Note: The current article has been written more than 11 years ago!
Find out below why Horia-Roman Patapievici is the writer I admire most in this life.
First of all, you can find out more on Horia-Roman Patapievici on Wikipedia.
So, what’s this blog post about?
1. How have I known Horia-Roman Patapievici?
2. What does Horia-Roman Patapievici mean to my life?
3. What’s in for you?
1. How have I known him?
I think it was the first year of study (2001-2002) at the faculty in Bucharest when I saw an announcement of a lecture by Horia-Roman Patapievici in a seminar room of the University of Bucharest. I have never heard of him before, but it sounded interesting. I invited a friend a fellow room mate at the hostel to come with me, and he accepted. We both went to a room that soon became crammed with people (it was not a very large room; there were also people standing, due to the lack of room).
I remember just a few things from that meeting:
A. I noticed both I and my friend needed to know much more words in Romanian (today I understand what he says, but back then either he used more neologisms, or we knew too little);
B. At some point one woman in the back asked that Horia-Roman Patapievici speaks louder, she couldn’t hear very well; Horia-Roman Patapievici ignored her; The woman insisted; No reply; Yet she said the same thing; Nothing happened; And again she said the same thing, still no reply; I think that this was the reply by Horia-Roman Patapievici to an aggression – refuse to accept that it exists; On the other hand, the woman may have been right, it was truly hard to hear something from the back of the room;
C. From time to time Horia-Roman Patapievici used mathematical demonstrations and references to those; he even had mentions of Physics laws and equations; I graduated an Informatics high-school, was good at Physics in high-school and did some Mathematics at the University; I understood little to none of the things he spoke about in there; I wonder what some people with a formation in Literature understood; The basic idea behind this is simple: if people don’t have the required preparation to understand what you are saying (they should know Mathematics and Physics laws to be able to properly understand a demonstration based on these), then perhaps it’s better that you don’t bother on this, and still say what you wish to say, even if close to no one understands you; While this may be great in writing a philosophical book (he won’t want that a person that doesn’t understand neologisms to read his books), in Mathematics (if you don’t understand the basic signs behind an equation, leave that Mathematics book away), in real-life things get trickier; He might as well speak in Arabic, but why was he there? To speak to Literature-oriented persons about things in Science? A bit wrong;
D. At some point he referred to his hat, saying he must buy things, so he needs to buy products;
E. Back then, he made no joke, and to me the atmosphere seemed pretty stressful.
Here comes the second year of study (2002-2003). An international organization for students – AIESEC – kindly invites students to go to ACT Theater (in a room bellow ground). The subject of the conference was similar to this: Should we emigrate or have a patriotic behavior? I went in there with another of my friends and we had a lot of fun. The meeting was about emigration – should youngsters leave the country or not? Also invited were Adrian CIOROIANU and Neagu DJUVARA, while Horia-Roman Patapievici was a moderator. What do I remember from this meeting?
A. You might think that if there were only two speakers, Horia-Roman Patapievici would have said his own opinion on the subject; He avoided that, to my surprise, I couldn’t clearly understand what was his opinion on the subject; But I do remember the fact that at the end of the discussion Horia-Roman Patapievici summarized the talks and said something similar to this: “Most people in Romania chose not to leave the country. You should pick the path of the majority, and chose a similar path”;
B. (related to A.) When summarizing things, I was shocked by the memory abilities of Horia-Roman Patapievici; He summarized what each person said, he had all the observations said in that day in his mind; Nothing jotted down, and, as far as I observed, nothing was forgotten; All in the right order; I was stunned;
C. At some point one young person from the audience tried to impose its point of view; He was aggressive and reluctant to order; All that Horia-Roman Patapievici was putting his right hand in a “Stop” position and ignore what the other person was saying; (and also sometimes intervening and not letting him speak)
D. Yet another person started arguing with one of the speakers in front; They used bad words, totally inappropriate; What happened next? The speaker made some sarcastic remarks on that bad-behaving person; At each remark Horia-Roman Patapievici was laughing loudly, obviously supportive to the speaker; It was the first time I saw Horia-Roman Patapievici laughing;
E. Horia-Roman Patapievici said back then about a memory of his: he was in a bus, going to a workplace of his (Physics-related); He was talking the bus right from the starting point, and he was sitting; While reading a book by Lucian BLAGA – “The Mioritic Space”, he compared the things he was reading with the surrounding people in the bus and found a deep difference;
F. One of the speakers was confronted – Why does he write in history manuals (addressed to young pupils) only some things on the history past, hiding the complete facts; (for being disturbing) While the answer of the speaker was: “You can’t predict how the forming mind of a child can react to hearing hard truths”, Horia-Roman Patapievici also addressed this question and said a thing similar to: “While philosophy books can be easily read by most people due to a similar language (philosophers communicate using common words), Mathematics books are largely inaccessible to the persons that can’t interpret mathematical conventions”; He went on to say that this is a similar relation to the history books; I think this also meant it was a good thing that common people can’t read Mathematics books;
G. The writer I analyze in this blog post considered that there are two kind of people in this worlds: some which consider that the fact that they were born within the borders of a country comes as a mere statistical probability (you have no connection to the land you were born on), while there are others for which the past matters a lot and live with an eye into the past.
In the summer of 2004, there was a conference organized by “Cuvantul” magazine, at the Central University Library of Bucharest. Horia-Roman Patapievici’s role in here was to give arguments for and against another speech. I liked his speech more than the original speech. I also remembered seeing that Ioan T. MORAR also came to see the speech, and this made me feel good about things.
I then saw him at a conference again at the University of Bucharest. This time the room was much larger. The room was again crammed with people. I met Mihail NEAMTU in there, and Horia-Roman Patapievici saluted him right into his speech. What struck me:
A. His ability to pick on (but in a kind way, joking about it) a large corporation he belonged to;
B. He also made fun (his style was obviously different by now) to a specific page in a magazine he was managing and writing in;
C. Horia-Roman Patapievici had a fantastic way of making your mind go into structured worlds; He made us imagine things on different levels; (imagine Romania, Europe, world, go back) Very nice;
D. He had interesting observations on how different languages of the world (English, German and French were his examples) create different worlds for their writers; He argued (as far as I remember) that a book written in English is based on ideas and logical thoughts, in German you can easily go structured and rather rigid, while French language is perfectly suited for sarcasm; He even made us imagine how specific writers would write in a different language;
E. He excused himself for being late. (Although he left his office more than one hour earlier, the traffic jam was a big problem; This was the only time I saw him being late) He even promised to write his thoughts on traffic jams (which I would later read in an interview).
It was my birthday on 3rd of May 2007 when there was yet another conference by Horia-Roman Patapievici, this time at one room at the Faculty of Philosophy. I went from work earlier and by the middle of the day I listened to another speech. I was impressed by these things:
A. At one point one person in the room said that she was recording things; Horia-Roman Patapievici made a joke similar to this: “Oh, I must be then careful to what I’m saying, this is for the posterity”;
B. At some point, Horia-Roman Patapievici made an observation: we are not ready to have a proper communication; (I forgot the actual example, but this was the main idea) One person in the room said she thinks practicing debate would be a good solution to this problem; (it was my idea also) To my surprise, she was contradicted by the writer; This solution, Horia-Roman Patapievici said, doesn’t take into account the ability to say the right things; Sure, it may give you the means, but you still lack the basic ability to create a proper idea – you know how to say things, not what to say; Whoops, I was wrong also;
C. This meeting was soon after the last meeting at the University of Bucharest, and, to my surprise, at one point Horia-Roman Patapievici touched my shoulder; (I was in the very first row and I think he recognized from last time) What can I say about this? I was touched;
D. He mentioned something about a soon-to-come-to-life web site; (which really happened; although not that soon)
E. He once had a doubt about a word and another one about a thing he has read; He promptly asked for help via a teacher at the Faculty that he knew, and to the audience; It felt good to see him trusting other persons;
F. I also remember him saying good things on some politicians in the early 1900s; He suggested we compare them with current politicians.
The last time I saw him was at the National Theatre in Bucharest. He held a conference: About the missed chances in history. What did I like?
1. He made jokes on the microphone synchronization; I felt much more comfortable hearing him at this conference;
2. He showed me he could hold a huge speech about a tough (to me at least) subject with no aiding materials; All in his mind; This really showed me I should read more things;
3. At a the beginning of the presentation Horia-Roman Patapievici explained why he picked “Private researcher in the history of ideas” as a current occupation; (it once helped him to go into a French – I think – library)
4. It felt good that I understood the vast majority of words in the speech. (perhaps his style was different, not necessarily my skills improved)
I’ve also seen him speaking at some book fairs. (at one time at a small stand regarding Physics, with some small pupils, I think it was some sort of a Physics club)
From the ever-growing list of works by Horia-Roman Patapievici, I have only read: “The Sky seen through the Lens” (three times) and “Politics” (one time). I also tried to read “The Recent Man” for three times, but never made it for more than 10 pages. (too complicated for my abilities to understand things) The reason for which I have read so few books written by him is simple: I can’t understand what he is saying. The last try to go for “The Recent Man” was a success (I could read 10 pages quite easily), but for many years I couldn’t understand a thing he wrote. So I stopped at books written early in his career, with lesser neologisms. I will read them all sometime. (there are some books which require preparation, like reading other books prior to his books)
But I have read all his articles on “Evenimentul Zilei” newspaper (he has a weekly article), some articles (but I plan to read them all) in a magazine by him (“Idei in dialog” magazine), and most interviews that are available on the Internet.
2. What does Horia-Roman Patapievici mean to my life?
To me, it is a landmark. I try to see the world as close as I can through his eyes. I really enjoy reading his articles, hearing him talk (live, on a CD or on a TV show), and it’s always a pleasure to understand what he means by one thing or another.
To what degree do I follow the things which he says? I think I do it so much that most of my economical views and modern-life issues are understood via what I think is his perception. For example, staying in Romania is a definite answer for me due to the opinions of Horia-Roman Patapievici on the subject.
I try to follow Horia-Roman Patapievici’s opinions on Orthodoxy (he’s a self-declared Orthodox Christian), economy (he likes Libertarian measures), and life (I think he appreciates, among other things, politeness; but it’s much more than that).
3. What’s in for you?
I suggest finding some books and articles on him, in whatever language you find suitable. If you can hear him speaking, you might want to fight the impediment of hard-to-understand words and do your best to hear him speaking. You can find a list of his books in Romanian on his Wikipedia page. He also has a few shows he made in the past years on TVR web site. You can see some videos with him, some of which are controversial, on YouTube. But, in the end, I do recommend you to read things about him, see him, listening him (he even has audio books), or watching him live.