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Suspending the Ego: the Experience of Prison in Tudor Arghezi’s Flori de mucigai

Publication: Philologica Jassyensia, VI (2), p. 93-108
Publisher:Institutul de Filologie Română „A. Philippide”
Abstract:According to Eugéne Ionesco and Mircea Eliade, Tudor Arghezi is the greatest Romanian poet of the 20th century. In this study I am in disagreement with critics such as Ovidiu Crohmălniceanu who recognize in Flori de mucigai (1931) the aesthetics of ugliness proclaimed by Arghezi in Testament the preface-poem to his first book, Cuvinte potrivite (1927), and I take issue with Nicolae Balotă when he speaks of a demoniacal, anti-art, presence in these poems written in the years that followed the poet’s detention at Văcăreşti (1918-20). For Balotă the voice of the poet-narrator in Flori de mucigai is that of a raisonneur, but with the exception of the frame-poem Arghezi does not speak directly in his own voice, instead, by “suspending his ego”, he adopts a multiplicity (or chorality, in the style of Verga) of voices, so as to give expression to the stories and fantasies of the prisoners. And the technique of the volte-face (almost never the poantă or quibble indicated by Balotă) allows him to correct deceitfulness or so-called truths.
Balotă speaks of a descensus ad infernos, solitude and darkness, however, are not limited to eternal damnation, they are present in any form of confinement, and these prison-poems swarm with human activity. For Arghezi reclusion or spatial restriction (as novice at the Cernica monastery, hospital patient, detainee at Văcăreşti and later at Târgu Jiu) offered the opportunity to view the world outside. Therefore, no Walpurgisnacht in Flori de mucigai, but ardency, joie-de-vivre and triumphant individualism. No aesthetic transfiguration, as Balotă insists? To the contrary! Arghezi in this cycle of poems transforms The House of the Dead into the world of the living–evil or good, it matters little. His achievement in Flori de mucigai is that he extends the horizons of Romanian poetry far beyond anything previously envisaged. Poetry is not a watertight tradition, sometimes elegant silks must be steeped in murky water, and the cry of pain that comes forth is not only personal, but also universal.
Key words:Tudor Arghezi, poet-narrator, experience of prison, anti-art, multiplicity of voices
Language: English

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