George Ivașcu

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George Ivașcu
(Gheorghe I. Ivașcu)
George Ivascu
Ivașcu in 1971
Born (1911-06-22)June 22, 1911
Cerțești, Galați County
Died June 21, 1988(1988-06-21) (aged 76)
Pen name Analist, Radu Costin, Dan Petrea, Paul Ștefan, Radu Vardaru
Occupation journalist, literary critic, literary historian, civil servant, university professor
Nationality Romanian
Period 1929–1988
Genre biography, essay, reportage, journalism,
Literary movement Modernism
Socialist realism
Marxist literary criticism

George Ivașcu (most common rendition of Gheorghe I. Ivașcu;[1] July 22, 1911 – June 21, 1988) was a Romanian journalist, literary critic, and communist militant. From beginnings as a University of Iași philologist and librarian, he was drawn into left-wing antifascist politics, while earning accolades as a newspaper editor and foreign-affairs journalist. Openly confronting the Iron Guard and fascism in general, he was persecuted and went into hiding during the first two years of World War II. He reemerged as a pseudonymous correspondent, then editorial secretary, of the magazine Vremea, slowly turning it away from fascism. In parallel, he also contributed to the clandestine left-wing press, preparing for an Allied victory.

After a brief career in the communist regime's bureaucracy, Ivașcu found himself exposed to accusations of perfidy. Due in large part to a case of mistaken identity, he was prosecuted for fascism and war crimes, and spent almost five years in confinement. Released and rehabilitated by the same regime, his alleged compromises with both fascism and communism have been at the center of controversies ever since.

In his later years, Ivașcu profited from liberalization and, as editor of Contemporanul, Lumea, and România Literară, allowed nonconformist talents to express themselves with confidence, while he himself oscillated between national communism and Western Marxism. His tolerance of dissent irritated the regime, and Ivașcu was pushed back into accepting and even promoting communist censorship during the final two decades of his life.


Early life[edit]

Born in Cerțești, Galați County,[2][3] he enlisted at the Gheorghe Roșca Codreanu High School in Bârlad. In March 1929, as a terminal year student, he published his first literary contribution: a poem titled "Reveries", in the Lugoj student magazine Primăvara Banatului.[4] Upon completing his secondary studies, Ivașcu moved to Iași, entered the local university, and graduated from its Letters and Philosophy Faculty in 1933.[2][5] A librarian at his Iași faculty in 1932,[2] he became a teaching assistant there upon graduation and until 1936, owing his appointment to professor Iorgu Iordan (and replacing Gheorghe Ivănescu, who was studying abroad).[6] From 1935 until 1937, he was also secretary of the Institute of Romanian Philology and of its publication,[2] which hosted Ivașcu's essays on Alf Lombard and Ion Creangă.[7]

Influenced by the left-leaning views of his Iași professors, Ivașcu was, in 1934, founder and editor of the political review Manifest.[6][8][9] A group of young literary aficionados and militants grew around the magazine, including, among others, Emil Condurachi[10] and Ștefan Baciu.[11] Its advocacy of literary modernism and its alleged "socialist-communist" tinges were censured at the time by Nicolae Iorga, the traditionalist doctrinaire and culture critic. Iorga nevertheless noted that, unlike Condurachi and the others, Ivașcu wrote "with sense".[10]

At Manifest, Ivașcu spoke out against the Iron Guard, a homegrown fascist movement—but, according to Iorga, did so in a "disjointed" manner.[12] Much later in life, Ivașcu told his friends that the murder of Premier Ion G. Duca by a Guardist death squad had greatly shocked him.[6] He was involved in several street battles and, in 1936, when he helped Iordan break through an Iron Guard barrage, received a rather deep cut on his cheek from shattered glass. He was also dragged in academic confrontations between the left and the right: the latter denied his application for Iorga's Romanian School in Fontenay-aux-Roses.[6]

Under these circumstances, Ivașcu moved into far-left politics. A member of the Romanian Communist Party (PCdR), which had been outlawed by the Kingdom of Romania (according to his own testimony, he joined in 1935),[13] he agitated in favor of prosecuted communists such as Petre Constantinescu and Teodor Bugnariu, befriending the far-left intellectual Stephan Roll.[6] Party theorist Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu was allegedly the behind-the-scenes figure at Manifest.[14] Like these figures, Ivașcu found himself placed under constant surveillance by Siguranța policemen.[15] As he himself would later claim, he was troubled by his choices, and equally alarmed by the Great Purge that was occurring in the Soviet Union. He attributed its "monstrous crimes" to the overzealous prosecutors.[6]

Iașul and Jurnalul Literar[edit]

In March 1938, some days after King Carol II proclaimed his authoritarian National Renaissance Front (FRN) regime, Ivașcu, Alexandru Piru and Eusebiu Camilar founded a daily, Iașul. Advertising itself as an "exact and precise" newspaper, it had a cultural program promoting "civic education" and Moldavian regionalism, and was formally managed by the violinist Mircea Bârsan.[16] Ivașcu was the real caretaker, fixating the editorial line on the promotion of modernism. He also composed the literary supplement and theatrical column, and answered the letters to the editor.[17] Beyond its conformist facade, which was well-appreciated by FRN officials, Iașul functioned as an antifascist mouthpiece, involved in open polemics with the far-right press.[18] Ivașcu played a prominent part in the latter disputes, with articles he signed as Radu Vardaru.[19]

The subsequent period marked the start of Ivașcu's close friendship with the senior literary critic George Călinescu, whose activities were carefully recorded by Iașul. Ivașcu was especially enthusiastic about Călinescu's plan to transform Iași into a Romanian cultural capital: this, he noted, was "the very reason why our paper exists."[20] Upon Ivănescu's return to Iași, Ivașcu lost his university position, and taught Romanian Literature at a high school in Iași. In January 1939, he became editorial secretary at Călinescu's Jurnalul Literar. Ivașcu greatly admired Călinescu's antifascism and rationalism;[6] however, the Siguranța reported of his debates with Călinescu, with the latter refusing to allow more communists at Jurnalul Literar. According to such sources, Călinescu feared that a left-turn would expose the magazine to attacks from the far-right.[21] Still, Călinescu paid homage to Ivașcu as an "excellent" journalist and man of letters, with "a great devotion to a certain idea."[6]

Reviewing the letters to the editor, Ivașcu discovered and edited for publishing the work of a literary hopeful, the 17-year-old poet Ștefan Augustin Doinaș (alongside whom he would work later in life).[22] In August 1939, just before the start of World War II (in which Romania was still neutral territory), Piru took over Ivașcu's office at Jurnalul Literar.[23] Ivașcu was still a contributor, and, in the magazine's final issues, took over Călinescu's own foreign policy column, "The War in Weekly Recapitulations". It was manifestly apolitical.[24]

A year later, Romania found herself trapped between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. By the end of 1940, she had ceded Bessarabia to the Soviet Union and relinquished Northern Transylvania to pro-Nazi Hungary. Following the bankruptcy of Jurnalul Literar, Călinescu became a regular presence in Iașul. Also in Iașul, Ivașcu wrote a foreign policy column, Situația ("The Situation"), sharply critical of the king, deploring the country's rapprochement with Nazi Germany, and praising the Western Allies. In July 1940, he found himself arrested, under official inquiry.[6]

In hiding[edit]

Ivașcu's mugshot, taken in or around 1940

Although described in Siguranța reports as "one of the principal communists in Moldavia region",[25] Ivașcu was released on parole following the intervention of Călinescu, Iordan, Mihai Ralea and Petre Andrei.[6] In September 1940, the National Renaissance Front crumbled and the Iron Guard came to power, establishing its own "National Legionary State"—in fact an unbalanced partnership with an authoritarian Premier, Ion Antonescu. The regime immediately stripped Ivașcu of his teaching post. Following arrangements made by his in-laws, Ivașcu relocated to Bucharest, the national capital. Reportedly, he was in contact with the PCdR and its Social Democratic Party allies, who provided for Ivașcu with means to join the antifascist underground. This clandestine interval ended in November, when he was arrested by the National Legionary authorities, and interrogated for at least a month.[6]

Upon his release, protected and housed by his brother-in-law, Colonel Zlotescu, Ivașcu requested to be integrated as a civil servant in the Propaganda Ministry. However, in his letters to Călinescu, he confessed that could not bear himself to write for any "[politically] colored newspapers".[6] By January 19, 1941, Ivașcu had reached an agreement with the editors of Vremea, the former Iron Guard newspaper, becoming its pseudonymous foreign-affairs analyst (a parallel application at Timpul, the official newspaper, having been rejected);[6] he was paid by the article.[26] He took the decision only after assuring himself that "not everybody there [at Vremea] is green from head to toe" (a reference to the Guard's green flag and uniforms).[6]

The historian Vasile Netea, who was one of Vremea's editors, conceded that Ivașcu showed superlative skills and, displaying a "great love" for his job, ensured that the magazine was both "substantial and varied".[27] Using the signatures Paul Ștefan, Radu Costin, and Dan Petrea, his work originally consisted of translating articles from the foreign press, drawing maps in ink, and contributing his own pieces. These referred to such topics as the Italian Imperial consolidation, Australian participation, or the evolution of the Norwegian Campaign, and were seasoned with encoded antifascist references.[6] He used all kinds of sources, including Radio Londres and Radio Moscow.[28] With time, he became a cultural page editor, writing reviews of works by Alexandru A. Philippide and Mihai Moșandrei, and gazetteer entries for Ethiopian Christianity.[6] His social standing improved unexpectedly when the Iron Guard's downfall of January 21, which left Antonescu as the sole leader in national politics. Ivașcu was reintegrated in education, teaching at Gheorghe Lazăr High School and at Spiru Haret High School.[2]

Anti-Soviet war[edit]

After the attack on the Soviet Union, which sealed Antonescu's alliance with Nazi Germany, Ivașcu was drafted into the Romanian Land Forces, but, being aged 30, was ordered to continue his work at Vremea in lieu of active service.[28] According to one account, during this short interval in the military Ivașcu wrote pro-war propaganda in the army newspapers Soldatul and Santinela.[29] His presence in the official press became even more controversial after that date. Historian Lucian Boia identifies him behind the pen name Victor Pancu, used in articles that praise Adolf Hitler and describe Joseph Stalin's as "the most atrocious of dictatorships".[30] With contributors such as Ion Anestin and Costin Murgescu, Vremea was a staple of anti-Soviet propaganda all throughout 1942, leading Boia to conclude that Ivașcu was playing a "double game".[31]

Boia's account is disputed by literary historian Nicolae Manolescu, who reports that the articles and pen name in question were those of a disgraced Iron Guard affiliate, Alexandru Gregorian. Manolescu notes that Ivașcu "was always a man of the left".[32] This identification is supported by Pavel Țugui, the literary historian and former communist, who notes that, as Victor Pancu, Gregorian was already contributing brochures on the Soviet war crimes.[6] In articles that can be more readily attributed to him, Ivașcu makes only minimal reference to the recovery of Bessarabia, and centers on more distant objectives, such as the Siege of Leningrad, and vaguer topics, such as the Moscow Conference. These contributions, Țugui notes, are reserved in tone, and barely conceal his hope that British forces would soon land on the Nazi-occupied continent.[28]

As the war on the Eastern Front dragged on, Vremea grew apolitical. Its hosting of political undesirables intensified: the magazine inaugurated a "cohabitation" of the political opposites.[28] At some point between late 1941 and summer 1942 (the circumstances are disputed), Ivașcu was appointed editorial secretary, and began signing in his own name the cultural column, critical essays, and reportage pieces from Slovakia (where he most likely traveled in mid 1942). He also kept up his foreign-affairs contributions, but used his old pseudonyms and the pen name Analist.[28] In 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad, which Ivașcu refused to report on,[28] put an end to the German-and-Romanian advances. Consequently, Ivașcu persuaded his boss, Vladimir Donescu, to renounce fascism for good.[28] Vremea offered its columns to known leftists such as Călinescu, Virgil Ierunca, Ion Pas, and Radu Boureanu.[28][33] Ivașcu also had contacts with the liberal Doinaș and other Sibiu Literary Circle members, whose ideas he chronicled for Vremea.[34]

1945 rise[edit]

Ivașcu soon attracted unwanted attention: a series of denunciations in the antisemitic newspaper Moldova brought up his collaboration to the left-wing press and his association with Jewish intellectuals.[35] By then, Ivașcu had affiliated with the Union of Patriots, an underground organization led by Dumitru Bagdasar, and reportedly managed its clandestine newspaper, the future România Liberă.[28][29] At Vremea, beginning 1944, he contributed columns that were openly critical of the "Nazi New Order", spoke favorably of the Yugoslav Partisans and the French Resistance, and noted that the war had entered its "critical phase".[28]

In the wake of the Palace Coup that toppled Antonescu, Ivașcu published his final contributions to Vremea, including the September 6 editorial. It stated that "all good Romanians" had "shouted out their relief" at news that Antonescu had been arrested.[28] Ivașcu soon rejoined the now-legal communist press. Following the arrival of the Allied Commission and the start of Soviet occupation, he was also integrated on the new bureaucracy, with directorial positions in the Information Ministry (heir to the wartime Propaganda Ministry). In 1945, he was applying communist censorship and introducing agitprop techniques in the field of Romanian cinema.[36] In his official capacity at the Ministry, Ivașcu also took part in preparing a fraudulent win for the Communist Party in the 1946 election, keeping notes on the activities of dissident Social Democrats and issuing orders to restrict the activities of visiting Western journalists.[37]

With Pas, N. D. Cocea, Miron Constantinescu, Nicolae Carandino, George Macovescu and various others, Ivașcu was elected to the Committee of the Professional Journalists' Union (UZP).[38] From 1945 to 1946,[13] he served as editor-in-chief of Cocea's Victoria daily. This apparent reconversion irritated anti-Soviet left-wingers such as Tudor Arghezi, for whom Ivașcu was a "turncoat", deaf to "the irritating voice of truth".[39] According to Boia, Victoria was a nominally independent gazette, but "just as vehement as the genuine communist ones", congratulating the PCdR for its purging of Romania's monarchist elites.[40] Formalizing its affiliation to the Union of Patriots in October 1945, Victoria signaled a definitive ideological break with Doinaș and the Sibiu Circle.[41]

Ivașcu's work, such as his 1946 homage to the socialist writer Gala Galaction, was taken up by the communist literary journal Contemporanul.[42] Ivașcu was also a member of the Romanian Society for Friendship with the Soviet Union and prominent contributor to its magazine, Veac Nou.[43] From 1947 to 1948, he served as head of the Propaganda Ministry's Press Directorate,[32][44] during which time he was also created a Knight 2nd Class of the Meritul Cultural Order.[45] He assisted Grigore Preoteasa in setting up the Ministry's own Disciplinary Committee, of which Ivașcu was secretary.[1]

Communist imprisonment[edit]

Despite his underground communist credentials, Ivașcu was among those who, in 1948, alongside Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu, fell out of favor with the new Communist regime. The communist party opened a file on him, comprising a psychological profile notes by Preoteasa, who called Ivașcu "characterless", "perfidious", and "a dangerous man". Ivașcu was consequently sacked from his position at the Ministry, and made Director of the Nicolae Bălcescu Museum.[44] The Securitate secret police opened a file on him, investigating his Vremea work. He was erroneously identified with another Paul Ștefan, who had collaborated with the antisemitic review Sfarmă-Piatră and was the object of a national manhunt.[26] Ivașcu was eventually arrested on March 23, 1950,[26] and formally indicted of "crime against peace".[46]

Accounts differ as to what happened next. According to one version, he was sentenced to death, but his penalty was commuted to hard labor.[13][29] Others, however, suggests that he was in fact sentenced just once, with a total penalty of five years.[26][32][47] The verdict came despite favorable testimonies in his favor from Călinescu and his colleagues in the Union of Patriots.[29] Ivașcu's mother Maria appealed the decision and wrote letters of protest to Ana Pauker, the communist grandee, but these went unanswered.[26]

Ivașcu was detained for a while in the same cell as another disgraced communist, Belu Zilber, with whom he became friends and later bitter rivals. In his account of their time together, Zilber claims that Ivașcu was being prepared as a false witness in a show trial of the former Social Democrats, including those who had aligned themselves with the PCdR. As he puts it, communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej "gave up on this plan. He discovered that it made more sense to appoint [the Social Democrats] as high dignitaries."[48] For a while, Ivașcu was held together with Adrian Marino, a fellow literary man and Călinescu disciple, within a cell that also housed Bessarabian inmates and militants of the Iron Guard. When Ivașcu began learning Russian with the Bessarabians, the Guardists were infuriated, and he very narrowly escaped a pummeling.[49] Archival research carried out in 2006 indicates that Ivașcu turned informant for the Securitate, spying on his cell mates at Constanța, Jilava, and eventually Aiud.[50]

Rehabilitation and Contemporanul[edit]

Following a review of his case,[13][51] Ivașcu was declared innocent and freed in 1954. As claimed by Zilber, "he proved to be an obedient fella while in prison, and the party rewarded him for it."[52] He rejoined the teaching staff at Lazăr High School, where he remained until 1956.[2] His skills as a propagandist were employed by the Securitate, which also contemplated keeping him as an informant in the outside world. Ivașcu's case officer described him as: "intelligent and able, may be in a position to collect intelligence from very difficult targets, his skills likely to facilitate his entrance there".[50] He was subsequently assigned to publishing the magazine Glasul Patriei, which was dedicated to cajoling the Romanian exiles and was officially issued in Pankow by a "Romanian Repatriation Committee".[53] The task was unusual: Ivașcu, an antifascist and former prisoner, was working under orders from "some Securitate operative", and alongside Nichifor Crainic, the reformed far-right politico.[54] This team focused its attacks on anti-communist intellectuals who had flirted with fascism, in particular Vintilă Horia[53] and Emil Cioran.[55]

The next step in Ivașcu's rehabilitation was his 1955 appointment to the position of Contemporanul editor-in-chief, where he was seconded for a while by Ion Mihăileanu (later a noted screenwriter and critic of communism).[56] Boia notes that the authorities' sudden change of heart offers a glimpse into "the impeccable communist logic";[44] Țugui attributes it to an intervention by his old mentor Iordan, by then a high-ranking communist, who took Ivașcu's side in Central Committee meetings.[6] According to Zilber, the time he had spent in prison was serendipitous, helping Ivașcu to "outdo himself".[57] This is because Ivașcu was "a born editor": "He gets high on printers' ink, can spot a missing letter out of one thousand words, can detect a text alignment error at a glance".[52] Ivașcu was also allowed to return to his passion for foreign politics. In August 1959, Lupta de Clasă hosted his festive essay praising peaceful coexistence, and describing the Warsaw Pact as Romania's "keystone" alliance.[58]

As noted in 2006 by critic Constantin Coroiu, Ivașcu's Contemporanul was "the bridge that linked (or, one could say, salvaged) the interwar era to the contemporary era". Consecrated writers (Călinescu, Philippide, Arghezi, Lucian Blaga, Mihail Sadoveanu) were featured alongside young talents (Manolescu, Nichita Stănescu, Ana Blandiana).[8] In addition to such work, Ivașcu inaugurated the Contemporanul "tea parties", where former prisoners such as Egon Balas could network and find protection.[59] Ivașcu also helped Marino, his former cell mate, by having him published in Contemporanul.[60]

Nevertheless, Contemporanul maintained the status of an elite propaganda magazine. Looking back on the period, writer Gheorghe Grigurcu describes it as a collaborationist tribune, a Romanian answer to the Nouvelle Revue Française, with Ivașcu as a communist Drieu La Rochelle.[61] In the early 1960s, official publications listed Ivașcu as one of sixteen literary critics whose work supported "socialist construction".[62] In 1961, Leonte Răutu, head of the Agitprop Directorate, selected him to oversee and preface the complete edition of Blaga's poetry. Blaga had enjoyed a precarious standing with the regime, and had basically forbidden from publishing for some 15 years. In effect, Ivașcu acted as a censor, cutting out stanzas, destroying the inner continuity of poetic cycles, and inserting misleading critical commentary.[63] Reportedly, he regretted his role in the affair, privately confessing that he had "exploited [Blaga's] fears and cravings".[64]

As an official emissary of the party, he coaxed another banished poet, Arghezi, to collaborate and adopt socialist realism.[65] In 1969, after the poet's death, he published in Books Abroad the short essay Tudor Arghezi: Poet for Contemporary Man, praising him as "the inspired prophet", victorious "in the conflict between cognizance and noncognizance."[66] Gheorghiu-Dej even allowed Ivașcu to travel abroad, urging him to convince Romanian defectors and exiles, such as conductor Constantin Silvestri, to return home. According to Manolescu, Ivașcu consciously failed at this task, hinting to Silvestri that a return would not be in his best interest.[32] As Coroiu notes, Ivașcu was personally involved in smoothing out the relationship between Contemporanul and Călinescu, whose columns were sometimes refused for publishing as politically suspect.[8]

University professor and Lumea editor[edit]

From 1958 to 1968, Ivașcu headed the University of Bucharest's History of Romanian Literature department, also directing the History of Contemporary Romanian Literature department there from 1966 to 1968.[2][67] He worked closely with two other Călinescu disciples, Piru and Marino,[67] and from 1963 employed Manolescu[68] and Eugen Simion[69] as his assistants. He helped clear Manolescu of charges that he was from a fascist family,[68] later protecting his freedom of expression against renewed censorship.[67][70]

As his university colleagues noted, Ivașcu was a good manager of his department, one who helped the faculty as a whole,[71] and whose arrival there helped restore "the normalcy of values".[72] Ivașcu founded and let a literary society representing the faculty, called Junimea (in honor of a 19th-century club in Iași). It enjoyed a flurry of activity during the 1960s, when it hosted talents such as Stănescu, Ioan Alexandru, and Adrian Păunescu, but was virtually defunct by 1970.[73]

Ivașcu remained at Contemporanul until 1971, while also in charge of the French-language Arcades and Revue Roumaine.[2] In summer 1963, with financial support from the UZP,[74] he also founded Lumea, a magazine of international politics which gave readers an alternative to the official news.[75] Modeled on Western news magazines, its imprimatur a sign that Gheorghiu-Dej was moving away from the Soviets, an "extensive de-Russification process".[76] Ivașcu would direct it to 1966.[2]

The magazine made a point of underscoring Romania's debt to Western culture, notably by publishing Marino's historical essay, Descoperirea Europei de către români ("Romanians Discovering Europe").[77] Probably using his contacts in the communist elite, Ivașcu managed to protect and hire at Lumea Doinaș, who was also just returning from prison.[78] The eccentric poet-translator Mircea Ivănescu was also employed by Ivașcu as a columnist. Ivașcu asked him to fictionalize himself into an Italian correspondent, which allowed Ivănescu to study Italian politics.[79] Similar practices were imposed on other staff members of the staff (among them Felicia Antip, Florica Șelmaru, and Cristian Popișteanu), but the magazine also hosted translations from Western intellectuals: Art Buchwald, Sebastian Haffner, Walter Lippmann, Drew Pearson, Jean Schwœbel, and Daily Worker's John Gritten.[80]

In 1964, after an eight-year wait and numerous character checks, Ivașcu was reinstated a member of the Communist Party (or, as it was known then, Workers' Party) by Gheorghiu-Dej.[81] The ailing communist leader died in March 1965, and Ivașcu made a public show of his grief. As he recounted in 1968, he "respected and loved Gheorghiu-Dej", a "standard bearer" for the party and the writers' community.[82] During that same interval, Ivașcu invited Călinescu to visit and lecture at his university department, thus facilitating the ailing scholar's very last meetings with young writers.[67] In early 1965, Ivașcu was one of the few witnesses to Călinescu's death in hospital,[83] and one of the disciples who oversaw his vigil and funeral.[84]

He also carried on with editorial work, putting out a 1967 edition of Nicolae Filimon's 1862 classic, Ciocoii vechi și noi. It was published with Ivașcu's footnotes, which bracketed out and toned down Filimon's critique of egalitarianism.[85] In 1969, Ivașcu clashed with his pupil Manolescu over political and literary matters: Manolescu had insisted on publishing a poetry anthology which included unfrequented anticommunists, seeing their removal from literary history as a form of induced "amnesia", which resulted in a literary void. As the volume was being withdrawn from bookstores, Ivașcu published a Contemporanul article which insisted that communist poetry was fertile enough to fill that void.[86] According to Radio Free Europe's Monica Lovinescu, his demonstration was "long and useless". She also notes that Ivașcu's attempt to invalidate the contribution of formerly fascist poets contradicted the regime's policy of recovering them at Glasul Patriei.[87]

At România Literară[edit]

Under the spell of liberalization promoted by the new communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Ivașcu became a member of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences. In 1969 and 1971, he received the Romanian Writers' Union Prize.[2] From 1971 until his death, Ivașcu directed România Literară, the Writers' Union magazine. According to Manolescu, who was to succeed him there, the move from Contemporanul to România Literară was rather a demotion, signaling that Ceaușescu did not trust him.[32] Others contrarily note that Ceaușescu handpicked Ivașcu to direct the magazine after the fall from favor of a previous editor, Nicolae Breban. Breban had made public his criticism of the July Theses, through which Ceaușescu had reintroduced hardline Marxism-Leninism.[88]

Ivașcu was asked to contribute propaganda editorials honoring Ceaușescu's stance. As his colleague Mircea Iorgulescu noted, he only regarded such pieces as an "editorial task" that required his "technical skill".[89] Other authors contrarily assess that Ivașcu had been assigned a leading role in the subsequent "cultural revolution". Media analyst Claudia Chiorean sees Ivașcu as one of Ceaușescu's "first violinists", whose bad reputation also harmed Manolescu's own.[90] By then, Ivașcu was making occasional returns to agitprop in the film industry supervisor, this time as a promoter of Ceaușescu's national communism.[91]

Ivașcu still made a point of promoting foreign literature and the more daring aspects of Romanian modernism, putting out poetry by Blandiana, Mircea Dinescu, and Ion Caraion, as well as essays by Iorgulescu and Sami Damian. The magazine also hosted debates on culture and society,[75] and, as Manolescu writes, was "the objective ally of democratically-minded writers."[32] With that, Ivașcu relaxed the censorship mechanisms, but the editorial staff still followed customary rules and censored themselves.[92] Moreover, Ivașcu made it his goal to promote awareness of Romanian grammar, employing the services of linguists Alexandru Graur, Theodor Hristea, Ștefan Badea, and Alexandru Niculescu, who wrote special columns for the correction of vulgarisms.[67]

Returning to his work in literary history, Ivașcu recovered an reassessed unorthodox Marxist literary criticism. As noted by a fellow researcher in the field, Z. Ornea, Ivașcu helped "restore the truth" with his biography of Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea (published by Editura Albatros in 1972).[93] The following year, at Editura Politică, Ivașcu oversaw an edition of articles and speeches by the communist potentate Petru Groza.[94]

Although he had held a professorship, Ivașcu had not obtained his Ph.D., and was pressured into correcting that error. He eventually enlisted for the university's own doctoral program, with a paper on the early history of Romanian literature, and with Șerban Cioculescu as his doctoral advisor.[67] The work, published in 1969, and echoing Călinescu's style,[71] was saluted by the columnist at Magazin Istoric: "emerging from our epoch's burning core", the book showed that "Romanian writing has sprung up on the battlefield of independence, being conceived [...] as a wall protecting [our] national being".[95] Other academics gave the work poor reviews, in particular for its political content. Ivașcu took an "ultra-orthodox" nationalist stand on Romanian language history, downplaying the contribution of Slavs.[96] Eugen Negrici notes that Ivașcu had annexed Slavonic texts to his area of study, covering up the paucity of literary sources, and had taken for granted protochronistic claims about "baroque literature" in Romania.[97] The result, Negrici concludes, is "pitiful", the probable result of a "political command".[98]

As Niculescu notes, Ivașcu found his degree "utterly useless", being "a man of the fleeting everyday facts, of generic notes, and certainly not one to spend time documenting himself at any length."[67] Several of his colleagues expressed concerns that Ivașcu had had his thesis ghostwritten.[70][71] Despite such controversy, Ivașcu joined a staff of writers who put out an official edition of Romanian literary history at Editura Academiei. Negrici describes the collective volume, published in 1970, as an "antiquated or, at the very least, inopportune" mixture of aestheticism and socialist realism, which unwittingly showed the limits of Ceaușescu's liberalization.[99]

Final years and legacy[edit]

Living a withdrawn life from 1976, Ivașcu was described by Niculescu as a figure of the "Western left", whose personality encompassed a love for "the literary tradition" and public displays of Francophilia. A "sui generis independent",[67] he maintained close friendships with a few like-minded literary figures who had peaked in the interwar age. Among them were Zaharia Stancu[32] and F. Brunea-Fox.[100] In public, Ivașcu was showing himself a devotee of the Ceaușescu regime—as Manolescu puts it, "he feared Ceaușescu".[32] He traveled freely to the West, but, as reported by exile author Sanda Stolojan, spoke admiringly of Ceaușescu's anti-Sovietism, and claimed that the anticommunist Radio Free Europe interested nobody but Romania's "old age pensioners". Stolojan wrote: "I found his cowardice fascinating. He no longer believes in anything, at his very core he just plays the regime's card."[101]

Ivașcu and Florica Georgescu-Condurachi had one daughter, Voichița. Georgescu-Condurachi fled to Paris in 1978, followed by their daughter in 1981. Subsequently, Ivașcu wrote to Ceaușescu, addressing him as "beloved conducător", in order to "disavow" his daughter's deed. According to Dinescu and historian Stelian Tănase, the letter was probably a formality, meant to ensure retention of his privileges, such as his position at România Literară.[13] Niculescu also notes that he continued to be tortured by a parental "arduous love".[67] Visiting Paris in 1984, Ivașcu met secretly with his wife and daughter, with help from the Lebanese Embassy.[67]

By then, the România Literară group had been subject to a clampdown and the full reintroduction of censorship; Lumea was also made to resume the party line.[75] At around that time, writer Corneliu Vadim Tudor reported to the Securitate, accusing Ivașcu himself of "ideological subversion".[102] Other officials took his side. Macovescu, his friend at the UZP, addressed him a letter intended for publication on his 70th birthday. He noted there that Ivașcu had been made to endure "terrifying torments" by "those who believed that the new world [of communism] was their own profitable business."[103]

Late in life, Ivașcu was tasked by the regime with editing the work of philosophers Gabriel Liiceanu and Andrei Pleșu, both of them disciples of Constantin Noica, the former political prisoner. Ivașcu's work implied participating in censorship: his cuts in Pleșu's text were preserved by Liiceanu as illustrations of a "pathology of culture" under communism. Ivașcu had cut out all visible hint that Noica had spent time in prison.[104]

Ivașcu died in Bucharest on June 21, 1988,[5] one and a half years before the anti-communist Revolution. In an obituary piece written by Coroiu, Ivașcu is referred to as "the greatest Romanian journalist of the postwar era." By July 2006, on Ivașcu's 95th anniversary, Coroiu noted that "there is yet no reason why I should revise that claim".[8] Already in July 1988, Ivașcu's colleagues at România Literară were taking steps toward political independence. A Securitate note on the period reported that Manolescu and Iorgulescu, together with Ion Bogdan Lefter and other writers, were seeking to commit the magazine to pure aestheticism and "reduce the political content", "as the late director would have wanted it".[105]

Returning to Romania some years after these events, Voichița Ivașcu donated much of her father's belongings to the Pârvan Centennial Museum of Bârlad.[5] The Revolution also allowed Ivașcu's work to be critically reassessed. Zilber's posthumous memoirs of life in prison were ultimately published in 1991. As acknowledged by editor G. Brătescu, some of the passages relating to Ivașcu had to be cut out from the printed version, in order to avert bitter controversies.[106] In his 2008 book of memoirs, România Literară columnist Gabriel Dimisianu made a conscious effort to restore Ivașcu's good standing in cultural memory. As Dimisianu argues, "only saints can be said to have done only good things".[107]


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