Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Romania in quotations


As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult t influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality. They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view. 
Donald Dunham in 1947
I came to Bucharest two years ago with a legion of conquering heroes. I leave with a troupe of gigolos and racketeers. 
Field Marshal August von Mackensen in 1918
Romania is not a barbaric country. She is only too civilised. That is the problem.  
Emperor Francis Joseph in 1893 (did he have in mind the sexual mores of the boyars?)
The undisguised revulsion with the peasantry, on the other hand, is so exclusively Romanian and unheard of in the other Balkan discourses as to render indeed the Romanian claims of unBalkanness authentic. 
Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans. 
These were Western women, but about them hung the flavor of the harem. Countess WaldeckAthene Palace (1943) 

The Romanians possess to the highest degree the capacity of receiving the blows of fate while relaxed. They fall artfully, soft and loose in every joint and muscle as only those trained in falling can be. The secret of the art of falling is, of course, not to be afraid of falling and the Romanians are not afraid, as Western people are. Long experience has taught them that each fall may result in unforeseen opportunities and that somehow they always get on their feet again. 
Countess Waldeck, Athene Palace(1943)

Religion in Romania means something completely different from what it means in Catholic or Protestant countries. 
Eugene Ionesco 
Those who hold no position in government, spend their time in absolute idleness, or in visiting each other to kill time.....In their habitual state of inaction, brought on by a natural aversion to every serious occupation which does not immediately relate to their personal interest, both sexes, enjoying the most extensive freedom of intercourse with each other, are easily led to clandestine connexion: the matrimonial faith has become merely nominal. 
William Wilkinson, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820)

I think that if Romania came one day by a miracle to get rid of all its sins and the faults of its leading political class and if, as if by magic, it gave up its selfishness, intrigue, corruption, incompetence and its scorn for the masses, still, even in that situation, this country could not make good progress if our political personalities did not get rid of their lack of seriousness.

Mihail Manoilescu, Memoirs (1927)

Here are two sentences by me. For the first I'll get attacked.

Romania is the Orient dreaming that it is France. 

The Balkans is not a geographical expression but a state of mind.


  1. Here's one more: "There can be no bigger fool than me! Thirteen years of prison for a people of idiots - only I was capable of such a thing..." (Petre Ţuţea, after the May 20 1990 elections won by former Communists).
    Valentin Nas

    1. The spirit of the latest Lit. Nobel, and of the " revulsion with the peasantry" cited above...

    2. David in Banja Luka15 October 2015 at 16:53

      @ Anonymous

      Comedy and tragedy in one sentence, so to speak ;).

      Thanks for sharing, great quote.

  2. David in Banja Luka15 October 2015 at 16:51


    You’ve been intermittently blogging quotations for some time now but this is the best subject yet!

    I offer my twopenorth worth below:

    “….. this is Romania. Nothing can be ruled out entirely.” a Le Monde correspondent.

    “If the art of survival is – as it probably is – central to the politics of small nations, then the Romanians may be counted amongst the greatest practitioners of that art. At the cost of much suffering and a good deal of social corruption, they have, over centuries, managed to preserve both their national pride and their rich culture in a difficult and hostile environment.” Istvan Deak, Survivors.

    “There does not exist a people labouring under a greater degree of oppression from the effect of despotic power, and more heavily burdened with impositions and taxes than the peasants of Wallachia, nor any who would bear half their weight with the same patience and resignation.” W. Wilkinson, An Account of the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

    “There is no bitterer fruit than foreigners in one’s land.” Romanian proverb.

    All the above are taken from:

    “From Da to Yes: understanding the East Europeans” (Richmond, Y., 1995)

  3. 'Once you label me you negate me'. Soren Kierkegaard


    1. Wise chap. I am happy with paradoxical labels like Paul's - plenty of room for "I" between the cracks self-imposed by the label-maker ...

      [sensu "Paradox is good" @frankwilczek]

    2. A little boy sees and hears birds with delight.

      Then his “good father” comes along and feels he should “share” the experience and help his son “develop.” He says: “That’s a jay, and this is a sparrow.”

      The moment the little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing. He has to see and hear them the way that his father wants him to.

      Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can afford to go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the little boy starts his “education” the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up.

      A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most of the members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets, or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to; they must get it secondhand.

      The recovery of this ability is called “awareness.”

      Eric Berne

    3. David in Banja Luka23 October 2015 at 15:50

      Thanks for the above, it makes me think.
      It also brought to mind Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse.

  4. About that "art of survival" that David mentions here, and Emil hailed as the style of local diplomacy [elsewhere, on your post about RO & a couple of Islamic states] ... I am finding a Romanian saying aspiring to pin up the nature of local wisdom: 'That God may give you the Romanian wisdom for the day before" [ that is to say, mintea Românului cea de pe urmă ].

    You'd think that spending much of the time on the receiving end of history maintains this bit of wisdom unadulterated by other beliefs... a more high-brow statement I've read recently from the Romanian Orthodox line of thinking calling out the latest history of the rest of the world one of "imposed beliefs" [a neat, likely unintended counter to "necessary beliefs" [1] and "necessary mysteries" [2] ] ...

    Attempted humor


    [1] http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/02/03/waltzing-with-leo-strauss/

    [2] https://twitter.com/philipcball/status/655171790176657408

    do not assume I agree with what I cite - I'll know better tomorrow [as per above]