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  • The Editor’s PrefaceThe Quiet Romanian
  • Călin-Andrei Mihăilescu (bio)

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Matei Călinescu, August 1950, Poiana Ţapului-Zamora on the balcony of the Vianu summer house

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Matei Călinescu (June 15, 1934, Bucharest, Romania—June 24, 2009, Bloomington, Indiana) was a critic, essayist, prose writer and poet who taught at various universities in Romania and the United States. He wrote in Romanian, English and French a large number of studies, mostly literary criticism, history and theory, but also prose, poetry, memoirs and correspondence. Here is what fills the timeless capsule of a curriculum vitae brought to merciless abbreviation. In a less Spartan version, in 1972 Călinescu obtained his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Babeş-Bolyai University (Cluj, Romania) with a thesis dedicated to the modern concept of poetry from Romanticism to the Avant-Garde (Conceptul modern de poezie: De la romantism la avangardă, which was published as a book that year). He taught for close to four decades, first at the University of Bucharest, where he taught World and Comparative Literature, as an Assistant- (1963-65), then as an Associate Professor (1965-72), and at Indiana University, Bloomington, which he joined as a Visiting Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Russian and East European Studies (1973-75), later to become an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and West European Studies (1975-79), and a Professor of Comparative Literature, Russian and East European Studies, and West European Studies, and Adjunct Professor of English (from 1979 until 1999, when he became Emeritus Professor). He also held short visiting appointments at Ottawa, Chicago, [End Page 1] Yale, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

In addition to grants and fellowships from Fulbright, Guggenheim, NEH and the West European Studies Center, Indiana University, Matei Călinescu received a number of significant prizes for his publications: the Romanian Writers’ Union Prize for Fiction for his short novel Viaţa şi opiniile lui Zacharias Lichter (The Life & Opinions of Zacharias Lichter, 1969); the Romanian Academy Prize for Literary History for Eseuri despre literatura modernă (Essays on Modern Literature, 1970); the Bucharest Writers’ Association Prize for Literary Criticism for Clasicismul European (European Neo-Classicism, 1971); the National Prize (“Marele premiu”) of the Association of Professional Writers of Romania (ASPRO) for the book Despre Ioan P. Culianu şi Mircea Eliade. Amintiri, lecturi, reflecţii (On Ioan P. Culianu and Mircea Eliade: Memories, Readings and Reflections, 2002); the Prize for the best memoir of 2003, awarded by Association of Professional Writers of Romania (ASPRO) for Portretul lui M (A Portrait of M, 2004); and the Romanian Writers’ Union Prize for Essay and Criticism for Eugène Ionesco: Teme identitare şi existenţiale (Eugène Ionesco: Identitary and Existential Themes, 2006). In 2008, Călinescu received an honorary doctorate from the Cluj Babeş-Bolyai University.

A discreet, soft spoken, well-mannered and tasteful gentleman, Matei Călinescu was one of the important intellectuals of his age. He wrote—in Romanian, English or French—studies in comparative literature, literary theory and intellectual history, in addition to poetry, prose and memorial writings.

While his best known books are Five Faces of Modernity (1987) and the short novel in Romanian, Viaţa şi opiniile lui Zacharias Lichter (The Life & Opinions of Zacharias Lichter, 1969), many of his numerous contributions, spanning half a century, deserve at least a mention in this short Remember. Here is the list of essentials: the four books he published in Romanian in the early 1970s (Essays on Modern Literature, 1970; European Neo-Classicism, 1971; The Modern Concept of Poetry: From Romanticism to the AvantGarde, 1972; and Fragmentarium, 1973), along with his American volumes, Exploring Postmodernism (co-edited with D.W. Fokkema, 1988), and Rereading (1993), which were to be followed by a new group of Romanian books: On Ioan P. Culianu and Mircea Eliade (2002), Mateiu I. Caragiale: Rereadings (2003), and Eugène Ionesco: Identitary and Existential Themes (2006, preceded by this volume’s publication in French as Ionesco: Recherches identitaires (2005); and, finally, the Romanian non-academic writings of his last years: Memories in Dialogue, with Ion Vianu (1994; 3rd edition, 2005); Portretul lui...


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