"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.."- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The Journal of Happiness, Nicolae Steinhardt (1)


About Nicolae Steinhardt
Nicu-Aureliu Steinhardt was a literary critic, journalist and writer. He was born in 1912 in Bucharest, in the family of an engineer named Oscar-Saia Steinhardt. His father belonged to an old Jewish family that was established in Romania in the 18th century.

He studied at Spiru Haret High School, then he graduated the Faculty of Law of the University of Bucharest. He passed his PhD thesis in law in 1936, in Bucharest also. He practiced as a lawyer until shortly after WWII (he will be excluded from the bar in 1947) and published various articles in several cultural magazines of the time. In the years 1934 and 1935 he participated to the meetings of the Sburătorul literary circle.

In 1959 he was involved in the trial of the Noica – Dinu Pillat “batch” (by which he refused to testify against the defendants), and this is why he was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. On 15th of March 1960 Steinhardt, serving time at Jilava prison, was baptized Orthodox Christian by priest Mina Dobzeu, who was his cell mate.

He was out of prison after the amnesty of political prisoners in 1964. He resumed his articles in journals, and he published several books of literary criticism and essays. In 1978 and in 1979-1980 he undertook two visits to Western Europe. In August 1980 Steinhardt became monk at Rohia Monastery. After Steinhardt’s death, the cell where he lived located in the building called “Poet’s House”, was organized as a museum.

The best known book of Steinhardt’s is the “Journal of Happiness”. The manuscript of the book was confiscated by Securitate (Security – the secret police agency of the Communist regime) in 1972, being returned only after three years. Although some passages were published in the books published during his lifetime, the first complete edition of the Journal appeared posthumously in 1991, at Dacia Publishing House in Cluj Napoca.


For me and for many other Christians from Romania, this book is a story of grace. It is the story of a man who finds God in the deepest darkest place of his life and who abandons himself to God’s will. It is an impressive lesson given to many Christians by a man born in another religion. I feel, as a Romanian myself, that this could be a story that many should read and ponder. This is dedicated to all those passing through their own suffering and many could understand how God is always present in all, but ESPECIALLY in our darkest hour.
It is said that God chooses to whom to reveal Himself, but also that gold can be only purified by fire, and it’s the same with the human character that can only be purified and sharpened by suffering, fight, resistance. I personally think that God chose Nicolae and kept him for his unique gifts of wisdom, intelligence, faith and honour demonstrated in a place where most people loose all faith. God has not many chosen souls, but Nicolae Steinhardt is certainly one.




Political Testament

In order to exit from a world of isolation – and it does not necessarily need to be camp, a prison or another form of incarceration; theory applies to any type of product of totalitarianism – there is the solution (mystical) of faith. About this I will not talk below, for it is the result of grace that is essentially selective.
The three solutions we refer here are strictly secular, have practical character and they seem accessible to everyone.

Solution one: the one of Solzhenitsyn
In the First Circle, Alexander Isaievici mentions it briefly, returning to it in the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago. It is, for anyone stepping over the threshold of Security or other analog investigation body, to tell yourself decisively: in this moment I really die. It is allowed to speak to himself in order to find consolation: “such a pitty of my youth” or ” such a pitty of my old age, my wife, my children, me, my talent, my goods, my lover, the wines that I will not drink anymore, the books that I will not read anymore, the walks i will not make anymore, the music I will not listen to anymore, and so on.” But something is certain and irreparable: from now on I am a dead man.
If he thinks this way, unflinching, the man is saved. There is nothing they can do to him.
There’s no longer  anything to be threatened, blackmailed, deceived, duped with. Since he considers himself dead nothing scares him anymore, nothing hoodwinks him, nothing instigates him. There’s nothing – because he does not hope anymore, because he is out of the world – he can crave for, nothing he can keep or regain, nothing to sell his soul , peace or honour for. There’s no more curency in which the price of his betrayel to be payed.
But it is required , of course, that the decision to be firm, final. You declare yourself dead, you consented to receive death, you abolish all hope. You can regret like Mrs. d’Houdetot, you can regret, but this moral and by anticipation suicide does not fail. The risk surrender, of consenting to the denounce, of a fantastic recognition is completely destroyed.

Solution two: the one of  Alexander Zinoviev

It is the one found by one of the characters in the book Empty Hights.
The character is a young man, presented by the allegorical nickname the Rattler. The solution is the full inadaptation to the system. The Rattler has no fixed home, no valid documents, is usually not employed; he is a tramp, a parasite, a nobody and a vagabond. He lives from a day to another out of what other give him, out of what happens to be found, God knows out of what. He is dressed in rags. He works occasionally, sometimes, when and if he has a chance for it. He spends most of his time in prisons and working camps, he sleeps wherever he can. He wanders. For nothing in the world he would enter the system, not even in the worthless, worst or most despickable job. Not even for guarding the pigs , so he is not following the example given by the character of a novel written by Arthur Schnitzler: that one, obsessed by the fear of responsability, ends up as swineherd keeper. No, the Rattler was designed (in existentialist style) once and for all stray dog, scabies sick goat, beggar buddhist monk , mad man , or crazy in (for) freedom.

Such a man, found in the margins of society, is also immune: even on his
hence there’s no pressure to make,they have nothing to take away from him, nor to give him. they can anytime put him in prison, harass him, show him contempt, mock him: but he escapes them. Once and for all he has consented to live life by the perpetual example and pattern seekers of a night shelter. Out of poverty, distrust, frivolity  he has made a quiet a creed; it is similar to a wild animal, a beast in a bad condition, of a robber-off. Stendhal’s E Ferrante Palia.  Matei Calinescu’s E Zacharias Lichter. It’s a laical “iurodivîi” (fool for Christ), a never bored traveler(and Wotan descended on this earth, what name has he? Der Wanderer), a wandering Jew.
And with a free mouth he speaks unexhausted, gives voice to the most dangerous
anecdotes, does not know what respect is, takes all up, sais  what comes into his mind, speaks truths that others cannot even dare to whisper. He is the child in Andersen’s story of the naked King. He is King Lear’s jester. It’s the wolf in the fable – also very bold – of La Fontaine: he has no idea what a collar is. He is free, free, free.

– to be continued.


Translation: memyselfandela, 2012

One response

  1. Pingback: The Journal of Happiness, Nicolae Steinhardt (2) « memyselfandela

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