The age of the lost innocence
Zoe Petre

He had actually preceded, horribile dictu, at the head of the South-east European Studies Institute, our distinguished, fine, unrivalled Professor Mihai Berza.

One couldn?t imagine a more painful and significant contrast: on the one hand the learned aristocrat, with his ?eternity coated? Byzantine saint-like looks, like my mom would affectionately say, charming successive generations of students to whom he used to recall the gold of the Venetian doges, the haughty Florence, the ravishing Amalfi (whose citizen of honour he actually was, after dedicating an outstanding PhD thesis to the respective city) or Prince Cantemir?s tragic destiny.

On the other hand, the thundering ogre who was literally patching his scientific work by pinning down quotes from the Comrade?s work, and who, on any occasion, used to throw endless fabricated phrases about The Golden Age as apotheosis of the national history (and universal, but that hardly ever mattered). All of a sudden, when I heard Boia uttering that phrase, I understood.

The students had understood a lot quicker. After the fervent revelations caused by our happy helter-skelter discussions on our outstanding professors schooled in Rome and Fontenay-aux-Roses, about the autonomy of the university and about scholarships abroad, they had withdrawn in their own assemblies and had shown up three days later with a precise demand: not to be forced to take political promoters as teachers, at the same time presenting a list of undesirable persons.

Their maturity was indubitably contrasting my silenced and euphoric innocence, all the more as they brilliantly organized a boycott, which they sacredly respected for two semesters.

The contested teachers immediately accused us of manipulating the students. Even if things were completely different, I would be a hypocrite to pretend that, once seeing how serious and determined they were, I didn?t embrace their cause.

Their list was almost identical to the one in my mind. Yet, I remember having tried to put away some of their redeeming and just anger, claiming that one or two of their targets were, beyond the undeniable propagandistic activity, more worthy and capacitated teachers than others.

Speaking of one of them, Armand Goşu got really upset and bluntly told me: ?You didn?t study political classes with this gentleman!?. The naiveté that characterized my fervent defensive attitude regarding that cause struck me as evident only much later. It was only on 14th June 1990, while the miners? revolt was at peak, when the worthy person in question, the named Gh. Iscru, showed up at the university leading a commando group ready to take over the Dean?s Office helped by the miners, and then later, when he started to ostentatiously, fanatically and unprofessionally claim various delirious theories on different TV channels.

Other cases were simpler: the apologetical boom usually had as other a shattering counterpart. The paradigm of such a characteristic alloy for the politics of the member of the Party keeps on being, for the majority of us, the only university teacher, member of the CAP1, and who would invariably present himself as ?history lecturer PhD captain Vasile Budrigă, commander-in chief of the army in the university of Bucharest?.

He managed to tempestuously begin his teaching career, yelling at the feared assignment commission that it was his sacred right to be appointed member of the Faculty, thing which actually happened; he had a less tempestuous advancement while endlessly working on a PhD thesis he himself defined as a ?valorisation of the original material published by the inter-war press.?

1 Agricultural Production Cooperative.

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