If I wanted to sell this article in a sensationalist manner, I could use one of the many statements made by Mircea Cărtărescu that at first sight would astonish his admirers and satisfy those who criticise him. “I’ve never written a novel,” “After I finished writing Blinding, I’ve only written in the minor register,” or “I’ll be happiest when I finish this damned book” – are just a few samples of the exercise in sincerity the writer made during the fourth FILIT evenings, on the stage of the National Theatre in Iaşi.
A stage he had stepped on 35 years before, “at the famous National Poetry Colloquium organised in Iaşi, when a whole lot of poets have set fire, in a manner of speaking, to this theatre, because they said things that the officials of the time found very difficult to swallow. I read out one of my poems at that time”.
But let us put in context the above statements. “I see myself as a niche author, someone whom some people like if my books are relevant to them. But I do admit that there are many other points of view and I am no longer upset by what any critic has to say. The form of diary is for me much more important than it is for other authors. Actually, I think I’ve never written anything but diaries. All my writings, all the so-called novels – although I hate this word, I’ve never written a novel –, all my poems are so personal that, ultimately, they are just fragments of a diary I’ve been keeping since September 1973, when I wrote my first notes, until today”, Mircea Cărtărescu explained.
The writer added that this exposure makes him prone to the attacks of predators, as his diary is both a “wailing wall” and a testing ground. “Where should I go and complain if not in my diary, which is the object closest to me? I don’t often find someone on whose shoulder to cry. In times of happiness, when you feel you breathe freely under a blue sky, you don’t go and write in your diary. You write in it when you’re miserable, when you’re down, when you’re crying on the floor,” Mircea Cărtărescu confessed, revealing one of the driving forces of his writing.
“I’m writing a book that, to my despair, comes out as something else”
“I’ve retired between the walls of my house, I’m no longer interested in the sound and the fury of the world, because I’m writing this book, the first serious book after Blinding. It’s been a few years since I wrote the last volume of Blinding. But, after working for 14 years for Blinding, I decided to write simpler books, to rest my brain. Children’s literature, then a book that is the subject of much debate, but to me it is satisfying – De ce iubim femeile (Why do we love women) –, a travel book. As well as other things which I see as not necessarily uncharacteristic of me, but just written in a minor register, which does not mean they are mediocre, but that they have a different pitch,” Mircea Cărtărescu admitted. The author added, however, that he felt the need to become involved again in a strong book. “In my diary, the provisional titles for it are My nocturnal life and My anomalies. It should have been a fictional, imaginary autobiography, but in the end, to my great surprise and to my despair, it transformed itself, without my intervention, against my will even, into a book that is fundamental for me. A book in which, more than ever before, my soul is being laid bare. There is no greater disclosure in my other writings, this is a book in which I’ve looked at my nocturnal life, at my interior, unconscious mental life, with a lucidity that frightens me,” the writer confessed. Mircea Cărtărescu has not managed yet to finish this volume, which already has 600 pages, but the estimates he still has to write 150. “It’s a book that goes on forever. I would have liked to write a maximum of 200 pages, about my interior structure, the part that had not been reflected in the other books. To my despair, it comes out as something else,” the author added.
That is the reason why, at the question asked by the debate moderator, Cezar Paul-Bădescu, about what would made him happiest, the writer answered “To finish this damned book!”.
A moment that fascinated the spectators present on Saturday at the national Theatre was the one where Mircea Cărtărescu recounted seeing various characters, male and female, sitting on the edge of his bed at night. “Let me tell you: for 20 years – they’ve let me be lately – once every two-three months I would open my eyes in the middle of the night and see somebody sit on the edge of my bed. I’ve probably got 30-40 notes in my diary, written immediately after these encounters, the next day. It was always a person, a woman, a man, sometimes a child, sometimes two people at once. I went to Sinaia once and in the room where I was staying I saw two men in black. I have no idea what they are. Their image remains clear for a few seconds, it’s not ghostly, they’re concrete people. I’ve called them visitors, I don’t know what this means, I don’t know what the deal is with them, I just know that in those moments they seem as real to me as anyone else,” the writer told the audience. There were times when these visitors made their appearance more often, at other times the visits were less frequent, but, to his great relief, lately they have disappeared. “However, as they visited less often in reality, they turned up more often in my fiction. I did use this story in the book I’m writing now. I haven’t found anywhere, either in specialized literature or in literature in general, information about this issue. About human persons that just sit quietly and watch you for a few seconds. I don’t know what this means and I don’t want to think about it, either.”
Both during his confessions and at the end of the evening Mircea Cărtărescu insisted on thanking the spectators present in the theatre and the organizers of the festival for having him in Iasi, stating he was happy he made the trip.
by Răzvan Chiruţă