Fondane (Fundoianu), Benjamin (Barbu; 1898–1944)

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FONDANE, BENJAMIN (Barbu; 1898–1944)

FONDANE (Fundoianu ), BENJAMIN (Barbu ; 1898–1944), French and Romanian poet. Born in Jassy, Romania, Fondane studied law, then turned to literature, publishing some Romanian verse collections under his original name, Barbu Fondoianu. In 1923 he settled in France, where in common with other Romanian Jewish immigrants, such as Tristan *Tzara and Ilarie *Voronca, he made his name as a French writer. Unlike them, however, Fondane always remained a Jewish author, deeply conscious of his identity and painfully aware of the Jew's condition as an exile. Although he wrote philosophical essays which betray the influence of Kierkegaard, Fondane is primarily remembered as a visionary poet. In the vast lyrical frescos of Ulysse (1933) and Titanic (1937) he developed the theme of the *Wandering Jew, with pathetic descriptions of the wanderer's existence or of weary yet hopeful emigrants on the way to their Promised Land. Fondane's poetic testament, L'Exode; superflumina Babylonis (1965; written 1934–42), is more restrained and taut in tone. In this semiautobiographical work the author resigns himself to the inevitable, and in bitter words prophesies the ultimate catastrophe. Even as the darkness of Nazism descended on Jewry, Fondane continued to believe in the ultimate triumph of freedom. He was deported to the concentration camp at Birkenau (Auschwitz), where he was murdered.

[Wladimir Rabi]