. Si, in coada, nelipsita urare ca Dumnezeu sa ma aiba in sfanta sa paza.
Amin!in halul insa in care ma gaseam mi-ar fi fost peste putinta sa pornesc pe orice fel de cale. Nici in pat nu ma puteam misca. Desurubat de la incheieturi, cu salele frante, mi se parea ca ajunsesem in stare de piftie. In mintea mea aburita miji frica sa nu ma fi lovit damblaua.
Nu, dar in sfarsit ma razbise. De o luna, pe tacute si nerasuflate, cu nadejde si temei, o dusesem intr-o bautura, un crailac, un joc. In anii din urma, fusesem greu incercat de imprejurari; mica mea luntre o batusera valuri mari. Ma aparasem prost si, scarbit de toate peste masura, nazuisem sa aflu intr-o viata de stricaciune uitarea.iv
You tell the kid that what his father was looking for in a best friend when he was twenty is entirely and exactly not what he's looking for in a son when he's well over forty. "Obviously" it's every son's aspiration to be their father's best friend, and the more sensitive oft naively make a too big deal of this, but the fact remains that the man who was delighted to meet a horse when he was young would very much like to leave a tower behind him when he's old. The qualities that make a good horse make a terrible tower ; and while terracotta horses may be decent decorations for the stove, nobody seriously attempts to take them out for rides.
I don't imagine the two ever had the time to look on that paragraph together, chiefly due to the fundamental ineptitude of the sidecunt that spawned the child, but I don't frankly speaking expect it'd have made that much difference. The fact remains that man will want what man wants, and a society which produces "men" that want bullshit in the manner of Mateiu Caragiale is doomed to disappear into the cold and dark, for it's utterly not worth remembering.
tl;dr : If your son cares whether he's your best friend or not, you're screwed.
Now go forth and wonder why "discovering hypocrisy" is such a big deal for "narcissists".———
- published 1889, in Constitutionalul, signed C. [↩]
- Published in his aspiratiographical novel, which I've taken the liberty to re-write, thereby massively improving it.
By aspiratiographical novel I mean the sort of misdrawn literary productions of young men that are ambitious and proud but inexperienced and inept. They're usually full of Mary Sues, impossible perspectives and angles, Lisa Kudrow's in the running to play a part etcetera. [↩]
- And he recounted the story of finding, in a hotel in Giurgiu, that boy -- working the stable -- laying in the hay, reading Schiller out loud.
In the stable there was, to the side, a trunk -- the boy's library -- full of German books. The boy was very tame, nice, without vices. He was a foreigner from far away, he'd say, but wouldn't say whence. He appeared a son of an honest family come to his present situation through who knows what circumstance.
The actor proposed a job as a threatre prompter, three hundred lei* a month, and the boy accepted gladly. He had taken his library along and now lived in Bucharest. In the evening he was expected to visit his director -- so I could see him. I was very curious to meet him. I don't know why, but I was imagining the young adventurer as an extraordinary being, a hero, a future great man.
In my imagination, seeing him in open rebellion against the common practice of life, I found his despising social discipline as proof that this man must come out of a luxury mould, not one of those from which they print copies by the thousands of dozens.
Although in general the theory on which I was proceeding to reason thusly -- that a great man must be in all things unlike common men -- was rushed, perhaps even baseless, in the case it was confirmed thoroughly.
The young man came. He was beautiful! A classical figure framed by rich black locks ; high, serene brow ; large eyes -- in these windows of the soul you could clearly see someone inside ; a gentle and deeply melancholic smile. He had the air of a young saint come alive from some ancient icon, a child predestined to pain, on whose face you could read the mark of future tortures.
* A word about the "leu" thing. Cca 1500 the Dutch used the lowenthaler, a coin with a lion rampant on the obverse, which for some reason created a fine impression in the minds and hearts of the merchants living around the Carpathians. Consequently, the "lion", ie "leu" in Romanian, became and remained the unit of account. It did not, for most of its usage, actually have a physical existence of any kind. Actual circulating coins, of many distinct types from both the Occident and the Orient, were evaluated, through complex and often arbitrary ratings against this imaginary leu. For instance cca 1860 the golden Austro-Hungarian 8 florin / 20 franc coin was priced as 31 and a half lei by the Treasury, as 37 lei in Iassy (capitol of Moldavia) and as 46 lei in Galati (major grain port, back then the place where grain prices were fixed for the entire world, a sort of Cushing OK if you will). This is not surprising -- the Treasury has a vested interest in overvaluing the imaginary item it is owed to the detriment of the actual items it is paid, while a very active shipping port is desperate for money to pay workers and oversupplied in goods, so it overprices specie in terms of account. As an unfortunate consequence, what exactly is meant by "sapte galbeni" will never be precisely known, but a coupla hundred lei is likely in the zone. What can I tell you. [↩]
- I hate letters. I don't know to have received my entire life but one, from my good friend Uhry, that brought happy news. I have letter phobia. Back in the day I used to burn them unopened.
This was the fate awaiting the newcomer. Knowing the handwriting, I intuited the contents. I knew by heart the unsalted omlet of advice and reprimand that was served from home about every new month ; advice to proceed manly on the way of labour, reprimand that I didn't limber to proceed already. And, in tail, the ubiquitous proferation that God keep me in his holy guard.
Amen! In the shape I found myself it'd have been beyond human capacity to proceed in any way whatsoever. I couldn't even move in bed. Undone at the joints, with my back broken, it seemed to me I had arrived to the state of pilaf. In my clouded mind the fear flickered I might have had an aneurysm.
No, but it finally broke through. For a month, silently and without respite, seriously and insistently, I had done naught but drinking, fucking, playing. In the last years I was mercilessly tried by circumstance ; my little boat encountered high waves. I had defended myself poorly and, disgusted by everything beyond measure, I aspired to find in a sinful life forgetfulness. [↩]