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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mihai Eminescu


Mihail Eminescu (January 15, 1850 - June 15, 1889), late Romantic poet, probably the single best-known Romanian poet. Famous works include "Luceafărul" ("Evening star"), "Mai am un singur dor" ("I Have a Single Desire Left"), and the 5 "Scrisori" ("Epistles").

Eminescu was active in the Junimea literary society, and was a prominent member of the Conservative Party and a journalist at Timpul.

A note on his name
"Mihail" is a more archaic form of "Mihai". Both were in use during Eminescu's lifetime, and he personally made use of both forms. However, he is generally referred to in Romania today as Mihai Eminescu.

His life in brief
Early years
Born in Ipoteşti, Botoşani County, Romania. Eminescu was the son of tax collector Gheorghe Eminovici and his wife Raluca Eminovici (maiden name Iurăscu). He spent his early childhood in Botoşani and Ipoteşti, in his parents' family home. From 1858 to 1866 he attended school in Cernăuţi. He finished grade 4th grade as the 5th of 82 students, after which he attended two years of gymnasium.

The first evidence of Eminescu as a writer is in 1866. In January of that year Romanian-teacher Aron Pumnul died and his students published a pamphlet, Lăcrămioarele invăţăceilor gimnazişti (Tears of the Gymnasium Students) in which appears a poem entitled "La mormântul lui Aron Pumnul" ("The Grave of Aron Pumnul") signed "M. Eminoviciu". Shortly thereafter, he began signing as "Mihai Eminescu". On February 25 his poem "De-aş avea" was published in the magazine Familia from Pest signed as "Iosif Vulcan". This began a steady series of published poems (and the occasional translation from German).

In 1867 he joined the troupe of Iorgu Caragiale as clerk and prompter; the next year he transferred to the troupe of Mihai Pascaly. Both of these were among the leading Romanian theatrical troupes of their day, the latter including Matei Millo and Fanny Tardini-Vladicescu. He soon settled in Bucharest, where at the end of November he became a clerk and copyist for the National Theater. Through this period, he continued to write and publish poems. He also paid his rent by translating hundreds of pages of a book by Enric Theodor Rotscher, although this never resulted in a completed work. Also at this time he began his novel Geniu pustiu ("Wasted Genius").

On April 1 1869 he was a co-founder of the "Orient" literary circle, whose interests included the gathering of fairy tales, popular poetry, and documents relating to Romanian literary history. On June 29, various members of the "Orient" group were commissioned to go to different provinces. Eminescu was assigned Moldova. That summer, he randomly ran into his brother Iorgu, a military officer, in Cişmigiu Gardens, but firmly rebuffed Iorgu's attempt to get him to renew ties to his family.

Still in summer 1869, he left Pascaly's troupe and traveled to Cernăuţi and Iaşi. He renewed ties to his family; his father promised him a regular allowance to pursue studies in Vienna in the fall. As always, he continued to write and publish poetry; notably, on the occasion of the death of the former ruler of Muntenia, Barbu Dimitrie Ştirbey, he published a leaflet, La moartea principelui Ştirbey.

Junimea
From October 1869 to 1872 he studied in Vienna. He was counted as an "extraordinary auditor" at the Faculty of Philosophy and Law. He was active in student life, befriended Ioan Slavici, and came to know Vienna through Veronica Micle; he became a contributor to Convorbiri literare (Literary Talk), edited by Junimea (from Romanian june -"young"). The leaders of this cultural organisation, Petre P. Carp, Vasile Pogor, Teodor Rosetti, Iacob Negruzzi and Titu Maiorescu, exercised their political and cultural influence over Eminescu, for the rest of his life.

He became a journalist at the newspaper Albina in Pest. From 1872 to 1874 he continued as a student in Berlin.

From 1874 to 1877 he worked as director of the Central Library in Iaşi, substitute teacher, school inspector for the counties of Iaşi and Vaslui, and editor of the newspaper Curierul de Iaşi (The Courier of Iaşi). He continued to publish in Convorbiri literare. He became a good friend of Ion Creangă, whom he convinced to become a writer and introduced him to the Junimea literary club.

In 1877 he moved to Bucharest, where until 1883 he was first editor, then (1880) editor-in-chief of the newspaper Timpul (Time). During this time he wrote most of his poems Scrisorile, Luceafărul etc.) However, his overwork during this period was very bad for his health.

In June 1883, the poet fell seriously ill, and was interned in the hospital of Dr. Şuţu. In December 1883, his volume Poezii appeared, with selection of poems and with a preface by Titu Maiorescu.

Ilness years
In his last years, he suffered from manic-depressive psychosis. In 1883, in Romania, he was diagnosed with syphilis and G. Calinescu wrote in the poet's biography that he had the illness since he was 20; however, a separate diagnosis done in Vienna, also from 1883, mentioned his depression but did not mention syphilis. In 1884, he returned to Romania and appeared generally healthy. Starting in 1886, he received a few injections with mercury, which was at that time the usual treatment for syphilis.

Eminescu died in hospital June 15, 1889. His autopsy was poorly conducted, so the matter of his precise cause of death is unlikely to be definitively settled. He is buried in Bucharest at Bellu Cemetery.

Works
Poems and Prose of Mihai Eminescu (editor: Kurt W. Treptow, publisher: The Center for Romanian Studies, Iaşi, Oxford, and Portland, 2000, ISBN 9739432107) contains a selection of English-language renditions Eminescu's poems and prose, including "Doina" (the name is a traditional type of Romanian song), "Lacul" ("The Lake"), "Si dacă" ("Whenever"), "Luceafărul" (variously translated as "Lucifer" or "The Morning Star"), "Odă (în metru antic)" ("Ode (in Ancient Meter)"), "Mai am un singur dor" ("I Have Yet One Desire"), among others. It also includes translations of four important prose writings: "Făt-Frumos din lacrimi" ("Prince Charming, The Tear-Begotten"), "Sărmanul Dionis" {"Poor Dionis"), "Geniu pustiu" ("Wasted Genius"), and "Cezara" ("Caesara").

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