Tudor Arghezi : biography

21 May 1880 - 14 June 1967

Arghezi's mysterious illness resurfaced with the same symptoms in 1955, and he was rapidly interned in the care of Ion Făgărăşanu. He was diagnosed with a chronic infection that had originated in surgery he had undergone in 1934, provoking an abscess in the area around his lumbar vertebrae; he was released soon completing a treatment which included streptomycin injections.

He died and was buried in the garden of his house next to his wife Paraschiva in 1967 (she had died the previous year), with tremendous pomp and funeral festivities orchestrated by Communist Party officials. His home is currently a museum managed by his daughter, Mitzura.

In cultural reference

Aside from various sketches Arghezi had drawn of himself, his portrait was drawn by various artists he met or befriended. Around 1910, he was included in group portraits by Ary Murnu and Camil Ressu, both of which depicted the literary society formed around the Kübler Café in Bucharest. An abstract depiction of Arghezi, showing him as a figure with a hunter case-shaped head, and sitting on an electric chair, was published by M. H. Maxy.Zambaccian, Chapter XV Shortly before they died, Arghezi and his wife were the subject of an oil painting by Corneliu Baba.

Tudor Arghezi was several times portrayed in Romanian film: in 1958, Grigore Vasiliu Birlic played a major part in Arghezi's Doi Vecini (a character loosely based on the author); an eponymous film based on the life of Ştefan Luchian was released in 1981, starring Florin Călinescu as Arghezi.

Arghezi's work

Arghezi is perhaps the most striking figure of Romanian interwar literature, and one of the major poets of the 20th century. The freshness of his vocabulary represents a most original synthesis between the traditional styles and modernism. He has left behind a vast oeuvre, which includes poetry, novels, essays, journalism, translations and letters.

The impact of his writings on Romanian poetic language was revolutionary, through his creation of unusual lyrical structures, new sub-genres in prose - such as the poetic novel, the "tablet" (tableta) and the "ticket" (biletul).Vianu, p.482 He excelled at powerful and concise formulations, the shock value of which he exploited to startle lazy or conformist thinking, and his writings abound in paradoxes, as well as metaphysical or religious arguments.Vianu, p.482-483 Evidencing the satirical genre's leading role throughout Arghezi's literary career, George Călinescu argued that it had become a contributing factor to much of his poetry and prose fiction.Călinescu, p.323-324

Arghezi re-established an aesthetic of the grotesque, and experimented at length with prosody. In much of his poetry (notably in his Flori de mucigai and Hore), Arghezi also built upon a tradition of slang and argot usage, creating an atmosphere which, according to Călinescu, recalled the universe of Anton Pann, as well as those of Salvatore Di Giacomo and Cesare Pescarella.Călinescu, p.322 He introduced a vocabulary of intentional ugliness and decay, with the manifest goal of extending the limits of poetic language, the major theme in his Cuvinte Potrivite; nevertheless, the other half of Arghezi's poetic universe was that of family life, childhood, and small familiar spaces, rendered in minutely detailed poems.Kuiper, p.67; Willhardt et al., p.16 In an era when the idea of the impossibility of communication was fashionable, he stood against his contemporaries through his strong belief in the power of the written word to communicate ideas and feelings — he was described by Tudor Vianu as "a fighting poet, subject to attacks as well as returning them".Vianu, p.485

Despite his association with the Communist regime, Arghezi is widely acknowledged as a major literary figure. His work has traditionally been a staple of Romanian literature textbooks for decades.


Living octopus

Living octopus

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