Memory and identity-focused narratives in Tanase's 'lived book'.
1. with the totalitarian history recalled to mind autobiographically ("the soft memory" in Etkind's terms), reliving "the impersonal order" (Todorov, Le siecle 546) by means of resistance reflected in confessional writing, and
2. with the multicultural Europe, opening towards its post-communist periphery in view of redefining, in its turn, its cultural identity profile.
Having suffered due to the experience of exile, Tanase projects this identity profile in his narratives via two methods. This identity is illustrated, on the one hand, allegorically and subversively in the novels he published in France before 1989, and on the other hand, through autobiographical and confessional self-legitimization in the post-1989 writings published in Romania and promoted by Institutul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului [section]i Memoria Exilului Romanesc (IICCMER--Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile). The "identity adventure" of his narratives is rooted in the biography of "the undesirable Tanase" from the age of socialism, since "in full age of socialist dogmatism, Virgil Tanase will daringly assert his independence of thought. The history of his humiliations is, at the same time, the history of the victory over communist terror" ("in plina epoca a dogmatismului socialist, Virgil Tanase i[section]i va afirma cu indrazneala independent de gandire. Istoria umilin^elor sale este totodata istoria victoriei asupra terorii comuniste" [Cristofor, "Confesiunile" 4; unless indicated otherwise all translations are mine]). Conspiratorially named the Rebel by Securitate, the Romanian Secret Police, the Romanian writer emigrates under duress to Paris, where alongside Paul Goma he becomes in 1981 the target of the assassination attempt planned by Securitate under direct orders from Ceausescu. The "Tanase Affair" fails miserably and the initial operation becomes a spectacular diversion--in the age of Cold War coordinated by the French Counter Information Service (DST) against Ceausescu's Securitate. His biographical coordinates and his refusal to live in an autarchic, autistically-politicized society justify his affiliation with the Romanian dissident movement in France, a status which both uproots and dislocates the author through identity loss and gives him ways to rediscover individual freedom. Inside the Romanian borders the exile brings about the "social death" of Tanase, as "the exiled is declared persona non grata and the simple mention of his name becomes a breach of law. Nevertheless, accepting this destiny is the only chance for an existence not governed by politics" ("cel exilat este declarat persona non grata si simpla rostire a numelui sau devine o incalcare a legilor. Cu toate acestea, acceptarea acestui destin reprezinta singura sansa la o existenta neguvernata de politic" [Strugaru, Exilul 29-30]).
In the historical context of trauma, by employing "dialogic relations with the others" defined as "providers of meaning" (Taylor, Multiculturalisme 52, 54), Tanase's autobiographical fictions or his memorial discourses of exile (published in Romania after 1989) project a search for identity by recovering the doctrinarian and totalitarian universe through a grid of personal memory. It is precisely this self-centered narrative that reflects identity as "coherence of the self in time" (Wieviorka, La difference 164). From a Cultural Studies theoretical perspective, the triad culture-identity-memory is actually regarded as a mechanism of reconstructing collective and individual identities in the writing of history. As Michael Wieviorka remarks, "many actors confess that, starting with the 1960s, they felt a preoccupation to inscribe their collective identity on the path of history, from whence they felt excluded or marginalized. Since then they started to challenge official history, [...] the history of the conquerors and the oppressors, in the name of their memory as defeated and oppressed people, certainly, but also in the name of their reference group's contribution to collective culture and life" ("de nombreux acteurs ont ainsi temoigne, a partir des annees 60, du souci d'inscrire leur identite collective dans l'histoire, une histoire d'ou ils s'estimaient exclus ou marginalises. Ils ont des lors entrepris de contester l'histoire officielle [...], l'histoire des vainqueurs et des dominants, au nom de leur memoire de vaincus et de domines, certes, mais aussi au nom de la contribution de leur groupe de reference a la culture et a la vie collectives" [La difference 163]). The case of Tanase's narratives, especially those which challenge official history, thus rewriting his own life, closely follow this pattern. His confessional works use personal memory to fictionally recollect instances of the Great History, the traumas he experienced as subject to the totalitarian age, and the exilic dislocation and its torments. Self-centered as they may be, these narratives become representative of the collective culture of the "uprooted" East, which as the result deems his recollections emblematic for the physical and psychological exodus of the intellectuals from the communist bloc.
On the other hand, it is the impact of the European dynamics on the imaginary of the posttotalitarian margin that generates fictions, which activate memory as "actors' subjectivity" (Wieviorka, 183), and self-reflexive discourses on the Self and the Other. As a matter of fact, in the works published after the fall of the communist regime by a significant number of Romanian intellectuals, including Tanase, Paul Goma, Dumitru Tepeneag, Nicolae Breban, Octavian Paler, loan Grosan, Adrian Marino, and so on, Europe is constantly referred to as a reservoir of multiple identities which coordinates the autobiographical imaginary of the post-communist space as it were from the shadows. This gives way to a process of re-Europeanizing peripheral literatures by emphasizing the dichotomy between the center and the margin. Along the same lines, Joanna Nowicki writes about "an imaginary Europe" which "finds itself face to face with a real Europe." This other Europe, "separated from the West by the whims of History" projects, in post-totalitarian writing, a "reclaiming Europeanness," generated by "the cultural co-habitation with the European Union states,--that many countries of the former socialist block wanted to join quickly. This new situation determined a series of numerous debates in the West, as well as in the East of the continent--debates not lacking some apprehension, and having a certain identity stake" ("la cohabitation culturelle avec les pays de l'Union europeenne, a laquelle beaucoup de pays de l'ex-Est ont immediatement souhaite appartenir. Cette situation nouvelle suscite de nombreux debats tant a l'ouest qu'a l'est du continent--debats non depourvus d'inquietudes, notamment identitaires" [285-86]).
In fact, the experience of the self-imposed exile, firstly as a sole means of survival during communism and secondly as the alternative to the diaspora, generates "a discourse of History" in the self-confessional-memorial narratives, placed at the "East-West interface" (Nowicki 287). The self-imposed exile of the intellectual bears special identity markers, or, in other words, a search for the identity of the self that is forged by permanently maintaining the illusion of a liberating West. In Joanna Nowicki words, and similar to Todorov's views, who writes about "transculturation," the "uprooted" East European rewrites the history of an "Other Europe," employing a specific perspective of the dialectics identity-alterity. Nowicki further asserts that "Contrary to the majority of Westerners, who discovered the world by conquest, or by receiving the others on their own territories, or as a result of journeying into the unknown, the Other Europeans are more familiar with the experience of the assimilated, the exotic, the allegorized or the exiled--if we consider the classification of modern travelers proposed by Tzvetan Todorov. Therefore, they have a tendency to express the 'identity self-celebration' since their identity is often distorted by a stormy political history" ("La Question" 289). Similarly, the literary relived experience of Tanase's exile with its phantasms of embedded History bestows legitimacy on an identity confronted with a re-evaluation of its individual and collective values at the impact with the Eurocentric polymorphism of identities. The author reshapes his own version of the past which reverberates his present experience of living in Paris and his narrative is thus extensively marked by the identity quest which displays both the "stormy political history," as Nowicki puts it, and the tormented personal history. The narrative acquires therapeutic functions while striving to grasp the sense of the individual Self.
It should be mentioned that, even though Romania was never a geopolitical part of the Soviet Union, the dogmatic invasion, that is Russification, turned the country into an enclave in which Soviet doctrine ruled. Politically, socially, mentally, and culturally, Ceausescu's tamed socialism was a replica of the Soviet society, 'enriched' towards the final years by the scenario of the cult of personality and of the unique leader. This uniqueness is opposed by the inherent diversity of the Other and by his nonhierarchical multiplicity, a rhizomatic identity, as Deleuze and Guattari would define it. In Edouard Glissant's view (quoted in Dufoix, La Dispersion 356-357), this opposition generates an "archipelagic thinking" that "gathers the wide variety of Diversity," which further destabilizes and relativizes the center. This gives birth to a form of postcolonial identity, which entails the fractal dimensions of discontinuity and fragmentation or homothetia (It should be mentioned that these concepts are borrowed from mathematical fractal theory, defined by Benoit Mandelbrot in Les Objets fractals: forme, hasard, dimension). Thus, identities are construed as representations of a postcolonial "circular nomadic drive," by which the matrix space of the archipelago organizes "the centralization of the margin and the marginalization of the center." This new type of reversed identity mirrors, in the autobiographic-memorial imaginary of Tanase's post-exilic writing, the adoption of some initiatic pilgrimages in search of "the home away from home" (Hall, 327-48). It reflects, on the one hand, the identity crisis of the self who in a post-totalitarian setting searches for his European roots and, on the other hand, the strategies for harmonizing the national-peripheral cultural memory with the European space of adhesion. Tanase's identity-centered narratives published after 1989 enhance the relived "in-between peripherally" Totosy de Zepetnek discusses in postcolonial terms (Comparative 10). As Cristina Sandru notices, "prior to 1989, East-Central Europe could be described as a mediating peripherality, doubly marginalized by the two competing centers of influence: the political-economic and ideological one of the Soviet Union, and the cultural one of the West" (Worlds Apart? 23). One can notice that Tanase's work is emblematic for being located between these two poles, offering in turn a special narrative typology emerging from the post-Soviet literatures, which may be referred to as "mediating confession."
In this context, some biographical details seem necessary for a better understanding of the writer's work. Born in Galati in 1945, Tanase becomes a student of the Faculty of Romance Languages, University of Bucharest (1963-1969), from where he is expelled for uttering the name of the "agnostic legionary," Emil Cioran, at a students' colloquium. His re-admittance to the faculty is conditioned by his agreement to collaborate with the Securitate (Political Police). The publication of his novel, Portrait d'homme a la faux dans un paysage marin, by Flammarion in 1976, draws the attention of the oppressive Political Police, which suggests an extension of his study period in France for three more months. While in France, he works with Flammarion publishing house, attends Roland Barthes's lectures from Ecole des Hautes Etudes, and in 1978 completes a doctoral thesis on the semiology of directing under the supervision of Barthes. The bases for "manufacturing" his political file, condemning him to death and revoking his Romanian citizenship in 1977, were his implication in the "Goma case" and the publication of the pamphlet "Sa Majeste Ceausescu I-er, roi communiste" ("His Majesty, Ceausescu The First, The Communist King" [Actuel no.27/1982]). This pamphlet was an ironic and virulent anti-totalitarian response that portrayed the symbolic figure of the King as the Center of power by asserting, "The king is good, the king likes celebrations--the joy brought by his anniversary is of cosmic proportions: the marble, the branches of the trees, all the birds hum on the day of your anniversary, speaking your name, the stars, the forests, the rivers. The queen is beautiful, the queen likes science: she is a star born in January, who conquered all the peaks of chemistry, all the heights of kindness and Humanity, comrade of the Chosen One, son of the earth and the light" ("Le roi est bon, le roi aime les fetes--pour son anniversaire la joie est cosmique: Le marbre, les rameaux, les oiseaux fremissent le jour de ton anniversaire, en pronongant ton nom, les astres, les forets, la riviere. La reine est belle, la reine aime les sciences: Elle est un astre ne en janvier, ayant franchi tous les sommets de la chimie, tous les sommets de la bonte et de l'Humanite, compagne de l'Homme Elu, fils de la terre et de la lumiere" [Tanase, "Sa Majeste Ceausescu"]). The assassination planned by the Romanian secret services fails and the agent in charge with settling the "Tanase business" surrenders to the French secret services. During his Parisian exile, Tanase publishes novels encoded in the symbolically-allusive language specific to parable. In fact, they should be construed as anti-totalitarian literary stands, shaped by intertextual and self-referential strategies. Some of these novels are, Portrait d'homme a la faux dans un paysage marin, translated by Alain Pamit, Paris, 1976 ; Apocalypse d'un adolescent de bonne famille, Paris, 1980; L'Amour, l'amour, roman sentimental, Paris, 1982; C'est mon affaire, sotie, Paris, 1983; Cette mort qui va et vient et revient, Paris, 1984; Le Bal sur la goelette du pirate aveugle, Paris, 1987; Le Bal autour du diamant magique, Paris, 1988. After 1989, he publishes La Vie mysterieuse et terrifiante d'un tueur anonyme, Paris, 1990; Ma Roumanie (Entretiens avec Blandine Teze--Delafon), Paris, 1990 (Romanian translation by Irina Petras, under the title of Romania mea, published in Bucharest in 1996); Ils refleurissent, les pommiers sauvages, Paris, 1991; and Zoia, Bucuresti, 2003. His plays are published in a volume in 1996, in Bucharest, and in 2011, in cooperation with the Romanian Institute for Recent History, he publishes a 'literary and police document'--Leapsa pe murite (Playing Tag with Death), an autobiographical novel with a powerful identity core, with the Adevarul Holding from Bucharest. All of Tanase's novels written in the communist period aspire to the pattern of aesthetic oneirism (immediately banned because of its "formalist" character). In fact, this is a literary strategy for avoiding the socio-cultural absurdity of the time and sliding towards a compensatorily assumed absurdity. This in turn generates "new meanings by arranging parts of the real that is verisimilitude according to its own logic, each of them, as it happens in dreams, very precise in its materiality. In dreams real, identifiable persons meet in equally familiar situations, only these people have never been to those places. One seems to overcome thus in literature the determination of realism, which was the official dogma, and the surrealist demonstration, and the textuality of the nouveau roman, who can't get a hold on History. Even now, I believe Romanian oneirism is one of the most interesting literary inventions of post-war literature" ("sensuri noi, prin aranjarea, dupa o logica proprie, a unor bucati de real [adica de verosimil], fiecare, cum se intampla in vise, foarte exact in materialitatea sa. fn vise, persoane reale, perfect identificabile, se intalnesc in situatii si ele cunoscute, atata doar ca aceste persoane n-au trecut niciodata prin acele locuri. Se depaseste astfel, in literatura, am impresia, si determinarea realismului, care era dogma oficiala, si demonstratia suprarealista, si textualitatea noului Roman, caruia Istoria ii scapa. Si astazi mai cred ca onisrismul roman este una dintre inventiile literare cele mai interesante ale literaturii dupa razboi" [Tanase, Romania mea 56]). Being invited by Securitate to leave the country in 1977, Tanase belongs to the category of "undesirables," whose iconoclastic texts generated by the anti-totalitarian stand, characterize dissident writing.
As stated, Tanase's literary debut is marked by oneirism, an aesthetic technique for the reconfiguration of a reality "overstuffed with ideology." The oneiric literary group was founded in 1964 by Romanian writers such as Dumitru Tepeneag, Leonid Dimov, Virgil Mazilescu, Iulian Neacsu, Emil Brumaru, Sorin Titel, Tanase, Miron Radu Paraschivescu, and others. It promoted a literature inspired by German oneirism, Surrealism, and the French nouveau roman, which projects a hallucinating reality within fiction, infused with verisimilitude by the amplitude of the fantastic and the visionary dynamics. The movement is suppressed by the totalitarian censorship, with many of its representative figures choosing exile, Tanase being one of them. Later, after the fall of the dictatorial regime, the novelist promotes an autobiographic writing updated by two formulae of the pattern "ecriture du soi"writing the self: the memorial narrative and the autobiographic fiction. His texts focus on the identity of the "totalitarian subject," "captive" of the Great History and his new "problematic confrontations" pre-post-totalitarian with the West rediscovered during the imposed exile. The two books based on this bi-polar narrative, My Romania (Romania mea 1996), and Playing Tag with Death (Leapsa 2011) contain a self-confessing structure, juxtaposing "the historicity of text" over "the textuality of history" (Antoine Compagnon, Le demon de 265). The game of verisimilitude, enhanced by the presence of the authorial figure at the textual level, emerges from the reconstruction of the identity of the exiled. Thus, the Eastern-European intellectual becomes "himself and an Other, the reader and the writer of his own life" ("lui-meme et un autre, le lecteur et le scripteur de sa propre vie" [Hubier, Litteratures 127]). The resulted personal mythology is projected onto the fictionalized autobiography in which the author is deemed as "the object of the text he himself is writing" (Gusdorf, Les Ecritures 122). The meta-dimension of writing autobiographically about the self is juxtaposed and contaminated by the acquired effect of the real in Barthesian sense. The double affiliation of the autobiographical fiction "to the literary field and to society" keeps a polemic record of the writer's options in the totalitarian age through the emergence of a "singular 'vision du monde' which provides access to a collective mentality" (Maingueneau, Le contexte 5). This way, individual memory meditates on "the colonizers' assimilating paradigm," ("le paradigme assimilationniste des colonisateurs") and "the resistance and opposition of the colonized who do not only passively interiorize the dominant cultural values, but they imbue them with their own image" ("la resistance et l'opposition des colonises qui ne se sont pas bornees a interioriser passivement les valeurs culturelles dominantes mais y ont imprime leur reflexion propre" [Fistetti, Theories 28]).
Tanase's narratives of the "uprooted Eastern European" emphasize the idea that "the fragmentation of the first-person narrative itself cannot be understood outside the strong connection with the identity hesitations of the enunciating subject" (Hubier, Litteratures 78). From Vincent Colonna's perspective, this enactment of the process of "Self fictionalization" entails "the attempt to turn the self into an imaginary subject, to tell a story by directly contributing to the story, to its construction, by becoming an element of one's own invention" ("la demarche qui consiste a faire de soi un sujet imaginaire, a raconter une histoire en se mettant directement a contribution, en collaborant a la fable, en devenant un element de son invention" [L'Autofiction 7]).
The direct rejection of the dominant ideological doctrine, the anxiety of exile, and the confrontation with the West become grounds for a "life story."
In 1990, one year after the fall of Ceausescu's regime, Ma Roumanie (Entretiens avec Blandine Teze-Delafou) is published in Paris. The Romanian edition of My Romania (Ma Roumanie, Romania mea) is published six years later in 1996 in Bucharest with an Introductory Note to the Romanian Edition composed by Tanase on April 9, 1996. Here, the author presents the motives that vouch for the "recuperating" authority of this "spoken book," which is an example of a narrative interview. Centered around a self that retrieves his memory of a dominant history that generates personal traumas, and having a definitive influence on the "totalitarian subject," the "life story" highlights the juxtaposition of an individual and a collective destiny. Tanase writes that,
My destiny seemed to me representative for the fate of an entire generation, which somehow managed to create contemporary Romania with the materials provided by history and which we could not choose. When the flesh of this era will have rotten and only stone will have remained after us, the enduring element over which many and various waters pass, I believe it will become clear that we haven't done worse than others in an age that itself wasn't worse or sweeter than others. We carried our life burden without misconstrued heroisms, trying to survive from one day to the next, defying the logic of a universe which was not built for our benefit, placing us in the service of the only things worth living for, that is managing to wake up in the morning, bringing children into the world and taking care of them, believing that nothing is more important in the world than the simple fact of being granted life.
(Destinul meu mi se parea exemplar pentru soarta unei Tntregi generatii care, cum-necum, a cladit Romania de azi cu materialele pe care Istoria i le-a pus la Tndemana si pe care n-am avut a le alege. Atunci cand carnea acestei epoci va fi putrezit si nu va ramane decat piatra din noi, elementul durabil peste care trec multele si feluritele ape, se va vadi, cred, ca nu ne-am descurcat mai rau decat altii Tntr-o vreme care nici ea n-a fost mai apriga ca altadata, nici mai dulce. Ne-am dus povara noastra de viata fara eroisme anapoda, Tncercand sa supravietuim de la o zi la alta, sfidand logica unui univers care n-a fost cladit Tntru priinta noastra, punandu-ne Tn slujba singurelor lucruri pentru care merita Tntr-adevar sa traiesti, adica a mai apuca sa te scoli de dimineata, aducand pe lume copii si Tngrijindu-te de ei, considerand ca nimic nu este mai important pe lume decat simplul fapt de a-ti fi fost Tngaduit sa te nasti [Romania mea 5].
By adopting the stance of a conscious observer of the regime, Tanase transfers his personal history as a prisoner of the Great History into an analysis of an identity which seeks retrieval through memory. He contests the post-revolutionary "paper dissidents," "professional revolutionaries, dissidents by trade, systematic opponents, teachers stiffened in absolute or sublime truths" (Romania mea 6). His "incriminatory testimony" of Romanian contemporaneity is built from the perspective of the "History experience." He notices the social and ideological flaws of a Romanian society "in eternal transition," marked by "political irresponsibility, media hooliganism, the encouragement of personal interests to the detriment of the collective ones, obtuse nationalism which is not based on trust in national values, quite the contrary, the bigotry of the views betray an ideological obscurantism, otherwise amusing, since it is the exact replica of the older 'party spirit', but with a different content" (Romania mea 8-9). His exilic access to "a social model that some envy" (6) enables the configuration of his remembrance-analysis of a revolute ideological system, to which the contemporary postcommunist one is compared. In his view, the latter still preserves some of the social and cryptoCommunist patterns of thought, which could explain "the failure of the East European worlds" as well as that of the Romanian world, which "like the eye that keeps for a long time the feeling of the slag which was removed long ago, [...] continues to function having as a main reference point the abolished totalitarian system. [...] In a country in which political attitudes seem to me to come less from the idea of a future, but rather out of fearing the past, we have, perhaps for the last time, the duty to say that, in some way, a house through which a herd of buffalos went through is not necessarily an architectural aberration ("ca ochiul care pastreaza mult timp senzatia zgurii de mult scoase, [...] functioneaza Tn continuare avand ca reper sistemul totalitar abolit. [...] fntr-o tara Tn care, mi se pare, atitudinile politice proced mai putin din ideea unui viitor cat mai ales din frica de trecut, avem, poate, pentru ultima data, datoria sa spunem ca, intr-un anume fel, o casa prin care a trecut o turma de bivoli nu este neaparat o constructie arhitectural aberanta" [Romania mea 6]).
Personal history is reconstructed by placing bits and pieces of life in the autobiographical order of writing, which strengthens the continuity and separation of the identity projections. In other words, as Kaufmann puts it, such moments "emphasize the specific logic of every identity profile-dissonant among themselves, but relatively well constituted [...]: the individual does not possess only one unity principle, but many" ("mettant en evidence des logiques identitaires dissonantes entre elles mais relativement constituees, [...]: l'individu n'a pas un seul principe d'unite, mais plusieurs" [Ego 167]). Relevant in this respect are a series of chronologically arranged episodes: the "provincial" childhood of the 1950s in the city of Galati as a utopian space which still holds some ancestral rhythms, the "intermittent" mirage of a Western world, infiltrated through the "forbidden" books, the student years and the formative "subversive" readings, the aggressive impact of the Communist propaganda and the repressive mythology of the "new man," the spiritual adhesion to the French matrix-space, the "undesirable" status and the expulsion from the faculty, the time of "re-education through work" as a concreter, the "dialogues" with the Securitate, the playwright's position in a Communist Romania, the literary debut in France and the motivation for exile, "the confrontation" with the West, "the Tanase affair," the failed attempt of the ordered assassination, "the literaturization" of personal experiences and the hypostasis of the writer in exile, the dilemmas of post-exile, and the return to contemporary Romania. All of these turn into fictional stages of self-development which, according to the internal mechanisms of the memory writing, redefine "the internalized plurality" (Kaufmann, 167), and reshape it as a "unitary construction." This acquired unity "is not simply a biographical illusion; the individual must truly build it by using a maximum of believable elements extracted from his own history. Then, he must turn this representation in the perception grid of new designs and means of interiorizing those that were already selected. Finally, starting from the most recent version which includes the latest interiorized designs, he must re-build his entire interior architecture" ("n'est pas une pure illusion biographique; l'individu doit en effet parvenir a la forger avec un maximum d'elements credibles tires de son histoire. Il doit ensuite transformer cette representation en grille de perception des nouveaux schemes et d'interiorisation de ceux qui auront ete selectionnes. Il doit enfin, a partir de la version la plus recente incluant les derniers schemes interiorises, travailler a la reformulation de toute son architecture interieure" [168-69]).
In Tanase's confessional writing, the paternal model and the rural origin--a marker of Romanianness, greatly affected by the collectivist ideology of the Marxist-Leninist dogma--function as amplification of "the selective reactivation of the interiorised past" (Kaufmann, 204-05), and motivate the options made by "the ideologically outraged" and to-be exiled writer. The reconstruction of identity via confessional mechanisms is rendered cinematically, in the form of an imaginary representation. As Kaufmann observes, "The intuitive cosmogonies of ordinary dreams are essentially populated by images, by the very visual stagings. [...] We are, at the same time, actors and creators of the sequences playing in our inner universe [,..]. The little cinema is, therefore, an activity of retransmission, of reflection for the selected images generally idealized. The individual revisits his own history, so as to live it again (it is re-doubled) and so as to live it much better (the history is embellished). He stages himself during certain events, solely for his own pleasure and to cement his own identity image, or so as to analyze the details that justify a possible critical view" ("Les cosmogonies intuitives de la reverie ordinaire sont essentiellement peuplees d'images, de mises en scene tres visuelles. [...] Nous sommes a la fois acteurs et realisateurs des sequences qui defilent dans notre univers interieur. [...] Le petit cinema est alors une activite de retransmission, de reflet de quelques images selectionnees, generalement idealisees. L'individu revisite son histoire, pour la vivre plus (elle est redoublee) et pour la vivre mieux (elle est embellie). Il se remet en scene dans certains evenements, pour le seul plaisir et le renforcement identitaire, ou pour analyser des details justifiant un regard critique" ).
The identity scenario comprises, in Tanase's case, the recollection of his "totalitarian captivity." However, the temporal gap between "the time of living" and "the time of confession" sets the frame for this identity project in the sense that reality shifts towards the myth of the "ideologically captive," freed by a therapeutic writing in quest for the center. Put simply, the separation between the actual man living in the totalitarian Romania of 1945-1977 and the self that is outlined by the confessional writing generates egocentric ruptures. The oppressive mechanisms of communist doctrine are opposed by compensating strategies through which "the totalitarian subject" builds resistance to the invasive political ideology. An example of such resistance can be seen in the story of his expulsion from the university because of his mentioning the name of Emil Cioran during the students' symposium in Sinaia. Another instance of such resistance is Tanase's 1966 presentation on Rene Char, which was followed by interrogations by the Securitate, political harassment, an imposed collaboration with the oppressive forces, and the conditioned reinstatement at the university, which in Tanase's words was "a lesson in cynicism which puzzled me" (43). At the very same time, subversion is triggered by the small breaches in the authoritarian regime in the form of the compensating Western readings (Mann, Camus, Faulkner, Proust and others), coherently protecting the man and holding together the "personal ideology" of the narrating--narrated self. It is the latter--and not the former--who reflects on the contradictory forms of survival in such a totalitarian regime: "In such a regime, ethics is more complicated than the simple opposition of good and evil. I believe that the one who endured to the end of his sometimes physical strength is a solid man. But who can know exactly what that limit is, since it's different for each of us. Deep down, we all know if we've reached our end or not. This way of seeing things, I admit, is not obvious, but whose accuracy I verified countless times, leads to paradoxical moral configurations: you may respect someone who gave up, but whose basic honesty you can sense, and you can despise someone who was spared by hazard, but of whose weak moral structure you are aware" ("fn acest tip de regim, morala e mai complicata decat simpla opozitie a binelui si a raului. Cred ca cel care a rezistat pana la limita, uneori fizica, a puterilor sale e un om de bine. Dar cine poate sa stie unde se afla exact aceasta limita, diferita pentru fiecare dintre noi? Fiecare stie, in fundul sufletului sau, daca a mers pana la capat sau nu. Aceasta maniera de a vedea lucrurile, care nu e evidenta, recunosc, dar a carei justete am putut-o verifica de nenumarate ori, da configuratii morale paradoxale: poti sa stimezi pe cineva care a cedat, dar caruia ii simti onestitatea funciara, si sa dispretuiesti pe cineva fata de care hazardul si-a economisit incercarile, dar ii stii textura morala foarte stirbita" [Tanase, Romania mea 46]).
The autobiographical narrative converts the moral pact with the demystified History, the unveiling of the mechanisms of oppression and the aesthetic legitimization of the resisting texts written before or after exile into crucial moments of the identity quest which "searches" for the center, deconstructing the "doctrinarian barricade" and the anti-Westernism of the communist propaganda. Interestingly enough, from the perspective of the captivity inside the borders of the totalitarian East, the West is redeemingly transfigured since "confronted with the flaws in our system, we were tempted to invest the opposite one, the Western with all the qualities that were missing here [...]. It must be added here that the temptation to see the West as the ideal opposite of our society was guided less by the information that came our way as in particular by the vague consciousness that it was a materialistic society dominated by vulgar interest. What fascinated us about the West (us, whose main concern were neither money nor simple welfare) was the illusion that there not everything was frozen. The system in the East was completely blocked with no hope of being restarted while the West even though overloaded allowed for hope. For us, the intellectuals of the East, the Western land was not entirely frozen. It could still be seeded, it could still be made fruitful" ("confruntati cu defectele sistemului nostru, eram tentati sa-l investim pe cel care ii era opus, cel occidental, cu toate calitatile care lipseau aici [...]. Trebuie adaugat ca tentatia de a considera Occidentul ca opusul ideal al societatii noastre era moderata mai putin de catre informatiile care ne parveneau, cat mai ales de constiinta confuza ca era vorba despre o societate materialista, dominata de interesul vulgar. Ceea ce ne atragea in Occident (pe noi, cei a caror grija principala nu erau nici banii, nici simpla bunastare) era mai ales impresia ca acolo nu era inca totul impietrit. Sistemul din est era cu totul blocat, fara speranta de a putea redemara, in timp ce Vestul, chiar daca supraincarcat, ingaduia speranta. Pentru noi, intelectualii din Est, pamantul occidentului nu era in intregime inghetat. Se mai putea semana, mai putea fi facut roditor" [Tanase, Romania mea 75]). The recollection of the episode of the "imposed exile" turns into the key-element of the Western self-reconstruction. The condition of the "undesirable," which "stands in the way," is beautifully captured in the autobiographical episode of the "invitation" to leave the country where the writer claims that, "Les Nouvelles litteraires interviewed me over the phone. Jean-Louis Ezine phoned to my house. We spoke for about half an hour, and I made headline to their magazine. Three days later, they gave me a passport which I hadn't even asked for [...]. The police officer who gave it to me led me to believe that it was an order given by Ceausescu himself. He said: 'You have a three-month visa so you may continue your education abroad. I advise you to study there for a long time' " ("Les Nouvelles litteraires mi-au cerut un interviu prin telefon. Jean-Louis Ezine m-a sunat acasa. Am discutat o jumatate de ora, iar ei si-au facut pagina intai despre mine. Trei zile mai tarziu mi s-a dat un pasaport pe care, de data aceasta, nu-l cerusem. [...] Ofiterul de politie care mi l-a adus m-a facut sa inteleg ca era un ordin personal al lui Ceausescu. A adaugat: 'Aveti viza pe trei luni ca sa va continuati studiile in strainatate. Va sfatuiesc sa faceti studii indelungate" [Tanase, Romania mea 67]).
While many of the writers who remained in the country switched "literary logic" to "political logic," turning into propaganda tools of the regime and writing "pact-making books," which induce an ideological-doctrinarian guilt, the Parisian expatriate, Tanase, composes literature that is "doctrinally unbound." This distinction occupies a special place within the frames of the memory-writing in My Romania (Romania mea). The texts establish the identity profile of the Eastern-European writer faced by the West, but also by the "old exile," the Romanian writers in France, "people of a perhaps estimable right-wing, but who no longer corresponded to anything. History had moved on and they with their eyes turned to the past to such an extent that they were blind to the realities of their country of adoption, while having no connection with Romania, no longer understood anything" ("oameni ai unei drepte, poate, stimabile, dar care nu mai corespundeau la nimic. Istoria se miscase, insa ei, cu privirile intoarse spre trecut incat treceau pe langa realitatile tarii de adoptiune, rupti de Romania, nu mai intelegeau absolut nimic" [Tanase, Romania mea 96]). Thus, the identity scenario entails a double alienation, that of the "displaced" by the Western reality, where he experiences an adjustment through the writing, now liberated from the constraints of the communist canon, and that of the internally motivated "retreat" from the life in exile. This is further highlighted in his writing, where he asserts that "I no longer wanted to participate in all those actions that I had made an obligation of supporting, considering that I had to use my prestige as a writer no matter how insignificant so as to defend those among whom I had been born" ("N-am mai vrut sa particip la toate acele actiuni pe care, pana atunci, imi facusem o obligatie sa le sustin, considerand ca trebuia sa profit de prestigiul meu de scriitor, oricat de marunt ar fi fost, pentru a-i apara pe cei in mijlocul carora ma nascusem" [Tanase, Romania mea 97]). Stating that "there are two categories of exiles. Those who managed to live and to accomplish something professionally in their country of adoption (thinking, of course, of Romania) and those who use the idea of exile as an alibi for their failure" ("exista doua categorii de exilati. Cei care au reusit sa traiasca si sa se realizeze profesional in tara de adoptiune (gandind, desigur, la Romania) si cei care se servesc de ideea exilului pentru a furniza un alibi esecului lor" ), but also adopting the exile as a paradoxical form of "freedom loss" (see Antofi, "The exile" 29-34), the Romanian writer publishes a destiny-novel, "accidental, seasonal overflows of this river of flesh and blood which is my life. The destiny, the purpose of a river is that of following its course within its banks, the overflow, even if a sign of power, of exuberance, even though it fertilizes fields covered by water is in the end no more than a side" ("debordari accidentale, sezoniere ale acestui fluviu de carne si sange care este viata mea. Destinul, rostul unui rau este acela de a-si urma cursul intre malurile sale, preaplinul, chiar daca e semnul fortei, al exuberantei, chiar daca fertilizeaza campurile cotropite de ape, este, in cele din urma, un accesoriu" [Tanase, Romania mea 146]).
Enacting the identity of a genuine "cultural traveler" (Nowicki), placed on the "in-between peripheral" space (Zepetnek, 1999), the direct effect of constructing a conflictive textual identity as in Norman Manea's or Herta Muller's works oscillates with Tanase's narrative--between "confused attitude, non-authenticity, unhealthy fascination accompanied by repulsion: these are the facets of the complex feelings of these writers coming from the Other Europe, who often tried, even if they not always succeeded, to make peace with the West" ("attitude confuse, inauthenticite, fascination malsaine accompagnee de repulsion: telles sont les differentes facettes des sentiments complexes eprouves par ces ecrivains venus de l'Autre Europe qui ont souvent tache, sans toujours y parvenir, de se reconcilier avec l'Occident" [Nowicki, 293]). In Tanase's book, the "ego-graphic" pilgrimage between the retrieved identity and the European alterity, adopted as a reference, dissolves the distance between a totalitarian history narrated now and the interiorized perspective of the one "reliving" post-traumatically and cathartically the personal experience of ideological captivity. It projects the founding mythology of the power as the center of forces dominating Eastern-European literature during the totalitarian age. It explicitly converts into a referential system meant for the narrating self to project his own identity and historic dilemmas. Tanase, the "captive in history," redefines his identity by juxtaposing the events selected from the autobiography of the "totalitarian ideological outcast" on the post-communist ones of the "confrontation with a rediscovered West, open to the differences in national specificity of the "Other Europe."
In Romania mea, the three paths for the reconstruction of the identity profile, reflecting the gradual amplification of the identity discourse marker (ontological, socio-collective and historical), guide the construction of the East-European intellectual's autobiographical discourse. It configures a "pact with Europe" by means of which personal memory is coupled with the collective one, thus, transforming the individual experiences of dominant history into cathartic "Self-reconverting strategies."
Nicoleta D. Ifrim
Dunarea de Jos University of Galati, Romania
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Author's profile: Nicoleta Ifrim teaches Romanian literature at Dunarea de Jos University of Galati. Her interests in scholarship include literary criticism, comparative intercultural studies, literature of exile, and (post)communist European literature. Ifrim's publication include Identitate culturala si integrare europeana: Perspective critice asupra discursului identitar romanesc in perioada postdecembrista (Cultural Identity and European Integration: Critical Approaches on Romanian Identity-focused Discourse of the Post-December Age) (2013) and Fractalitatea si discursul literar: Ipostaze ale unei noi teorii a receptarii (Fractality and Literary Discourse: Towards a New Reading Theory) (2011). E-mail: <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
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|Title Annotation:||Virgil Tanase|
|Author:||Ifrim, Nicoleta D.|
|Publication:||CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2017|
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