The Forbidden Forest
First edition cover
|Original title||Forêt interdite|
|Translator||Mac Linscott Ricketts
Mary Park Stevenson
|22 September 1955|
Published in English
The Forbidden Forest (Romanian: Noaptea de Sânziene; French: Forêt interdite) is a 1955 novel by the Romanian writer Mircea Eliade. The story takes place between 1936 and 1948 in Bucharest and several other European cities, and follows a Romanian man who is on a spiritual quest while being torn between two women. The book was written between the years 1949 and 1954. It contains several elements and themes which also appear in the author's scholarly work, such as initiation rites and the division between sacred and profane time.
Stefan Viziru lives in Bucharest and works for the Romanian state. He lives with his wife Ioana and also has a mistress, Ileana, whom he met at a Midsummer celebration. Stefan is torn between his affection for both women and is at the same time on a spiritual quest. He wishes to discover a sacred time which stands independently from the historical time and the destructive developments in contemporary Europe. Stefan befriends several people who influence him. A philosophy teacher argues that Stefan is searching for the paradise of his childhood. When Stefan tries to provide refuge for a member of the Iron Guard, he is put in a prison camp and temporarily loses his job. Ileana becomes engaged to an officer who dies in a car accident, after which she leaves Bucharest.
Stefan's wife Ioana and their son die in the bombings of Bucharest in 1944. Stefan realises that he loves Ileana and sets out to find her. He travels around Europe and goes through a lot of searching. Eventually he finds her, on Midsummer's eve of 1948 in the same forest where they originally met. As they leave the forest together they are killed in a car accident.
The novel was first published by Éditions Gallimard in 1955 in a French translation by Alain Guillermou. The original Romanian version was published in 1971. An English translation by Mac Linscott Ricketts and Mary Park Stevenson was published in 1978 through University of Notre Dame Press.
Eliade himself considered The Forbidden Forest to be his best work. It received little response from the academic world upon the initial publication, although the Swedish professor Stig Wikander wrote a positive review for Sydsvenska Dagbladet Snällposten. The novel received the Fantastic and Fantasy Award for best novel at Eurocon 1978 in Brussel.
Chronicles of Culture reviewed the book in 1980:
Both fiction and epic, The Forbidden Forest is an exceptional book about war and peace. Not unlike the Russian masterpiece bearing that title, Eliade's novel transcends the particulars of its subject matter—in this case, Romania at the outset of the Second World War—to explore the agonies of man's condition, his inevitable recourse to violence as he fails to understand others and, above all, himself.
- Ellis, Gehrett (2008). "Forbidden Forest, The (Forêt interdite)". In Sollars, Michael; Llamas Jennings, Arbolina. The Facts on File Companion to the World Novel: 1900 to the Present. New York City: Infobase Publishing. pp. 273–274. ISBN 9781438108360.
- "The forbidden forest". WorldCat. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- Timuş, Mihaela (2002). "Enigmaticul Stig Oscar Wikander". România literară (in Romanian) (22). ISSN 1220-6318. Archived from the original on 26 December 2014.
- "ESFS Awards: 1972 – 1979". esfs.info. European Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 2015-09-23.
- JGP (March 1980). "Defying History". Chronicles of Culture. Rockford Institute. pp. 31–32. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
- Wikander, Stig (1956-01-05). "En rumänsk emigrantroman". Sydsvenska Dagbladet Snällposten (in Swedish).
- Călinescu, Matei (1979). "Between History and Paradise: Initiation Trials". The Journal of Religion. University of Chicago Press. 59 (2): 218–223. doi:10.1086/486687. ISSN 0022-4189.