Our random list starts with the one and only.
She’s probably the most famous Romanian alive, but that’s not the only reason why she goes first. And “ladies first” is also not the main reason. The reason is that Nadia is probably the only public character ALL Romanians LOVE.
Her story is hollywood-esque. Coming from a poor family in a remote corner of Romania, she became multiple Olympic Champion in Montreal 1976 at the age of 14 (child labor, if you think about it now), and that with style, scoring the first perfect 10 in Gymnastics. Ever. They just couldn’t find any flaw. It became totally iconic also because the scoring machine showed “1.00” – people (and she) thought at first oops, that’s a very bad score, but actually the machine did not have 2 digits, was not prepared for perfection.
In the last decades, Gymnastic routines have become much more complicated, much more difficult. And yet, even today when watching her routine at the uneven bars, you wonder – how did she do it? I have seen NO ONE (except …her again, later) matching that routine. Watch:
First No.1 in the ATP tour, tennis bad boy of the romantic age (his nickname was “Nasty”), Ilie Năstase did on a tennis court what you will never see Roger Federer do. Shout, curse, scream at the upmires, sit down on linesmen chairs, let kids play instead of him, and much more.
He won the Roland Garros and US Open, lost the Wimbledon and the Davis Cup final twice, was maybe not the best player in history (how can you compare anyway), but probably the most charismatic ever (that you can compare).
On a totally different note, Brâncuşi (impossible to pronounce for anglo-saxons, they call him “Brancusi”) is known as the “father of modern sculpture”. Famous for several things. Allegedly walking to Paris (yes, from Romania. Walking) to see Rodin’s sculpture school, he eventually turned down the offer to work for him, saying something like “grass doesn’t grow in the shadow of a big tree”. He went on to become a big tree himself. Defined a whole new abstract/minimalist style in modern sculpture. You can check it out in the big museums around the world, in the Brancusi Museum in Paris or, ideally, in his home town of Targu Jiu, where 3 of his masterpieces are exposed in the open air: the Gate of the Kiss, the Table of Silence and the one and only Infinite Column.
Also known as “Eugène Ionesco” (Frenchified, like French do with everything they can lay their language on), he is another “father” – Father of the Theatre of the Absurd.
Born in Romania, he later emigrated to France; French now (obviously) consider him as “French”, while Romanians claim him as Romanian.
One of his more famous plays is The Bald Soprano.
founded the literary movement called Dadaism. Crazy bloke he was.
Comment on the above: Abstract sculpture, absurd theatre, absurd literature – surprisingly ultramodern stuff coming from a rather “backward” society at the time.
Speaking of soprano, here’s a pretty one. Definitely not bald:
Historian, novelist, philosopher, later to become a Chicago University scholar. Our Indian friends are surprised virtually all Romanians know the name Maitreyi. The title of his most famous novel, which we learn in school. Yet his best work is probably the “History of religious ideas”.
Apparently the best Chopin interpret who ever lived.
Winner of the Palm D’Or prize in Cannes, 2007, with the movie “4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days”. The maVerick has reviewed it here.
Back to sports – the King of Romanian football lead the National squad to its greatest performance ever at a World Cup, the Quarterfinals in 1994, where they got eliminated on penalty kicks by Sweden, shy of a dream Semifinal with Brazil.
Known as “Maradona of the Carpathians”, Hagi was one of the few to play for Real Madrid and CF Barcelona. And still be respected everywhere.
Football coach who just won the last (2009) edition of the UEFA Cup with a Ukrainian team, Shakhtar Donetsk.
The latest Romanian athletics star won the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, aged 38. Beat that.
ROMANIANS WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN FAMOUS
invented insulin, but someone else got recognition. Pretty sad story.
Romania’s “national” poet, revolutionized Romanian literature. Outstanding feel for rhythm and sound, outstanding play with the language, deep thoughts – everything you want. Unfortunately for his international fame, Romanian language poetry is bloody difficult to translate, so he is doomed to be truly appreciated only by Romanian speakers. Same goes for Nichita Stanescu, a modern poet who won the Herder prize in the 80’s. Some attempted translations here for Eminescu and here for Nichita (for some reason, we don’t call him “Stanescu”, but by his first name. It somehow fits.)
invented the fountain pen. Well, who cares, these days – although he revolutionized the… world as we know it, you may argue. To be famous he should have invented the X-Box. Or at least a joystick, or something.
The Hacker from Craiova
Best known for two things: 1) hacking the CIA server and 2) getting caught.
He was 16. Years old.
Is the FIFA2008 world champion. Not real football, computer football. He’s 18, so maybe he will become famous after all.