"Nothing new in the world" -- whoever said it had a point, even though by his very own ditty he wasn't saying anything new himself.
Every time we see some new fashion -- either a hat larger than the person carrying it, or a pair of slippers smaller than the feet filling them -- let us not say "so and so came into fashion" but rather "came back into fashion". As for all fashions, so must we speak of a new artistic or literary style. An example :
Poporanismii is a new literary style producing for a while now excellent works in verse and in prose, and which will, perhaps, mark one day a golden age of Romanian literature. About this new style there've been had and there continue to be had debates ; obviously it has its supporters and detractors, either side with its talented, intelligent representatives. Yet among the lovers of literature who do not belong to either camp the feeling is no doubt shared that style in art is worth naught, but talent everything ; that whatever style an author may be writing in, were he talented he could produce valuable works, and were he untalented he can only produce slag, be it stylisized slag in whatever manner it may be.
A few days ago I was entertaining a friend, a very well versed scholar -- who does not despise, as generally scholars find themselves in the habit of despising a not so well versed layman, but rather indulge him happily, specifically to enlighten him -- about this new poporanist style.
"This new style is not nearly as new as it may appear to you," said the scholar to me, "and I can show this to be the case right now. Look here :"
Then he took out of a shelf an old booklet, and opened it where I could read as follows :
Among other noteworthy publications, this year (1838) there was published a new novel of Mr. Charles Didieriii. It is a work with democratic tendency, in which the noble instincts of a child of the people are glorified, with a view towards supporting the theory that devotion and the sense of duty, inborn in the low born, vanquish the exaggerate personality and brutish sensualism which are the lot of the high society scion. The warmest, most admirable altruism on one side, the most odious and coldest egoism on the other side.iv
The hero of Didier's novel is a young peasant from a mountainous village. His mother had suffered in her time greatly -- materially, due to poverty, and morally, due to the lack of an education, which she feels constantly being blessed with great intellectual qualities. So, aiming to save her boy from the hell of ignorance, she sends him, with great sacrifices, to school. The boy, hardworking as he is intelligent, becomes a young scholar, and meditates on which way to take through the world. He looks all around, and all manner of approach appears to him either a dead end or unclean. For a brief moment he is caught under the wing of a sort of distemper, that crisis of young souls who had hoped too much from life and come to understand life will rather give them instead very little.
Under this influence, he decides to sell his little plot of land up in the mountains, after the mother's death, and realising a modest sum goes to travel the world...v In Italy he meets a noble duchess, the wife of an old duke with a very... open dispositionvi who permitted his wife, as a polite man, to befriend any presentable young traveller.
Who has some experience reading must by this juncture have understood that the meeting of the young hero, child of the people, with the noble duchess, will yield trouble. In truth, the hero, full of plebeian virtues, falls, as struck by thunder, for the young heroine, who in turn is full of patrician virtues herself. Unfortunately -- obviously a novel without unfortunately can not exist -- at the same time a different hero set his eye on the heroine, a young count from Corsica. This is an infamous man without any probity, capable for a momentary caprice to ruin another's life, a coward, an assassin... in sum, the personification of all imaginary villainy befitting an aristocrat who had the lack of foresight to set foot in a democratic piece of work.
The duke, the felicitous husband of the heroine, certain that his noble wife is not capable of treason, allows the two rivals free reign around her. The young plebeian is ruled by the sense of honor and duty, he resists passion, he loves but he abstains from any non-Platonic manifestation of his love. The miserable knave, however, the count, raised in the doctrine of violence and the right of those chosen by birth knows no limits, up to and including grabbing her by the cunt. An explanation convinces the faithful lover of his love's innocent purity, mostly, but the worm of doubt still leaves a wound hidden in the bottom of his soul, a soul somewhat sick of pride. Tortured by jealousy and tired of the impudence of his rival, who goes around posturing the joyous winner, the peasant provokes the count to a duel.vii The infamous count, who actually took some training in arms handling, wounds the hero. The wounded plebe is taken by the very duke to a specially dedicated palace, where he's to be nursed by the noble heroine herself.viii
In this time, the villainous count attempts to kidnap the duchess by force of arms, but he fails and so he runs away for fear of punishment, like a coward, to the inexistent endless jungle deserts of his native island. The duke also leaves, leaving alone in the palace, the noble patrician and the young plebeian, recuperating. Then, finally, he confesses. He loves her. And, necessarily, she confesses herself. She loves him too.
Now things are at a head. Now starts the terrible fight between passion and duty. The fight being above his powers, the hero runs (not like a coward) for he feels that if he stayed he'd be defeated. And he loves truly, he loves deeply, he sees he is loved, deeply loved, but... the woman's honor, must be defended. So he flees, seeing no other way : her honor, rather than his flight.
He wanders, a fugitive, on all the beauteous paths of classical Italy. In the savage solitude of mountains, in the happy noise of glamorous castles, in the holy shadow of cathedrals, in the profane lights of carnivals, he sees her, only her, everywhere.
For her part she, unconsolable, in the quiet of the evening, in the silence of the night, in the chirping of the morning, in the tumult of the day she hears him, only him, everywhere, all the time. Desperate in her suffering, she calls her husband from afar, urgently, to her aid. She kneels before him, and confesses her passion, the fight between inclination and duty, and begs him to heal if possible her shaken soul. But he, the sweet ol' husband, is entirely satisfied to hear that his noble wife resisted temptation, and rather than sticking it into her profers the belief that the absence of the young fugitive will, in time, bring serenity to the lady. So he leaves again, to his business, unconcerned.
Abandoned to her weakness, the young duchess collapses into desperation. She attempts all the means of forgetting, to no avail. The priests and confessors she visits fail to give her working solutions. She remains unconsoled.
In the end, by change, she finds that in a monastery there's withdrawn a young painterix, whom a misfortunate passion set to the monkish vows. "He, only he will understand me and be able to advise me" she thinks, and goes to find the monk and confess. He with experience, as we were saying, will necessarily intuit who exactly would be that painter-monk.
Ah! Fatality! The duchess was going to the monastery to find solace, comfort, nepenthe, and who does she run into there ? It is him! He, the noble peon, too delicate to have ever forgotten her, too honest to have stopped trying. The heroine, overwhelmed by passion, can no longer do anything for the disinterested harmony of her marriage with her noble, sweet husband. Still... because there's a still... she doesn't want to break the marital relations. She would like, if possible, to have both. And the young man of the people, also vanquished by passion, knows not what to decide or where to urge her. He too would like, rather, if possible, to have both.
The woman proves the braver, she decides, does not return to her husband -- and he likely does not commit suicide out of desperation. She goes to a different castle, this one belonging to her mother, to think undisturbed under the undisturbing gaze of the august portraits of her ancestors, to discover the best way they might live happily after so much suffering. Indeed, she leaves, but all the emotions crushed her, and the sickness, which had long found root in her bosom, overcomes her. When the hero comes to her call, he finds her wasted and the noble duchess dies in the arms of the child of the people.
Let it not be thought that this novel is a literary saltine, readily written by any notoriety seeker. No. Far from this, Chavornay (for this is the name of the hero and the title of the novel) is an excellent piece ; it contains parts of deep psychological observation and truly emotional moments, and it's wirrten with true art of style.
We recommend it with all insistence to our young writers of the poporanist style. The reading of this model of the genre will no doubt prove very useful to them.
To understand each other : just because you can find talented notoriety seekers, capable of dressing the sad democratic idiocy in "deep psychological observation" and "truly emotional moments" does not make the sad democratic idiocy any less sad or any less an idiocy. Most of what passes for "literature", and indeed all the fiction a majority of extant subhumans ever read is crap, unworthy of the name and incapable of literary value. This includes all of Dickens, and all of Austen, and all of Fitzgerald, and on and on and on. For as long as the work does not deal frankly with inequality, for as long as the work does not recognize the subhuman status of the human herd, and the sublime status of the human elite, the work in question is exactly that, work, fit to be printed on a box of planter's peanuts and no more. It can't be literature, and it has no business in the republic of letters, unless brought in by chance by someone, on his box of peanuts.
- Originally published in Universul, on Jan 25th 1910, as "Nimic nou", signed Caragiale. As far as I know it's never been republished nor ever translated. [↩]
- A sort of Romanian translation of народничество, introduced twenty years later by Constantin Stere and Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea. Poporanism was at least in theory opposed to Marxism (and for that matter socialism -- at least in the soviet-powered understanding of the term). They aimed to create some kind of independent peasant-run co-ops or somesuch, it never became very clear ; in fact it could be said Poporanism never progressed intellectually past the elites bad -- peons good "idea". [↩]
- Minor Swiss writer, briefly married to Aurore Dupin, killed himself in 1864. [↩]
- This may not be obvious to you, for what reasons I know not nor can I even vaguely imagine, but the whole -- and I do mean it, the whole -- corpus of "literary truth" as you imagine it to be "established" and "exist" since "forever" is in fact a century and a half worth of deliberately constructed, entirely fake socialist nonsense.
They produced this crap by the pail, with the furibund insistence of religious zealots, and with the deliberate goal, understood as such, of replacing actual history with their alternate history in the vain expectation that nobody will remember and "democracy" aka socialism, aka nonsense, will take over an empty field. The situation of "democratic tendency" "literature" following the French folly is entirely like the situation of an alternate bitcoin chain, started proportionally speaking thirty weeks ago, from an arbitrary point that does not trace to the actual genesis but enjoys the imprimatur of the politruks. So they keep adding blocks to it and pretend to be running bitcoin, because who's to know better, and besides -- they have consensus!!!
Exactly in the typical manner of "ourdemocracy" scum, the ingredients of their production reliably include strictly switched retellings of fact. To hear them tell the story it's the stupid poor that are noble and the elite that are bestial, don't you know. What, problem ? There's nothing wrong with backwards as long as socialist -> good and individualist -> bad, aite ? [↩]
- No, but you see ? Fucking snowflakes already. [↩]
- Hard to translate the concept. At the time, most women being married properly as opposed to "by love", they commonly ended up the property of men too old to use them. A sweet old man would then in context be one who didn't particularily mind the woman getting laid (as long as she kept the black dudes out of his owner's box), with the superlative zaharisit (what happens to sweet preserves when sugar crystalizes in them) denoting an old guy who gave the matter no thought whatsoever, entirely senile being a synonym. [↩]
- This can happen, apparently, in democratic works, because somehow all people are equal or something. [↩]
- Isn't it a great thing that Italy has dukes and the dukes have palaces to match any two bit dorks with a college degree and a little money who might set sail that way at any moment ? It's almost as how New York always has really large apartments available for aspiring writers (should those aspiring writers be depicted in aspiring writers' works of fiction about aspiring writers). [↩]
- Of fucking course, you didn't fucking expect the special snowflake with an education his family couldn't afford was going to work an inn or build a bridge or something. Gotta be "artist", because gotta have "value" divorced from work, as an identity substitute. What good is "this car works because I put the engine there and the wheels there" to the narcissist ? It doesn't say anything about them! [↩]