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From TTHA Vice President in Romania: Elena Carp

February 1999

Transcribed by Rosemarie Morgan


How Thomas Hardy is Perceived in Romania

Elena Carp
1999
 
Born in June 1840, in Dorset, in the South-West of England, Thomas Hardy was the most notable witness to the Victorian Epoch. He was a great novelist, a great writer of short stories and, towards the end of his life, a great poet of towns, of villages, of fields. From this point of view, he is comparable with the great Romanian writer, Sadoveanu. If we take into consideration the plots of his novels ( Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge) , he is comparable with Liviu Rebrean: major works, Ion ('John'), and Rascoala ('The Revolt'), or with Cezar Petrescu's work: Intunecarea ('The Darkness'), or Calea Victoriei ('Victoria Road'). Thomas Hardy is one of the most widely read writers in the second part of our century.
 
At the beginning Thomas Hardy was read in German editions (the first attestation dates 1887, with two
volumes printed in Leipzig), then in French translations at the end of the 19th century, and from the French translated into Romanian. I think that the Academic Library in Bucharest has all Thomas Hardy's books that students at the Faculties of Foreign Languages in Bucharest, Cluj, Lasi, Timisoara, study. We find out from a note dated 1895 that Tess of the d'Urbervilles was the first novel to be read in English, followed by translations in 1925-1930 at the Truth Press (Editura Adevarul). The first translators were Mia Constantiniu and Margai Dima.
 
Tremendous translations began to come out in the 4th and 5th decades, because the Romanian University was
founded where literature courses were held firstly by the eminent professor Tudor Vianua.
The first criticism appeared right after the war, in 1920, by D.I. Suchianu, then Dragos Protopoescu, who
wrote an article in the European Idea magazine mainly about Hardy poems. But the best ideas about Hardy's work are given by Garabet Ibraileanu who had written even in 1925, in Romanian Life magazine (Issue # 4), before the translations were done, that "Thomas Hardy is the greatest contemporary writer and the greatest European novelist alive" (in 1925 Hardy was 85 yrs old).
 
Thomas Hardy's novels have kept their value for more than half a century. This consists, first of all, of the big
numbers of readers from all walks of life. Hardy meets, as Tolstoi, Balzac and other famous writers, the exigencies of the most refined aesthetes; but he also pleases even one who likes love affairs, as loves scenes take place in particular environments which are exotic for foreign readers. The descriptions of nature and the humour add more charm to the stories.
 
In many opinions, Thomas Hardy has the same style as Shakespeare regarding the poetical tragedy of fatality
-- "Dura lex of Life." Seldom was the irony of life denounced as in his novels; the collection of short stories -- "Life's Little Ironies" epitomises Hardy's whole work. The incidents that appear in the stories are small but their effect is great. For instance, the enormous influence produced upon Tess by the mislaid letter she sent to Angel Clare who went overseas for his agricultural adventure and who came back brokenhearted by a deep love for the woman who had also sinned for a minor incident: there is a tragic psychological conflict typical of Hardy.

A curious conflict is found in Jude the Obscure where the tragedy results from ordinary things: the child overhears his mother saying that their poverty is due to the numbers there are in the family--as a result he hangs his young brothers and he himself commits suicide. The deaths produce a psychological crisis for the mother who considers the misfortunes are God's punishment because she did not marry an old man to whom she had promised herself. Strange is the Romanian story, 'Lover,' where a young man loves a 20 year-old woman; he leaves her and at 40 falls in love with her daughter, and at 60 he loves the first woman's niece (cf The Well- Beloved). The tragic nature of Hardy's characters seems to be like those of the classical tragedies. Ibraileanu uses a famous line belonging to Eminescu, "It was too beautiful and it must perish," to describe the events that come unexpectedly. There is according to Ibraileanu, in Hardy's works, a courage similar to Dostoievski's work, a courage not to go backwards from a conclusion, the courage to destroy the great and worthwhile characters' happiness. Even so, the difference between these two writers is enormous. Thomas Hardy's style is charming because of his discreet and restrained humour conveying fact of life and not fantasy. In one of Ibraileanus' study -- "Creation and Analyse" published in Romanian Life (issue #1, 1928), he says that Thomas Hardy "has never been informative but always a painter." Hardy is a pre-eminent novelists, a creator, not an essayist.

The significance of Hardy's novels is the same as in Shakespeare's work-- that happiness is fragile and that life is terrible..There are other Romanian critics of Hardy's works, but none as deep as D.I Suchianu, Dragos Popescu or Garabet Ibraileanu, founders of Romanain Life magazine. There is another study by a sociologist, Emil I. Diaconu: English Village, Literary Study after Thomas Hardy's Novel (published in CLUIJ, 1943). The author knows the South-West of England very well, as he spent many holidays there researching people, places, historical vestiges. He compares his own observations with Hardy's descriptions. He is preoccupied by the intellectual level of the village, making interesting comparisons with Romanian literature, Cosbuc's poems, Emil Girleanu's stories. He speaks about "moral level"; "relationships between men and women";" religious feeling of the population of Wessex". He also analyses in detail The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure. But E. Diaconu's research is much more than that of an amateur sociologist -- a "literary study" he call it.


Transcribers Note: I have tried to keep as close as possible to Elena Carp's wording if, occasionally, at the risk of clarity. Her endeavour to continue to teach Hardy in Romania and, yet more, to write to us of Hardy in Romania, is more than newsworthy; given recent political complications, it is laudable.. We owe her very many thanks!

Rosemarie Morgan