Baciu’s Memories of Brasov: “Four Eyes”

From Praful de pe Tobă: Memorii 1918-1946, by Stefan Baciu (Editura Mele, 1980), pp. 9-10 (my translation):

My first two years of primary school I did at the Saxon school, with Tante Dora Teutsch as my teacher, a kind and gentle soul. I remember that she was the one who observed, while checking my calligraphy in a double-lined notebook for gothic letters, that I had begun to write above and below the lines. That is why I was taken to Doctor Pildner von Steinburg, who diagnosed “juvenile cataracts” in both eyes. Because an operation would follow, we planned to seek consultation in Vienna, which in those days had well-known ophthalmologists, but just then there chanced to arrive in Brasov an ophthalmologist, a professor from Vienna who, being informed of my illness, agreed to see me. He was, I remember, a tall man with a goatee, dressed in black, who examined me at length in a room plunged into darkness in which burned a candle, after which he sat me down before various devices with colored lights. In his opinion, I could be operated on in Brasov, by Doctor Pildner von Steinburg. Thus it was that, at the age of 7 or 8, I was put through two operations and, as one of them failed to produce the results desired, my left eye was operated on once again, in the private sanatorium on Castle Street. Its garden was on the slope of Mt. Tâmpa, in that respect resembling the garden in my home in Honolulu, which I see before me as I write. I remember the devices for testing vision, with moving spots of light, the operating room, the chloroform anesthesia, after which I vomited, full of fear, even though Mother, Father, and the doctor were at the head of my bed. Afterwards I lay in bed, completely immobile, with bandaged eyes, for several days that seemed endless to me. The lights dazzled me once the bandages were removed, but the objects around me had precise contours, as if they were in relief.

I wore glasses with thick lenses, and later on my playmates and my classmates at the Andre Muresianu mixed primary school would shout after me, “four eyes,” “bicycle,” or patroski (‘four eyes’), which didn’t particularly hurt me but did separate me from them and, without my realizing it, drew me toward my world of books, of art albums, of various collections that I spent time on, dedicated body and soul to those early passions of my childhood.

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