Integrating Europe through Travel Writing: Dinicu Golescu's Account of My Travels (1826)

By Cogeanu, Oana | International Journal of Communication Research, January-March 2014 | Go to article overview

Integrating Europe through Travel Writing: Dinicu Golescu's Account of My Travels (1826)


Cogeanu, Oana, International Journal of Communication Research


I. INTRODUCTION: THE FIRST ROMANIAN TRAVELOGUE

Early travelogues by Romanian authors are plenty and well known in Romania, but they are little studied as such for their literary and/or cultural quality. The corpus of Romanian travel writing begins in the 17th century with the account by Nicolae Milescu "Spatarul" (the Chancellor) of his journey to China (Dictionarul literaturii romane 1979:570). The Moldavian Nicolae Milescu, also known as the Snub-Nosed following a punishment meant to deprive him of regal ambitions, undertook the voyage between 1675 and 1678 in his capacity as a Russian ambassador to Beijing. As a result of this diplomatic mission, Milescu produced a monographic Description of China, as well as a travel journal and report; both circulated in Russian manuscript and Greek translation, and the travel journal was later published in St. Petersburg as Travels through Siberia to the Chinese borders (1882); Milescu's is the first travel account written by a Romanian, albeit only translated and published in the Romanian language in 1888 by G. Sion. Unlike the fantastic tales of his more famous European predecessor Marco Polo, whom he is certain to have read (Pacurariu 2008:15), Milescu's account provides a picturesque, yet scholarly description of the Chinese land, society and politics that borders cultural anthropology. Milescu also travelled extensively in Europe, Russia and the Ottoman Empire but left no account of such journeys.

In the late 17th - early 18th century, a Wallachian scholar and high official, Constantin Cantacuzino "Stolnicul" (the High Steward) wrote down the first known diary (Romanian: Caiet de insemnari) drafted by a Romanian author in his mother tongue, recording his voyage to the Middle East, as well as to Southern, Western and Central Europe (Calinescu 1981:32). The diary remained unknown until uncovered by the Romanian historical personality Nicolae Iorga, who authenticated and published it next to Cantacuzino's fundamental work of national history, Istoria Tàrii Rumâneçti dintru început, in 1901 (Iorga 1969). The 18th century also featured an anonymous travel journal entitled The agricultural journey of the Romanian boyar Romani through various parts of Europe, published around 1775-78 in German translation at Nürnberg; the unverifiable account of the generic Romanian boyar tells of commercial pursuits and erratic itineraries and its picaresque character is worth studying elsewhere.

In the 19th century, another Wallachian scholar and high official, Dinicu (Constantin) Golescu, travels extensively through Europe, writes a report of his journey entitled Account of My Travels (Romanian: Insemnare a cdldtoriei mele (...) ficutä m anul 1824, 1825, 1826) and has it immediately published in Buda in 1826. This is considered the first travel journal in Romanian literature (Piru 1994:34). Although the accounts by Milescu and Cantacuzino could contend for the same title, Account of My Travels is the first travel journal printed in Romanian. Actually, Golescu declares in his travel account that he had started to write down his observations in Romanian, but changed to Greek for lack of words, though embarassed by the impression this could produce on his fellow travelers, who were all writing in their national languages. Nevertheless, the text is then translated and printed in Romanian, with Cyrillic characters, in a declared intention to use and improve the language as an instrument for the betterment of his people.

In fact, Dinicu Golescu's Account of My Travels is not just the first printed Romanian travel account; it is also a representative travelogue in terms of the production and the reception, as well as the conventions of (Romanian) travel writing. Golescu's account may not have produced an immediate literary or societal impact, as it seems to have been little read in the 19th century (Anghelescu 1990 :xl). However, following the publication of a second edition prepared by Nerva Hodos in 1910, the book became commonplace reading. …

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