TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. April 2010

Sektion 6.7. The travel: knowledge, communication and / or power
Sektionsleiterin | Section Chair: Carmen Andras („Gheorghe Sincai Institute for Social Sciences and the Humanities, Târgu-Mureş, Romania)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Enciclopedia zmeilor

The Encyclopedia of Dragons: The Allegoric Journey

Luminiţa Chiorean ("Petru Maior" University, Targu-Mureş, Romania) [BIO]



The Encyclopedia of Dragons, by Mircea Cărtărescu, is a parody that is relevant to the theme of the journey and to a certain type of traveler: the allegorist (Todorov). The principle of the epic construction consists in building the simulacrum of a virtual world. The escape from the outside of the Real here in the Other World is possible through a distortion of space, which makes 'the remote' space perceivable as 'the near'.

The allegoric journey is meant to help the traveler get as far as possible. The allegorist sees the foreigner and the foreign places as critical metaphors. He travels metaphorically. He travels only when relating himself to his own culture. He uses the Other Land (Celălalt Tărâm) and the hypostases of the Mioritic Dragon (Zmeul mioritic) as allegories to position him a considerable distance away from his own territory. In communication, the allegorist remains centered in his own culture.

As a literary form of the fantastic, fantasy is a form that Cărtărescu prefers, as he prefers the postmodern world. Thus, he proposes a new world populated by fantastic races, dragons (borrowed from fantasy, mythology, dungeons & dragons) - heroes that are seen as negative and that, by communicating through other coordinates, become civilizing elements! It is a parable the communication of which is saturated by the intertext (epic, lyric, 'proverbial' etc.) and by irony; consequently, this Encyclopedia (I. Universul / The Universe and II. Poveştile / Stories or Zurba inelară a lui Meer-Tscha / The Ring Rough House of Meer-Tscha) is a low-fantasy, similar to Pratchett's The Disk World.


1. Introduction: orientalism vs occidentalism

In Balcanismul Literar românesc (Romanian Literary Balkanism) [2002], Mircea Muthu argued that the theory of eurocentrism (more exactly, occidental centrism n.a.) holds the supremacy over the oriental-occidental theories of philosophy and cultural morphology. Nevertheless, we must not forget one aspect: being dichotomic realities, occidental centrism could not be defined in the absence of orientalism.

We can, via the paradigm of antinomic bipolarity of defining the Orient and the Occident, inventory a synoptic table of the particularizing dichotomies in the description of the two worlds, on the level of bookish sources written in the European time and space:

infinite [Spengler]
"sacred science"
"profane science" [Guenon]
Autocratic spirit/
democratic spirit/
/despotic ruling /Western political individualism [Iorga]
"orbis christianus"
"orbis romanus"
"more contemplative"
"more contemplative"
Eleat culture
heraclitean culture [Dumitriu]
"as resignation"
"as fretfulness" [Velimirovič]
"the eternal"
"the historical" [Noica]


We may notice, from the set lecture grid, that the historical being manifested as "complete man of culture" from the danubic-pontic space oscillates between "being dominated by experience" of the Oriental culture and 'dominating experience", an Occidental tendency.

We can represent the complementarity of the two worlds through an imaginary conclusive line; the dichotomy is nothing else but the principle of the fusion between antinomies. Oriental culture is based on eternal truths - the eleat culture, whereas the Occidental one, on the interpretation of this panta rhei towards the "embankment" of truths and their placement in matricial patterns, in cultural models (1). The dichotomy is set up as expression of the unity of the whole. Moreover, at the confluence of these worlds, the archetypes of our cultures subsist, consuming their commune mythical patterns. The Orient represented a permanent challenge for the Occident.

In the context of contemporary civilization, when the Occident tends to become the archetype of the free world, the symbol of the Orient is still gliding over it, being yet present in the collective mentality and memory, the place of the person's dissolution, of the exacerbation of material values over the spiritual ones.

Insisting on the principle of the worlds cohabitation, Anton Dumitriu (2) argues that "the great discovery of the Occident is humanity", whereas that of the "Orient is Man". The philosopher's statement may be expressed through an intersection between the horizontal of generous expansion, unlimited, what we call humanity in diachrony, as history, as event, and the intensive vertical, concentrating on fabulation on man, a synchronic study. "(our) historical being" (3) lies on the point zero of these space and time coordinates.

As to the authenticity of this journey, it is no accident that it is all happening in the space of the Romanian culture. It is an apparently backwards journey, from placing, setting, and finalizing the worlds towards their coming into being, towards the origins. As indicial signs, the word, plastic image, gestic, collective memory, all keep the Oriental-Occidental component of our ethnic being: "We are truly in the middle, between two cultures, Orient and Occident, we can raise a sort of a bridge, and we can facilitate the communication of values from the Orient to the Occident and vice versa. Not only because we are where we are - in the Orient, and yet in the Occident - but also because we are one of the few European cultures that have still kept alive certain sources of the folk culture and thus, of the archaic culture." (4)


2. Allegoric Journey. Dragon Model

On the level of the literary discourse, the isotopies generated by metaphors, metonymies, and paradoxes describe and inscribe the existential allegorical paradigm of artistic conscience. It is a noologic projection of the postmodern spirit relevant for the topophilia of the culture both the writer and the book belong too.

This is the case of Mircea Cărtărescu's book, The Encyclopedia of Dragons (2002), support-text for our theory about the journey in the space of universal cultures, starting from a minor culture that one cannot abandon. The source-culture (original culture, be it minor) is the Gordian knot in knowledge: the worlds are perceived through the culture whose spirit one represents. And in order to travel freely through spaces and times, the author changes the anthropomorphic masks of the daemon, choosing the dragon, the archetypal symbol for the Occident and Orient. Thus, the dragon becomes the purpose of the allegoric journey from the Other Land (the Western) towards the Light, the origins (the East).

This is the reason why, in our opinion, Mircea Cărtărescu uses a model of alterity that dwells in the geography between Occident and Orient, from West (death) to East (life) through the dragon model as a mythical extension in all traditional folk cultures. He thus argues for the resurrection of the mitologem (5) "MAN" - the way being led by the allegorical masks of dragons that surprise the "HUMANITY" in man, with its truths, in the fullness of human manifestations more or less recognized - as dragons are antropodaemons.

In the Romanian folk belief, the dragon is the last phase in the snake's evolution. It is an evolution towards the dragon's "humanizing", as linked to the transformations produces in people's conceptions on the embodiment of the souls of the dead. Mythical ancestors had, at the beginning, zoomorphic appearances; later on, their appearances took human shape. Dragon's belonging to the category of "ancestors" is proved by their quality of mythical "donors", that is, they can fall in love with an emperor's daughter and they can propose. They can, as well, fulfill any wish of the person possessing the mirror.

Demonology constitutes the mythical variant present in all nations through whose anthropomorphism (6) present in the archaic thought human features are attributed to certain objects or processes in nature, or to some imaginary beings. The dragon, protagonist of Romanian folklore, comes to prove the perfection of the anthropomorphic model and the omnipresence in the space between the two worlds.

Complex of beliefs about accursed spirits, acutely malefic, sometimes ambivalent that belong to the Other Land, attributes to the Occident, demonology is the primary interpretation of mythology. Having "familiar" rapports with man, the world on the other side is a depositary for ghosts, spirits, demons, phantoms, fates, evil spirits, dragons, etc.


3. Demonology – Source of the Archaic World

In order to better understand the meaning of a minor culture, such as ours, placed on the level of the morphology of European cultures (eurocentrism), we will complete the synoptic table relevant for the rapport Orient - Occident. It contains, as well, information derived from demonology (7). Demonology, magic, and mythology constitute the emblematic source for the any ethnicity's culture. It is, as well, a way of interpreting Cărtărescu's text.

In a demonological interpretation, the Orient consists in an ancestral mythical-symbolical thinking: ex oriente lux evokes the Biblical episode of Christ's birth and the coming of the three Wise Men; it is the place of sunrise, symbol of light, of resurrection and hope. The Orient designates the aurora and holds the sense of origins, of awakening, of spiritual illumination and mystical revelation. This explains why the Islam meant "a purely religious notion", often fanatical, as compared to Europe - a geopolitical notion.

In an antinomic presentation, the Occident7 signifies the sunset, a space associated with the land of death - a journey to the West, a journey into the sunset (8) The West is the "feminine place of mystery, of descending and the cup, of the nocturnal register which is the euphemism of darkness" (9). The keepers of the West are the divinities of death and destruction. Hence, the West is infernal and it is also the land of the dead. The Occident corresponds to evening and night; in the symbolism of seasons it is associated with autumn. As positive aspects, it is worth mentioning that the West is the place of depositing and recovery of energies, the residence of the power represented by the ancestors' "manna". The light that is born in the East (ex origine lux) is always prepared, revigorated in the West. (10) Consequently, the lecture grid above may be completed by the following:

Orient Occident
"Ex oriente lux" / diurnal nocturnal/ancestors "blessing"
land of origins: origins, coming the Other Land – departure
spiritual illumination illumination through reason
mystical revelation lucid spirit

What would be the relation of the book The Encyclopedia of Dragons with demonology and "daemony"? The initiatic direction of The Encyclopedia of Dragons may thus clearly be seen: from the Occident towards the Orient, as the proposed chronotope is that of the nocturnal register that rules over the Other Land, and the condition of "poet" or "puah" - "the wretches who push the starts with their chin", the dreamers, the romantics - falls in the disgrace of the authentic dragon character.

Though this book, Mircea Cărtărescu offers a complex research, as both history and event about the universal alterity of the dichotomy man - humanity, acting backwards: from HUMANITY towards MAN. The geophysical horizontality of the dragons' world - dragons spreading in time and space, in the folklore of Euro Asiatic peoples, from the Celts all the way to China (11) – intersects itself with the verticality of the sections containing useful information to the knowledge of this fertility daemon - part of the conscience activated on the existential direction (destiny), an allegory of the journey towards the beginnings, towards the sources - a backwards journey, in a destiny retrospective.

Through the syntactic parallelism, Cărtărescu vertically builds a world of the subterranean depicted by its comparison with the terrestrial world. The preferred underground administrates the Other Land: a baroque world - pole of the seven wonders, peak of the spirit creating wonders: "Şapte sunt minuni, şi şapte sunt planeşi, se zice-n ceruri,/ Şapte centre de putere înşirate, guivaeruri,/ iar din cele şapte una străluceşte între toate/ [...] Este Quatr'a cea săpată în porfirul cel mai dur./ Şapte ziduri uriaşe îi dau roată împrejur" (12). Quatr'a is the parodical replica of Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Quatr'a or the Other Land is substantiated on fabulous beings, related with this world. Folk scenarios, insertions of the paremiologic discourse (riddle, proverb, charm, spell, curse), are detailed and amplified through a ritual narrative, schematically surprised precisely in the applicant strategy of practical medicine. The daemonic narrative is the product of anthropomorphic mentalities, fantasies expressed through superstitions and beliefs linked to the influential events from life or nature.


4. From the Naratology of the Parodic

An aspect of the parodic genre, evident in Cărtărescu's text, may be intertextually noticed on the fourth cover that reproduces parodied themes from Romanian mass-media (Ziarul de duminică, Curierul de ambe sexe // The Sunday Newspaper, The Currier for Both Sexes etc): "Abundantly illustrated with drawings after nature created by the inspired pen of Tudor Banus, Mircea Cărtărescu's Encyclopedia of Dragons (the controversial author of the 80s) brings to light, for the first time, an entire world that seems to be lost forever".

The technique of hypertextuality appears as highly interesting, through which the derivation or imitation relationship unites a hypotext A - texts from literature or mass-media, an anterior text, with a hypertext B, Cărtărescu's parodic text. It is the case of the imitation, the pastiche and parody, as intertextual forms present in the postmodern discourse. "Discourses of imaginative enthusiasm in the limit of the concrete, [Cărtărescu's epic texts] use irony and self-irony, the parody and the pastiche not as deconstructive elements, but as a dialectic counterpoint of the accumulative breath" (13). Hypertextuality complicates the narrative or the expositive, the description through the labyrinthic construction that sets as a message the knowledge of other horizons by the projection of a fantasy world. It is a mythology alluding to races and cryptic worlds, brought from the underground through techniques of the ludic - formulas, cut-ups from folk or cult literature, allusion, transparency and unspeakable, illusory constructs and aesthetic categories of the "unusual making": the grotesque, the burlesque, the parodic, and the black humor.

The "making unusual" (14), the ambiguity, the intertextuality as mechanism of generating the isotopic process, are simultaneously dynamic at the level of tropic configuration, and play an important part in producing sense in the meta-discourse. Making a choice for these devices, we must not, however, ignore the deviation and compression of the sense, a mechanism specific to the second language (the poetical one). The heterogeneous linguistic imagery fills the epic labyrinth, participating at the bizarre imagery of the fantasy worlds. They are dwelled by races and creatures that, even different from man, have something of his humanity, and are invested with human virtues and flaws.

Next to "making unusual", the allegory couldn't lack from the mythical patterns used by the author. By positioning it at the frontier between reality and fiction, through allegorical disponibilities, literature is the most entitled to use a prototype from whose perspective the history of humanity and of man may function, as long as the following solipsism is available: "The allegory [...] has the mission to communicate an excessively stylized image of the human condition in its most decisive ontological hypostasis" (15). Indeed, the ontic sense is validated on the level of the literary text, the destination being reinstalling human values in the conscience.

Moreover, in the odyssey of humanity (as in a lesser degree that of man), the postmodern discourse adds paradoxical imageries, full of baroque imagery. The paradox (16) proposes the active mechanism in the cohabitation of the worlds, in their interference and separation, in the inter-mundi journey, because through the technique of the paradox: "(a) the superposition of the levels, usually distinct, of reality, of language, knowledge, thought or behavior" (17) and (b) obedience in the discovery of common points comes to happen. It seems that the paradox is the linguistic materialization of Paul Valéry's line: "Prends l'éloquence et tords lui le cou!" The paradox contradicts the sensory and perceptive habits, based on a semantic of the infinite. It brings up to date the negative and the absence, interrogating depths and revealing the duplicity of dark psychism. It creates a sort of "visible darkness" - the conscience is not what it is, but what it is not [apud Sartre] - it is the fate of the imagery of the Other Land, the place where the journey to the common point of the Orient and Occident starts.

Literature becomes the most comfortable line in the journey between and of the worlds to expressing the alterity as "origin of certain singularities" (18). Cărtărescu's allegoric journey proposes absolute anonymity, expressed through the tear between the subject and his feeling, the dislocation of the self from the self and from the social context as a private topos.


5. Poetical configuration – isotopes, symbols

The dragons' mythology present in Romanian folklore administrates ambiguous prototypes. The characterological deficiency is fully supplied for in Cărtărescu's text by the dragons' species presented together with the habitat, anatomy, history, language, habits, occupations, weapons, science, economy, and their arts, descriptors that impose the technique of the encyclopedic discourse - essayistic parody.

Thus, after establishing the reference point, that is the paradoxical dragon humanity, a first pretext is set: HUMANITY from the perspective of the common dragon, that on the basis of universal dragon genealogy. The pretext is then developed on arguments corresponding to a descriptive-parodic puzzle: anatomy, races and varieties, geography, history, weapons, occupations, tools, economy, civilization, language, sciences, and literature - a true odyssey in the dragon universe.

Quatr'a, the native space of dragons, is a parallelogram and the "dragon races" are spread in the four corners of the world. As plan disposing, it is a quatr'a, but the "system of the world" that belongs to the "Nothing Knowing" (reverse semantic in naming the Sapient dragon) presents "the universe as a sort of small plate that spins rapidly, being hold in equilibrium on the top on the Supreme Being's finger" (19).

Consequently, the image repeats the circle as symbol of homogeneity, of perfection, eternal and immutable movements, with no beginning and no end. On a comical plan, it symbolizes the sky, in opposition with the square that is the symbol of the earth - the sky being the nostalgia after the World beyond the "window" (as a dragon would say). The circle is as well a symbol of time, of the eternal return, expressed ichnographically through the image of the serpent: ouroboros. The circle limits a universe, but the rotation motion is infinite. The apotropaic functions associated to the ring, the earring, the belt - indicial dragon signs - are archetypes of the protective circle.

As a last reasoning of humanity, the collective memory vehicles Art and Literature, that becomes a pretext in the debate of a virtual process of the dragon "decameron". This becomes a prototype for MAN. Ten stories are, naturally, told, through which the dragon kin survives an imminent apocalypse.

5.1. The Journey in the "Universe"

Between projection and supra-impressing, The Encyclopedia of Dragons contains the parodic model of a "Goethe - like DAIMONION: a magical power, a positive spirit, of creation, of productivity, of fact", and not of the Socratic demonic, "genius of moral restriction" (20).

In popular belief, daemons or demons are divine or semi-divine beings, identified with the spirits of the ancestors, with the tutelary genii. The daemon forms part of the conscience, having the faculty of directing destiny. In a sense, it comes close to the demonic as fatality. The one possessed by a demon was considered to be protected by the gods, because he had "in genius", that is inspiration. The archetypal demons of evil and death are the goblins, the werewolves, the ghosts, phantoms or the trolls, present in this text too, under the mask of the Moloch.

Cărtărescu possibly used the criteria of classification from the demonology, magic and mythology dictionary in the first part of his book: The Universe - e.g. the function or the ritual role; the dwelled and ruled topos; the weapons (mace, club); hypostasis or appearance. Hence, the construction of the dragon character as fusion between zoodaemons and anthropodaemons comes as surprising.

The dragon is known to be a species of the fabulous saurians from the folk Romanian mythology, where it is often mistaken with the Snake, the Beast, and the Evil Spirit. They are beings with human face, but bigger and stronger: they have a tail, scaled body, ride on magic horses and are forever fighting with heroes type Prince Charming. Their battle weapon is the mace or the club, which proves their belonging to the category of fertility daemons. They live on the Other Land, in shiny castles, where they confine young girls kidnapped in their inroads in the people's world. They can have families. The she-dragons are usually the dragons' mothers. They have chthonian origins (21). They have Uranian and fire features, close to the beasts. Due to their hypostasis, they are sometimes mistaken with the Evil Spirits.

As anthropomorphic symbol, the dragon may not be ignored in the history of mankind - it is the daemon, the link, the element charged with meditation and analogy between the two worlds. The dragon model suggested by Cărtărescu comprises 12 species: the common dragon, the Quatr'a ancestor, then the dragon of all dragons, the grey dragon of the hollow, the fang dragon, the dog dragon, the mother of dragons, the mioritic dragon, the Nothing Knowing, the dragon of kites, the fierce dragon, the shoed, the Asian dragon or "zombal" - species having a correspondence in the universal mythology: drago, beast (22), snake (23), milds, evil spirit or "dragobete" (24), basilisk, dog of the earth (mole rat) (25), griffin, Mother-of-the-Forests, fairies or wicked fairies. (26)

The parodic depicts a comical text about a cynical, ironic, humorous, innocent, and even gentle world. Thus, the dragons have a special organ by which they can detect princesses, a bravery-organ, helping them win over the young lads, a crystal-mandible organ, associated with their greed for treasures. They are said to multiply by burgeoning. It is also thought that the agglutinative languages use their saliva drops to mark diacritics that completely change the meaning of the words; that frescoes do not represent them, but depict them fighting (...)".

The writer embroidered on these very simple scheme themes that would suffice not only an introductory article, by essays, studies, even books. The first part consisted in gathering and writing down the information on dragons and their habitat. It also registered the levels of their world, from anatomy to arts and literature. The facts comprised in the Encyclopedia cannot escape the spectrum of tautology, honest in its fascination. A few facts, thus, about dragons' literature: poets are called in all languages puah, which literally means "the wretched that push the starts with their chin". The birth of a puah, caused by forgetting the magic formula of chasing evil, represents a great catastrophe for the family.

Finally, dragons cultivate three types of epic songs, Vissele, Zurbele and Hrankahrankas, the first being the domain of academism, the last, in that of the pamphlet. Zurbele have attributes obviously cherished by the author of the encyclopedia for their baroque exuberance in the developing of the action and for the discourse magniloquence: "Here are the much praised unexpected stylistic turns, sometimes even paradoxical. The characters die and come back to life in the next page, a fortress is conquered for the sake of an epithet, a slave rapes the queen so as allow the poet to describe the size of her breast. Yet, among many fictions, unexpectedly precise historical data may also be found in the Zurbe." All in all, the so-called lyrical poetry, visibly projected in the visceral that "consists not as mush in words, but in corporal attitudes" is not Cărtărescu's favorite.

5.2. "The Decameron of Dragon Wisdom" : Visse, Zurbe and Hrankahrankas

„[...] For some years, [Romanian] literature seems to have re-discovered the taste for its past, [...] that had been hidden by the last 100 years. [...] Postmodernism cannot be understood without this retro fashion, without the desire to bring out of the museum forgotten literary genres, species, and devices." (27). Indeed, through the ludic and sentimental parodic, Mircea Cărtărescu recovers the charm of anachronic poetical techniques, manifesting disponibilities for different poetical styles and registers.

The dragon language is a textual disguising innocently directed as a show of the worlds we live in. It is a communication simulacra that develops the metatextual dimension of the book, a simulacra preceding a maieutics of truths balancing between hypothetical, fiction, and real as principles of optimizing literature. The allegory (mythical pattern dominated by the paradox) brings the linguistic networks in a poetical configuration of literature. It is a scholarly paratext, persuasively handled to motivate the presence of dragons. Its pretext and message is Literature! Moreover: the writer's bet with himself and with the reader consists in finding the original alterity by identifying the world with the text.

In other words, the irresponsible singular speech, freed by ethical codes, oscillated between lie and truth, between myth and reality. The dissimulation is based on the effect of pure simulation, which leads to registering an entirely new world where the author's voice pretends to be Another.

The epic themes are approached in a Don Quixote manner, from the perspective of the adventure given by the journey. Love and poetry, literature, even journeys are themes placed under the sign of dissolving the myths. They also engage a personal "metaphysical" parody: romantic, pamphlet, or baroque.

5.2.1. Love and Poetry - Romantic Parody

Love is not treated as a symptomatic subject, but it is imposed as a method: it is a primary "pooh-pooh" poetical language made into a parody: puah, in the novel language: poet!

The representatives of the dragon genealogy are true story-tellers; they have real aptitudes in the art of evocation. Mircea Cărtărescu, "one of the most offensive promoters of postmodernism" creates in the epical text "an evocative continuum «reality - hallucination - dream», moving nonchalantly from the realist description and evocation to the oniric or the fantastic, to the sublimal and surreal spectography", writes Al. Cistelecan about the novels and short stories (28). The evocations in the Encyclopedia are a parody of REM, of his own artistic (and even technical) formula used in his novels and short stories!

The halts in the narrative labyrinthic itinerary are thus a proof. Moreover: the parody of the postmodern poetical language is evident, where "[...] any word is nothing but the beginning of a baroque avalanche of seduced language, the password of a hologram of sensual language and of a language made sensual [...] whatever would Mircea Cărtărescu write, he actually writes an incantation. And this happens despite the amount of parody, irony and cliché turns he might use" (29).

The esthetic emotion is triggered by the miracle of human life: the young poet Vasiliska, drunk with the charm of existence, of smells, sensations, images, and imaging comes out, like in a saint procession, from the subterranean grottos where she dwelled. The beauty of the romantic frame offered by the "window full of stars", threshold of lights, drives her crazy. As an effect of this feeling, "the girl started to sing" - was she not a puah? And the second day, "with the overflowing of the godly dawn, Vasiliska saw, for the first time in her life, what she had always looked for, what we all, dragons and men, are looking and will forever look for: the limpid, fragile, clear, and endless Light". (30)

5.2.2. Postmodern Literature in Conflict with Modernity – Pamphlet

The fascination in the Asian dragons' descent in the microscopic world of circuits, followed by the journey of the programmer Ding-Ding, the very creator of this virtual world, attacked by one of her characters and saved at last by the ingenious solution of identifying the already created world with the name of a book, the very same name of the encyclopedia...An unlimited game, where the worlds are forever self-generating and self-devouring, where one glides naturally in superposed worlds, where everything can stop by he incantatory fascination of words. As music is a mystery both sensual and musical!

The fascination of virtual worlds places the work and in world in relation with Ding-Ding's artificial intelligence, as everything creates worlds in worlds and dreams in dreams, in a sort of contemporary reiteration of the Lilliputian world or of the Kantian prelude to Sărmanul Dionis (The Wretched Dionis). The ENCYCLOPEDIA is another kind of LEVANT, a parodic variant of the universal literature, with its subjects, motifs and characters.

Known motifs are bizarrely assembled in the ten stories, ironically briefed, taken down into the laughable, passed into the grotesque, walked through sophisms and the transparency of the dream or a complicated scene that blends, for the sake of surprise and aiming to astonish the world, dreams and obsessions about love, death, God, and poetry.

The story-tellers from the dragons' universe belong to the comedy of literary characters: the Eminescu-like Umbello and his shadow, Hilozois, the Eliade-like vagrant, an obsessed of metaphysics and transcendence. The last of the stories, a pamphlet and meditation at the same time, ends with the discovery of Umbello's weird club in the hands of judge Zumm. It is a club that bears the bizarrely inscribed verses of the famous Zurba, called Zurba Inelară a lui Meer-Tscha (Meer-Tscha's Ring Zurba), a dragon name and, as we will learn, the very name of the cycle of stories in the Encyclopedia, and a parody to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Anyhow, Cornichon and Karakeridosbelloianisoglu, his favorite dragon dog and pig of dog, stand before the judge. He could have eaten them at any time. The poet with dozens of titles, awards, distinctions - all among the most hilarious and savory even by their simple naming and succession - and the stammered, in way without an identity, the one saved by Cornichon off the streets. The cause of the trial is the accusation of plagiarism that Cornichon annuls by a subtle semiosis, on the boundary between humor and gravity. The texts are simultaneously placed on the page: a new wonder as to the essence - and scene - of literature. A fragment from an academic Vissa - a romantic text - and its postmodern replica, from the category of Zurba, stand face to face. A grave verse of an ode on the one side, type Sublime! You are sublime! You, star of immortality! - on the other, the dynamite reverse, ironical, doubtful: Sublime??! You are sublime?!! You - star of immortality?! (31). All our moral presumptions, set up in a burlesque manner in the previous lines, thus fall. The judge is on the point of making justice - an aleatory verdict let to the club fatal to one of the comedians. But in the face of the spell, the text inscribed on this club, justice does not matter anymore: "Forgetting about the trial and everything, the dragons lay down in front of the cudgel and started to read from its sides the ten interwoven stories. And they kept on reading, and reading, and reading..." (32). A sign that, one way or the other, it doesn't even matter how, Damocles' sword is this very book - read on and on. The parodic text gives us a chance to become the characters of the fictional worlds!

5.2.3. The Allegorical Journey... Remaining in Virtual Worlds – Baroque Parody

The journey (33) in the dragons' world consists in the detachment from one's own culture considered as centre and finding the true centre of humankind, here the dragons' world. The journey is a spiritual becoming, expression of the desire of change and seeking of a spiritual treasure, or even a material one, an escape outside, all so that in the end one may know where to come back: the centre of the world whose product one is.

As any treaty based on bookish sources, the preface ends with thanks to all those involved in the destiny of the book, adding a letter addressed to the "beloved reader" encouraged to join the "toilsome, but so rewarding path of dragon science", even as amateur.

The landmarks of the existential itinerary are exposed in The Story of Ding-Ding, the Programmer, a character in between worlds that exposes the author's division. We have here another lecture key as well: the book as a virtual world dominated by Molochs, here, metatextually called Mol-loch, "the dragon that wore itself a troll mask". (34)

The myth of Galatea, who devours her own creator, is destroyed by the killing of the Moloch, vindictive spirit. Here, Mol-loch is tempered and limited to the time and space of the "virtual" world of the book: ENCYCLOPEDIA. Every book has an indicial sign in its reading. Every character has on him apotropaic objects, gifted with a magic, sacred force, able to chase evil away, to stop the malefic.

"In ethnology, the traditional house is not just a usual cover, but a demonological fragment: the roof is guarded by the apotropaic "caiuti" (small horses), the door and gate are wooden sculptures and contain mythical representations: snake, peacock, stag or cosmic objects: sun, moon, stars, and imagery with a protection function. The national costume, the carpets, the ornaments for the walls are as well samples from a plastic encyclopedia with a totemic function." (35).

Cărtărescu's Encyclopedia, trace of the "virtual book" ("the name of the compact disc" belonging to Ding-Ding, the auctorial alterity) is obtained by magical ars combinatoria: [...] his mind started to function at the speed of despair" (36) - most of the times, the book is written out of despair: every time, a story rescues you. We continue the quote: "[Ding-Ding] she summed up: button, wishbone, plaster, timetable, elf, notebook, ring, stalk, fish, needle, coarse muslin, diode..."35 - here, the apotropaic objects of the 12 dragons, frequently met in the domestic space, have totemic-dragon functions, defending the human world. "Was the spell in the objects or in their name? In the name, for here everything was without reality like the name. She remembered the first letters of the twelve names: N, I, L, O, E, C, I, C, P, A, E, D" (the Romanian words: nasture, iadeş, leucoplast, orar, elf, caiet, inel, cocean, peştişor, ac, etamină, diodă)36 - parodical fragment to Plato's dialogue Cratylos. The character is a native Cratylos. Consequently, during the journey following the dragon characters, between the Occident and the Orient, the author remains stuck in the Romanian culture, a polyp model where many other Indo-European cultural models resonate.

Encyclopedia: "On hearing this word (the story continues) the castle walls crumbled, Mol-loch began to shrink until he could no longer be seen, the plains turned green, the towns and villages bloomed again, and the characters all went to their places, waving to her who gave them life."36. The postmodern text presents the paradoxal itinerary of the separation between character and author, and not the other way around. The characters get tired, but are dutiful: after all that action, they all head to rest in their habitat, without further wanting to control the creator's or reader's emotional states. "As for Ding-Ding (the story continues), she returned to the real world, finished the CD and started to do other things, without suspecting the truth even for a minute: that she herself is a character in a story, as the other one, Ding-Ding, from the beautiful disc with silver tracks."36. It is only the reference to reinvesting the frame story with new significance: mise en abyme - the technique through which the character that creates the characters substitutes the author that detaches himself with no regret from his characters.


6. The Allegorical Journey – Spectral Step

The epic demonstration in The Encyclopedia of Dragons is not an abandon step, but one the cohabitation in two simultaneous worlds: the real one and the virtual one, Occident vs. Orient and the imaginary of these worlds. The author believes in his characters' survival through the story that accompanies him. The postmodern text surprises the relationship between creator-character as a spectral process between the One and the Other.

We thus speak of spectrality (37) as elision of the other, process that sets into motion the mechanism of resonances: the real may become phantomatic, the corporal presence becomes discreet, evanescent, hence the fear of transgression, of fragmentation, of wandering expressed by Ding-Ding - creator of the virtual book - in the end of the book; the resonance of the mask, of self division, of multiplication, a ludic of the universes without common measure. To be spectral means to have more dragon faces and engaging only a specific face in the socio-professional day to day living.

The novelty of Cărtărescu's postmodern text consists in the almightiness of the code instituted as a mutation through the mask - symbolic operator, by the game of the Other, respectively - simulator operator. It is a ludic that functions according to the paradoxal rule of the real: depending on the traditions and customs of the dwelled habitat, the dragon (the mask) enters the artificial caused by the geographic and socio-cultural context. We thus reach the conclusion that the alterity is not an exterior subject, that it is not related to distance, but to the inner: an interior alterity, as dragons are repressions of the artistic conscience. It is the technique that parodies bovarism as exotic interior attitude: I let myself be swallowed by my own self, I observe myself as dragon alterity, I create inside me the distance Orient - Occident and I accept the dragon model as emblematic for the archaic world.

Concerning the theme of the journey in 19th century literature, Tzvetan Todorov proposes in We and the Others [1999] a typological decade (38) of journeys, according to their objective, purpose. The Encyclopedia of Dragons is integrated in the category of the allegorical journey as subterfuge, a parodic projection of the ideal measure to reach the truths, to understanding things as far beyond in space and time as possible. The allegorist remains positioned in a fix providential place. By avoiding the linear line, the allegorical traveler and the travel (here, the dragon world) are governed by the mythical imagery of the concentric law, symbolically represented by the concentric universes that function on the principle mise en abyme.

The Encyclopedia is: "[...] the only journey [...] that one makes related to the Other, be it a person or a culture (our underlining) and, from this perspective, the larger the communication, the more we implode in ourselves" (39). – We may recognize here the attitude of the postmodern writer's artistic conscience.

Moreover: "The allegorist takes the foreigner as a critic metaphor, he travels "metaphorically". He is never in a foreign country, but keeps contact with his own culture even if in a critic rapport. In other words, the other country serves him as allegory. [...] he remains focused in his own culture, does not lose his roots, does not exile himself not even mentally" (40).


7. Conclusions

The real journey is a journey in the company of the Other, or of the Other's culture. The more numerous the communication possibilities are, the more we implode, meaning that we accumulate more energy inside of us. The more "worldwide" our communication is, the more hermetic, the more tribal, the more solipsist our epicenter becomes - a sign of our identity salvation in relation with the otherness. This is how the auctorial attitude in The Encyclopedia of Dragons, by Mircea Cărtărescu may be explained, a parodic discourse relevant for the theme of the journey and of a certain type of traveler: the allegorist.

The principle of the epic construction consists in building the simulacrum of a virtual world. The escape from the outside of the Real here in the Other World is possible through a distortion of space, which makes 'the remote' space perceivable as 'the near'.

The allegoric journey is meant to help the traveler get as far as possible. The allegorist sees the foreigner and the foreign places as critical metaphors. He travels metaphorically. He travels only when relating himself to his own culture. He uses the Other Land (Celălalt Tărâm) and the hypostases of the Mioritic Dragon (Zmeul mioritic) as allegories to position him a considerable distance away from his own territory. In communication, the allegorist remains centered in his own culture.

As a literary form of the fantastic parodic, fantasy is a form that Cărtărescu prefers, as he prefers the postmodern world. Thus, he proposes a new world populated by fantastic races, dragons (borrowed from fantasy, mythology, dungeons & dragons) - heroes that are seen as negative and that, by communicating through other coordinates, become civilizing elements! It is a parable the communication of which is saturated by the intertext (epic, lyric, 'proverbial' etc.) and by irony; consequently, this Encyclopedia (I. Universul / The Universe and II. Poveştile / Stories or Zurba inelară a lui Meer-Tscha / The Ring Rough House of Meer-Tscha) is a low-fantasy, similar to Pratchett's The Disk World.

The wonder in front of the worlds is given by literature, through ludic universes reiterated as imageries of the snake Ouroburos. This proves how everything exists without truth or ethics. The real is conditioned by the story only - a fantasy animated by skill and erudition by the story-teller's encyclopedic mind.

Through the allegorical journey from/to the Universe and the dragons' Stories, Mircea Cărtărescu offers another perspective on the virtual worlds: we are not beyond the good and the evil, but on this side, engaging the illusion become truth, event. Paraphrasing the author, The Encyclopedia of Dragons is "the book not to be missed" – it is a rewriting from a ludic angle of a new LEVANT - a comedy of universal literature written between Occident and Orient. Nicolae Manolescu (41) thus registers the sources of textual comic: (a) "the Author's inclusion in the world of fiction, which gave him the possibility to see it both from the outside and the inside"; (b) the intertextuality and (c) the linguistic play - "handling different language registers". We may add to all these: (d) the Author's predisposition and implication in a participative hermeneutic activity, a step facilitated by the allegorical journey - the manner which leads as farther as possible. Simultaneously, the journey was the means by which the possible universes and worlds interacted - we here mean the Occident and the Orient.

The allegorist takes the foreigner and the foreign lands as a critical metaphor. He travels "metaphorically". He only travels as compared to his own culture. He uses the Other Land and varieties of the Mioritic Dragon as allegories through which he distances himself from his own territory. By communicating, the allegorist - here, the writer Mircea Cărtărescu - restores the road to the centre, the itinerary being that from humanity towards the man! He rewrites a multicultural "decameron" from the perspective of his own culture, terminus point of the allegorical journey from the Occident to the Orient!



Primary Source:


Secundary Source:



1 Constantin Noica, Modelul cultural european (The Cultural European Model), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1993
2 Anton Dumitriu, Culturi eleate şi culturi heracleitice (Eleat Cultures and Heraclitean Cultures), Cartea Româneascã Publishing House, Bucharest, 1987, p. 174
3 Lucian Blaga, Trilogia cosmologicã. Aspecte antropologice) (The Cosmological Trilogy. Anthropological Aspects), Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1997
4 See Mircea Eliade, L'Epreuve du labyrinthe, Entretiens avec Claude-Henri Roquet, P.Belfond, Paris, 1978, p.74
5 The mitologem = "mythical pattern"
6 The sense of anthropomorphism lies in the ancestors' cult and in totemism [Kernabach, Dictionary: 36]
7 See Ivan Evseev, Dicţionar de magie, demonologie şi mitologie româneascã (Dictionary of Romanian Magic, Demonology and Mythology), Amarcord Publishing House, Timişoara, 1998
8 See Blaga, id., 1997
9 Gilbert Durand, Structuri antropologice ale imaginarului. Introducere în arhetipologia generalã (1992) (The Anthropological Structures of the Imagery. Introduction to General Anthropology), translation by Marcel Aderca, Univers Enciclopedic Publishing House, Bucharest, 2000
10 In Romanian mentality, the West and North are associated with the left, bringing ill luck. The signs that appear in the North-West, lightning, thunderbolts, comets and so on, foreseen disastrous phenomena: draught, hunger. The Christian prayers and charms are said facing the East, the evil spirits being chased to the West. The West corresponds to the hours of nightfall, when the shadows of the world on the other side begin to appear. The West, Sunset or Twilight is place under the sign of Murgilã, a malefic spirit.
11 The dragon or the monster is the keeper of hidden treasures, symbol of force, master of life circles and, having this quality; it becomes the imperial emblem of China and the royal symbol for the Celtic world (the red drago is the emblem of Wales). In Romanian mythology, the mythical and symbolic functions of the drago are transferred to the monster and the dragon.
12 "Seven are the wonders, and seven the planets, so they say in heavens,/ seven power centers, threaded, jewels,/ And from the seven one shines best/ [...] It is the Quatr'a dug in the toughest porphyry" (our translation)
13 Alexandru Cistelecan, ¥Mircea Cãrtãrescu", in Dicţionarul Esenţial al Scriitorilor Români ("Mircea Cãrtãrescu" in The Essential Dictionary of Romanian Writers) (coordinators Mircea Zaciu, Marian Papahagi, Aurel Sasu), Albatros Publishing House, Bucharest, 2000, p. 161
14 We understand by "making unusual" the modality of seeing things beyond their natural context: thus, the transfer of an object from the sphere of common perception into another context is accompanied by a brand new perception
15 Vera Cãlin, Alegoria şi esenţele. Structuri alegorice în literatura veche şi nouã (Allegory and Essences. Allegorical Structures in Old and New Literature), ELU Publishing House, Bucharest, 1969, p. 8
16 Further explained in Luminiţa Chiorean, Arhitectura eseului poetic stãnescian (The Architecture of Stanescu's Poetical Essay) and Eseul stãnescian. Configurare poeticã(Stanescu's Essay. Poetical Configuration ), "Petru Maior" University of Targu-Mureş Publishing House, 2006 / 2007
17 Solomon Marcus (coord), Semnificaţie şi comunicare în lumea contemporanã (SCLC) (Significance and Communication in the Contemporary World), ¥Politicã" Publishing House, Bucharest, 1985, p.. 4; 33
18 Jacques Baudrillard & Marc Guillaume, Figuri ale alteritãţii (Figures of Alterity), translation by Ciprian Mihali, Paralela 45 Publishing House, Piteşti, 2002, p. 9
19 Mircea Cãrtãrescu, Enciclopedia zmeilor (The Encyclopedia of Dragons). Illustrations by Tudor Banuş, Humanitas- Junior Publishing House, Bucharest, 2003, p.81
20Lucian Blaga, Opere. vol. 8 Eseuri (Works, vol. 8, Essays), Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1980, p.289
21 See Evseev, id., 1998, p..502
22 Beast: perennial archetypal symbol; forms: drago, dragon, beast, basilisk, evil spirit, etc. It represents the chaotic forces of the universe, the wild primary instincts of man, benefic aspects: fertility, Uranian fire, mythical ancestor! The mythical pattern of the beast also links magical practices of chasing clouds or the evil spirit - dragon that takes the shape and face of the loved one and tortures the body of young girls that have not known fulfillment in love.
23 Snake: archetypal symbol and total model in archaic conceptions and representations about the universe: imago mundi. It is compared to the four elements - symbol of nature's cyclic renewal.
24 "Dragobete": male fairy of haunting love and spring Eros of young boys and girls.
25 Resembling the Greeks' and Romans' Cerberus.
26 Dragon's typology (from Romanian Demonology): zmeul zmeilor, zmeul sur de vãgãunã, zmeul cu colţi, câinele de zmeu, mum zmeilor, zmeul mioritic, Animicştiutorul, zmeul zmeelor, zmãul, încãlţaţii, zmeul asiatic sau zombalul - specii cu corespondenţã în demonologia universalã: dragon, balaur(22), şarpe(23), blajini, zburãtor sau dragobete(24), bazilisc, cãţelul pãmântului (orbetele) (25) , zgripţorul, Muma-Pãdurii, zâne sau iele etc
27 Nicolae Manolescu, Literatura românã postbelicã. Lista lui Manolescu. Poezia (Postbelic Romanian Literature. Manolescu's List. Poetry)., Aula Publishing House, Braşov, 2001
28 Cistelecan, id., DESR, pp. 161-162
29 Alexandru Cistelecan, Al doilea top (The Second Top), Aula Publishing House, Braşov, 2004, p. 146
30 Cãrtãrescu, id., 2003, p.110 (our translation)
31 Cãrtãrescu, id., 2003, p.162 (our translation)
32 Cãrtãrescu, id., 2003, p.163 (our translation)
33 The most difficult journey is the seeking of truth; man's last journey is death - "the journey of the mild wandering" from Romanian wailing songs. The significance of the symbolic journey is set by its special determinations, horizontally and vertically: ascent (anabasis), descent (catabasisi). The journey depends on the transportation (horse, ship, etc), on its goals and target. The journey is the favorite theme in all literatures. Literature and folk culture have ritualized two great journeys: the soul's journey on the other world (wailing) and the wedding journey.
34 Cãrtãrescu, id., 2003, p.150 (our translation)
35 Evseev, id., 1998
36 Cãrtãrescu, id., 2003, p.149 (our translation)
37 "Spectrality is a mode of being that will globally alter sensitivities, behaviors, and social rapports [...] far beyond communication devices" [Guillaume, Baudrillard, 2002: 24]
38 Travelers and travels typology: assimilator, profiteer, tourist, impressionist journey, assimilated, exodus, exiled, allegorist, disillusioned, philosopher - traveler, sideral travel (See Tzvetan Todorov, Nous et les Autres (Noi şi Ceilalţi) (We and the Others), translation by Alexandru Vlad, Institutul European Publishing House, Iaşi, 1999)
39 Baudrillard, Guillaume, id. 2002, p. 62
40 Baudrillard, Guillaume, id. 2002, p. 65
41 See Manolescu, id., 2001, pp. 408- 409

6.7. The travel: knowledge, communication and / or power

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