On January 30 one marks the 160th birthday anniversary of I L Caragiale, one of the classics of Romanian literature besides Mihai Eminescu and Ion Creanga. This year too, in June, one will mark the 200th commemoration of the death of the great dramatist.
Born on January 30, 1852, in the village of Haimanale, today I L Caragiale, Dambovita County (southern Romania), he attended the Petru si Pavel lower secondary school on Ploiesti (southern Romania) and finished the upper secondary school in Bucharest.
Attracted by the theatre, he attended the mimicry and declamation class of his uncle Costache Caragiali (1868-70) at the Drama Conservatoire in Bucharest. He then took part in the meetings of the Junimea literary club (1977-78), in whose journal, Convorbiri literare, he will have his main plays published.
In time he held various positions: transcriber with courts of law, prompter, editor of Ghimpele magazine (1873-75), Timpul newspaper (1878-81), school inspector, civil servant, upper secondary school teacher, managing director of the theatres (in the 1888-89 theatrical season).
He published Claponul humorous pocket-sized magazine (May-June 1877), a Calendar al Claponului (1989), then newspapers Moftul roman (1893, 1901) and Vatra (1901).
In spring 1905 he went to live in Berlin, exiling himself together with his family as a consequence of social and cultural disappointments.
After making his debut in journalism at 21 in Ghimpele magazine, he went on contributing dramatic reviews, sketches and translations to numerous publications of that time: Albina Carpatilor, Convorbiri literare, Epoca, Literatura si arta romana, Noua revista romana, Romanul, Telegraful, Tribuna, Universul literar and Viata noua.
Particularly valuable are his articles dealing with social or political subjects that were published in the press, one of which is the quite outstanding article and pamphlet titled ‘1907, From Spring till Autumn,’ which appeared in the Vienna publication Die Zeit (1907). In his writings (theatre plays, sketches, farces) Caragiale satirized the picturesque world of the capital city and the provinces at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries saying, ‘nothing bites scoundrels more than laughter.’
He mostly made himself known in playwriting, through his original comedy of manners: the two-act comedy ‘A Stormy Night ‘(1878), a masterpiece of Romanian dramaturgy, the one-act farce ‘Mr Leonida Facing the Reaction’ (1880), the four-act comedy ‘A Letter Gets Lost’ (1884), the three-act comedy ‘Carnival Stories’ (1885) and the drama ‘Calamity’ (1890).
Caragiale’s first book of plays, ‘Theatre,’ prefaced by Titu Maiorescu with his 1855 study titled ‘Mr I L Caragiale’s Comedies,’ appeared in 1889. Creator of the sketch in Romanian literature, he wrote numerous ‘Moments’ and ‘Sketches,’ which resemble theatre through their dramatic and comic essence: ‘Master Goe,’ ‘Visit,’ ‘Bubico,’ ‘Train of Pleasure,’ ‘Petition,’ ‘In the Dog Days,’ ‘A Pedagogue of the New School,’ ‘The Last Hour,’ ‘Inspection,’ ‘High Life,’ ‘Telegrams,’ ‘Justice,’ etc.
As a novella writer Caragiale cultivated psychological naturalistic and fantastic observation prose. He translated from Mark Twain, Charles Baudelaire, Edgar Allan Poe and his work has been translated into numerous languages too.
On June 9/22, 1912 Caragiale passed away in Berlin. Later he was buried in the Bellu Cemetery in Bucharest. He was posthumously elected an honorary member of the Romanian Academy (October 28, 1948).