- The Securitate File as a Record of Psuchegraphy
In the 1960s, Romanian theologian and former political prisoner Antonie Plamadeala drafted a manuscript describing his experience with the Securitate, the Romanian secret police, and the terror of being under surveillance. Plamadeala wrote his story in the guise of a novel, Trei Ceasuri în Iad [Three Hours in Hell], in which he also sought to describe the dread and fear he felt in the Romania of the 1950s and 1960s to the point of confusion, losing grasp on reality, and eventually losing touch with his authentic self. As Plamadeala wrote in a 1964 letter addressed to his friends, the human being under communism is "obliged to simulate to the maximum, until he gets to think that he no longer is subject to simulation, but he is authentic." This type of violence is "so extreme," Plamadeala further pointed out, "that you [eventually] lose your capacity to understand" ("Letter" 234).1
Biographic mediation is a mode of looking at life through the lens of an external bureaucratic authority. In this essay, I examine one type of biographic mediation that I refer to as a psuchegraphic profile on someone, carried out to discover what would make someone break. In communist Romania, this type of life scrutiny and rewriting were employed by Romania's secret police to prime its informers and other members of its surveillance network. In order to examine how Plamadeala's novel relates to the concept of psuchegraphy discussed here, I will explain how the plot of his novel develops around a man named Peter Ghast. Trei Ceasuri în Iad is about a man with three names and two identities: that of Peter Ghast and that of Anton Adam, who ends up feeling like a combination of the two—as Adam-Ghast. Peter Ghast is his identity according to the identification papers he received when dropped at the train station of the city of R. in a confused and deplorable state. Anton Adam is the person he feels he is, although he has no proof for it. Throughout the entire book, the protagonist struggles to understand himself. The word "struggle" may be an understatement here, as the title of the book suggests an internal turmoil that the author equates with living in hell. This man's sentiments, memories, and feelings point toward an identity that no one, even his mother, fiancée, or [End Page 536] best friend, is able to recognize. Only the so-called "crazy Carl," described by everyone in the novel as eccentric because of his audacity to be himself, is able to recognize him. He is the only one not afraid to tell the truth about the fear and despair the citizens of the city of R. experience. The rest of the characters in the novel wish they could be like Carl but cannot. The city of R., a metaphor for Romania at the time of the writing of the novel in the 1960s, is a dystopian nightmare: everyone is afraid of everyone else, and they are all afraid to speak their truth.
The main character is told that he underwent a life-saving brain transplant operation while fighting a war. Dr. Murnau, who performed the operation, replaced his brain with that of a history teacher by the name of Peter Ghast. According to Dr. Murnau, the brain transplant was necessary to save his life due to injury attained during the war combat. The novel begins with the protagonist's being dropped at the train station of the city of R., shortly after his surgery. After facing a series of humiliations in trying to convince his loved ones that he is indeed Anton Adam, the protagonist abruptly leaves the city of R. for the unknown—hopeless and powerless. The reader never finds out where he goes. Carl goes after him, looking for answers about this man's past, and what he discovers confirms Adam-Ghast's convictions about himself. The novel's main character was always Anton Adam, and he never had brain surgery. He underwent, instead, such a drastic plastic surgery that he became unrecognizable not only to his loved ones, but also to himself...