Romanian poet Nina Cassian, returning home after three decades

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Witty and full of life, Nina Cassian met her readers in one of the conference rooms of Intercontinental Hotel in Bucharest. “It’s like the visit of the old lady”, said her with humor when entering the room, and later added on a more somber tone: “considering the age, this is more of a farewell visit”. But the memories about the cultural life of the last century and very direct opinions showed a lucid mind who has a lot to tell.

In her youth, Nina Cassian started as a communist poet, in a period of great oppression, when prisons were filled with innocent intellectuals and the communist party was trying to change the literary style according to the Stalinist agenda of proletarian art. It is a period the poet now says she regrets. The movement was known as prolet-cultism (art for the proletariat presenting the class struggle or the heroic deeds of the workers) and left no valuable literary works behind. Cassian says she did not adopt that style out of opportunism, but out of the desire to be accessible to a wider audience. “Which reveals a low opinion about the masses”, bitterly added Mrs Casian.
The true success was to come for Nina Cassian after abandoning that artificial style. She wrote over 50 volumes of poetry and prose, after the debut volume entitled “At scale 1/1”. Nina Cassian was very popular for her children books: Fearless Nica, Ninigra and Aligru, The Curious Elephant, Between Us, the Children, The Thumbler. She even invented an original language, the “sparg language”, exercising her freedom of expression and innovation.

Nina Cassian emigrated from the communist Romania in 1985, four years before the anticommunist revolution broke up. The authorities confiscated her house and banned her books in retaliation. In her tumultuous youth she was greatly admired for her intelligence and originality, which lead to some famous romances with famous writers, including the brilliant author Marin Preda.
In America, Nina Cassian lives a surprising love story with Republican politician Maurice Edwards, with whom she married when they were both in their seventies. Mr Edwards quoted Sinatra by saying that his wife is so easy to love. Despite her husbands political activity, Nina Cassian remains a leftist. She says she rejoiced the election of Obama because George W Bush was reminding her of Ceausescu, “another illiterate”. About her communist youth, Mrs Cassian says she imagined that system in an Utopian way, “as a general embrace of all”. The poet says she regrets that she didn’t change the world, but is very proud to have left marks in people’s souls, and is happy to hear of couples that lived their meeting or their departure on her lyrics.

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