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Alexander Gray
Alexander Gray

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In March 1926-October 1928, Tudor Vianu's Gândirea magazine published his novel Craii de Curtea-Veche as a series.[81] He completed the last additions to the text in November 1927, as its first sections were already in print.[67] As the last episode was featured by Gândirea, to widespread acclaim, he noted: "From the time when the first of its parts saw print, this work was received with unprecedented fervor in Romanian literature. For the work it required, as well as for the tiresome obsession to which it had me submitted I bear it no grudge: it is truly magnificent [...]."[82] Literary historian Eugen Lovinescu, who criticized Gândirea's later moves towards traditionalism and a far right ideology (a turn which coincided with Vianu's departure), argued that Caragiale had been an important gain for the literary venue. In his belief, Caragiale and other "writers of talent" helped the magazine, which had no "critic of authority" at its helm.[83]

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Mateiu Caragiale's personal life has for long attracted interest for the traces it left in his literary work. This is enhanced by his reputation for being a secretive man. In a late interview, Cella Delavrancea described him as "made up of [...] small patches, so well sewn together that one never knew what he had said, what he had meant to say, what he is thinking."[134] While Ionel Gherea suspected that Caragiale was merely acting,[135] Eugen Lovinescu, who described Caragiale's personality as "bizarre", also referred to him as "colorful and sterile."[136] Despite his hectic lifestyle, Caragiale feared poverty and lashed out at Bohemianism, stressing that "it kills, and many times not just figuratively".[137] In tandem, fragments of his writings and private records are thought by cultural historian Andrei Oișteanu to show intimate familiarity with substance abuse and the drug subculture of his age, in addition to his self admitted binge drinking.[27] During his final years of life, he was harvesting an unspecified wild herb from the hills of Cotroceni neighborhood, and using it as a sedative.[27] By then, essayist Ion Vartic notes, Caragiale's obsession with death had developed into "neurosis".[77]

Several contemporary accounts focus on Mateiu's unusual preferences in clothing, pointing to a studied extravagance first adopted during his stay in Berlin, and in support of which he was reportedly spending more than he could afford.[10] Literary historian George Călinescu recalled having seen a middle-aged Caragiale taking walks through downtown Bucharest: amused by the writer's everyday clothes, which he depicted as of an archaic fashion and slightly deteriorated, compared him to "a butler on Sunday leave".[2][138] Călinescu also told that, during winter, Caragiale would only touch metal with his hand while wearing suede gloves.[19] Rosetti and poet Ștefana Velisar both recorded being amused by aspects of Caragiale's clothing, such as his oversized boots and his using scissors to cut out the worn out extremities of his trouser legs.[139] In 1926, the writer began wearing a ring bearing the seal of Mercury, which, Vartic supposes, evidenced his trust in the psychopomp god's powers.[103]

Notes in his diaries show that he discreetly resented Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești, although, Ion Vianu stresses, such pronouncements appear to have become a staple of Caragiale's private records only long after Bogdan-Pitești had died.[144] Aside from claiming to expose his patron's alleged financing by the Central Powers before and during World War I, Caragiale discussed Bogdan-Pitești's homosexuality in disparaging terms (calling him "a blusterer of the anti-natural vice"),[145] and even laying out a plan to rob his residence.[146] The violent solution to poverty, Ion Vianu proposes, may have reflected his appreciation for Félicien Champsaur's L'Arriviste, in which the protagonist uses murder to affirm himself socially.[147] Despite Caragiale's relationships with women and his lapses into homophobia, Ion Vianu argues (partly building on similar comments made by literary historian Matei Călinescu) that the writer had a preference for homosociality or even homoeroticism, both in line with his narcissism.[148] Caragiale's diary also dealt with Bogdan-Pitești's wife, the socialite Domnica, depicting her as an immoral woman.[35][149] A person known by the initials A.K., who was probably the same as Domnica, is referred to in such notes as being in a ménage à trois situation with Bogdan-Pitești and Caragiale.[27][150] He confessed being thankful that the long record of sums he had borrowed from Bogdan-Pitești beginning 1916 had been destroyed, probably by Domnica, at a time when his patron was on his deathbed.[151]

Discussing Mateiu Caragiale's originality, Călinescu saw in him "a promoter (maybe the first) of literary Balkanism, that greasy mix of obscene phrases, lascivious impulses, awareness of an adventurous and fuzzy genealogy, everything purified and seen from above by a superior intelligence".[2][160] In relation to Romanian literature, he believed to have discovered a common trait of "Balkan" writers of mostly Wallachian origin, citing Mateiu Caragiale in a group that also included Caragiale-father, the early 19th century aphorist and printer Anton Pann, the modern poets Tudor Arghezi, Ion Minulescu and Ion Barbu, and Urmuz.[161] He went on to define this gathering as "the great grimacing sensitive ones, buffoons with just too much plastic intelligence."[162] In parallel, Lovinescu saw Caragiale as one in a group of modernist prose writers who sought to reshape the genre through the use of lyricism, and were thus paradoxically outdated by 20th century standards.[163] The delayed character of Caragiale's contribution was also mentioned by literary historian Ovid Crohmălniceanu, who identified its roots in Art Nouveau and, through it, the subjects of Byzantine art.[164]

In direct reference to Craii..., George Călinescu wrote: "Reality is transfigured, it becomes fantastical and a sort of Edgar Poe-like unease agitates [the main characters], these good-for-nothings of the old Romanian capital."[160] This, he argued, validated placing Caragiale's novel among Surrealist writings, and alongside the works of eclectic authors such as Barbu and Ion Vinea.[160] Literary historian Eugen Simion notes that Barbu believed himself thought Caragiale's prose was equal in value to the poetry of Romania's national poet Mihai Eminescu, and argues that this perspective was exaggerated.[111]


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