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Sanielevici, Henric


SANIELEVICI, HENRIC (1875–1951), Romanian literary critic and biologist. Born in Botoşani, Moldavia, Sanielevici pursued two entirely separate careers, one scientific and the other literary. His polemical gifts revealed themselves in the articles which he contributed – some under the pseudonym Hassan – to leading Romanian periodicals and newspapers. He held that literary works contained two types of phenomena: the sociological and the psychological. The former was to be clarified and coordinated on the basis of materialistic principles of history, the latter on what Sanielevici himself termed "differential psychology" and "the psycho-physiology of race." Sanielevici particularly opposed ultra-nationalistic tendencies in Romanian literary circles and from 1903 published critical essays and studies written in a vigorous and uncompromising spirit. The most important were collected in Incercaˇri critice (1903), Cercetări critice ṣi filosofice (1916), Studii critice (1920), and Alte cercetări critice ṣi filosofice (1925).

Sanielevici's work as a biologist eventually led him to the issue of race. In La vie des mammifères et des hommes fossiles déchiffrée à l'aide de l'anatomie (1926), he examined and compared the organs of mastication and digestion in man and other mammals in order to explain the development of man and the ethnic diversity of mankind. Within a decade he had entered the fight against Nazi racial theories with his two-volume work In slujba Satanei ("In the Service of the Devil", 1930–35). Here he rejected the usual criteria of language and nation, and determined race solely according to anthropological type. He also endeavored to establish psychological constants that would explain national characteristics, thus setting forth a new theory of race and racial psychology. Though originally an advocate of Jewish assimilation, Sanielevici greatly modified his views after World War i.


P.P. Negulescu, in: Analele Academiei Române, 2nd. ser., 38 (1915–16); E. Lovinescu, Critice, 8 (1923), 117; G. Caˇlinescu, Istoria literaturii Române… (c. 1941), 569–70; idem, Ulysse (1967), 261–5.

[Dora Litani-Littman]

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