Romanian Literature

views updated


Biblical and Hebraic Influences

Unlike the languages of surrounding peoples and cultures in the area, Romanian is of Latin or Romance origin, dating back to Roman colonization of Dacia (present-day Romania and Bessarabia). Although Romania's national movement could not discard the dominant Orthodox Christianity, which was a legacy of Slavic influence in the Balkans, Calvinism was a significant religious factor in the 16th century (as also in neighboring Hungary and the disputed territory of Transylvania), and this had interesting literary repercussions. Under the impact of the Hussite movement and the Reformation, attempts were made to replace Church Slavonic (see *Bulgarian Literature) with services in the vernacular and to translate the Bible into Romanian. Thus some of the earliest extant texts in Romanian are of a religious character. They include two versions of the Psalter: Psaltirea Scheiana (1482) and Psaltirea Voroneţeanǎ (1580), so named after the monasteries in which the manuscripts were discovered.

Early Writings

Of all the books of the Bible the Psalms were especially favored and inspired numerous translations. The first extant Romanian printed texts are the "Psalters of Coresi" (1568, 1578), published by Coresi, a friar-printer of Braşov. The Psalms were generally translated as Psaltirea Sfîntului Prooroc şi Impǎrat David ("The Psalter of the Holy Prophet and Emperor David"). Two of the best-known translations were a versified rendering by the Moldavian metropolitan Dosoftei (Uniev 1673) and a version by the erudite metropolitan Antim-Ivireanu (1694). During the 18th century alone, some 30 editions of the Psalter appeared in Transylvania, Moldavia, and Muntenia (Greater Walachia). The Carte a Profeţilor ("Book of the Prophets") was also printed in 1673. The first complete translation of the Bible, Biblia lui Şerban, named in honor of its patron, Prince Şerban Cantacuzino, was published in Bucharest in 1688. Written in the Muntenian dialect, this work was based on the Septuagint and not only inspired all subsequent Romanian Bibles, but was also a formative influence on the Romanian language. In this, the Şerban Bible may be compared with the German version of Martin *Luther, the English Authorized Version, and Reformist texts in other lands. Later Romanian Bibles were published by the historian Samuil Micu (1795) and by Ion Eliade Rǎdulescu (1858). Gala *Galaction and Vasile Radu produced an excellent 20th-century translation (1938).

In the sphere of religious literature there were also several widely distributed works on biblical history and exegesis, such as Veniamin Costache's Istoria Scripturii Vechiului Testament ("History of Old Testament Scripture," 1824) and Filaret Scriban's Istoria Sfîntǎ a Vechiului Testament ("Sacred History of the Old Testament," 18723). The Bible, particularly the Psalms, was the foundation of Romanian poetry, Dosoftei's verse translation of Psalms being considered its earliest monument, mainly because of the numerous lyrical variations on the original text.

A version of Genesis and Exodus, embellished with legends and known as the Palia (Paloea), was published in Romanian translation in 1882. The great Romanian-Jewish folklorist, Moses *Gaster, traced this to the Jewish legends of the Sefer ha-Yashar and the Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer. In view of the large number of translations, biblical influences on Romanian literature may well have been much stronger. In the earlier, preliterary period, this influence was mainly one of style. The chroniclers of the 17th and 18th centuries often used biblical expressions, drew many of their similes from the Bible, and also quoted biblical maxims. Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723), the humanist prince of Moldavia, a brilliant linguist who became a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, made constant use of biblical quotations in his philosophical treatise, Divanul sau gâlceava înţeleptului cu lǔmea (1698).

Later Influences

Modern Romanian literature came into existence toward the middle of the 19th century, in the era of Romanian national resurgence. Ion Eliade Raˇdulescu (1802–1872), one of the first great literary figures in modern Romania, published a version of the Bible, translated *Byron's Hebrew Melodies (in 1834), and Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered (in 1847). He also wrote many religious, philosophical, and political commentaries on biblical texts (Biblice…, 1858). Following his example, other writers also turned to the Bible. They include G.G. Filipescu, who published a novel about the *Wandering Jew (1835); J.A. Vaillant, a French professor who settled in Romania, author of Legenda lui Aman şi Mardoheu ("The Legend of Haman and Mordecai," 1868); and G. Gârbea, who wrote a dramatic poem about Job (1898). Job also inspired Nicolae Davidescu (1888–1954) to produce a verse play (1915), his other works including the poem Judeea (1927). Alexandru Macedonski (1854–1920) and Cincinat Pavelescu (1872–1934) collaborated in the tragedy Saul (1893), based on the Hebrew king's dramatic conflict with the prophet Samuel. Other works of note on biblical themes are Eliezer (1908), a biblical one-act play by Eugen Lovinescu (1881–1943), and reworkings of the Song of Songs by Corneliu Moldovanu (1908) and Marcel Romanescu (1925). The evocation of Divine majesty in the numerous psalms of Tudor Arghezi (1880–1967) elevated Romanian poetry to new artistic heights. The poems of George Caˇlinescu (1899–1965) abound in references to biblical characters and incidents, as well as to the landscape and flora of Canaan, which he described in many poems of great artistry. Another eminent writer, Gala Galaction, was steeped in the Bible, which inspired his mystical prose and several biblical novels, including Roxana (1930).

Romanian-Jewish writers did not particularly distinguish themselves in the field of biblical literature. The Zionist poet Enric *Furtuna (1881–1965) wrote the dramatic poem Abişag (1963) and other biblical verse, while Camil *Baltazar (1902–1977) published Biblice ("Poems from the Bible," 1926), a collection notable for its sensual treatment of figures such as Ruth, Tamar, Esther, and the Shulammite. Two poets inspired by the Songs of Songş were Marcel Breslaşu (1903–1966), whose Cîntarea Cîntǎrilor (1938) was staged as an oratorio, and Maria *Banuş.

The Image of the Jew

While Romanian writers presented a positive image of the Hebrews or Jews of Bible times, their treatment of the contemporary Jew was often less favorable and even undisguisedly hostile. In the words of Queen Elizabeth of Romania (1843–1916), known to literature as Carmen Sylva, "all draw from the Bible and persecute the people that gave it." The popular conception of the Jew originated in religious and other works translated from Greek, Latin, and Church Slavonic and disseminated from the second half of the 18th century. In popular tales and anecdotes the Jew was said to be damned for having rejected the Christian savior, and Romanian folklore added antisemitism to theological antipathies by describing Jews as agents of the Devil, covetous of Christian blood, money-grubbing, cowardly, and villainous. Jewish intelligence and inventiveness were acknowledged with an invariable sneer. The roots of Romanian antisemitism were basically those found elsewhere: religious prejudice and intolerance, economic competition, and chauvinistic xenophobia. Only the pretexts varied according to circumstance. Thus it was alleged that the "invasion of Russian and Polish Jews would place Romanian commerce in their hands"; there was resentment of Jewish appeals to Western countries for the ending of persecution; and indignation over the insistence of these nations on the extension of civil and political liberties to the Jews of Romania following the peace treaties of 1878 and 1919. Such "injustices" intensified native antisemitism, which was especially fostered by certain writers. Ironically enough, the most violent anti-Jewish fanatics were often those whose own ethnic origin was least reliably Romanian.

the classic stereotype

For literary antisemites the Jew was responsible for all the ills of the Romanian people. In the case of the eminent nationalist writer Vasile Alecsandri (1821–1890), the titles of some of his plays are significant – Lipitorile satelor ("The Village Leeches"), Herşcu Boccegiul ("Hershel the Peddler"), and Nǎvǎlirea Jidanilor ("The Invasion of the Yids"). The poet Mihail Eminescu (1850–1889) viciously attacked the Jews' "anti-national" character; the scholarly Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu (1838–1907), who was himself of partly Jewish descent, considered Jews a plague within society; and Costache Negruzzi (1808–1868) even resented their alleged dislike of nature and flowers.

Both before and after World War i the Romanian intelligentsia was poisoned by such anti-Jewish sentiments. Three university professors – A.C. Cuza (1857–1946), Bogdan-Duicǎ (1865–1934), and Nicolae Iorga (1871–1940) – also spread the idea that the Jews of Romania were descendants of the *Khazars, who had once dominated parts of Eastern Europe.

During the 1930s, under the growing influence of Nazism, Romanian antisemitic movements (which included many students) increased their strength. Other writers who succumbed to the doctrines of racism included Nael Ionescu (1890–1940), once a friend of the Jews, and Nicolae Davidescu, the poet steeped in the Song of Songs, who became the antisemitic theoretician of Vremea, a review which had formerly published many works by Jewish writers. Ion Alexandru Brǎtescu-Voineşti (1868–1946), who abandoned pacifism for xenophobic nationalism, concluded that all Jewish writings were pornographic and aimed at the destruction of family life. The poet Octavian Goga (1881–1938), who was also prime minister of Romania, injected his anti-Jewish venom into Mustul care fierbe ("The Boiling Must," 1927), and another writer, Nichifor Crainic (1889–1972), who was Romania's minister of propaganda during World War ii, expressed his hatred of the Jews in religious terms as editor of the review Gândirea (1926–44). In his novel 1907 (1937), Cezar Petrescu (1892–1961) blamed the Jews for the peasants' rebellion of that year, while another novelist, Ionel Teodoreanu (1897–1954), created amoral Jews who speak a mutilated Romanian. Even the Socialist Panait Istrati (1884–1935), a disciple of the humanitarian Romain Rolland, who wrote mainly in French, predicted the downfall of the Jews because of their supposed identification with the Communism he had rejected.

objective attitudes

Literary societies did not, however, adopt antisemitism as a policy. Although Semǎnǎtorul, the review of Nicolae Iorga, received contributions from many antisemites, it remained impartial. So did Viata Româneascǎ, which reflected the popular-democratic views of writers such as Constantin Stere (1865–1936), Mihail Sadoveanu (1880–1961), and G. Ibraileanu (1861–1936). Political issues were also excluded from Flacǎra, Convorbiri literare, Viaţa Novǎ, and Sburǎtorul Literar, which were only concerned with aesthetic problems.

Among Romanian writers who showed understanding for the Jew's position were the democratic historian Nicolae Bălcescu (1819–1852), Alexandru Odobescu (1834–1895), and the revolutionary hero Aleco Russo (1819–1859), who wrote in his Cugetǎri ("Reflections," 1856) that "it is not wise to oppress the Children of Israel." Junimea, the literary society that created the "New Direction" in modern Romanian literature, did not espouse antisemitism, although most of its members toed the anti-Jewish line. This was due to the firm control of the founder, Titu Liviu Maiorescu (1840–1917), a conservative prime minister and Romania's first great literary critic. He was supported by Petre P. Carp (1837–1918), a translator of Shakespeare, who admired Jewish talent. Ion Luca Caragiale (1852–1912), who scorned antisemitism as a bestial aberration, was the first great Romanian writer to present a Jew's state of mind in a work of literary importance. His masterly short novel, O fǎclie de Paşti ("An Easter Candle," 1889), is a psychological study of a Jewish innkeeper, Leiba Zibal, terrorized by his would-be murderer one Easter night.

sympathetic portrayals

The outstanding prose writer Mihail Sadoveanu (1880–1961), who was a prominent figure in Romanian cultural life, actively opposed the antisemites. His attitude led to the burning of his works by bands of hooligans who nicknamed him "Jidoveanu" (i.e., the Jew-lover, Sadoveanu). Whole passages of his works deal with the life of Jews whom he had come to know in his native townlet. One of his best stories, "Haia Sanis" (1909), explores the painful state of mind of a Jewish girl in love with a gentile.

Liviu Rebreanu (1885–1944), one of the great Romanian novelists, published the impressive novella Iţic Strul dezertor ("Itzik Shtrul the Deserter," 1921), the tale of a Jewish soldier who is driven to commit suicide when his superior officer involves him in a fictitious desertion. However, in 1938, Rebreanu succumbed to Fascist influence and published the novel, Gorila ("The Gorilla"), in which one character presents antisemitic prejudice in a very favorable light. On the other hand, the religious writer Gala Galaction published many books and articles about Judaism and in support of Zionism and often described poverty-stricken Jews, endowing them with moral distinction. In his best novel, Papucii lui Mahmud ("Mohammed's Slippers," 1932), Galaction was optimistic about the peaceful coexistence in the future of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This was also the case with Victor Ion Popa (1895–1946) in his play, Take, Ianke, şi Kadír (1933), Another leading opponent of antisemitism was the critic Eugen Lovinescu, leader of the review and literary group entitled Sburǎtorul literar. Many distinguished Jewish writers received their literary training under this exponent of French culture and modernism.

A particularly courageous stand was taken by George Cǎlinescu (1899–1965), one of the most eminent of modern Romanian writers. In 1939, when antisemitism was reaching its peak, he expressed his opposition in a famous article entitled "Evreii" ("The Jews"), which appeared in his Jassy review, Jurnalul literar. Cǎlinescu's vast Istorie a Literaturii Roâmne ("History of Romanian Literature," 1941) included details of all the Jewish writers officially removed from the annals of Romanian literature by the fascist Antonescu regime and dealt with their works in an objective spirit. His attitude led to violent demonstrations by antisemitic students and to the public burning of his books. In 1941 a notorious anti-Jewish journalist, Pamfil Şeicaru, denounced his opus as "a national scandal." The Jewish characters in Cǎlinescu's fiction – novels such as Enigma Otiliei ("Otilia's Enigma," 1938) and Scrinul negru ("The Black Chest," 1960) – have the virtues and vices of people despised and rejected by their host society.

Treatment by Jewish Writers

Apart from their output of polemics against antisemitism, Romania's Jewish writers were also concerned with projecting a favorable image of Jews and Jewish life in works of fiction. Among the poets, Avram Axelrad and Alexandru Dominic stressed the melancholy situation of their people in an alien and hostile environment, a theme especially elaborated by Adolf Rodion *Steuerman, whose volume of collected Jewish verse, Spini ("Thorns," 1915), highlighted the spiritual conflicts of the Jewish intellectual. The question of Jewish survival assumed major importance in prose. The most significant work by Moïse *Roman-Ronetti was his play Manasse (1900), which dealt with the conflict between the old and the new Jewish generations and between Jews and gentiles. Its performance gave rise to antisemitic student disorders, and moved Adrian Verea to write a sequel to Roman-Ronetti's drama (1915). Henric *Sanielevici used his literary and scientific gifts to combat Nazi race theories with In slujba Satanei ("In the Service of the Devil," 1930–35); while Isac Iacovitz *Ludo, a veteran Jewish publicist who made his peace with the Communists after World War ii, fiercely satirized leading Romanian antisemites and demolished their portrayal of Jewish types. A positive image was presented by the novelists Ion *Cǎlugǎru, whose works constitute a vast fresco of Romanian Jewry, and Isac *Peltz, who wrote pioneering and successful novels about Jewish ghetto life in Bucharest. A few of the latter's works, such as Calea Vacaresti (1933) and Foc în Hanul cu Tei ("Fire at the Khan Inn," 1934), went through several editions. De douǎ mii de ani ("For the Past 2,000 Years," 1934), by Mihail *Sebastian, was a moving description of a Jewish intellectual's antisemitic ordeals and spiritual torment. Although its hero is unable to accept either Zionism or Communism, the book contains some excellent description of pre-World War ii Jewish life in Romania. A rare instance of Jewish self-hatred was the novelist Ury Benador (1895–1971), whose Marxist convictions led him to portray Romanian Jewry, in works written after the Holocaust, in a generally hostile manner. On the other hand, Iulia Soare, a writer of the postwar generation, produced an objective study of a middle-class Jewish family during the second decade of the 20th century.

Jewish Contribution to Romanian Literature

In so culturally backward a land as Romania, Jews naturally played an important literary role from the late 19th century, despite the prejudices and restrictions that operated against them. In philology, folklore, and bibliography they were acknowledged pioneers, and many Romanian Jews who later gained distinction as poets, playwrights, and novelists, began their career in journalism. By common admission, Romanian philology was largely the creation of Jewish scholars. Heinrich *Tiktin and Lazǎr *Sǎineanu (L. Sǎinéan) were experts of international renown, the former producing the first – and to date the most scientific – Romanian grammar, the latter publishing the first comprehensive dictionary of the Romanian language. Denied Romanian citizenship, Tiktin moved to Berlin and Sǎinéanu to Paris, both men broadening their work to include general philological research. I.A. Candrea Hecht (1872–1950) was also a lexicographer of the first rank. In folklore two outstanding figures were Moses Gaster and Moses *Schwarzfeld. Gaster's many learned works include the pioneering Literatura popularǎ românǎ (1883) and Chrestomaţia românǎ (1891). A staunch Jewish nationalist, he antagonized the Romanian government with his protests against antisemitism and in 1885 was expelled and settled in England. E. Schwarzfeld, an eminent historian of Romanian Jewry, was also expelled and settled in Paris. Two other great philologists and linguists were A. Grauer (Brauer; 1900–?) and J. Byck (1897–1964).

literary pioneers

Curiously enough, the first significant Jewish contribution to Romanian literature was made by a semiliterate peddler, Moïse *Cilibi (Ephraim Moses b. Sender), whose annual books of folk wisdom, dictated to the printer, enjoyed an extraordinary success from 1858 until his death. Although objective critics stressed the important role of emerging Jewish writers as apostles of avant-garde ideas and techniques, those less sympathetic to Jewish literary aspirations could always find fault with their work. Some claimed that the Jews dealt with Romanian national themes that they could not possibly appreciate, while others maintained that they unjustifiably neglected specifically Jewish questions. While it is undeniable that many Romanian-Jewish writers showed greater concern for Romanian than for Jewish issues, it is worth recalling that Roman-Ronetti's dramatic masterpiece, Manasse, which did investigate the problems of Romanian Jewry, was driven off the stage of the Romanian National Theater by antisemitic nationalist demonstrators. During the years preceding World War i, when Titu Maiorescu's aesthetic theories were dominant, Constantin *Gherea-Dobrogeanu, a literary critic and Socialist writer, introduced his own social and materialist conception of art, inaugurating a new school of scientific criticism. The same period saw the emergence of other Jewish literary scholars and critics, notably Ion Trivale, whose brilliant career was cut short by World War i, and Henric Sanielevici, one of Romania's most erudite and incisive polemical critics.


Among creative writers, Barbu *Nemţeanu introduced a Heinesque note into the poetry of his time, while D. Iacobescu ushered in French symbolism. The few poems printed at that time by Tristan *Tzara and his review, Simbolul, already foreshadowed the future rebel and creator of Dadaism; while the verse of Felix *Aderca proclaimed the poetic innovator, though not the great novelist that he was to become between the two world wars. Another remarkable poet of the time was Eugen *Relgis who later inaugurated the intellectual current of humanitarianism in Romania. Other leading poets were Leon Feraru, Enric Furtunǎ, A. Toma, and the versatile Samson Lazar, who settled in Israel. Jewish suffering especially preoccupied two other poets, Avram Axelrad and Adolf Rodion Steuerman.

Immediately after World War i, the economic prosperity which followed Romania's annexation of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Bessarabia was accompanied by an unusual literary boom. The euphoria of a hard-won emancipation also contributed to the increasing activity of Jewish writers. Benjamin *Fondane, known in his earlier Romanian years as Beniamin (Wechsler) Fundoianu, wrote poems about the countryside, but his works were suffused with Jewish inspiration. Even after his emigration to France in 1923, Fondane occasionally published Romanian verse. The collection Privelişti ("Landscapes"), one section of which describes life in the Moldavian shtetl, was published in 1930. The new lyrical themes and imagery introduced by Camil Baltazar during the 1920s led him to be acknowledged as one of the most gifted poets of his time. He was closely followed by Ilarie *Voronca, whose review, 75 hp, inaugurated the new integralist trend in 1924. Another avant-garde poet was Saşa *Panǎ (1902–1981); his highly nonconformist verse appeared in the review Unu, whose guiding spirit he was during the years 1928–32. Marcel Breslaşu wrote biblical poetry, while Maria Banuş with her verse collection Tara fetelor ("The Maidens' Land," 1937) revealed herself to be Romania's outstanding poetess. By contrast, a forerunner of the absurd in poetry was Alexandru Robot (Alter Rotman, 1916–1943). Classical verse was published during the 1920s and 1930s by Andrei Tudor (1907–1959), and by Virgiliu Monda and Emil *Dorian, both of whom became better known as novelists, as well as by Leon Feraru and Alexandru Dominic, whose poem "Israel" (1920) was hailed by the critics as a masterpiece.

playwrights and novelists

Writers of the period between the world wars include the playwrights B. Luca and Adrian Verea, who also published verse. Isaia Rǎcǎciuni (1900–?) wrote social novels such as Mâl ("Swamp," 1934) and Daţi-ni-l înapoi pe Isus ("Give Us Back Jesus," 1936) and Paradis uitat ("Forgotten Paradise," 1937), as did Sergiu *Dan and Cella Serghi. Mihail Sebastian, one of the most prolific and versatile prose writers in Romania, wrote essays, criticism, novels, and plays. His drama Steaua fǎrǎ nume ("The Nameless Star," 1943) was the only work by a Jew staged (albeit under an assumed name) during the era of Nazi persecution. With his novels and poems Marcel *Blecher was a pioneer of surrealism and existentialism, while Ion Cǎlugǎru and Isac Peltz portrayed Jewish life in Romania's towns and villages. Abraham Leib *Zissu, a leading Zionist, wrote novels and sketches exclusively on Jewish themes.

the nazi era and its aftermath

Although Jewish writers in Romania suffered less from the Nazi "Final Solution" than Jews in most other lands under Hitler's domination, their works were suppressed and they had to spend the war years (1941–44) in hiding or anonymous seclusion. The restrictive atmosphere so prevalent in the country already led many Jewish writers to emigrate after World War i and a remarkable number of talented Jewish writers made their way to France, notably Benjamin Fondane, Isidore Isou (1925– ), Adolphe Orna (1882–1925), Claude Sernet (1902–1968), Tristan Tzara, and Ilarie Voronca. Fondane, who was murdered in the Birkenau death camp, was the most consciously Jewish among them. Two other Romanian-Jewish writers who emigrated to France were the talented novelist Sorana *Gurian and the critic Aureliu Weiss. Enric Furtunǎ ended his life in Brazil and Eugen Relgis settled in Montevideo in 1947. Three who moved to Israel were Samson Lazar, A.L. Zissu, and the poet Mayer *Rudich (1913– ), who resumed his literary and journalistic career in Tel Aviv in 1959.

Several Jewish writers who had risen to eminence before World War ii, including Baltazar, Ludo, and Peltz, dutifully conformed to the requirements of Romania's postwar Communist regime. Ludo's attacks on the former royal family and the hostile accounts of the Jewish bourgeoisie published by Ury Benador were devoid of literary value. On the other hand, Maria Banuş and Marcel Breslaşu, though faithful to the party line, maintained a higher ethical and artistic standard in their works, as did Samuel Gregore with his fantastic novel Dincolo ("Beyond," 1944). The new writers of the post-World War ii era did not, in general, pay much attention to Jewish questions. Many adopted Romanian names, obscuring their Jewish origin. As authors and critics, they made an important contribution to the development of neo-realistic literature. Among the literary historians and critics who held leading posts on the editorial boards of various reviews were Vera Câlin, Paul (Cohn) Cornea (1924– ), Ovid Crohmâlniceanu, Samuil (Druckman) Damian (1930– ), B. (Bernstein) Elvin (1927– ), Silvian Iosifescu, Mihail Petroveanu (1923– ), Lucian (Leibovici) Raicu (1934– ), Nicolae Tertulian, and Henri Zalis (1932– ). Elvin published books on Sebastian (1956), Anatole France (1957), and Chekhov (1961) and studies of Ionesco and Camus; Petroveanu in his Studii literare (1966) wrote on Fon-dane; while Zalis wrote on Flaubert (1968). In drama, Aurel *Baranga (1913–1979), Alexandru Mirodan, and Dorel Dorian wrote plays that were highly praised and often performed on the Romanian stage.

Representative prose writers of the period were Radu Cosaşu, Sorana Gurian, Norman Manea (1936– ), Ieronim Şerbu, Cella Serghi, Alexandru Sever, Iulia Soare, and Vladimir Colin (1921–1991), a state prize winner, whose stories for children and adolescents were widely appreciated. When the Communist regime relaxed its stringent demands in the 1960s, several Romanian-Jewish poets were able to tackle themes about human relationships with skill and sensitivity. Such writers included Veronica *Porumbacu, Nina Cassian, George Toma Maiorescu, Petre Solomon (1923–1991), Stefan Jures (1931– ), and Florin Mugur, who was awarded an international poetry prize at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, in 1969.

Literature of the Holocaust

In Romania, as in other lands once under Nazi control, a special literature arose reflecting the era of the European Holocaust. Non-Jewish novelists who dealt with this theme included Eusebiu Camilar (1910–1965), who described the mass murder of Jews in Negura (1949), and George Calinescu, whose Scrinul Negru (1960) dealt with Jewish deportation to and life in the camps of Transnistria. The latter work also contains a powerful description of the massacre of the Jews from Odessa. After their visits to former death camps in Poland, George Bogza (1908–1993) and Eugen Jebeleanu (1911–1991) wrote moving poems about the Nazi atrocities, while Ion Grigorescu's novel, Obsesia ("Obsession," 1960), concludes with the suggestion that a new Wailing Wall be erected at Auschwitz.

The Holocaust was the one Jewish theme that inspired a significant number of Jewish writers in postwar Romania. Documentary works were published by Filip Brunea-Fox (1898–1977) who disclosed details of the Bucharest pogrom organized by Romanian Nazi legionaries in his Oraşul Mǎcelului ("City of Slaughter," 1944); by M. Rudich in La braţ cu moartea ("Hand in Hand with Death," 1945), which described the deportations from Bukovina and Bessarabia; and by Aurel Baranga, who collected data on the most significant acts of terror perpetrated by Romania Nazis in Ninge peste Ucraina ("Snow falls over the Ukraine," 19451, 19462). Other Jewish writers wrote novels and shorter prose works on Nazi war crimes. Emil Dorian's novel Otrava ("Poison," 1946) described the early antisemitic outbreaks in Bucharest; while Sergiu Dan in Unde începe noaptea ("Where the Night Begins," 1945) and Roza şi ceilalţi ("Rosa and the Others," 1947), Ieronim Serbu in Nunta în stepǎ ("Wedding on the Steppe," 1955), and Isac Peltz in Israel îns-îngerat ("Bloodstained Israel," 1946) reach a climax with detailed descriptions of life in the Transnistrian camps. Matei Gall's novel Masacrul (1957) described the murder of a group of Jewish communists by an ss unit and Arnold Dagani's diary of the deportation, Groapa este în livada de vişini (1947), was one of the most impressive accounts of its type. Another survivor, Oliver Lustig, wrote two novels on his experiences in Auschwitz, while Maria Arsene (Arthur Leibowici, 1909–1975) published various works about the Nazi terror in Romania, including the novels Hotel Ambasador (1967) and Los (1968). Other works on the Holocaust were written by Cella Serghi, G.T. Maiorescu, and Alexandru Jar (1912–1988), whose novel, Trǎdarea lunii ("The Moon's Treason," 1968), is set in Nazi-occupied Vilna. Finally, poems on Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis were written by Camil Baltazar, Maria Banuş, Saşa Panǎ, Veronica Porumbacu, and Mayer Rudich.

Consciously or unconsciously, Jewish writers in Romania revealed their spiritual heritage in such characteristics as their interest in research, their spirit of innovation, their predilection for philosophical reflection, and their ability to grasp the torments of the human soul. Even their inclination toward social revolt has its ethical roots in the Bible. Although they may have drifted far from religious tradition, only a very few Romanian-Jewish writers advocated total assimilation. Most of the non-Zionists merely submerged themselves in the themes and ideals of their era without renouncing their ties with the Jewish people. This is also true of the more recent writers whose lack of specifically Jewish appeal is attributable to the limitations imposed by Romania's Marxist theoreticians rather than to their own free choice and mode of expression. It is significant that, after 1967, Romania's friendly relations with Israel – unique among communist states of Eastern Europe – brought about an upsurge of Jewish consciousness among the country's younger writers.


M. Gaster, Ilchester Lectures on Greco-Slavonic Literature (1887); M. Schwarzfeld, in: Anuar pentru Israeliţi 5652 (1891); O. Densusianu, Studii de filologie românǎ: Psaltirea Voroneţeanǎ (1898); idem, Literatura românǎ modernǎ, 2 vols. (1929); G. Panu, Amintiri de la "Junimea" din lasi (1908); E. Lovinescu, Istoria civilizaţiei române moderne (1924); idem, Istoria literaturii române contemporane (1927); L. Feraru, Development of Romanian Poetry (1929); G. Cǎlinescu, Istoria literaturii române (1941); D. Murarasu, Nationalismul lui Eminescu (1955); Perpessicius, Mentiuni de istoriografie literarǎ si folclor (1957); E. Turdeanu, in: Revue des Etudes Roumaines (1960), nos. 5–7.

[Dora Litani-Littman]