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December 10, 2022

Bookfest 2018. US Ambassador Hans Klemm evokes the memory of the one who was his professor and from whom he first learnt about Romania: I am very grateful to Matei Calinescu, man of great wisdom

The US Ambassador in Bucharest, Hans Klemm, evoked on Thursday, in a debate dedicated to Matei Calinescu and the American edition of the book “The Life and Opinions of Zacharias Lichter”, the memory of the one who was his professor and from whom he first learnt about Romania.

At the debate that took place at Bookfest International Book Fair, within the ”United States of America, honorary guest country” programme, Klemm paid tribute to the writer who was his comparative literature professor at a course attended at Indiana University Bloomington.

The course was about the role played by certain ideologies, emerged in the modern age, in society and culture. A focal point were Marx and Marxism, the effect Marxism had on culture. Another focal point was represented by Freud, the impact that he and his science had on western culture. (…) During the discussions about Marxism and culture, Ambassador Klemm also had the opportunity to learn from Matei Calinescu about Romania, his home, about the history and culture of this country. It was the first time during my student years, when I learnt about Romania. I remember that he was trying to familiarize me a little with the Romanian music and encouraged me to buy an album by Gheorghe Zamfir, who became very popular at the time in the US, the ambassador remembered.

He added that the talks with Matei Calinescu represented the first contact with Romania, through a Romanian “of great intelligence and wisdom”. Hans Klemm mentioned that he was “a demanding professor, but in a positive way” because he was trying to encourage students to go through a “fairly substantial” bibliographic list.

The diplomat said that after completing the course he had not met Professor Calinescu again, but he remembered the discussions he had with him in 2014, when President Obama appointed him ambassador to Romania.

Ambassador Klemm said he learnt with sadness about Professor Calinescu’s death in 2009 and read more of Matei Calinescu’s writings to learn more about Romania. One the most impressive essays read by Ambassador Klemm was the one about the death of Calinescu’s son, but he also had the opportunity to read some of his writings about Romania in the 20th century, especially about great intellectuals such as Eugen Ionescu, Mircea Eliade, Mihail Sebastian, Emil Cioran. ”I am very grateful to him, but also to his memory, his legacy, and also to his friends and his wife for the generosity they have shown me over the last three years,” he said.

Adriana Calinescu, the writer’s wife, who translated the volume specified that Ambassador Klemm was Professor Calinescu’s most loyal student. “Students usually learn, leave and forget their professors. You have not forgotten. (…) He [Matei Calinescu] never wrote a book that did not touch him personally, which did not grow from a personal experience. All his books are under the sign of autobiography,” she said.

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