Antimetafizica is a weird hybrid of a book, a struțocămilă, as the extraordinary Dimitrie Cantemir would say it, neither struț (ostrich) nor cămilă (camel), neither memoir nor fiction, neither poetry nor interview, neither epistolary novel nor diary, although it certainly dabbles in all of these, and the confessional is funny and heart-rending, the interviewing skills are sharp like a diamond-cutter, the letters are delightful, the stories are worthy of both Zola and Novalis and everything in-between, and the poetry kneads your brains until they're the consistency of fluffy clouds and they float away only to rain back on the world, rendering it more vivid and luminous than ever.
In short, a book worthy of Nichita Stănescu:
...accompanied by Aurelian Titu Dumitrescu. True, Nichita signed his authorial rights over to A.T. Dumitrescu, and the book was published two years after Nichita's death (1985), but it's still, fundamentally, his. There is a second edition I didn't have the chance to get--it was published the year I left Romania, and I simply never saw it on the shelves. So when I finally went back to Romania this summer, for first time in four years, with the goal of bringing home some beloved books, this is the first one I grabbed--or rather, very gingery picked up and dusted, wondering if it's going to survive the trip across the Atlantic. The quality of printed matter in the late communist period (the 80s) is dismal, and these books don't age well, as you can see by the picture above. Still, this edition is precious to me because it was a gift from my first Romanian teacher, to whom I owe a significant chunk of my intellectual development. I was 12 when I got this--and she wrote this dedication on the front page:
Împărtășind credința lui Nichita că, pentru a putea exista supraoameni, trebuie mai întâi să existe oameni, îți doresc, Cristina, să știi întotdeauna ceea ce vrei și să vrei întodeauna ceea ce știi, pentru ca, printre toate neliniștile inerente vieții, să poți avea liniștea pe care numai conștiința ta ți-o poate da, că ești, într-adevăr, un om.
Profesor Mihaela Cosma
Sharing Nichita’s belief that, in order for superhumans to exist, humans should exist first, I wish you, Cristina, to always know what you want and to always want what you know, so that, amid all life’s inherent troubles, you may have the peace only your conscience may give you, that you are, indeed, human.
Professor Mihaela Cosma
The belief she alludes to is expressed by Nichita in one of the letters published towards the end of the book:
Stimate coleg Aurelian Titu Dumitrescu, ca să existe supraoameni, cu mult înainte de aceasta ar trebui să existe oameni. Acest adevăr m-a lăsat singur cu mine însumi o noapte întreagă. Umanismul sigur că poate apărea ca o sălbăticie împotriva naturii. Supraomul este o sinucidere a omului. De ce să fii pe deasupra când tocmai ai izbutit să fii pe dinlăuntru?
Lasă-i pe alții să-ți recunoască munca! În clipa în care tu ți-o recunoști, este ca și cum n-ai fi înfăptuit-o! În aventura, sau în miracolul, sau în mirarea de a fi în viață, dacă ai în tine cântec, cântă chiar viața!
Cine vrea să se sinucidă îl privește, deși sufletul uman socotește ca pe un viol al sufletului uman sinuciderea. N-ai voie niciodată să superi dorința de a fi prin dorința ta de a nu mai fi. Închei repede această scrisoare ca pe o cămașă, amintindu-ți că sunt fericit că exiști și că, în genere, există existența.
Gândit și scris de către Nichita Stănescu
Esteemed colleague Aurelian Titu Dumitrescu, in order for superhumans to exist, long before that, humans should exist first. This truth left me alone with myself for an entire night. Humanism may surely appear as an act [of savagery] against nature. The superman is the suicide of man. Why would you want to be above when you have just managed to be within?
Let other people acknowledge your work! The moment you acknowledge it yourself, it’s like you’ve never accomplished it! In the adventure, or the miracle, or the amazement to be alive, if you carry [a] song within, sing life itself!
Whoever wants to commit suicide, it’s their business, though the human soul regards suicide as a rape of the human soul. You are not allowed to anger the will to be through your will to be no more. I shall quickly close this letter like a shirt, by reminding you that I am happy that you are alive and that, generally speaking, existence exists.
Thought and written by Nichita Stănescu
I debated whether to translate "supraom" by "superman," which is the most "natural" solution, but opted for "superhuman" because it doesn't carry over the gender burden of "man." Furthermore, it would have felt weird to have my professor say that she wanted me to be a "man"--not after the political correctness rendered that word unusable in a generic sense. I did keep "superman" later in Nichita's text because it went better with "man" afterward ("human" would have sounded awkward, I think).
I have faltered a little bit regarding what my professor wished for me. I can't say I have always known what I wanted, and even less that I've always wanted what I knew. Come to think of it, that second half, right there, is a bit of an odd thing to wish people. To want what you know: Does this mean that I should embrace whatever knowledge I have accumulated so far? Or that I should only learn things I want to know? Or maybe it means that my wishes and deeds should be at peace. I still have a long way to go towards that...
I find a very Apollonian Nichita in this book, more solar and open to life than usual. It is as it should be, for how could one create, and how could art exist outside life? Some of the poems at the end of the book deal with the senses, and here's the one for sight:
Ce noroc și lumina
ce noroc și ea!
mi-a născut doi fii, pe ochii mei, fiii ei.
Ochii mei,--fiii luminii,
Ce noroc al vieții mele lumina asta cu fii!
Și câtă cerere de iertare
pentru somnul cu pleoapele strânse.
Iartă-ți fiii, lumină,
de vina somnului cu vise,
ochii mei albaștri, copiii ăștia gemeni
sunt fiii tăi, lumină, sunt fiii tăi.
Iartă-i pentru trecătorul lor somn
What luck the light
what luck she got!
she bore me two sons, my eyes, her sons.
My eyes—the light’s sons,
What luck of my life this light with sons!
And how much begging for forgiveness
for the sleep with tight eyelids.
Forgive your sons, light,
for the guilt of the dream-laden sleep,
my blue eyes, these twin children
are your sons, light, are your sons.
Forgive them for their passing sleep
...to which I add: but when we sleep, are we not dreaming the sleep of light? Are not our dreams informed by light itself, in its hallucinatory form? Otherwise, all of our sleep would be pitch-black, and that would simply be against nature.
Nichita, it's good to find you again.