An Experiment of Oral History (1985-1987): Interviews with Members of the Sociological School (II)
MARTOR, III – 1998, p.114-139
Harry Brauner and Lena Constante
When did you first meet Brăiloiu? He was the one who introduced you to Gusti’s School, wasn’t he?
I can’t remember the exact date, I’ve known Brăiloiu… for ever. I would find it extremely strange to tell when I met him. As for Gusti, I made his acquaintance under altogether different circumstances, which had nothing to do with Brăiloiu. There were many links, many things that happened which drew me close to this path, but not through Brăiloiu. I met Brăiloiu, if I remember well, in… 1928. I think that’s it.
So, practically, this was one year before Drăguş?
And Gusti? When did you meet him?
Gusti… This is a rather long pause. Let me tell you that there are many places where this microphone of yours is called ‘big dummy’. I’ve heard this in Ardeal and in many other places too: when in front of it, one reacts in an utterly abnormal way… I got to meet Gusti through a family, the Sanielevicis… turn off the big dummy!
You graduated the Music Academy, didn’t you?
So you became a teacher. How did you make a living in the 20s?
First I have to tell you that at the time I was the youngest teacher in the educational system. I made a living out of teaching, I was very busy going from one place to another, and this way I met a lot of people who helped me. So I was a teacher, and I was paid as such; this made a very modest living means, but I managed. It was during that period that I met Brăiloiu, he had also been my professor at the MusicAcademy. He was a gentleman. A real gentleman. (…)
Both Henri Stahl and Mihai Pop have talked about old Fogoroş, whom you ‘activated’ at Drăguş. But besides this, taking part for the first time in a monograph, you joined quite a varied society, you entered…
The very colorful world of the monographers, which you couldn’t have known in Bucharest.
I believe I should mention a thing which no longer makes sense for me today, but which was my reaction then. I was unduly looking down on some of them. I say unduly because my attitude was only justified by the fact that, being by Brăiloiu’s side, a man with a brilliant mind, I was projecting this hierarchical view on everybody else. And although I considered some of them inferior, time sorted things out, one way or another, and many of them… well, this is by the way… made a name for themselves.
You mean you considered yourself as part of a spiritual aristocracy together with Brăiloiu and against the others?
Yes. That’s very well put, indeed.
But there were some among the sociologists, like Vulcănescu…
Yes, of course, I’m not talking about them, but about the others. I remember that among these others there was one guy, a certain Constantinescu, we used to call him Constantinescu Buget because… I can’t even remember him well enough.
He did family budgets?
Might be. Might be. I considered him as way behind me. At the time I was very close to the late Matei Socor, who was himself part of an aristocracy, on the kinship line, and he had all sorts of advantages thanks to his parents, to his family, which was unusual to the others.
The only thing I know about Socor is that is was him who composed the old Romanian national anthem and that at a certain moment he was manager of the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation. I think you were in prison by then.
Was I in prison? /laughs/ Let me remember. Yes, I was in prison at the time, yes. That anthem singing of workers and peasants /hums/. I was in prison then, yes, that’s true. I was under ‘socialist guard’ /laughs/. It’s strange you haven’t heard of this so far, isn’t it extraordinary? The most horrible formulation.
You were born in Bucharest, weren’t you?
At any rate, you’re a townsman.
What drew you towards folklore?
You want me to tell you what drew me towards folklore? It’s hard to tell, yet at the same time it’s quite simple. It’s more than simple. Have I ever showed you my mother’s notebooks? She was very keen on music. But this is not the answer to your question. I had a nurse. And my nurse was a Gipsy woman. It seems to be a long-known truth that the milk you suck won’t turn into water. And this is how I explain this, that I, born in Piatra-Neamţ, had a special attraction to folklore. (…)
Was there anyone in the faculty who directed you towards folklore, or envisaged the necessity of its study?
There was firstly one professor whom I valued very much and who had a very strong influence on me, Dumitru Kiriac. He used to call me ‘the Englishman’, because of my name. And the mark he left on me was a deep one indeed.
Have you ever joined him for the village research?
No, I’ve never done that, but I travelled on the same roads, so to speak. I travelled on the same roads and I would often call at his place.
I think he was the one who introduced the Edison recording method in Romania.
Saying that might not be very accurate. It’s hard to tell. Georgescu-Breazu also had a hand in it.
Georgescu-Breazu was at Fundu-Moldovei too, before Brăiloiu. I mean both Brăiloiu and Breazu were there during the same campaign.
That’s true, but I have to tell you something. Brăiloiu, who was such a boyard, was often the target of Breazu’s irony.
And the other way around.
And the other way around, of course. Until, in the long run, things… well, the way things evolved in time is not very important. Breazu, for instance, thought very well of me. That’s known and verified. If you ask me, verified by whom, I can’t tell, but… And Breazu used to say that Brăiloiu was a hunter and that he hunted folklore. That means Breazu took Brăiloiu as a parvenu who was foreign to the world of folklore /laughs/. Breazu was my professor as well, it was the time when he introduced the course in musical encyclopaedia. Brăiloiu used to call it ‘cycolapaedia’. It proved to be highly profitable. Certainly, all the professors left their marks on me. As a matter of fact, I’ve already written and lectured a good deal on the subject. They certainly influenced me a lot. If you ask whether I went in the field with Kiriac, no, I didn’t. But to a large extent the field of his work was his own house. A house which I got to know very well, thanks to Brăiloiu, a house which, if I come to think of the atmosphere inside, of the people who frequented it, who would gather there…
The sociologists claim that they were aware of the novelty of their enterprise, at world scale even. To what extent were you, the folklorists, aware of the originality of your method?
We were aware of it thanks to the numerous encounters with foreigners who came for these sociological monographs and were much indebted to Gusti’s sociology. And thus we grew accustomed to looking up to this monograph of Gusti’s.
But were you aware of the originality of your folkloric research?
We were, yes. As I told you, we have made many contacts through Sanielevici. I for one knew very well that what we were doing had never been done before.
I know that Brăiloiu took an actual interest in sociology as well. Were you, the young people around him, Socor, Pop and yourself, only interested in folklore?
Practically we involved ourselves in many things, but as for sociology, it’s very hard to tell. I think it’s enough for me to tell you that among the professors I had there was someone like Tudor Vianu. Or like P. P. Negulescu. I certainly profited a lot from attending their courses. My presence there had also to do with the fact that I knew Gusti.
Were you related to Sanielevici?
No, this is what was alleged, but there’s no grain of truth in it. One of my friends, born Sanielevici, was called Gabriela Deleanu. She went abroad afterwards. Alexandru Sanielevici was a big name in the Institute for Nuclear Physics in Vienna. He was a friend of ours and chance brought us together several times. He was also a teacher at the Jewish Theoretical Highschool, where I also had a chair. And that’s how things come together, everything fits. (…)
What are the memories of the birth of this new method for folklore study, of the new outlook on folklore?
The germ lied, no doubt, in the people I worked with. At any rate, what counts most, and I have to say this, the one thing I hold as absolutely sure is that we never laid any stress on the aesthetic criterion: it came in the second place. And this is, in my opinion, the most outstanding thing about it all. In this sense, one letter form Gusti came as a great surprise to me; I had talked to him about the quite special procedure by means of which I had made different folkloric discoveries (in particular the doina) and about the various systems I had used. At Drăguş, Gusti asked me, wonder-stricken, whether the doina ‘was beautiful’. If baffled me that he could ask me whether a thing that had no altogether different value was beautiful or not. You have read about the methods I used to make people sing their songs, to make them tell me certain things that were deposited in their memory without their even being aware of it, haven’t you? This is what happened at Drăguş. I would go to them and whistle for them the tune I wanted to trace. I would whistle it and tell them, here’s a song an old man in the neighborhood sang for me. Do you know it? I don’t know who that old man might be. And they would tell me, I say, God bless you, it’s so and so who sang it. And thus I would bring them round to what concerned me, and this was a sociological result.
In order to do that you had to know thousands of tunes, didn’t you?
It was not about thousands of them, there were only several types, or archetypes, if you prefer, which existed and circulated. From this point of view, Drăguş was the perfect place to look for them, for all these… let’s call them archetypes, were recurrent, there weren’t too many tunes, there was a certain number of them. And I would use various methods, should I say… unfair methods? /laughs/ I wouldn’t call them unfair though, of course not. (…) Tunes are not created.
Lyrics are, I believe.
No doubt they are. Lyrics are created indeed, and in a very histrionic fashion, responding to certain political necessities. And that’s very important. It is important, and you can see that happen even today when people gather together and sing. The penmen, the so-called penmen may change the words but they won’t change the tune.
And this is what is called ‘new folklore’?
Yes, the so-called ‘new folklore’.
Had you not been put to prison in the 50s, you might have been compelled to put up with the new folklore.
It’s quite amusing for me to remember how, while I was kept in that place as enemy of the people, under ‘socialist guard’, as I told you, lots of publications were issued where my name was forbidden. They published my texts tale quale, without mentioning my name. This was… insane, that’s what I think. There was this book I had written in collaboration… I forget what it was called… Dedicated to peace, allegedly. There were lots of things in that book, there were for instance texts I had collected, which were afterwards presented by others as their findings. I was very upset with this, I really was, for they didn’t mention a word about me. There were very daring texts. ‘Hitler, Hitler, such a cur’ or ‘Curse on Hitler when he dies/ not a candle at his sides’.
They were from the war time, weren’t they?
Yes, and I think this was a dare-devil thing to do. Perhaps people were more unconscious than they were outrageous. I collected many of them from the soldiers. Others from the workers in the Gabel factory; and then other people plumed themselves on them, so to speak. It serves them well, I think these are the proper words. They might have been the masters, but this wasn’t a nice thing to do. Even at the time, I got very upset.
After you went out of prison, did they take you back at the Institute for Folklore?
After I got out of prison I was appointed head of the ethnomusicology lab at the Institute.
Mihai Pop was the director then, am I right?
No, he was not at the Institute, Mihai Pop was more than that at the time. He worked a lot at international level. He was Director of the International Institute for Anthropology and Ethnography and all that.
He was lucky to have taken a doctorate in Slavonic studies in Prague.
Yes, he was lucky indeed. Very lucky. And he had the ability. One can wonderfully play on words there: ability, pliability! /laughs/ And he was that for a long time.
Yet, unlike others, he did no harm to anyone.
No. I wouldn’t know about this. I couldn’t tell.
At Drăguş and in the other campaigns where you were together working with Brăiloiu, did you divide the tasks between yourselves?
Well, it was only natural for him, who had done only literature, to be concerned with literature folklore. He had nothing in common with music at the time. Afterwards he enlarged, so to speak, the span of his interest, for that’s what was needed.
Can you remember Ştefania Cristescu, later Golopenţia?
I can remember her very well, of course I do. She was doing a research in exorcisms. I don’t know if Lena told you about this story. How it was that it got hold on me, so to speak. Very interesting. She met a witch and this witch did her trick, she asked for an object that belonged to me and cast a spell, and this spell endured through all that happened afterwards. Even when she would have liked to break it, the spell remained. And she had an unshattered trust in all this.
Where did this happen, at Runcu?
It seems so, yes.
It couldn’t have been at Drăguş.
It could, it could.
Was Lena Constante at Drăguş?
Yes, Lena was there.
And when did you get married?
Well, we got married later / laughs/. We got married much later, when I was in house-arrest. Some things happened then that… I was in forced residence after I went out of prison, of course, and they sent me to live in a village called Viişoara. Today it is no longer mentioned on the map because it no longer exists. This village no longer it, I’m telling you, sir, you may wonder how come! It no longer is because the State Agricultural Enterprise expanded and wiped it away. It used to be in the Ialomiţa county.
Were you considered that dangerous even out of prison, so as to be put in house-arrest?
Yes, it seems I was very dangerous. More dangerous than I could even imagine. But at the same time I was a good example for all the others; don’t you think?
What do you mean?
Oh, you didn’t get my meaning. I was a good example for the intellectuals, for the artists, for everyone who had eyes to see what could befall a man who’s done nothing.
It could have been worse.
It could, yes, the risk was run many times. In prison there was a man, I don’t know what his quality was, but this man had access to the cells. I was naive enough then, and that man would come to my cell and feign to shave me. In fact he would cover my head with a towel and point a razor at my throat, and say, so, now I may well cut your throat. It’s unspeakable, what I felt when this beast would enter my cell pretending to shave me, and a seeming pleasure was in fact the fiercest nightmare. To me it seemed never to end and he was of a barbarism beyond words; he was employed by the administration only to act that way. And I, naive as I was, thought that was the end of it… so he was the man of the administration, used by them for this very purpose, and he was doing a hell of a job out of it. I passed through hard times there, at the zarcă, that’s what it was called. It was there that I first met Nechifor Crainic.
(Lena Constante enters the room. Harry Brauner to Lena Constante):
H.B.: Dear lady, do you believe, that’s what the gentleman here was asking me, do you believe in exorcisms and magic?
L.C.: I do.
H.B.: What makes you believe in these sorts of things?
L.C.: Have you told him?
H.B.: I have, but you tell him again. He asked me if I’d met Ştefania Cristescu Golopenţia.
L.C.: I shared a hostel room with her in Paris. She was there with a scholarship and so was I, thanks to Gusti. And we both lived in the same students’ hostel. The scholarships provided very little money, but I had an aunt there who helped me now and again. As for Ştefania, poor soul, we would dine together in order for her to cover the expenses for the hostel.
H.B.: When did you use…
L.C.: You want to get me, don’t you? /laughs/
H.B.: When did you use those unfair means to make me happy?
L.C.: You’re talking about the witch?
L.C.: I can’t remember the year it happened.
L.C.: 1930, was it? For I’ve come to mix them. We had met in 1929, when he was at Drăguş. I was a Fine Arts student and thanks to somebody’s protection I stayed for the summer at the hostel in Sâmbăta, the one that belonged to Casa Şcoalelor. And from time to time we would go on trips, there were three kilometers up to Drăguş, when they would gather for their socials. And they would invite us to dinner too. I knew all the monographers, for my sister Zizi Constante, Elisabeta, had been Gusti’s student. One day, at lunch time, it so happened that I sat near Harry, he was the youngest in the team. After I joined them I was the youngest, younger than him, for I was a second year student. And he would do all sorts of… I was flaunting it, and he had a mind to make the others laugh at me, doing pretty silly things. /laughs/ He would take bread crumbs, touch my arm with them and then eat them as if they were delicatessen. It got on my nerves! I didn’t know how to cope with that, how to fight back… All sorts of nonsense like that. And the next year, Mac Constantinescu was in charge of the arts section, and we didn’t know each other very well, I was a Fine Arts student, we had met at… the Criterion sessions. I would spend Sundays at their place; Mac Constantinescu lived with Floria Capsali in a house where the Criterion members and other would meet. The Bertola girls and Gabriel Negri were usually there, and many other people. Mac Constantinescu co-opted me in his team, I was doing copies and record cards. So one night, as we left the North Railway Station, in a third class carriage that had been put at our disposal, for we weren’t exactly high-brow, everyone gradually fell asleep, except Harry and myself. We were Macedonian children, brought up rather strictly, with lots of don’t and few friends, the monograph was a great adventure for me, so many girls and boys: freedom, in short. And we started playing leap frog. He would hit me… with all his might. /laughs/ Do you remember, Harry? It seems to me Brăiloiu was there as well, but he had fallen asleep in a corner. And we finally reached the field for the monograph, and the first day, the second, the third, I saw Harry was incredibly successful with girls. After dinner everyone would sit round him and he would sing songs from other regions, he had a fantastic memory, and tell jokes. I didn’t like that. All the same, we were the youngest, and belonged to two arts teams. I was with the fine arts and so, in a way, we had things in common; in the evening we used to go out with Mac and with Brăiloiu and thus we came closer to each other. I was living in the house of a very nice woman. And one day I found out that her mother was the witch of the village. So I told her, when your mother comes, you’d better call me. And there came an old woman and I told her, look, I like one of these boys, my colleagues, very much. What should I do so he takes a fancy on me too? For he is surrounded by all these girls. And they were pretty, fine girls, what can I say? And she told me, steal something from him and I’ll put such a magic spell on him that he’ll stay bound to you for a life. So I asked him for a tie of his. I was wearing a blue shirt and I asked him to borrow me a tie… it was the fashion then for girls to wear boyish garb. And he gave me the tie and the woman came, sat down on the floor, with a glass carafe she’d brought, full of water, blessed or not, I can’t tell, put in sweet basil leaves and stems, fastened the tie around it and started muttering, and that went on for a whole hour. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, she kept muttering and mumbling, Harry this, Lena that… I took it all as a joke. But it proved not to be one. So I believe in magic. So many years have passed since then, haven’t they? Fifty five! /laughs/ It’s the last thing I would have imagined. That’s how it happened. But, you know, he had his flirtings, all sorts of them, but I was his soul’s friend. I would do all the errands for him…
To you Runcu is a very important monograph. It seems it was not that important for the history of sociology.
L.C.: Drăguş meant a lot to me in the point of work. Yes, I’m not the fighter type. Many un pleasant things happened to me, but I still keep all the material. Mac Constantinescu did a very good study on the glass icons technique. He found the last icon-painter in Făgăraş, Ana Dej, and she had all the chronicles and explained to him the working technique. He studied the icons at Drăguş only superficially. The next year he went to Paris and didn’t come for the holidays. And then Gusti asked me if I wanted to take the responsibility. We were working with Marcel Focşa, who, as a matter of fact, was not a sociologist, but care more to work at copying textures, she could do a fine job with the lines, the colors. Not more complicated things, only the simple stuff. And she had grown fond of the monographic teams. So Gusti asked me if I wanted to take over the study with Marcela as assistant. And I was very proud of that. So I went to Drăguş.
The second campaign you mean, the one in 1932.
Yes. I had learnt some things at Runcu; I hadn’t been trained in sociology or philosophy, I had done the Fine Arts Faculty. But what with the reports they would present each evening. I had got an idea what statistics and sociology were about. And I decided to do a research at Drăguş, to catalogue all the icons from the almost 300 houses there, with cards for every house and every icon and to copy those which looked more interesting. Before I left I had the chance to go with Ricu Henri Stahl to Cartea Românească, the big bookshop, and he told me I could buy whatever I wanted, materials that is. Can you imagine, drawing tablets, Pelican paper, watercolors, gouaches, and above all he offered me a French device, a chambre claire, a lever with a field glass. You put what you wanted to copy in front of you, the paper on the table, and arranged the chambre claire in such a fashion as to project a reflection of the icon on the paper. All you had to do was to follow the contour in drawing and fill in the colors. So the copy could be extremely accurate. I had become so keen on this that I’d mark even the splits and damaged spot in the icon. And I copied around 80 icons. Ricu taught me how to do it statistically, the drawing I mean, with circles and triangles, with percentages of this and that, how to manage with paper icons, wood icons or glass icons – this was characteristic to Transylvania, by the way. At the time there were plenty of them at Drăguş, I found up to 15 or 16 in one house. Afterwards they bought them and took them away, the news spread that an exhibition had been done with them, so everyone came and bought. Brăiloiu took the most beautiful of them. And they all broke. Glass icons, I found 626 of them. And I discovered several channels. I could make out which ones followed the same pattern, which ones had been done by the same painter. How did I do the record cards? I would enter a house. The statisticians had drawn the map of Drăguş and marked the houses with numbers, and I would take them one by one. Every day as many as I could, 2 or 3 in the morning and then the same in the afternoon. I would make a record of the icons, ask the woman what her name was, where she’d bought them from. And they told me, from the merchants who came from Făgăraş ten years ago, or, it’s heritage from my mother. How old was your mother… and so on, and thus I could find out their age as well. The date was seldom mentioned on them. And when I went to the church, the royal icons were also in glass, there were some superb pieces there, and I recognized the technique I had found in several icons seen in the houses. But the beauty of it was that this royal icon on the right side, if I’m not mistaken, had a Cyrillic text inscribed on it, which said that it had been done by Savu Moga from Arpaşul de Sus… I was exhilarated. I had traced an icon-painter.
H.B.: And that was extreme happiness for us.
L.C.: And in the evening, at our session, mad with happiness, I told them what I had discovered, that I had traced a name. Besides Ana Dej, who was still alive, this was the first name of an icon painter discovered in Făgăraş county. Afterwards I discovered several other names: Petru Tămaş, Iosif Florea… The next day, without telling me anything, Brăiloiu and Ricu Stahl took a wagon and left for Arpaş. I was a student, my finances were very poor, so I didn’t even dream that I could ask for a wagon to go there the next day. I only wanted to finish my work. And I found out several days later that they went there and did a sort of inventory of the icons at Arpaş.
H.B.: You realize what that meant…
L.C.: It hurt me a lot, for it was my discovery. I asked Gusti that we stay for a couple of weeks more, Harry, my sister and myself, so that I could get to Arpaş too. And we went there after the work was done, we stayed there for about five days and found Savu Moga’s daughters, old maids by now, but still alive. I still keep all the notes, all the interviews, some of them written by Harry in Cyrillian, o whole big file. They told me very interesting things. It’s a long story, it goes on to our days. Then we came back to Bucharest. I was very fond of Emanoil Bucuţa, he would give me now and then a book to illustrate for the publishing house of Casa şcoalelor. He was a great writer. He was a nationalist too, a bit too hot-blooded, but not an Iron Guardist. He was not an extreme rightist, but well to the right. So was Victor Ion Popa. But they would not go as far as hatred.
Fierce advocated of king Carol, weren’t they? You mentioned Victor Ion Popa…
The circumstances pushed him into doing it, he needed it in order to be able to work. I worked a lot with Victor Ion Popa and I was really fond of him. For the 1937 exhibition in Paris I did the big painting commissioned by the Royal Foundation for the village section, for I know about villages. And then king Carol came to open the exhibition. But Maria Mohor, Victor Ion Popa’s wife, and I had to clean the windows and the floor at midnight, for there was a strike in Paris at the time, so when the king came we were fast asleep in the hotel and unaware of anything else… Anyhow, I needed to tell someone this story with the icons. So I went to Bucuţa and told him what I had discovered. And he told me, listen, Lena, you write an article right away and I’ll publish it in my magazine, Boabe de grâu. You’re young and there’s no other way. So I wrote the article, which he published together with the photograph of that icon, the photograph of the girls and the details in short. It was in 1931 or even 1930. I have it here. I was pleased with that. The time passed and the Drăguş monograph was not published. Gusti would have liked to publish my study on the copies and I went to Luceafărul and talked to the manager, I can’t remember his name, a very nice man…
L.C.: But it would have taken a lot of money to do it, it had to be done in colors; it wasn’t done after all. Then the war broke; and the war ended. During the war I took the copies from the Social Institute and kept them at my place. I thought they would be safer that way. But I got arrested. And the night they got me a family moved into the place; they have lived there to this day. So everything I had in the house was gone. I no longer have them. And the years passed. And several years ago an article was published by Vasile Drăguţ on the painter of icons Savu Moga, discovered by Brăiloiu and Ricu Stahl. I phoned up Rich Stahl and he said he had nothing to do with it. In 1934, when Brăiloiu organized an exhibition of glass icons at the Ministry of Propaganda, he wrote in the catalogue slyly, for he hadn’t much of a character: ‘other people’s research opened for me the path towards Savu Moga’ and things like that. But he didn’t say whose research. He just threw it like that, a crafty phrasing. Probably Drăguţ took it from there, from the catalogue. But a few years later, in 1975, a wonderful book about glass icons was published, written by Dana and Dumitru Dance, an arts volume, including a two page attack on me, accusing me of having stolen the discovery, not a word mentioned of the article in Boabe de grâu, and that’s all there was to it. I tried to get in touch with them but I couldn’t, then I talked to Ricu Stahl, and Ricu gave me a letter, I still have it but I haven’t had it published. A letter in which he set things right: neither I nor Brăiloiu did it, you found them, he said. And that’s how it stayed. As for the book… I asked whether it could be withdrawn from the market. How could it be withdrawn, such a big and beautiful volume, only for my sake! And that’s it. I have all the material… Things like that happened to me three or four times, it’s like bad luck following me. (…)
When did you apply for the faculty?
That means you had already started work for the campaigns; Goicea Mare was in 1925.
In 1928 I was on a campaign at Fundul-Moldovei. I hadn’t graduated yet, I didn’t yet have my university degree. And it impressed me, I liked it there.
Can you remember the way the research at Fundul-Moldovei was prepared, taking into account the experience of the previous three campaigns?
I do remember, but the others had been less ample, in point of both number of persons and specific training for the field-work, which is no easy thing when you want to do it properly. It got hold on me, also because I was discovering a very beautiful region, things I had never encountered before. I saw, for instance, a wedding which made me think that Coşbuc must have seen a similar thing when he wrote Nunta Zamfirei /laughs/… extraordinary. And I found self-governed hamlets, they didn’t pay any taxes, and that was in 1928. Each hamlet included about 20-25 house, well into the mountain valleys, you had to climb a lot up the valleys to find them. I met a peasant, the leader of one of these hamlets, his name was Anton Ţâmpău. I took his picture, gave it to dr. Banu and he put it on the cover of a big study on the health of the people, which reached America. And so I made old Ţâmpău popular. Nice fellow, he ruled with a firm hand over both his relatives and his work mates. I was strongly impressed by these things… And they were quite playful too. And now, some time ago, a team from Fundul-Moldovei came to the celebration we had in honor of Gusti and the VillageMuseum. You can imagine how many generations have succeeded each other since then! But they seemed to be the same. First of all, the young men were tall then, and they were tall now. Tall men and very good dancers. The girls came too, with their costumes unspoiled, except for some of them who were now wearing shoes instead of peasant sandals. The festivity was a success, I also remember some foreign visitors who assisted it. (…)
At Fundul-Moldovei you had already been given a definite task, true? Or wasn’t it yet settled…
I was in charge of something, but far from definite. I was doing the customs. This is a very wide topic, with no clear boundaries, but Gusti was keen on it. (…)
Did you follow a research model?
No, I was only doing descriptions then. There was no research model whatsoever. The older ones had non, so for me, a student, it was out of the question. I would describe what I saw happened for this custom or that custom. The agricultural ceremonies were fewer there, you could see more of them in Năsăud. I got to see one, though, only once. Now I remember. It was the so-called bear’s dance. And many years later, after I had been in Paris and read some things which opened my eyes, I realized that this bear’s dance was of Northern origin. So they had there the pluguşor (the procession with the decorated plough on New Year’s Day), with brother Traian and all, which came from the Mediteranean space, and at the same time they had the bear’s dance, with the bear stealing the sheep from the sheepfold. Where have I also found this dance in my readings? Yes, the Lithuanians have it. And it’s only natural that from Bucovina downwards it can’t be found anymore. There must have been a contact there, which struck roots. This was the only really unusual thing. As for the rest, they were beautiful, interesting, exciting things, but they were not out of the way. (…)
There has been much talk about Fundul-Moldovei, about the sessions held there, about Mircea Vulcănescu’s theoretical activity.
Yes, he out-classed everyone else, he was the most outstanding intellectual. He even out-classed Gusti. Rainer was there too. And Milcu was an assistant at the time. They were concerned strictly with anthropology. They wouldn’t go into sociological stuff. Later, at Drăguş, he started approaching sociological issues related to Gusti’s so-called biological frame.
I’ve heard many people say that Rainer was a charismatic speaker.
Rainer had good training in his domain, but he stayed away from sociology. And he spoke in a staccato voice and very slowly, I wouldn’t call that charismatic. A scholar, yes, he was that, a very serious person, but I don’t remember his being remarkable in any way, from our point of view, of the sociological research, I mean.
After Fundul-Moldovei, were there any talks on it at the Seminar or at the Romanian Social Institute or anywhere else?
There were, at the faculty, at Gusti’s seminar.
Wasn’t it after Fundul-Moldovei that the first exhibition was done?
The exhibition was done after we’d been to Drăguş. But Gusti would often come for discussions on what had happened at Fundul-Moldovei and what we were going to do next. And I can realize now – although I was a bit confused at the beginning – that at Drăguş I was already firm on my position and had started some very interesting work. (…)
After Drăguş did you go to Paris directly? Or were you at Runcu as well?
I was at Runcu too.
So between Runcu and Cornova you went to Paris.
I stayed there for two years.
You attended lectures there…
Yes, there was a Jew, a very competent professor. A true scholar, Marcel Mauss. I followed him… to the Ecole des Hautes Etudes, at the religious science department, and to the College de France, where he held some ethnography courses. The book on ethnography he wrote, I have it here, it was published here too, and here is the course we attended at the College de France. He was a serious man, a true researcher.
Did you know him personally?
Of course I did, and so did Ion Ionică. For we were together in Paris on a state scholarship. With recommendations… And if you had good recommendations from important professors, the Ministry of France wouldn’t even bother to look deeper into it. I received recommendations from Gusti, from Pogoneanu…
Picky Pogoneanu’s father?
Picky Pogoneanu’s father, yes. He was teaching practical pedagogy and was the director of the Maiorescu seminar, which was in charge of the student’s practical training. A very serious man. Modest, but very serious. And I can’t remember who else gave me recommendations, for I had four of them attached to the scholarship application form… Nae Ionescu wouldn’t give any. He wouldn’t give anything! Anything whatsoever! Neither recommendations nor… He wouldn’t listen to you… Nor dedications. Nobody will ever find, he said, a book with my dedication on it.
As a matter of fact, he didn’t have much published.
Take for instance Roza Vânturilor; Eliade, who had published it, went to him and asked for a dedication. He wouldn’t give it to him. He simply wouldn’t.
Have you learned anything from him? I know he was a mesmerizing orator, but you, as a researcher, did you get any profit out of his course in logic?
Of course I did. I for one consider that Nae Ionescu’s course… I was less of a fan. His real fans at the time were Mircea Vulcănescu, Mircea Eliade, D. C. Amzar. These were the three big fans of Ionescu. I wasn’t one; I had a good relationship with the professor, he was friendly to me, I had discussions with him, but I did not always share his fundamental ideas. The others are… Amzar is still clinging to texts by Nae Ionescu /laughs/ in Wiesbaden. Well, he was a clever man. No doubt about that. Very clever. And I’m proud that he came from Brăila, like me. Same old Brăila!… I meant to tell you something very important for what you’re doing. Nae Ionescu was less influential for me than Gusti’s research. Gusti placed himself on an altogether different position, yet his actual research in the field led me to a path and a method which I followed all my life. (…)
Till when did you work with Gusti?
I quit in… what year was it? After the Şanţu campaign. In 1936.
What was your status?
When I worked with Gusti? I was the secretary of the sociological monographs section. I was even paid for this job. (…)
Gusti wasn’t a big scholar. Gusti was a great animator and a great organizer. I don’t believe in the brains of Gusti the scholar. As a matter of fact, my belief is that 30 percent of Gusti’s sociological system was devised by Mircea Vulcănescu. So as far as I’m concerned, he’ll always be the great animator and organizer. (…)
Gusti’s group was made up of several smaller groups. It’s only natural. In society, the moment a group grows up to more than 3 or 4 members, it will necessarily give birth to another group. People can’t stick together. Some among Gusti’s followers were older and more influential, like Mircea Vulcănescu, H. H. Stahl, Traian Herseni and…
Indeed, Mitu Georgescu, the statistician. (…) They worked independently, directly with the professor. One nucleus I also belonged to included professor Ion Ionică, D. C. Amzăr, Ernest Bernea and Ion Samarineanu. Four of us. This was a group of people who worked like one, and were very close to one another. There were other people, too, who worked with the professor and had relationships with Stahl. Xenia Costa-Foru, for instance. Very interesting woman. These groups had different political orientations as well. (…) Then there was Pogoneanu’s group.
I didn’t know about this group.
It certainly was there. Picky Pogoneanu, Octavian Neamţu, Anton Golopenţia. Another orientation. These ones were ‘Englishmen’ all right. All gifted men, well read, skilled for scientific research. In point of character… Anton Golopenţia left a little to be desired. There was another one who worked directly with Gusti, professor Conea, a very reliable, decent person. An interesting man. Besides Xenia Costa-Foru there were another 3 or 4 girls, but they didn’t form a group of their own, they joined separately the other groups: Miţi Dărmănescu, Marcela Focşa, who was doing traditional art and also involved in spiritual manifestations, Dochia Ioanovici, who was in charge of magic related issues.
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