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Spanish-Romanian Cultural Complicities (I)

October 30th, 2010 · No Comments · Books, Diaspora, OPINION, PEOPLE, Translations

Spanish-Romanian Cultural Complicities (I)

Trajan's Column (Rome) hailing the Conquest of Dacia

Thinking of the peoples of the Iberian peninsula and those inhabiting he Carpathian Mountains and foothills, at the other end of Europe one could dream of some convergence going back to the Roman empire and the common foundation of a Latin language: after all the Iberian-born Emperor Trajan added to his surname the appellation of “Dacicus” in memory of the epic conquest of what was going to become later the Romanian space – the legendary “Dacia felix”: to this day Trajan’s memory is vivid in the Romanian psyche if one considers the incidence of infants baptised with this name.

Prince Ieremia Movila Voyevode of Moldavia - ancestorJoaquín Garrigós Bueno of King Juan Carlos of Spain

A much lesser known historical link is the descendance of the Spanish Bourbon Kings from the Moldavian Voyevode Ieremia Movila, whose daughter, having married in a Polish aristocrat became the ancestor of Marie Leszczynska, spouse of Louis XV King of France, whence the current descendants of the Kings of Spain. This Moldavian princely link  also makes the King of Spain a cousin of  Queen Anna de Romania, whilst on a different family link the Queen Sophia of Spain is a cousin of King Mihai de Romania through the  Greek royal family. Given these pedigrees Princess Margarita de Romania is several times over a cousin of the Prince of the Asturias.

Clara Haskil (1895-1960) Romanian pianist of Ladino-speaking stock

In more recent times the Sephardic tribes fleeing Iberia found refuge in the Danubian Principalities hence the “Spanish rite” Jewish cemeteries extant in Romania of a community now nearly extinct who kept for centuries their Ladino dialect. Amongst Romanians of Sephardic descent figures is the pianist Clara Haskil (1895-1960), who received, as a child prodigy, a scholarship from Queen Elisabeth of Romania (Carmen Sylva) to study at the Vienna conservatoire.

Romannian soprano of Spanish stock, Viorica Cortez (b. 1935) a diva of the metropolitan Opera of New York

During the XIX century a few Spanish merchants traded as far as Moldavia only to find Romania a new ‘Land of Promise’ as was the case of the forebear of the Romanian soprano Viorica Cortez (b 1935) who pefrormed Madama Butterfly 65 times at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The 20th century’s tumultuous history caused some strong-headed people to fight on foreign land which was the case of many Romanians involved in the Spanish civil war  on the Republican side. Amongst these was the son of a Transylvanian rabbi Walter Roman who later married a Spanish lady. On his return from Spain and after the installation of a communist dictatorship, Walter Roman became the Communist Party ideologist and an editor of the Communist Party Publishing house, whilst his wife taught Spanish at the university of Bucharest. Their son  followed in his parents political shoes to become Romanian Prime Minister, having been close to the Romanian neo-communist regime of President Iliescu who engineered the coup de palais following which Ceausescu and his wife were executed.

At the other end of the political spectrum were the uprooted Romanians who sought refuge in Spain, once Romania became a Soviet-controlled dictatorship: among the latter one could cite Prince Constantin ‘Bazu‘ Cantacuzino (1905 Romania – 1958, Spain) – the step son of composer Georges Enesco. Prince Bazu was nicknamed The Flying Prince for earning his living as a stunt pilot, after he lost his immense fortune to the communist regime in Romania.

Prof Alejandro Cioranescu of the University of Teneriffe

Another prominent exile was Alejandro Cioranescu (b Romania 1911 – d. Tenerife 1999) doctor Honoris causa of the University of Tenerife at La Laguna – an expert on the Spanish baroque and on the French-Spanish bibliography his books Estudios de literatura española y comparada (La Laguna, 1954), El barroco o el descubrimiento del drama (La Laguna,1957),  Los hispanismos en el francés clásico (Madrid, 1987) and Bibliografía franco-española, 1600-1715 (Madrid 1977) remain to this day standard references in the field.

Amongst the ‘greats’ of universal literature who found exile in Spain was Horia Vintila (1915, Romania – 1992, Spain) who wrote directly in several languages including Spanish in which he published several novels such as Marta, o la segunda guerra, (Barcelona, 1987), Persecutez Boèce!, (Barcelona, 1983), Un sepulcro en el cielo, (Barcelona, 1987). He was the nominee of the prestigious French literary Prix Goncourt in 1960, a prize which he was compelled to renounce following a character-assassination witch hunt masterminded by the Romanian secret services through the French left-wing press. It is worth noting that the novel nominated by the Goncourt, “Dieu est ne en exil”, which was translated in fourteen languages was NOT in fact a political novel and it was inspired by the life of the exiled Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso) who died in Tomi, on the Romanian shores of the Black Sea.

Horia Vintila's Goncourt Prize (1960) novel translated in 14 languages

Horia Vintila was also a prolific essayist and literary critic as he published amongst other titles: Presencia del mito, (Madrid, 1956), Poesia y liberdad, (Madrid, 1959), Espana y otras mundos, (Barcelona, 1970),  Mestor de novehita, (Madrid, 1972),  Introduccion a la mundo peor, (Barcelona, 1978),  Literatura y disidencia, (Madrid, 1980),  Los deechos humanus, la novsledel sigle XX, (Madrid, 1981). Horia Vintila was professor of Universal Literature  at the Official School of Journalism and later founded the Chair of Universal Literature at the Complutense University in Madrid.

A special mention amongst the contemporary afficianados of hispanic -romanian links and an expert of Romanian literature is the former director of the Instituto Cervantes in Bucharest, Joaquin  Garrigos Bueno a prolific translator  of more than 30 Romanian novels, in particular of Mircea Eliade (Boda en el cielo,  Diario intimo de la India, Los jovenes barbaros,  La noche de San Juan) and Emil Cioran (El ocaso del Pensamiento, El libro de la quimeras, Brevario de los vencidos,) but also of Camil Petrescu, Emil Voiculescu, Liviu Rebreanu and other classics and contemporary writers.

Joaquin Garrigos Bueno - "Mircea Eliade tiempo de un centenario"

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