20 February 1924|
|Died||7 September 1993
|Occupation||novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, journalist|
|Genre||historical novel, fiction|
|Literary movement||Realism, neorealism|
Eugen Barbu (Romanian pronunciation: [e.uˈd͡ʒen ˈbarbu]; 20 February 1924 – 7 September 1993) was a Romanian modern novelist, short story writer, journalist, and correspondent member of the Romanian Academy. The latter position was vehemently criticized by those who contended that he plagiarized in his novel Incognito and for the anti-Semitic campaigns he initiated in the newspapers Săptămâna and România Mare which he founded and led. He also founded, alongside his disciple Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the ultra-nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM).
His most famous writings are the novels Groapa (1957) and Principele (1969). Barbu's prose, in which the influence of neorealism has been noted, drew comparison to the works of Mateiu Caragiale, Tudor Arghezi, and Curzio Malaparte. It was however, considered unequal by several critics, who took into measure Barbu's preference for archaisms, as well as his fluctuating narrative style.
Early life and literature
The son of writer and journalist N. Crevedia, Barbu was born in Bucharest, and briefly attended the University of Bucharest's Faculty of Law, and then graduated from the Faculty of Letters (1947); he subsequently worked as a journalist for the left-wing press. Attending meetings of the Sburătorul society, he made his debut in 1955 (with the novella Munca de jos). The following year, he published his first novel, Balonul e rotund.
One of the few persons trusted with official criticism on both political and literary issues during the communist regime — under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, and especially under Nicolae Ceauşescu — he was noted for his early writings in praise of Soviet achievements such as the Sputnik program, and his progressive move to a more nationalist tone as this became condoned (and later encouraged). He was also involved in the censorship apparatus, a position which, some have argued, he used indiscriminately against his literary rivals.
His Principele novel, set during the Phanariote era, was interpreted to be an ironic reference to Gheorghiu-Dej's rule and the labor camps of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, and was condoned by the regime during a period of relative liberalization — cut short by the July Theses of 1971. At the time, he was also an editor of Luceafărul, before being dismissed following his prolonged and notorious conflicts with younger writers (while the regime was interested in ensuring the latter's confidence). Barbu was an informal envoy to the United States during the late 1960s, visiting the influential exiled scholar Mircea Eliade at his home in Chicago, unsuccessfully calling for his return, and vouching for a "magnificent reception" to his home country (in order to mark the potential image coup).
He was several times elected to the Great National Assembly, until the plagiarism scandal prevented him from being again proposed for the office. In 1977, Barbu won the Herder Prize, which permitted him to offer his protégé Tudor a scholarship year in Vienna.
Plagiarism scandal and Săptămâna
In 1979, România Literară published a special section in which it placed side by side a text from Incognito and one taken from a translated work by the Soviet writer Konstantin Paustovsky; the two sections were considered virtually identical. The ensuing scandal animated the literary world, and has often been cited as a reference for similar and more recent controversies. Speaking at the time, Barbu dismissed the accusations as character assassination.
During the 1970s and '80s, he notably launched verbal attacks against Romanian intellectuals who had defected the country, as well as against writers who were critical of the regime (the latter included Paul Goma, whom, in 1977, he called "a non-entity").
Barbu's polemic articles were often obscene in tone, and their message offered Ceauşescu a nationalist support which Vladimir Tismăneanu has identified as "chauvinistic". By 1980, Tudor's editorials in Săptămâna drew complaints from members of the Jewish-Romanian community; consequently, Barbu and Tudor came under the attention of the Securitate. According to Ziua, a Securitate file of the time reveals that the two had begun questioning the détente between Romania and the United States, contradicting official policy, and theorizing that the Most favored nation status, which Romania had just received, was actually harming the country (while arguing that data to prove this had been kept hidden by a Jewish plot).
Many attacks focused on Monica Lovinescu, who was broadcasting anti-communist messages on Radio Free Europe — in one instance during 1987, Barbu used his column in Săptămâna to belittle the work of Eugen Lovinescu, a major literary critic who was Monica Lovinescu's father; this drew criticism from the Romanian Communist Party (of which Barbu was a member) and alarm from the Securitate, as it went against more restrained official guidelines regarding the works of Eugen Lovinescu.
After the Romanian Revolution, Barbu and Tudor emerged as ideologists of a new nationalist trend, which largely repeated themes present in previous official discourse, while casting aside references to communism. Between 1992 and the time of his death, Barbu served in the Romanian Chamber of Deputies as representative of the Greater Romania Party for Bucharest.
In early 2005, eleven years after his death, the satirical magazine Academia Caţavencu uncovered and publicized a Securitate file which seems to indicate that Barbu had sexual encounters with underage girls, provided by Tudor and paid for their services. Tudor initially called on the CNSAS Commission investigating Securitate archives to explain if the find was real, and received a positive answer. He later vehemently dismissed the allegations, indicating that virtually all of the girls' personal data was not found in census records, and that Anita Barton, the only one of them to have actually been found, was aged 19 at the time of her alleged meeting with Barbu.
- Grigurcu; Martin; Tismăneanu, p.183, 225
- Grigurcu; Iliescu
- Călin; Iliescu
- Dorin Tudaran, Eu, fiul lor- Dosar de Securitate, Bucharest, Polirom 2010, p.76
- Martin; Tismăneanu, p.183, 225
- Grigurcu; Martin
- Grigurcu; Ioanid
- Deletant, p.182
- Grigurcu; Teodorescu & Mihai
- Teodorescu & Mihai
- Groşan; Teodorescu & Mihai
- "File dintr-un..."; Tismăneanu, p.225
- Tismăneanu, p.225
- "File dintr-un..."
- Tismăneanu, p.249
- (in Romanian) "File dintr-un dosar controversat: C.V. Tudor" ("Sheets from a Controversial File: C.V. Tudor"), in 22, November–December 2004
- Liviu Călin, "Tabel cronologic" ("Chronological Table") to the 4th edition of Principele, Minerva, Bucharest, 1977
- Dennis Deletant, Ceauşescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989, M.E. Sharpe, London, 1995 ISBN 1-56324-633-3
- (in Romanian) Gheorghe Grigurcu, "Evocându-l pe Eugen Barbu" ("Recalling Eugen Barbu"), at E-Leonardo (review of Dan Ciachir's Când moare o epocă ("When an Epoch Dies"),Volume II)
- (in Romanian) Ioan Groşan, "Beuran, ca Jean Valjean" ("Beuran, Like Jean Valjean"), in Ziua, September 15, 2003
- (in Romanian) Nicolae Iliescu, "Nisipul timpului" ("The Sands of Time"), in Ziua, 30 August 2006
- (in Romanian) Radu Ioanid, "Paul Goma – între Belleville şi Bucureşti" ("Paul Goma - between Belleville and Bucharest", in Observatorul Cultural
- (in Romanian) Mircea Martin, "Cultura română între comunism si naţionalism" ("Romanian Culture between Communism and Nationalism"), Part VI), in 22, March 2003
- (in Romanian) Răsvan Popescu, "Apărarea lui Vadim" ("Vadim's Defense"), in 22, February 2005
- (in Romanian) Răzvan Savaliuc, "Liderul PRM urmărit în anii '80 pentru antisemitism" ("PRM's Leader Was Surveilled for Antisemitism during the '80"), in Ziua, January 12, 2004
- (in Romanian) Ovidiu Şimonca, "Mircea Eliade şi 'căderea în lume'" ("Mircea Eliade and 'the Descent into the World'"), review of Florin Ţurcanu, Mircea Eliade. Le prisonnier de l'histoire, in Observatorul Cultural
- (in Romanian) Cristian Teodorescu, Silviu Mihai, "Toleranţa românească la impostură: cursul scurt" ("Romanian Tolerance to Imposture: the Short Course"), in Cotidianul, October 25, 2005
- Vladimir Tismăneanu, Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003, ISBN 0-520-23747-1