Mircea Eliade George Uscatescu - Essay

George Uscatescu

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] literary work of Mircea Eliade presents itself to us open to a global understanding, through the well-armed and lucid critical spirit of its author. We misjudge the creative personality of this Romanian author if we place the accent exclusively on his vast and solid scientific work. The fundamental elements of his complex subject in the field of scholarship, the search for and comprehension of homo religiosus, are present in his literary creation: Mythos, Eros, Thanatos, and Logos are the fundamental resolutions of his literary themes. They are themes which are parallel to Eliade's scientific investigations as a historian of religions; the predominant accent, however, is never philosophical or erudite, but rather literary and artistic. His literary creativity goes pari passu with his scientific erudition, and both, in a certain way, reflect the preoccupation of those moments which correspond to the grasping of reality. It is not necessary to seek in one of the forms the means for completing the other; rather, the search should be for a modality which expresses in another way the spiritual disquiet of the author in search of an expressive, creative plenitude.

For that reason we believe that Eliade's literary work … offers some profiles of the whole, independently including the themes that are common to the themes of his work as philosopher and essayist and leaving us free from any dogmatic and theoretical freight in an aesthetic experience with its own dignity and economy.

It is important that it should be thus since the extent of Eliade's literary productivity is noteworthy. The first long novels, Isabel și Apele Diavolului (1930) and Maitreyi (1933), draw their inspiration from Indian themes of a strong erotic character and reveal in the hands of a new author both a solid technique and understanding which assures significant success to the works. His novelistic creativity continues with Intoarcerea din Rai (1934), Huliganii (1935), Domnișoara Christina (1936), Sarpele (1937), Nuntǎ în Cer (1939), and Secretul Doctorului Honigberger (1940) [The Secret of Dr. Honigberger]. Contemporaneously with these appears his first scientific work, concerning mythic and religious elements, which, together with his literary work, constitutes an ample fresco of a reality that ideally combines the imaginative with the social and truly historical. In his lucid, penetrating, and intelligent spirit, myth and destiny occupy an important place. Both can be followed and interpreted from the basis of a methodology centered in a "coincidentia oppositorum" which will culminate in the field of literature, years later, in the great novel Forêt Interdite (1955) and the volume of short stories, Nuvele (1963), which are enormously suggestive for the study of the aesthetic economy of Eliade's literary creativity.

His studious tenacity regarding the reality, so actual and passionate, of myths in contemporary sensibility is dominated by another problem which is not precisely that of myth. It is the problem of time, which, in the most significant part of his literary work, he takes delight in presenting as a novelesque theme. In this he follows a particular tradition of Romanian spirituality whose supreme personification is the poet Mihail Eminescu. (pp. 398-99)

In Eliade this problem acquires forms of "pathos," and his work thus offers us motifs for reflections of great significance. Time is drama, a dominating drama which extends like an ample veil of melancholy upon the destiny of the characters. In this sense Eliade is a spirit perfectly identified with the sensibility of his age. Although tension has always existed between spirit and the objective reality of the surrounding world, very seldom before our time has man felt with greater dramatic intensity the weight of time upon his destiny. Our age is characterized by the disjunction of beliefs, the hopeless crisis of desires, and the absence of possibilities for completeness—in a word, by the typical state of spiritual crisis. (p. 400)

We encounter precisely this central problem in Eliade's great novel Forêt Interdite…. Eliade's great novel appears after fifteen years of epic silence. Some of the themes from his novels of the thirties return, but the technique, thematic extent, inspiration, poetic elements, and above all the atmosphere, offer appreciable novelties. It is...

(The entire section is 1845 words.)