There are “jokers” in this world and, on the other hand, there used to be Dimitrie Stelaru, the poet who liked to mock the literary world at will.
Dimitrie Stelaru never joined the “big boys’ league”, but he was noted, among other things, for his often disordered lifestyle, reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe and his habits.
Dimitrie Stelaru, an artist out of the ordinary
Dimitrie Stelaru was born in 1917 and lived a relatively short but impressive life in the true sense of the word.
Throughout his career, he was considered rather an outcast, constantly going against the grain, which had the gift of upsetting those in power. He was an “illegalist”, even though he did not consider himself a political poet.
He was arrested for allegedly stealing money from the chest of a landlady he was renting. With the stolen money he intended to make a statue of himself at a stonemason in Grozăvești.
He slept under the open sky, begged, stole, became a notorious alcoholic, but in his moments of lucidity he gave himself to literature, having the habit of sending verses on crumpled papers to the newspapers of the time, such as AdevărulLiterar și Artistic, Dimineața, Universul, România Literară or even Timpul.
With the money he earned, which was not much, he frequented places where, as a rule, the cream of literature of those times was to be found.
So, he ended up reading Rilke, Mallarmé or Baudelaire and it was in such circles that he met Eugen Jebeleanu, who advised him to change his “stage” name from Dimitrie Orfanu to Dimitrie Stelaru, considering him truly “stellar”.
He used to lie a lot about his situation, saying that he had studied letters and philosophy, but in reality his studies had stopped in his second year of high school. Moreover, he insinuated that he had at one time been a teacher somewhere in Transylvania.
If he ran out of money, he would carve tree branches into various bizarre shapes and then sell them in town.
“Eugen Barbu once saw him crying in the street and, thinking that a great misfortune had befallen him, asked him how he could help. But he was not interested in material help. He loved”, wrote Emil Manu in the book “Dimitrie Stelaru – Monografie”.
He married three times, but without much success, and in 1971 he died of heart failure and rheumatism that had plagued him for years.
How he faked his death and fooled everyone
“I once announced my death to the Signal newspaper. Constantin Almăjeanu went and said I was cold. Cold? said the Semnalul. Yes, cold, replied Almăjeanu. Dead! And the press began to announce the death of the poet Stelaru, who, like so many others, died because of the conditions and so on. Yes, even the guys who were my enemies started praising me, in big, warm articles, after the news of my death was announced.
I wanted to mock. I had an insane urge to mock. For a week the press screamed. And when I was about to disappear from the press commentary, I appeared on the street. Emil Botta saw me and turned white. He thought I was a ghost. Everybody thought I was a ghost. After that, the press started shouting: Why did Stelaru die and come back to life?”, the poet told Adrian Păunescu in an interview.
“And the neighbours, the old women, had heard of my death. Some of them had tears of sincere sorrow at such an early death. The morning papers, the afternoon papers, the weeklies wrote. The Writers’ Society was shaking. Enemies were writing Our friend left without saying goodbye.
The press is opening subscription lists for the funeral. The National Bank is offering 2,000 lei. The funeral wagon – wrote in a newspaper – leaves for Turnu Măgurele. Three wagons full of food were waiting there for the funeral carriage, alms to me (when I was alive they didn’t send me a parcel at least) from some relatives”.
According to his own statements, he would stay in hiding for four days and then feel the need to go to the barber’s. Immediately after his haircut, he went out into the street, frightening the poet Emil Botta who thought he was a ghost.
To everyone’s surprise, Dimitrie Stelaru then went to the Cafe de la Paix, where he ate and drank, while everyone in the place looked at him in horror.