Alexandru Macedonski, Alexis & Oreste Georgescu

Alexandru Macedonski (seated, right), his son Alexis (standing) and Oreste (Georgescu)

      See also postsymbolism, decadentism, parnassianism, instrumentalism and modernism.

Romanian Symbolism was the most important poetic movement in the Romanian literature of the 1890's and of the beginning of the 20th century. Its influence was fundamental on interwar modernism and was continued by neomodernism. Unlike the case of French symbolism, symbolist elements coexisted with parnassianist, preraphaelite and decadentist ones; as a consequence, these styles were often confused. Symbolism was the first literary movement in Romania to be informed of its international whereabouts with a delay smaller than a few decades. French and Belgian Symbolism were explicit models, actively promoted by Alexandru Macedonski. Macedonski (and other Romanian poets of the period) went to Paris to read the main symbolists and connect with the promoters of the movement.

First phase (Macedonski and Literatorul)Edit

      See main article: Alexandru Macedonski.

[[Alexandru Macedonski|
Le Vaisseau fantôme Macedonski L'Élan littéraire

Macedonski's poem Le Vaisseau fantôme ("The Phantom Ship"), as originally published in the French magazine L'Élan littéraire (February 1885)

Alexandru Macedonski]] was the pioneer who returned from France to introduce symbolism (initially via theoretical writings which now could be considered as (almost) manifestos) to Romanian literature. The influence of romanticism persisted in Macedonski's poems until the volume Excelsior, even though he anticipated his future experiments as early as 1880, when he published in his magazine, Literatorul, the innovative poem Hinov, which he later pointed out that represented one of the first European examples of blank verse. However, he did not continue the direction of this early experiment (and, in general, Romanian Symbolist poets were reluctant to accept blank verse, but more open towards prose poetry), but he did continue experimenting in other ways. The most extreme example is that of the manuscript of Thalassa, text which he had written in multi-coloured ink (almost each word in a different colour) and in more directions than from left to right, anticipating calligrams and pictopoetry.

Macedonski was also known for his idiosyncransies (for instance, giving fake gems to the disciples of his literary circle and making them pretend they are authentic jewels, precious stones like the ones in his poems) - his eccentricity was, in general, received negatively, but the negative reactions were amplified when a harsh epigram against Eminescu was published in Literatorul (it was unsigned, but everyone attributed it to Macedonski, who had already expressed in other ways his dispise towards Junimea, the group which dominated the literary life of the period and in which Eminescu was included. However, a recent specialist suggested that the attitude of the symbolist poet was due to a personal affair, and not necessarily because Macedonski supposedly wanted to replace Eminescu in the literary canon, notion that hardly existed at the time).

Ionminulescu nusuntceparafi

Nu sunt ce par a fi (I Am Not What I Seem To Be), a volume by Ion Minulescu (1936 edition)

The mainstream did not understood Macedonski's intentions (anyway, there were few readers at the time and the education was poor); at the beginning of the new century, the traditionalist movement called sămănătorism (which was very popular until poporanism achieved greater success) developed as a reaction to the "evil, decadent symbolist trend" which "threatened to poison our national poetry" (even though Macedonski had few followers outside the elitist circles of Bucharest and even though no critic established symbolism until that point). As a side effect, in following years, symbolism only grew strong (instead of weaker) and infiltrated the mainstream thanks to Ion Minulescu's poems. Actually, right after D. Anghel and Ștefan Petică were the first poets to write in an entirely symbolist manner, Minulescu was the one which brought instead an apparently toned-down version that used symbolist devices (for instance, blank verse, which was obtained by Minulescu by cutting up regular stanzas in apparently random ways) and (eventually) clichees, all packaged in ostentatious sentimentalism (most of his poems from Romanțe pentru mai târziu were indeed transformed into successful songs). His reputation as a minor but enjoyable poet was partially modified by the later advent of postmodernism, when the critics started interpreting his flaunted style as an extensive demonstration of irony. The influence of Minulescu and Laforgue was crucial on the next wave, represented by Tristan Tzara, Ion Vinea and Adrian Maniu. Minulescu's symbolist manifestos are sometimes cited as some of the first avant-garde manifestos.

      See main article: George Bacovia.

[[George Bacovia|
Georgebacovia 4x

The original editions of four Bacovia volumes (Plumb, Scântei galbene, Cu voi..., Bucăți de noapte)

Bacovia]], the poet currently associated by most people with symbolism (even more so than Macedonski, whose popularity fluctuated for various reasons), was initially seen as yet another poet of the symbolist underground and, after the very late publication of Plumb, somewhat had the reputation of a mediocre, if not prototypical example of symbolist poetry (sometimes cited for the poor conditions in which the original books were printed, specifically the covers as "depressing" as the poetry included). After the publication of Stanțe burgheze (Bourgeois Stanzas, 1946), Bacovia was banned by the Communist, but eventually accepted again into the canon due to the "proletarian" theme of some of his earlier poems. Bacovia's reputation among critics and historians increased significantly during the postwar periods (in which major poets such as Nichita Stănescu and Cezar Ivănescu cited his influence as paramount; monographs such as those of V. Fanache and Ion Caraion were also important) and peaked in the postwar period. He is currently one of the most popular poets among young audiences (sometimes humorously described as the "idol poet of the emo generation") and is now considered one of the landmarks of modernism instead of only symbolism.

The Anthology of Romanian Symbolist Poetry (by Lidia Bote)

During the interwar period, especially after 1925, symbolism, as an active movement, was supplanted by modernism, traditionalism and avant-garde, although it remained popular. The style itself had become somewhat dated. Sașa Pană later wrote a humorous (possibly not fictional) story (published in the book În preajma mutărilor) about an obscure literary circle called Narcis and the elitist attitude of its members, minor (posing as "damned") poets with (mediocre) late symbolist poems. After symbolism was derided as "decadent" during socialist realism, it was reestablished as an academic subject by Lidia Bote and her books dedicated to the symbolist phenomenon.

Writers associated with this movementEdit

     See also the Idea poets, traditionalism, postsymbolism, Romanian avant-garde and modernism.