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Urmuz is one of the most important Romanian avantgarde writers.
Urmuz's real name was Demetru Dem. Demetrescu-Buzău and he was born in March 1883 in the small central town of Curtea de Argeș. A forerunner of surrealism and the literature of the absurd, Urmuz was an enigmatic and bizarre figure, just like his literature, which was aesthetically captivating despite the fact that the words didn't seem to make much sense. The literary critic and historian Paul Cernat tells us more about Urmuz' odd personality:
"Urmuz was a lonely and shy man, whose life was just as bizarre as his life. It appears that he first trained to become a doctor but gave up because during dissections, he'd get a fright when he would pinch the dead bodies and they wouldn't react. So he took up law instead and became a clerk at the Court of Cassation. He also concerned himself with music, being an amateur composer in his free time and writing music to entertain his family, as one of his sisters recounted. Unfortunately, his music scores have not survived, having been lost in the 1960s. Literature was a secret passion of his, even more so than music. He knew the writer and poet Tudor Arghezi, who gave him the penname Urmuz and who published his work. In fact, the only works Urmuz would ever publish appeared thanks to Arghezi in the magazine Cuget românesc, a very traditionalist publication, ironically. This was in 1922. Urmuz committed suicide in 1923, shooting himself in the bushes on the side of a popular street in the north of Bucharest where people often went for walks. The reason is unclear, and there were speculations about an unhappy love affair or a terrible disease that no one knew about. The many stories that circulated around Urmuz' enigmatic, secretive and subterranean personality eventually turned him into something of a myth. This myth is very much alive today and is the foundation of the Romanian literature of the absurd."
Urmuz's dull existence as a clerk and his unexplained suicide combined with his apparently absurd works have contributed to the fascination he still exerts on his readers, who wonder if there's a connection between his literature and his life. Critic Paul Cernat elaborates on this:
"He was a strange man who liked to play but who also probably had some traumas. He was compared with Kafka, based on their relationships with their fathers. In reality, however, we don't know very much about him, in fact we know very little, and any speculation is plausible. As far as Urmuz was concerned, there was a split between his public identity and his private, secret identity, between his public image as a dull clerk and his identity as an anarchic writer whose work was breaking all the rules of literature at that time. Despite their anarchic and absurd appearance, his works were very polished and the result of painstaking effort. Urmuz was like Flaubert, paying attention to every word and the orchestration of his little texts."
Even the two texts published during his lifetime, Algazy and Grummer and Ismaïl and Turnavitu had been chiselled up to the very last minute before publication. According to Tudor Arghezi, Urmuz wanted to change some words even after they were sent to the printers. Critic Paul Cernat:
"Urmuz' small but explosive body of work became really known after his death, some of it appearing in the 1920s in the Contimporanul magazine published by Ion Vinea and Marcel Iancu. But most of his work appeared in UNU magazine, being published by the writers Sașa Pană and Geo Bogza who in the 1930s contacted Urmuz' sister, who had a chest full of his manuscripts. They published whatever they found there and which hadn't been published before. And it seems there's still more to be published. (...) A lot has been lost, but what we do have is more than enough to ensure Urmuz a status he would never have dreamt of."
Urmuz had a great influence on the generation of avantgarde writers after the First World War and beyond. Tudor Arghezi's prose was also influenced by Urmuz. The generations of post-1965 writers, the so-called Târgoviște school and the poets Marin Sorescu and Nichita Stănescu also showed the influence of Urmuz, which can even be traced in today's post-modernist literature.
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