By David Shoup
This past month marked the 170th birthday of acclaimed Romanian literary sensation Mihai Eminescu, in a grand remembrance attended by the minister of culture and newly re-elected president. A hero of Romanian arts, appropriately recognized by UNESCO, Eminescu is remembered for his poetry, prose, and political journalism.
An important legacy to the late writer’s name and footprint is the Mihai Eminescu Trust, which has been featured here in OZB as an important national changemaker for its role in aiding the preservation of traditional Romanian villages.
Coming to theaters this month in Romania is the story (though fictionalized) of an American contemporary of Eminescu, and my home town hero in Concord, Massachusetts, Louisa May Alcott. In the sixth, and in the opinion of this author, best, film adaption of Alcott’s novel Little Women, set during a time when both Alcott and Eminescu were in their youth, a stellar cast and creative direction by Greta Gerwig brings a classic but timeless story to life.
I was fortunate to catch the American premiere while back home for Christmas, and doubly fortunate to receive a behind the scenes tour of the film’s setting, the Concord Orchard House, where the Alcott family lived for many years, and which you can see in the film. My little sister Lili is a tour guide at the Orchard House, and she teared up when we saw the movie, proud that a female hero of hers could produce work that lives on through time and again in new creative adaptations befitting modern society.
“I felt so connected to the movie because I walk through those halls every day when I work, I see the desk where she wrote the book, I see the faces of all of her fans eager to get a glimpse of what her life was like and learn her story, not just Little Women,” Lili told me. “It was amazing to me that a novel written for young girls in the 1800s by a female author, something which was so radical at the time, could be an amazing movie in 2019 directed by a woman.”
Both of these literary icons died in between 1888 and 1889. 1888 being, oddly enough, the first year that a motion picture film was released. Could Alcott have predicted her characters would make it to the silver screen? Who knows.
Alcott truly does enjoy a similar level of fame in the US that Eminescu does in Romania. Beyond their works, there’s a certain fasciation transcending cultures with national icons who died before their time was due. One can only wonder what more great works they could have produced with a little bit more time on this earth.
So if you’ve run out of original Valentine’s date night ideas this year, take your girlfriend to Little Women to show that you care (or by the other side of the same coin take your boyfriend to Little Women and show him why he should care!). And to truly honor our literary heroes like Eminescu or Alcott, let’s bring book gifting back into style this Valentine’s 2020.