Thrown (Ţâpat) in ,

Only recently have I discovered the "Superscrieri Prizes" and I thought I share it with you – it’s quite interesting.

On the creativity front, this is the second significant happening going around.

merleau-pontyFirstly, I just got an invite for a “space discussion” in January from a someone with whom I had, not long ago, a discussion about Quantum Physics and Buddhism.

Topic of discussion is the following. To quote the philosopher Merleau-Ponty: "Space is not the setting (real or logical) in which things are arranged, but the means whereby the position of things becomes possible. This means that instead of imagining it as a sort of ether in which all things float, or conceiving it abstractly as a characteristic that they have in common, we must think of it as the universal power enabling them to be connected."

Is Merleau-Ponty on the right track?
What is "space" as an abstract idea?
What is the most appropriate way to conceive of "space" in theory and existential practice?

Optional: bring a copy of your favourite poem of all time. We will start by reading these to each other, then discuss "space". I will be reading my favourite poem, T.S. Eliot's "East Coker." Stephen M will be reading his favourite poem by Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky."

I’m not sure I can make it, but it could be interesting. Until then, a few PDFs on (and by) Merleau-Ponty.

Secondly (but really the main reason I started this article) was to give a tip of the hat to FFFF and their “superwritings” prizes. I stumbled upon it incidentally as I was reviewing scarlett – Sorin Tranca’s epitaph to an unrealised relationship in DoR, and then deciding I should be checking out his Foundation, where I’ve found the aforementioned prizes.

The best non-fiction one is an article by an Irish writer about Romanian nationalism (PDF, link below). I’m only going to give a few quotes.
  • Romanian communism had been a particularly nationalistic phenomenon, with its grand building and engineering projects, an independent line from Moscow, programmes for population expansion that produced a ban on contraception and abortion, and rehashed fascist notions about eugenics that consigned the destitute and the handicapped to incarceration in horrific state institutions.
  • After the fall of communism, the literature of that period fell into disgrace. Interwar writers, preeminent among them Mircea Eliade and E.M. Cioran (who had emigrated to the United States and France, respectively), became the new Romanian literary heroes. Communism was the source of all evil in Romanian society, therefore the period before it must have been better. Then Mihail Sebastian’s wartime diaries turned up in Israel, were dusted off, and published. Eliade, Cioran, and others appeared in a new light, as fascist supporters and ideologues, and the fact had to be confronted that it wasn’t the Russians who had introduced totalitarianism to the Romanian nation. The country was being asked to come to terms with its fascist past and its communist past all at once, and something had to give. It was simpler to leave the nationalist conception of Romania as a great and suffering nation intact and to dismiss Sebastian as a traitor. Those who argued that Sebastian’s diaries had to be faced, such as the Jewish-Romanian writer Norman Manea – who was, as a child, deported with his family to a Romanian internment camp – became traitors by extension. Or else ignorant foreigners. “Yalta! Yalta! Yalta!” screamed one of the online comments, in reaction to my interview. Had I not heard of Yalta, the crucifixion of the Romanian nation?
  • The Iron Guard, also known as the Legionary Movement – in the ascendent when For Two Thousand Years was published – mixed religious mysticism with fascist politics. According to Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Legion’s founder, history and politics was the realm of sin. The individual could transcend the world through sacramental acts of violence that would bring about the purification and rebirth of the Romanian nation. Guardist thinking is presented in For Two Thousand Years in the persona of the young idealogue Stefan Pârlea (clearly based on the young E.M. Cioran, a friend of Sebastian’s, who would become one of post-war Paris’s favourite nihilists). Pârlea requires a conflagration to transform the nation, with Jews as collateral damage: “Any act of violence is good. ‘Down with jidani’ is idiotic, agreed! But what does it matter? The point is to shake the country up a bit. Begin with the Jews – if there’s no other way. But finish higher up, with a general conflagration, with an earthquake that spares nothing.” Yet the Holocaust approaches quietly as well, heralded by friends who will calmly discuss the “Jewish problem” with the narrator.
  • In For Two Thousand Years, Vieru claims that there were “one million eight hundred thousand Jews in Romania.” The correct figure in 1930, around the period when the conversation was set, was about 750,000, out of a total population of 18 million. This figure probably fell by tens of thousands through the 1930s as many Jews fled in the face of repression. It is estimated that over 300,000 Romanian Jews perished in the Holocaust. The fates of Romanian Jews varied from region to region. Approximately 135,000 died in Auschwitz and other German concentration camps following transportation from the area of northern Transylvania ceded, under German pressure, to Hungarian administration. Some 150,000 Jews in eastern Romania were transported en masse to internment camps to Transnistria (the name given to the area of Ukraine under Romanian administration, between the Dniestr and the Bug), where as many as 100,000 died of hunger, disease and cold, or were massacred by Romanian troops. The Jews of Bucharest and southern Romania, less numerous and less ghettoized than eastern Jews, were not deported, though they were exposed to random acts of violence, and repressive measures intensified into 1942. In Romania the killing began as a series of pogroms. With the seizure of power by the fascist Iron Guard in September 1940, violence broke out across the country, from individual beatings and murders to mass executions. These actions were usually provoked by the state, which would then express its concern that things had got out of hand.
  • In October 1941, Odessa fell, leading to one of the greatest massacres of a civilian population of the Second World War. Many thousands of Jews were simply assembled and machine-gunned to death. The historian Iulius Fischer estimates that – in addition to the over 87,000 Jews and 25,000 Gypsies from Romania that died following deportation to Transnistria – 130,000 local Jews were killed in Romanian-occupied Ukraine. Raul Hilberg, in The Destruction of the European Jews, estimates that “the Romanians killed, in the area of Odessa and Golta, 150,000 local Jews… No other country, with the exception of Germany, participated in the massacre of Jews on such a massive scale.” It was only the turning of the tide of war against the axis that caused Antonescu to stall the implementation of Romania’s solution to its Jewish problem.
  • Sebastian’s personal diaries record in detail the build-up to the war and its early years as he watches his friends, both fascist sympathisers and others, disassociate themselves from him. He records his bitterness as these friends try to drift back as the tide of war changes. He watches fascists reinvent themselves as socialists, and invite him to rejoin the writer’s union, from which he had been expelled. IV It must have been a lonely and dispiriting thing to have published a book as calm and thoughtful as For Two Thousand Years in 1934. Sebastian’s attempt to see through to the heart of a problem was misunderstood and rejected. And it must have been a lonely thing to be a Jewish intellectual in a climate where virtually the entire intellectual class – Sebastian’s friends and colleagues – were at best the reasonable antisemites of the kind Vieru is depicted as being.
  • Sebastian understood nationalist ideas because as a young man he had been deeply attracted to them, and only withdrew from them when he saw where fascist ideology could lead. He must have been conscious that, had he not been a Jew, he might even have become an antisemitic ideologue himself. V In 1947, Saul Bellow’s novel The Victim was published. It is an illuminating study of the psychology of victimhood. The story concerns a man called Levanthal, who is doing his best to ignore his Jewishness and what others make of it, and trying to get on and make a living, like everyone else in New York. The story becomes that of his relentless harassment by a man from his past called Allbee, whom he can hardly remember but who bears him a terrible grudge. While we initially assume that the victim the title refers to is Levanthal, by the end of the story it is clear that the victim is in fact Allbee. Allbee’s relentless harassment of Leventhal is rooted in Allbee’s conviction that he is the injured party, in his frustration and disappointment with his own life, in his refusal to see his own failings. The novel is a study of Allbee’s sense of victimhood. The story culminates with Allbee’s attempt to kill himself. Allbee breaks into Levanthal’s home one night and tries to gas himself using the oven. Levanthal awakes in time to avert disaster. Years later the two men meet, and Allbee explains that he never even meant to hurt Levanthal on that night. “I wasn’t thinking of you,” says Allbee. “When you turn against yourself, nobody else means anything to you either.”

I already quoted too much. This is an amazing essay and must be read. As for me, I’ve written about the Romanian Holocaust, antisemitism and even Gypsies (a more pressing problem, justifying its own category, romi, on this blog).

Obviously, the above is only one recommendation. Petreanu has more on his blog, if you don’t have time to read each one.

Sources / More info: sba, dor-victima, ffff-ss, ec-poem,

Thank you for reading (mulţam fain pentru cetire)! Publicat Friday, December 21, 2012 . Similar articles under the following categories (poţi găsi articole similare sub următoarele categorii): (Subscribe), (Subscribe) . Dacă ţi-a plăcut articolul, PinIt-uieste-l, ReddIt-eaza-l, stumble-uieste-l altora, trimite-l pe WhatsApp yMess şi consideră abonarea la fluxul RSS sau prin email. Ma poti de asemenea gasi pe Google. Trackback poateputea fi trimis prin URL-ul de sub Comentarii.
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