Iacob Negruzzi - Memories from "Junimea"

«Eminescu's poems and letters - written in a completely different manner of those I usually received from authors - were the reason that made me wish to get more and more information concerning this poet. As I had the opportunity to go that summer to Austria, I had decided to stop in Vienna for a while, so to meet Eminescu and spend some time with him. However, I had not let him know about my arrival, as I wanted to take him by surprise. On arriving in Vienna, I went straight to the Troidl coffeehouse in Wollzeile, which I had known as the meeting place for Romanian students. I sat down at a side table close to a window, whence, without being noticed, I could watch all young men speaking in Romanian to one another. There were plenty in there that day. Several of them seemed to be somehow more intelligent, some others less, but every face had ordinary features. Then I told myself that Eminescu could not be any of them. Suddenly, the door opened and there entered a slender, pale young man, with eyes both vivid and dreamy, with long black hair coming down almost to his shoulders. His smile was kind and melancholic, his forehead broad and intelligent. He was wearing black, old and rather worn-out clothes. As soon as I saw him, I was sure that he was Eminescu. Without any trace of hesitation, I stood up, I walked to him and I said, while holding out my hand:

'How do you do, Mr. Eminescu?'

The young man shook my hand. He kept on looking surprised at me, as he answered with a mild smile:

'I do not know you.'

'Well, you see, this is the big difference about us. I instantly recognized you.'

'I think you are not from Vienna.'

'True.'

'Considering your way of speaking, you are Moldavian. Perhaps you come from Iasi...'

'Right.'

'I think you are Mr.... Iacob Negruzzi', he shyly said.

'That's me, indeed.'

'Well, as you see, I also recognized you.'

Due to Convorbiri Literare (Literary Conversations), I had become familiar to Romanian students, so, on hearing my name, they gathered around us. Eminescu introduced them to me. Most of them were from Transylvania and Hungary, some from Bukovina.

'I am really sorry that Slavici left Vienna for the holidaysí, Eminescu said. 'I wished you had met him. I think Slavici will be a famous writer. He thinks so rightly about all the issues! He has original, good ideas and he will write very well when he is able to use Romanian language better. You know, he forgot it because of Hungarian schools.'

As we had become friends from the very moment of our acquaintance, I stayed more than a week in Vienna, thus spending every moment with Eminescu, speaking about the Romaniansí past and future or the war between France and Germany, which had just started and was a thrilling topic to everybody. But most of all we talked about our national literature.

I was to meet Slavici only when I returned from a watering place and then I urged him to begin a comparative study concerning the two co-inhabiting nations: Romanians and Hungarians. This matter was also referred to in a fragment from the letter I received from Eminescu after my return to Iasi.

When we parted, I asked Eminescu if he had liked to settle down in Iasi when his study period was over.

'I should gladly come, as Junimea is a great temptation to me', he answered. 'But this is for later. For now, I and Slavici have agreed to organize next year a great reunion of Romanian students everywhere, at voivode Stephen's grave within Putna monastery. So, when I have fulfilled this duty, I will certainly come.'

Eminescu told me how they wanted to organize that commemoration and promised to send me a short annotation concerning it. He later sent it to me for Convorbiri literare. It is the article signed E and published in the edition of September 15.»

 

(Translated by Junona Tutunea)

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