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George TopÔrceanu is remembered both as a humorist and a poet--a literary man of acrobatic wit and acerbic cynicism but also at times capable of surprising sensibility. He is studied and beloved by Romanian elementary school-children and university students alike.
Born in the capital of Romania, Bucharest, he begins schooling there but moves to the hilly countryside of the Arges province, in the village of Valea Topologului. It is here his eye for nature tableaus is formed. After completing secondary studies, he fails to wrap up a degree from the Fine Arts University in Bucharest, largely due to a hectic lifestyle punctuated by numerous affairs and heavy alcohol use. In 1911, he moves to the Moldavian capital of Iaşi and becomes the chief editor of an urban magazine by the name of "the Romanian Life." He pens a well-received article ("How I Became a Iaşi Native") which traces his meanderings within Romania and his eventual settlement in Iasi.
In 1912, he marries a young schoolteacher by the name of Victoria Iuga. They have one son, Gheorghe. Although the two are very much in love, the marriage soon begins to unravel due to Toparceanu's bouts of womanizing and alcoholism. Unable to change for the better, George nonetheless suffers enormously and the gradual loss of his wife, whom he will repeatedly refer to as "his one saving grace," also impacts his literary output.
With the beginning of World War I, he is drafted, then caught and imprisoned by Bulgarian forces south of the Romanian border. He is housed in a camp for prisoners of war for two years, between 1916 and 1918. When he returns, he publishes a volume of wartime memories and impressions.
He begins publishing short verses to progressively widespread critical acclaim. In 1926, he is awarded the National Poetry Prize.
His three main volumes of poetry, "Ballads, Merry and Sad," "Original Parodies" and "Bitter Almonds," sum up to an oddly compelling mixture of humor and delicate lyricism. TopÔrceanu's favorite device is moving without warning from biting sarcasm to genuine sentiment and backwards, and he more often than not manages to switch gears to great effect, and with beguiling ease. He aims to--in his own words--"through jest, render tears all too clear."
TopÔrceanu's celebrated pieces, such as "the Ballad of a Tiny Cricket" and "Fall Rhapsodies" can be enjoyed at an infantile lever, for the flowing verses, or appreciated at a more mature level, for carefully constructed metaphors, incisive humor and contemplative ambiance. Other pieces--more muscular and less lyrical--such as "Bullet Train" and "the Crow," display a staggering command of the Romanian language, with cascading similes and emphatic rhythms.
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