Mihail Eminescu

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Eminescu, Mihail

 

(real surname, Eminovici). Born Jan. 15, 1850, in Botoşani (or Ipotesti); died June 15, 1889, in Bucharest. Rumanian and Moldavian romantic poet. Member of the Rumanian Academy (posthumously).

Eminescu was the son of a small landowner. From 1869 to 1873 he lived in Vienna, where he audited courses at the university, and Berlin. He returned to Rumania in 1874 and worked in Iaşi as a librarian and a public school inspector. In 1877, Eminescu moved to Bucharest, where he contributed to the conservative newspaper Timpul. He fell ill with a serious mental disorder in 1883.

Eminescu’s first poem was published in 1866. His early poems, such as “On the Death of Aron Pumnul,” “To Heliade,” and “What do I wish for you, dear Rumania?”, were linked with the patriotic attitude that developed in Rumania before the Revolution of 1848. The contrast between the generation of 1848, which believed in social ideals, and the postrevolutionary generation, which was afflicted with Weltschmerz, was reflected in the poems “Decadent Youth” and “Epigones.”

Eminescu’s sojourn abroad and the events of the Paris Commune of 1871 increased his awareness of social problems. From 1870 to 1874 he wrote the narrative poem Emperor and Proletarian, in which he used allegorical images to contrast aristocracy with Utopian socialism; he openly showed his preference for the latter. After returning to Rumania, he wrote poems on folklore themes. In his other poems, such as “No, I do not believe in Jehovah,” the poet deals with the rejection of speculative ideals. Eminescu arrived at the conclusion that the foundation of national and social life is the people (in his time, the peasantry). Taking a sharply critical position toward bourgeois society, he denounced the cosmopolitanism, lack of spirituality, excessive practicality, and mercenariness of bourgeois society in such poems as “Anthropomorphism and “Our Youth” and in the cycle Epistles.

Romantic antitheses are an important aspect of Eminescu’s poetry. Good and evil are contrasted in “Angel and Demon,” art and life in “Venus and Madonna,” and earthly love and love of the perfect, or the ideal, in the narrative fairy-tale poem Miron and the Incorporeal Beauty (1869).

In his lyric poetry Eminescu attempted a philosophical interpretation of the nature of existence. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is Epistles (1881), in which the poet showed the incompatibility of the bourgeois world order with genuine art, sincere human feelings, and the desire for truth. At the same time that he inveighed against bourgeois society, Eminescu extolled the unity of interests that he believed had existed between the people and the nation as a whole in the distant past. In such poems as “The Answer to Gossip Is Silence,” “To My Critics,” and “Gloss,” he expressed the view that the poet’s only possible position vis-à-vis society was one of alienation.

In the last years of his life, Eminescu’s lyric poems increasingly used motifs of loneliness, despair, tragic alienation from the world, and the impossibility of happiness. One of the greatest of his works is the philosophic symbolic narrative poem The Evening Star (1883). In his last work, the article “The Fountain of Blanduzia” (1888), he discussed the reasons for the emergence of romanticism, analyzed the state of public life, and praised the virtues of folklore, which he viewed as the eternal source of youth and health.

Eminescu enriched Rumanian and European romantic poetry and contributed to the renewal of the vocabulary and rhythms of the Rumanian language. He marked the end of the romantic trend in Rumanian literature. Eminescu’s poems are famous in many countries of the world; some of them have become folk songs.

WORKS

Opere, vols. 1–6. Critical edition, edited by Perpessicious. Bucharest, 1939–63.
In Moldavian translation:
Opere álese, vols. 1–4. Kishinev, 1971.
In Russian translation:
Stikhi. Moscow, 1958.
Lirika. Moscow, 1968.

REFERENCES

Popovich, K. F. Sotsiainye motivy v poezii M. Eminesku. Kishinev, 1963.
Popovich, K. F. Eminesku: Viatsa shi opera. Kishinev, 1974.
Kozhevnikov, Iu. A. Mikhail Eminesku i problema romantizma v rumynskoi literature XIX v. Moscow, 1968.
Vianu, T. Poezia lui Eminescu. Bucharest, 1930.
Călinescu, G. Opera lui Eminescu, vols. 1–5. Bucharest, 1936. Second edition, vols. 1–2. Bucharest, 1969–70.
Călinescu, G. Viaƫa lui Mihai Eminescu. Bucharest, 1964.
Dumitrescu-Buşulenga, Zoe. M. Eminescu. Bucharest, 1963.
Todoran, E. Eminescu. Bucharest, 1972.

IU. A. KOZHEVNIKOV

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