04 August 2008

Baciu's Early Exile Network

From Mira, by Ştefan Baciu (Honolulu: Editura Mele, 1979 [also București: Editura Albatros, 1998], p. iii (my translation):
I dedicate this "Double Autobiography" to our Brazilian friends, departed but always present:and to those in Hispanic America, just as present:and to the memory of our friends:
    Grigore Cugler/“Apunake” (d. in Lima)
    Mircea Popescu (d. in Rome)
    Horia Tănăsescu (d. in San Francisco)
    Ion Oană-Potecaşu (d. in São Paulo)
    N. I. Herescu (d. in Zurich)
    Alexandru Busuioceanu (d. in Madrid)
    Aron Cotruş (d. in California)
It is perhaps not too surprising that the Romanian exiles are not well represented in Wikipedia. Baciu himself has a longer biography in Spanish Wikipedia than in either Romanian or English. Exiles tend to fall between the cracks. Who feels responsible for documenting their lives, people in their countries of exile or the ones they left behind? In the case of literary exiles, it depends who reads their work. I believe that Baciu devoted half of his own separate volume of memoirs (Praful de pe toba) to sketches of his old mentors and colleagues precisely in order to ensure that they would not be entirely forgotten.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who just passed away, spent time in both domestic internal and foreign exile. The English translations of his early classics like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle, Cancer Ward, and August 1914 had a major influence on my understanding of what the Soviet system was all about, an understanding that was reinforced and enriched by my year in Romania in 1983-84. (I did not read The Gulag Archipelago, but have blogged passages of several books about Gulags more recently.) Solzhenitsyn is not regarded quite the same way in his country of exile as in his country of origin, and his obsessions also evolved differently at home and abroad. He lived more than two lives, perhaps even as many as nine.

1 comment:

Languagehat said...

One of the good things about the fall of the Soviet Union was that the Russian exile writers finally took their place in histories and general awareness of Russian literature, Nabokov (as a Russian writer) and Khodasevich alongside Pasternak and Akhmatova, and Sovremennye Zapiski (the Paris journal that published Nabokov's Russian works, along with many others) seen as the vital member of the chain of "thick magazines" from the 19th century to Novy Mir that it is. When I was studying Russian in the '60s, somehow the emigre writers were seen as worthy but not to be actually studied or taken seriously. Mass exile/emigration is the great untold story of the last century. Like old age, it makes us too nervous to think about.