Romanian Modern Literature (from 1830) Part II

By | February 4, 2022

Tradition and Modernity (1920–44)

According to Cancermatters, the dispute between traditionalist and progressive positions about intellectual renewal and national literature received new impulses through the incorporation of Transylvania and other areas into Greater Romania, for example in the dispute between the writers of the magazine »Gîndirea« (under Nichifor Crainic, * 1889, † 1972, followed their orthodox, increasingly conservative and finally reactionary-fascist orientation) and the authors E. Lovinescu, Camil Petrescu, the founder of the modern Romanian novel and theater, who are predominantly rooted in French culture and affirm the postulate of modernity, among others.

The wealth of topics and styles as well as the unusually high number of personalities who represented them mark the period between the two world wars as the heyday of Romanian literature. In the field of prose, among others, in addition to the already famous M. Sadoveanu, L. Rebreanu, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu, Camil and Cezar Petrescu, Anton Holban (* 1902, † 1937), Gib. I. Mihăescu (* 1894, † 1935), the belated décadent M. I. Caragiale, and also P. Istrati, who became famous abroad. The lyrics reached by T. Arghezi, L. Blaga, I. Barbu a new high point; I. Pillat, A. Maniu and Gellu Naum (* 1915, † 2001) were or are also significant. The Antiprosa of Urmuz, who died unknown, was discovered. A multitude of sometimes short-lived but fertile avant-garde groups, including the “Constructivists”, “Integralists”, “Surrealists” came into being. From their ranks came Ilarie Voronca (* 1903, † 1946), G. Bogza, Ștephan Roll (* 1903, † 1974), Gherasim Luca (* 1913, † 1994)and others. Some worked until 1947. E. Ionescu (French Eugène Ionesco) first became famous in France.

In the 1930s, a »young generation« around M. Eliade, E. Cioran and Constantin Noica (* 1909, † 1987) appeared with debates on cultural and philosophy. In the field of philosophical prose, the works of L. Blaga stood out, the historian N. Iorga, for his part, developed a gigantic creative force; by G. Călinescu, T. Vianu, Mihai Ralea (* 1896, † 1964), Pompiliu Constantinescu (* 1901, † 1946) and others. literary history and literary criticism also experienced their »golden age«.

Literature in State Socialism (1947-90)

With the founding of the People’s Republic (1947), following on from the revolutionary-democratic and narrow socialist tradition, literature was declared an instrument of “socialist awareness-raising” and popular education, thus interrupting the other lines of tradition. Literature was initially received primarily from a didactic point of view. The marginalization of non-conformist writers often led to “internal emigration” or exile (M. Eliade, É. M. Cioran).

In addition to political confessional poetry and construction prose, there were also aesthetically valuable works, e. B. Village prose by Z. Stancu and M. Preda, historical novels by M. Sadoveanu and Camil Petrescu.

On the temporary liberalization of intellectual life in the mid-1960s, the v. a. led to a reconnection to the traditions of the interwar period in poetry, a new upswing followed both in poetry (A. Ș. Doinaș, M. Sorescu, N. Stănescu, Ana Blandiana) and in the novel (N. Breban, Fănuș Neagu, * 1932, † 2011), the novella (Ș. Bănulescu, A. E. Baconsky, Nicolae Velea, * 1936, † 1987) and the criticism (Ovid S. Crohmălniceanu, * 1921, † 2000; Dumitriu Micu, * 1928; Nicolae Manolescu, * 1939; Ion Negoițescu, * 1921, † 1993). Characteristic of this literature were the representation of inner experience, the fantastic and the aesthetic testing of new forms and styles (L. Dimov, Dumitriu Țepeneag, * 1937; D. R. Popescu).

At the beginning of the 1970s, the cultural-political course hardened, whereupon a second wave of writers emigrated abroad (P. Goma, Dumitriu Țepeneag, Ion Negoițescu). The 1970s were then shaped by the political novel, a book of accounting that dealt with moral guilt and the abuse of political power in the 1950s (Alexandru Ivasiuc, * 1933, † 1977; Constantin Țoiu, * 1923, † 2012; Augustin Buzura, * 1938; Dinu Săraru, * 1932).

The return to tradition was reflected in the patriotic poetry (I. Alexandru et al.). Turning to myth and inwardness (Ileana Mălăncioiu, * 1940) testify to the withdrawal from reality.

The works of Aurel Baranga (* 1913, † 1979), Horia Lovinescu (* 1917, † 1983), Paul Everac (* 1924, † 2011) are among the much-performed dramas.

As recently as the 1980s, due to another restrictive period in cultural policy, there was a third wave of exiles (Ion Caraion, * 1923, † 1986; N. Manea; Mircea Zaciu, * 1928, † 2000).

In the country, on the other hand, the eighties generation was formed in student literary  circles and bypassing censorship – as a literary school that combined modern and postmodern elements and brought a new poetic autonomy; these included the poets Traian T. Coșovei (* 1954, † 2014), Mariana Marin (* 1956, † 2003), Elena Ştefoi (* 1954) and M. Cărtărescu, prose writers such as Mircea Nedelciu (* 1950, † 1999), Ștefan Agopian (* 1947), Ioan Groșan (* 1954) and George Cușnarencu (* 1951) as well as literary theorist and critic Mircea Mihăieș (* 1954), Ion Bogdan Lefter (* 1957).

Increasing restrictions in the literary business allowed rebellious writers such as M. Dinescu and Ana Blandiana to become figures of identification during the social upheaval in 1989/90.

Post-communist literature (from 1990)

The overthrow of the dictator N. Ceaușescu (December 1989) and the following social upheavals led to profound changes in Romanian literary life with new freedom of publication, but also economic constraints. As part of coming to terms with the past, numerous testimonies to communist tyranny were published (reports, diaries, prison memories, e.g. by C. Noica and Nicolae Steinhardt, * 1912, † 1985) as well as previously unpublished works by authors who were critical of the regime and in exile (L. Blaga; Gellu Naum; M. Eliade; É. M. Cioran; P. Dumitriu; P. Goma; Dumitriu Țepeneag; Bujor Nedelcovici, * 1936; N. Manea; were rehabilitated inter alia. Nae Ionescu, * 1890, † 1940; Mircea Vulcănescu, * 1904, † 1952).

After the democratic change of power in 1996, cultural life was further liberalized. The prose dealt with the system change, the new existential experience, the change in values ​​and shows a great thematic and stylistic variety. The lyricists of the young generation deal with a feeling of failure and depression in the face of Western freedom and lack of ties, resorting to negative mysticism, »hyperrealism«, but also traditional irony.

Romanian Modern Literature 1