- Exemplary Lives, Contemporary LivesThe Year in Romania
a look into the past
The variety of life writing available on the Romanian book market remains as dazzling this year as it has been throughout the last three decades. Publishing houses with a long tradition in life writing series have expanded their portfolios with new, exciting autobiographies, biographies, journals, diaries, correspondence, and book-length interviews. For instance, the documenting of the lives of dissidents abroad and interwar intellectuals has been enriched by the publication of the correspondence and diaries of their family members. Ecaterina Bălăcioiu-Lovinescu's letters to her daughter, Scrisori către Monica 1951–1958, further the long-lasting attention publishers have given to Monica Lovinescu, the foremost intellectual and anti-communist voice in Paris. Monica Lovinescu's several volumes of journals and autobiographical essays, which have been available in bookstores since the 1990s, are now complemented by her mother's daily letters and postcards from Bucharest. Written between 1947 and 1958, some of the most difficult communist years in Romania, this correspondence captures a mother's love and desperate attempt to be in constant communication with her child, whom she feared she might never see again. The letters (most of them translated from French and sent abroad only with much difficulty) are documents of Bălăcioiu-Lovinescu's daily deprivations, suffering, and resistance to the blackmail and assiduous efforts of the Securitate (the secret police) to force her daughter to collaborate. The author was jailed in 1958, and this, once she had been denied vital medication, led to her death in communist prison.
Cornelia Blaga-Brediceanu's excerpts from her diaries—Jurnale 1919, 1936–1939, 1939–1940, 1959–1960—testify to the same interest in documenting representative lives, this time of the interwar poet and philosopher [End Page 649] Lucian Blaga. Blaga's daughter's memoir, Tatăl meu, appeared in 2012, and in 2016 excerpts of his wife's diary (curated by their daughter) reached the public in a revised edition, revealing Blaga-Brediceanu's love of, dedication to, and influence on the great poet's career, as well as bitter interwar intellectual feuds between landmark cultural personalities.
Începuturile unui exil îndelungat, 1940–1954 is the first volume in the diary of Ion Rațiu, who was a counselor at the Romanian legation in London under King Carol II; a very active emigré leader, politician, and businessman after 1945; and a vice president of the Christian Democratic-National Peasant Party as well as its presidential candidate in the first post-1989 elections. The impressive 665-page text presents Rațiu's early years in London, offers a panorama of the Romanian exile at the time, and features this distinguished gentleman of 1990s local politics—known to the public for his British accent, antiquated language, and bow tie—as an ambitious young man who attempts to put into practice, à la Benjamin Franklin, a great deal from the countless books he consumes voraciously and who constantly seeks ways to help his country.
Life narratives by or about members of Romania's royal house have also been a constant presence on the book market since the early 1990s. From 2016 to 2017, three significant royalty-related texts were published: the exile journal of Queen Marie of Romania, Țara pe care o iubesc (a sequel to the three previously published WWI diaries), in which she professes her love for her country and describes her suffering over its fate; Mihai I, ultimul rege al românilor, Tatiana Bran Niculescu's biography of King Michael, Marie's grandson, which was penned by a successful writer and former senior editor for the Bucharest bureau of the BBC; and the exile correspondence of Carol I's mistress, Duduia: Scrisori din exil ale Elenei Lupescu, edited by Diana Mandache. The 2016 exhibition Fragmente de memorie: Portrete Regale at Muzeul Național de Artă al Romȃniei, the national art museum that also featured large photographic portraits attached to the fence of the museum in an attempt to familiarize the larger public with the royal family, can be considered a part of this ongoing endeavor to bring to light unknown or...