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From The Happiness Diary: Three Solutions

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Three Solutions (from The Happiness Diary, by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei
Political Testament

In order to escape a concentrationary universe – and it doesn’t have to be a work camp, prison or other form of incarceration; the theory applies to any manifestation of totalitarianism – there is the (mystical) solution of faith. But this will not be talked about in what follows, as faith is the consequence of a grace selective in its essence.

The three solutions are strictly secular; they have a practical character and are accessible to anybody.

The First Solution: Solzhenitsyn’s Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 10 martie 2009 în In English

 

From The Happiness Diary: 1968

From The Happiness Diary (by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei

1968: Outside a bakery, an old beggar, small, discreet. I give him 3 or 4 lei.

He takes off his hat, respectfully, and thanks me for a long while. Why, I don’t know – the memory of my father, the physical resemblance (small and stooping) – his gesture – so polite, the shame of being saluted by an old man for a few lei, the onslaught of images of prison in my memory, revelatory of the human condition’s wretchedness – but I burst out crying in the middle of the street, like a madman.

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English, The Happiness Diary

 

From The Happiness Diary: 1935

From The Happiness Diary (by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei

1935: All those – scholars or ordinary folk – who are satisfied to accept, as answers to the big questions man asks about his purpose in the world, about the universe and life, about suffering and injustice, phrases like: the universe has and will always exist, life is a natural phenomenon, chance created everything, thought is the superior form of human consciousness, prove how very undemanding they are. These kinds of answers are stereotypical simplifications, and they’re the equivalent of: when you’re talking to me, you should shut up.

On the contrary, nothing is natural and everything is surprising and wondrous. Evolution is a mystery and a miracle. The questions that our conscience asks are mysteries. Nature and its implacable laws are a miracle. From all sides, mysteries besiege and assail us, uninterrupted and more persistent than cosmic rays.

And not even stupidity or indifference can constitute a strong enough magnetic field to protect us from them, the same way the earth’s magnetic field slightly amortizes the shock of cosmic mesons. Angst (or exaltation) will inevitably jolt every soul, even the most obtuse; in a prison cell, on the sick bed, at the moment of death, or all of a sudden on the street. Every event is anti-destiny.

Every work of art is anti-nature. Every decision is anti-nothingness. To love somebody is a mystery of faith. Love and forgiveness are not natural. Natural is the second principle of thermodynamics.

Shestov: the evolution of the universe is not in the least natural; it would be natural if there were absolutely nothing – no universe, no evolution.

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English, The Happiness Diary

 

From The Happiness Diary: 7 March 1960

From The Happiness Diary (by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei

7 March 1960: I didn’t know. I had lived like an idiot, like a beast, like a blind man. In prison, toward dusk, I found what kindness was, heroism, dignity. Big words!

Empty words! Big and empty words for traitors and informers: big and priceless words and full of meaning when you feel their coolness in the depths of fire and you can taste their experimental charm.

Believe what you wish, I have no right to speak of absolute values, I only know one thing: that these big words and the qualities they represent were more precious in prison than shoelaces, thread, a piece of paper, or any forbidden object that could make its owner happy.

H.C. Wells in The Research Magnificent: two big forces: fear and aristocracy. Now I understand him. Fear must be defeated. In this world there is one thing, only one: courage. And the secret is to behave aristocratically. Only gentleness and kindness have grace.

I’m starting to realise that only character matters. Political convictions, philosophical opinions, social origins, religious faith, are nothing more than accidents: only character remains after all the filtrations produced by years of prison – or of life – after all the wear and fatigue.

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English, The Happiness Diary

 

From The Happiness Diary: 3 – 4 January 1960

From The Happiness Diary (by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei

3 – 4 January 1960: „I don’t think it will be too long,” father says. „They’ll probably give you eight years. I’ll make sure to leave you money with Gica or another relative; the money from the sale of the radio, the cooker, the gas cylinder, the books – to have some money when you get out.” (He has no idea they confiscate the property of political prisoners.)

Monday morning I find myself calm. I wash, I shave, I dress, I check my little suitcase (full of rags). I wasn’t allowed to cry even once during the last three days. Father, who imposed the ban, didn’t cry either.

When I’m ready, I say goodbye. I’m very dejected. Father, however – in his pyjamas, small, chubby, cheerful – is all smiles and gives me last-minute advice, like a coach before a game; fast, without pausing for breath, like a man at a train station who wants to tell you everything, but only begins to speak when the train is pulling away.

„Did they tell you not to let me die like a dog? Well, if it’s like that, I’m not going to die at all. I’ll wait for you. Don’t you make a fool out of me,” he says. „Don’t be a gutless Jew, and don’t shit your pants.”

He kisses me vigorously, he takes me to the door, stands up straight and gives me a military salute.

„Go,” he says.

I climb down the stairs at normal pace, without looking back. I come out the apartment block. There are omens, signs: on the street – at first utterly deserted, even though it’s not early – a single person suddenly appears from around the corner; an MAI officer. I shiver.

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English, The Happiness Diary

 

From The Happiness Diary: Lucerne, 1938:

From The Happiness Diary (by Nicolae Steinhardt), transl. Gabriela Ailenei

Lucerne, 1938: I imagine Brahms composing his Symphony No 1 at night, in Vienna, toward the end of spring. The composer leaves the kafeehaus late and decides to walk home. He passes the Votivkirche.

It’s chilly. It rained. From time to time, you can hear, as it moves away, the distant sound of thunder. The last trams race past.

Around the composer, the melancholy of life gathers – its longings, fleeting happiness, everlasting beauty, nostalgia. It is especially because he knows he must die that a man’s soul is enchanted by so much evanescence and the world around him seems so solid.

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English, The Happiness Diary

 

Maciej Bielawski – „Nicolae Steinhardt and his “Journal of Happiness””


Maciej Bielawski – „Nicolae Steinhardt and his “Journal of Happiness””

Nicu Steinhardt (1912-1988) was one of the most interesting, significant and representative persons of twentieth-century European culture. Born in Bucharest at the turn of the century in a Jewish family, he was educated in law and became a gifted literary critique. Moved by his natural intellectual openness, he proved himself to be a profound thinker and erudite, writer and philosopher between the two wars. During the totalitarian regime in Rumania, he spent four years in communist prisons, a turning point for him as an important experience linked him with the Christian faith. In the time after his release from prison, he deepened this experience both existentially and verbalized in various writings. Steinhardt spent the last ten years of his life as a monk in an Orthodox monastery in Rohia, in northern Rumania. He died there in 1989 leaving a rich literary patrimony which has yet to be completely published, known and studied.[1] Just this brief biographical outline alone is enough to justify – if necessary – writing about him. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 15 ianuarie 2009 în In English

 

Giving you shall receive

Giving you shall receive

Blind, unwise, and of a narrow mind as I am, I was not foolish and unknowing enough to believe that Christ asks us to give from our surplus: that, even the pagans do.  I was however unskilled and lost in the darkness enough to think – what seems entirely in accord with Christian teaching – that we are asked to give from the little we have, if not even from the very little.  I even went as far as agreeing with the idea that from the parable of the two talants thrown by the widowed woman in the offering box (Mk 12:41-44, Lk 21:1-4) follows that we should give all we have, our entire possessions. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 30 august 2008 în In English

 

A Good Word

A Good Word by Monk Nicolae Steinhardt

Christ is on the cross, naked; on His head, a crown of thorns; spikes, piercing his ankles and wrists, pin Him to the wood; His body is full of blood and bruises, it secretes only sweat and the silent groan of suffering flesh. He has been slapped, spit upon, pushed around, hit, mocked, He climbed Calvary and more than once fell beneath the burden of the tool of torment. Now He is waiting for agony and shameful death, slow, atrocious, beneath the double sign of mocking and of cursing. He is surrounded, on the foul wasteland of the hill at the edge of the city, only by hostile people and a certain number of the indifferent curious, the usual fans of capital executions and of public cruelties. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 30 august 2008 în In English

 

COMMUNISM – THE REFINED LABORATORY OF TERRORISM

COMMUNISM – THE REFINED LABORATORY OF TERRORISM

NICOLAE STEINHARDT – THE DIARY OF HAPPINESS

Motto: “Envy is a incomparably more active passion than selfishness, which is a benign sickness. And the virus of equality urges us to wish for each other’s harm with obstinacy. The hate for the others can be more powerful than the love for oneself” (N. Steinhardt, 98)

Although literature has a powerful fictional component, being part of the artistic genre, it brings to surface relevant episodes of a political or ideological system, even more convincingly than the mechanisms of historical analysis, which more often than not are cold and unconvincing. Literary confessions, though, lose a part of their fictionality, as they may become a true historical document. As Mircea Eliade put it: “A personal diary has for me a more universal human value than a novel with masses, with tens of thousands of people”1, and Eugen Ionescu gives the same trustful credit to this type of literatyre, considering the diary “preferable to the novel, the tragedy, the poem and the other literary genres, as it is more complete[…] and more true”2. Such is The Diary of Anna Frank, a testimony about the waiting room of the Nazi extermination camp, and The Diary of Happiness, by Nicolae Steinhardt, a testimony about the communist camps and prisons. The literature of confession mediates art with the historical document, and the truth of emotion is more persuasive than that of any scientific recording of the same facts. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 30 august 2008 în In English

 

Nicolae Steinhardt in english

Nicolae Steinhardt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nicolae Steinhardt (born Nicu-Aurelian Steinhardt; July 12, 1912-March 29, 1989) was a Romanian writer, Orthodox hermit and father confessor.

Biography

Early life

He was born in Pantelimon commune, near Bucharest, from a Jewish father and a Romanian mother. His father was an engineer, architect and decorated World War I participant (following the Battle of Mărăşti). Due to his lineage from his father side, he was to be subject to anti-semitic discrimination during the fascist governments of World War II Romania.

Between 1919 and 1929, he attended Spiru Haret primary school and college in Bucharest, where, despite his background, he was taught Religion by a Christian priest. His talent for writing was first noticed when he joined the Sburătorul literary circle. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Scris de pe 30 august 2008 în In English