“An empty sea, trees crimsoned by wind on the coast, pieces of snow which when I arrived here, were bigger, a pagan light like in Van Gogh’s last paintings, reminding me rather of Dionysus than of Apollo”.
This phrase, with its strong and wonderful visual – aural trace astonished me years ago. At that time, I used to eat “books on bread”, searching the meaning of life as many teenagers from my generation, who lived in a gray, dull and lack of any perspective communist world. On my mind that hibernating sea landscape was more an icon from Ibsen’s plays than something related with Van Gogh’s lights or Greek seas. Not only that gray, cold landscape amazed me, but the story named “The sphinx” which described in a metaphorical and very sensitive way that Greek mythology tale about the dialogue between Sphinx and Oedipus.
The only traveler who was able to answer to the Sphinx’s question was Oedipus and, there, in that story I found an essential true which guided me all through my life “ no doubt, thinking is a matter of dignity and courage, but, at the same time it is the only way to rebel against the death”. And, intellectually I fell in love with the author, Octavian Paler.
The Sphinx story from his book called “Subjective Mythologies” was the first that I read, but it was followed by :”Galileo’s Defense”, “Imaginary Letters”, “Life as a bullfight”, “Don Quixote in the East”, “Self-Portrait in the broken mirror” and many others.
Octavian Paler was one of my life teachers, like a Buddhist maestro and his books, his conferences (for instance the conference about the similarities and the gaps between Don Juan and Don Quixote from the Cervantes Institute in Bucharest, years ago) and his interviews were genuine lessons of thinking, understanding, feeling and above all…asking questions. Knowing how to ask questions is essential, I understood from Ocatvian Paler’s works.
For all I learned from him, for how his works enlightened me and helped me to develop my humanity, I decided to write this short article. I would have loved to have all his books translated in English so that as many people from this world have the fortune and the privilege to read such an author, bu I only found a little book of poems called “Definitions”, which is like a little bottle with the essence of the more subtle perfume, Paler’s essentials .
The book was published in 2011 by Istros Books, Bristol, United Kingdom. It contains 46 poems, among them 39 are called “definitions”. All poems are structured like the famous Japanese Haiku verses. The poems carry deep inside Paler’s unique tenderness and reflection – short descriptions of feelings, thoughts or moments of our life. In all these short poems, sometimes only into a verse I rediscovered my beloved writer from always. I found again the main and constant topics which enriched my mind and my soul for years. I found definitions of tears and cries, of departures, of love, of regret, or of obsession. I found definitions of illusion, of maturity, of dignity, of balance, of silence, of loneliness, of ego. I found the definitions of mountains, of edelweiss, of shadows or of myself. The other six poems tell us what the poet thought and felt about nights, memory, games, having time or an epilogue.
I chose a few lines which define, in my opinion, the human being, the writer, the intellectual, the thinker and the philosopher named Octavian Paler.
Definition of dignity
“That’s why I love the mountains so much.
Next to their shoulders
Even the shadows learn
To stand up straight.”
Definition of mutations
“When wood learns to suffer
And to dream as people do
It shall henceforth be called Violin…..”
Definition of love
“Come, so I can rediscover the way of myself”
Definition of springs
“The last thing to die in us is memory
The last thing to die in memory is childhood”
We have time
“We have time for everything. To sleep,
To rush in one direction and then another,
To regret our mistakes and then make them again,
To judge others and to absolve ourselves.
We have time to read and to write,
To correct what we have written, to regret what we
we have time to make plans and not fulfill them,
we have time to create our dreams,
and later to scratch in their ashes.
We have time for ambitions and illness,
To blame fate and circumstance,
We have time to watch the clouds,
To watch advertisements and common incidents,
We have time to dismiss the questions,
And to postpone the answers,
We have time crush a dream and to recreate it,
We have time to make friends, and to lose them.
We have time for everything
Except for a little tenderness,
For when it’s time for this, we die.”
Octavian Paler was born in Lisa, nearby Fagaras, Brasov county on July 2, 1926 and died of heart attack at 80 years old on May 7, 2007. He studied Philosophy and Law at University of Bucharest. Octavian Paler was a substitute member in the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (1974-1979), member of Great National Assembly (1980-1985).
He was an important intellectual who understood from inside what the communist regime really meant and because of his pro-western views and criticism of Romanian Communist Party he was persecuted by the Romanian secret service agency. He was vice-president of Romanian Radio and Television (1965-1970) and senior editor (1970-1983) and after the revolution chief editor of the “The Free Romania” Due to his anti communist activity he was a founding member of “Group of Social Dialogue.” But, above all, Octavian Paler was a very appreciated writer, essayist and poet. He started writing in 1970 and published 17 volumes, while four were published after his death.
My dear readers if you’ll read Paler’s writings your mind will enjoy and your soul will fill with love.
By Mariana Ganea, Guest Writer
Mariana holds a PhD in Economics and she has been working in banking since 1991. Now, she is senior training consultant in banking and she is also freelance authorized trainer in soft skills and financial banking techniques. She studied banking techniques, communication, sales, NPL, coaching and transactional analysis. She is passionate about education, travel, history, politics, music, reading, movies, cultural events and photography.
The views expressed are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Romania Insider.com.