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  • Kierkegaard in Romania before WWII:Reception or Rejection?
  • Michael Finkenthal

The reason for choosing this particular topic was twofold: first, the information about the penetration of Kierkegaard in Eastern Europe in general and in Romania in particular is very scarce (to put it mildly). Second, I believe that observing the ways in which an oeuvre is transferred from a given cultural realm into another is very informative, as it has the potential of casting a new light on the original work. As in the case of a prism which diffracts "white" light and decomposes it in the specific colors which compose it, the reception of Søren Kierkegaard's works in the cultural environment of the "greater" Romania born after WWI, illuminates novel aspects of his work and uncovers new shades, thus at the same time adding "hermeneutical value" to the existing body of Kierkegaard studies. Furthermore, observing this process of transfer informs in a meaningful way about the receiving intellectual-cultural system.

It would be impossible to make an exhaustive presentation of such an extensive topic in the narrow framework of an article: the above proposed study could represent the content of a full-fledged book. Instead, I shall try to concentrate upon the reception part, and even that mostly within the literary-philosophical circles, while the rejection aspect, at work within the religious-theological realm, will be discussed here only briefly.

A quick inspection of the review by Nicolae Irina included in one of the volumes presenting Kierkegaard's reception in the various parts of the world edited by Jon Stewart, reveals very limited information about the reception of the works of the Danish thinker in Romania [End Page 1132] during the years between the two World Wars: the well known names of E.M. Cioran and Mircea Eliade are mentioned, as well as a monograph published by Grigore Popa in 1940. The most important philosopher of the time, Lucian Blaga is mentioned also—somewhat en passant—in this review article. I will present in some detail the way all these thinkers reacted to Kierkegaard's writings and I shall include in my discussion a few more authors. All played an important role in the process of reception and transmission of Kierkegaard, among them Nae Ionescu, a professor of philosophy in Bucharest who strongly influenced the generation of Cioran and Eliade, Mircea Vulcanescu, himself a follower of N. Ionescu (no relationship with Eugen Ionescu-Ionesco who also belonged to the mentioned Cioran-Eliade generation), and Lucian Blaga's student at the Cluj University during the inter-wars period, Barbu Zevedei.1

It seems that Mircea Eliade was, indeed, the first to publish an article about Kierkegaard in Romania (in 1928: Sören Kierkegaard; see Irina 302). In his Portuguese Journal, Eliade describes his first encounter with the author:

I read Kierkegaard for the first time in my first undergraduate year; it was the Journal of a Seducer in Italian translation. I felt overwhelmed and since at that time, in 1925, Kierkegaard was not yet available in French, and I was still reading German with difficulty … I looked up and found other Italian translations…. My relationship with Kierkegaard continues till this very day [the entry is from January 8, 1945] but I still have not succeeded to read him in his entirety. There is some hidden resistance at work, perhaps his irony (I do not like the irony)…perhaps his exaggerated prolixity…

(Jurnalul, vol. I, 289-290)2

Even though the author believed that his article was a success at the time, a recent commentator, Madalina Diaconu, finds it quite banal: "Eliade's article," she writes, "presents nothing but a romanticized biography and a psychological portrait" (qtd. in Irina 303).

Cioran mentioned in an interview with François Fejtö that he began reading a German translation of Kierkegaard in 1932 while he was still [End Page 1133] a student of philosophy at the University of Bucharest (Fejtö 218).3 At the same time he was reading Heidegger (probably Sein und Zeit), influenced by the "existentialist" bent of his maître à penser from the University of Bucharest, Nae Ionescu. I would dare say that Cioran was in his early writings...


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