“Marriage in Heaven”, the story of a love transcending the ordinary man condition

The first “meeting” with Mircea Eliade’s work was not with “Marriage in Heaven”, the novel I’m about to write in the following lines, but this was the book that opened my eyes and that helped me understand how complex love is and how many things we still have to learn and feel, as simple immortals that we are. With “Marriage in Heaven” (published for the first time in 1938) I had the privilege to read the soul of two men, Andrei Mavrodin and Barbu Hasnas, who met the absolute, heart-breaking love, the love that only comes “once in a lifetime”.

The confessions of the two characters – intellectuals from Bucharest, like in almost the entire literature signed by Mircea Eliade – reveal the troubling coincidence: Andrei and Barbu love the same woman, Ileana – Lena. The two of them meet at a cabin and share their ravishing love stories, and their replies and implicitly their vision of such an intense and mysterious feeling underline the fact that true love occurs suddenly and devastates one’s life, then just as well disappears.

The novel is not easy to read, or to digest, especially through the almost unearthly love illustrated by the writer, the writing successfully evoking the famous myth of the missing half, the inseparable connection between the two principles – feminine and masculine.

I did not read the book in one gulp, page after page and chapter after chapter, but I gave myself small breaks, in order to reflect over the suffering of the two men, who faced their own wreck, because the cruel serpent of solitude bit their lives: “Only after I realized that Lena wasn’t mine anymore, I understood that my life failed in a miserable wreck. You cannot divine this feeling: the feeling of your own wreck. You discover it later in life, around 40, when you can still foul yourself with the illusion that you are still young, that somehow there must be a way out. And this very illusion that there would still be time to do something, that it’s in your will to escape the misery and the emptiness, nourishes the feeling of failure and wreck.”

You cannot divine this feeling: the feeling of your own wreck. You discover it later in life, around 40, when you can still foul yourself with the illusion that you are still young, that somehow there must be a way out

While reading “Marriage in Heaven”, Eliade’s genius showed me two visions about absolute love, felt totally different than the contemporary one, affected by the craze of consumption: “The one who said: love is a matter of epidermis, was referring, without any doubt, to this inferior knowledge of the body, to the fact that a possession is possible only under certain physical conditions and for certain humans. Nevertheless, the body can reveal more. Beyond sensuality, beyond rut, a perfect retrieval is possible in an embrace, as if you would grasp – for the first time – another part of you, which completes you, revealing to yourself another life experience, enriched with other new dimensions.”

Such dramatic love stories represent the leitmotif in Eliade’s work, he himself being a sensitive man, who intensely perceives the inner feelings and who masterfully transposes them in his writings, which touched the hearts of the Romanian public. The language used in the novel is the one we are used to – prominent, with strong epithets that leave their mark on the reader’s spirit.

Ileana or Lena, the woman who messed up the lives of the two men, left deep, unforgettable scars: “This kind of love you meet once in a lifetime. As you very well said, this is somehow a miracle, and maybe that’s why it happens so suddenly, in a series of events definitely frivol and insignificant… It is in our will to make this miracle happen. But we figure it out too late, we always figure it out too late…”. There are lines that remind us of the agonising introspections of another lucid intellectual, he himself a hero of an exceptional inter-war Romanian novel: Ștefan Gheorghidiu, Camil Petrescu‘s main character in “The Last Night of Love, the First Night of War” (1930).

”Marriage in Heaven” transforms the reader, ravishes him, sets out all his love stories – failed or not – before his eyes. Andrei and Barbu became, for me, more than just some literary characters – a proof that love, even though consuming and dangerous, is in the same time the supreme mirage of human life, without which it is not truly complete.

Opening photo credit:

4 Stars

Raluca Băncioiu

Raluca Băncioiu

She's a graduate of the MA program in Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text. She's an optimistic person and a true familist
Raluca Băncioiu

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