Romanian literature

(Redirected from Literature of Romania)

Romanian literature (Romanian: Literatura română) is the entirety of literature written by Romanian authors, although the term may also be used to refer to all literature written in the Romanian language or by any authors native to Romania.

Old Romanian Literature


The development of Romanian literature has taken place in parallel with that of the rich Romanian folklore - lyric, epic, dramatic and didactic - which continues in modern times.[1] Romanian oral literature includes doine (lyric songs), balade (ballads), hore (dance songs), colinde (carols), basme (fairy tales), snoave (anecdotes), vorbe (proverbs), and ghicitori (riddles). The folk pastoral ballad Miorița is one of the best known examples of Romanian folk literature.

Medieval Slavonic Literature


The Script of Old Church Slavonic began to be used in the territories of current day Romania as early as the 10th Century, with the oldest surviving manuscripts being dated as far back as the 12th Century. The earliest dated texts in Slavonic, originally from Wallachia and Moldavia, consist of a series of Religious Songs by Nicodim & Filotei and a Hagiographical text by Grigore Țamblâc, all being dated between 1385 and 1391. Also by the 15th century many copies of medieval Slavonic texts have been created by the scribes of the Danubian Principalities.[2]

Icon of Neagoe Basarab and his son Teodosie

In the meantime, numerous Slavonic and Greek translations of popular medieval romances were in circulation across the Danubian Principalities, like the Alexander Romance and Barlaam and Josaphat.[3]

Particularly of note is The Teachings of Neagoe Basarab to his son Theodosie: a series of teachings on morality and politics, written between 1519 and 1521, by the Wallachian Lord Neagoe Basarab,[4] a work written in the spirit of the Renaissance[5] and considered one of the oldest great works of Southeastern European literature.[6]

Beginning of Writing and Publishing in Romanian


The earliest surviving document in Romanian is Neacșu's Letter written in 1521, to the jude ("judge and mayor") of Brașov, Hans Benkner.[7]

Neacșu's letter

The earliest books in Romanian were translated from Slavonic religious texts in the 15th century. The "Psalter of Șchei" (Psaltirea Șcheiană) of 1482 and the "Voroneț Codex" (Codicele Voronețean) are religious texts that were written in Maramureș.[8]

The first book printed in the Danubian Principalities was a Slavonic religious book, printed in 1508 at Dealu Monastery.[9] The first book printed in the Romanian language was a Protestant catechism of Deacon Coresi in 1559,[10] printed by Filip Moldoveanul.[11] Other translations from Greek and Slavonic books were printed later in the 16th century.[10] Dosoftei, a Moldavian Bishop, in 1673, published the first Romanian metrical psalter, the earliest collection of poems written in Romanian.[12][13]

Stamp with the Romanian Literature Museum in Chișinău

Early efforts to publish the Bible in Romanian started with the 1582 printing in the small town of Orăștie of the so-called Palia de la Orăștie – a translation of the first books of the Old Testament – by Deacon Șerban (a son of the above-mentioned Deacon Coresi) and Marien Diacul (Marien the Scribe). Palia was translated from Latin by Bishop Mihail Tordaș et al., the translation being checked for accuracy using Hungarian translations of the Bible.

The entire Bible was not published in Romanian until the end of the 17th century, when the Metropolitanate's Press of Bucharest printed Biblia de la București ("The Bucharest Bible") in 1688,[14] compiled by the Greceanu Brothers.[15]

In Transylvania, there was also an attestation of the explicit use of a Latin model, with the appearance of the first Romanian dictionary, Dictionarium Valachico-Latinum (Caransebeș, about 1650), while the first grammar of the Romanian language written in Latin was Institutiones linguae Valachicae (Crișana, circa 1770).[16]


Dimitrie Cantemir

The first appearances of humanism in Moldavia and Wallachia were in the 16th century with the likes of Luca Stroici and Petru Cercel, but it took another century for these ideas to fully flourish. This delay can be attributed to the continuation of Byzantine culture in the Danubian Principalities, or to the different social classes compared to Western Europe.[17]

Original Manuscript of Hieroglyphic History by Dimitrie Cantemir

During the 17th century via Poland and its Jesuit schools, having as representatives the likes of Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, and Ion Neculce with their chronicles on the history of Moldavia.[18] Following the example of Petro Movilă's Kyiv Colegium, the Lords Matei Basarab and Vasile Lupu established Neoclassical schools such as the Schola Graeca et Latina and the Iași Colegiu.[19]

The most significant Romanian humanist was Dimitrie Cantemir, who wrote histories of Wallachia, Moldavia and the Ottoman Empire, and philosophical and religious treaties such as The Divan [ro], The Indescribable Image of Sacred Science, and The Little Compendium of Logic.[20][21] He also wrote the Roman à clef A Hieroglyphic History in 1705.[22]



In 18th century Transylvania, throughout the Blaj Schools of Inocențiu Micu-Klein, a Latinist and Enlightenment movement, the Școala Ardeleană emerged, producing philological studies of the Romantic origin of the Romanian language.[23] Among the many works on Romanian history and the Romanian language by Samuil Micu-Klein, Gheorghe Șincai and Petru Maior,[24] the "Heroic-comic-satiric Poem" Țiganiada by Ion Budai-Deleanu, can also be found, promoting democratic and enlightenment ideals.[25]

In Wallachia and Moldavia, the Enlightenment can be seen in the Poems and Prose of Iancu Văcărescu,[26] Costache Conachi,[27] and Dinicu Golescu.[28]

National awakening


In 1829, in Wallachia, Ion Heliade Rădulescu founded the first Romanian-language Newspaper, Curierul Românesc,[29] and cofounded the Philharmonic Society which later created the National Theatre of Bucharest.[30] Albina Românească, a similar publication to Curierul Românesc was started contemporaneously by Gheorghe Asachi in Moldavia.[31]


Vasile Alecsandri
Constantin Negruzzi

In the 1800s, the revolutionary ideas of nationalism spreading in Europe were also circulating among Romanians who desired national independence from the Ottoman Empire. These nationalistic attitudes led to the revolutions of 1821 and 1848.[32] These ideas were mainly propagated by Mihail Kogălniceanu's publication, Dacia Literară, which was adapting French Romanticism to Romanian writing with the purpose of creating an original national literature.[33]

Theodor Aman illustration of Alexandru Lăpușneanul

The works of these writers, later dubbed Pașoptists (after the Revolution of 1848), have been shown not only to contain Romantic but also Neoclassical and Realist traits.[33] Vasile Alecsandri was a prolific writer, contributing to Romanian literature with poetry, prose, the Chirița plays (1850–1875), historical dramas such as Despot Vodă (1879), and collections of Romanian folklore.[34] Also, taking inspiration from history, Constantin Negruzzi wrote the novella Alexandru Lăpușneanul (1840).[35] Other Pașoptist writers include Vasile Cârlova, Grigore Alexandrescu, Anton Pann, and Alecu Donici.[33]


First Page of Convorbiri Literare 1st of May 1885
George Coșbuc

The literary circle Junimea, founded in Iași in 1863 by Titu Maiorescu, Petre P. Carp, Vasile Pogor, Theodor Rosetti and Iacob Negruzzi began publishing the magazine Convorbiri Literare in1867, which eventually became the most important Romanian language literary publication in the 2nd half of the 19th century and 1st half of the 20th century.[36] Through his links with Junimea, literary critic Titu Maiorescu set the direction of synchronizing Romanian literature both with other European literary movements and with Romanian folklore.[37][38]

Many outstanding Romanian writers, including George Coșbuc[39] and Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea, published their works in Convorbiri Literare.[39][40]

Other notable authors of this era are Nicolae Bălcescu, Dimitrie Bolintineanu, Alecu Russo, Nicolae Filimon, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, Alexandru Odobescu, Grigore Alexandrescu and Petre Ispirescu.

The beginnings of the Romanian novel


The first Romanian novel is considered to be Manoil (published in 1855) by Dimitrie Bolintineanu (if one excludes from the definition of novel the allegorical literary work Istoria ieroglifică by Dimitrie Cantemir, which was written between 1703 - 1705).[41] Bolintineanu also published the novel Elena (1862).[42] However these two novels are largely forgotten, although they are considered relevant from the point of view of describing Romanian society in the mid-19th century.[43] Nicolae Filimon is considered the father of the Romanian novel,[44] having written the influential novel Ciocoii vechi și noi (1863).

The Great Classics

Mihai Eminescu
Ion Luca Caragiale
Ion Creangă
Ioan Slavici

Among the many writers of Junimea, four are considered to be the Great Classics of Romanian Literature: the poet Mihai Eminescu, the satirist Ion Luca Caragiale, Ioan Slavici, and Ion Creangă.[45][46]

Mihai Eminescu is considered by many critics to be the most important and influential Romanian poet.[47] His lyrical poetry has its roots in Romanian folklore intertwined with Kantian[48] and Schopenhauer's philosophy[49] and Buddhist cosmology.[50] Among his greatest poems are the romantic poems Floare Albastră (1872) and Luceafărul, as well as the series of five philosophical poems called Letters (1881–1890).[51][52]

Ioan Slavici is one of the best known Romanian novella writers.[53] His works can be categorized as Realist[54] Bildungsromans. They are mainly set in Transylvania and have Moralistic psychological undertones.[55] His most famous works are the novellas Moara cu noroc and Popa Tanda, and the novel Mara.[55][56]

Ion Luca Caragiale, wrote some of the best Romanian comedies, sketches and farces.[57] Among his best known plays are O Noapte Furtunoasă (1879), O Scrisoare Pierdută (1884), and D-ale Carnavalului (1885).[58]

Ion Creangă wrote personalized retellings of folkloric tales,[59] of which some of the best known are Povestea lui Harap Alb (1877), Păcală (1880), and Făt-Frumos fiul Iepei (1877).[60] Of further note are his autobiographical memoirs from Amintiri din copilarie.[61][60]

Sămănătorism and Poporanism

Duiliu Zamfirescu

From 1901 to 1910, through the activity of the publication Sămănătorul, founded by George Coșbuc and Alexandru Vlahuță, and later under the editorial watch of historian Nicolae Iorga, a new literary movement formed.[62][63] A movement concentrated on preserving traditional values and idealising rural life,[64] a continuation Eminescu's Romanticism.[63][64]

Among Sămănătorul's authors were George Coșbuc a poet, translator, teacher, and journalist, best known for his verses describing, praising and eulogizing rural life,[39] author of Pașa Hasan, Nunta Zamfirei and Moartea lui Fulger;[63] but also Alexandru Vlahuță, Octavian Goga, Duiliu Zamfirescu, Ștefan O. Iosif, Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea, Ion Agârbiceanu and Alexandru Macedonski.[63] Although Goga and Agârbiceanu have become later associated with Poporanism and the publication, Viața Românească.[65]

Interbellum literature


After achieving national unity in 1918, Romanian literature entered what can be called a golden age, characterized by two opposite literary movements, Traditionalism and Modernism, and by the development of the Romanian novel.[66][67][68] The interwar period of Romanian literature was a very rich and creative time, with numerous literary works being published during that period, adressing a variety of themes, including historical novels, novels depicting rural life, war, romantic love, social class and existential themes .[69][70]

Liviu Rebreanu
Lucian Blaga

Traditional society and recent political events influenced works such as Liviu Rebreanu's Răscoala ("The Uprising", 1932), which was inspired by the 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt, and Pădurea Spânzuraților ("Forest of the Hanged"), published in 1922 and inspired by Romanian participation in World War I. Rebreanu's novel Ion, published in 1920, presents the life of peasants and intellectuals in early twentieth century Transylvania, and is said to be the most read Romanian novel.[71] The dawn of the modern novel can be seen in Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu's Concert din muzică de Bach ("A Bach Concert"), Camil Petrescu's Ultima noapte de dragoste, întâia noapte de război ("The Last Night of Love, the First Night of War") and Mateiu Caragiale’s Craii de Curtea-Veche (“The Rakes of Old Court”). George Călinescu is another complex personality of Romanian literature: novelist, playwright, poet, literary critic and historian, essayist, journalist. He published authoritative monographs about Eminescu and Creangă, and a monumental (almost 1,000 pages in quarto) history of Romanian literature from its origin to the time of his writing (1941). He is also the author of the novel Enigma Otliei ("The Enigma of Otilia").

Mihail Sadoveanu

An important realist writer was Mihail Sadoveanu, who wrote mainly novels which took place at various times in the history of Moldova. But probably the most important writers were Tudor Arghezi, Lucian Blaga, and Mircea Eliade. Arghezi revolutionized Romanian poetry 50 years after Eminescu, creating new pillars for the modern Romanian poem. Blaga, one of the country's most important artistic personalities, developed through his writings a complex system of philosophy, still not perfectly understood today. Eliade is today considered the greatest historian in the field of religions. His novels reveal a mystical, pre-Christian symbolism paving the way for contemporary Romanian art.

Tudor Arghezi

Born in Romania, Tristan Tzara, a poet and essayist, is the main founder of Dada, a nihilistic revolutionary movement in the arts, and may have been responsible for its name (Romanian for "Yes yes"). Later he abandoned nihilism for Surrealism and Marxism. For the first time in its history, Romanian culture was fully connected to Western culture, while Dadaism is the first Romanian artistic and literary movement to become international. Dadaism and Surrealism are fundamental parts of the avant-garde, the most revolutionary form of modernism. The Romanian avant garde is very well represented by Ion Minulescu, Gherasim Luca, Urmuz, Perpessicius, Tristan Tzara, Grigore Cugler, Geo Bogza, Barbu Fundoianu, Gellu Naum, Ilarie Voronca, and Ion Vinea. Max Blecher was a novelist whose life was cut short by health problems.

George Bacovia

George Bacovia was a symbolist poet. While he initially belonged to the local Symbolist movement, his poetry came to be seen as a precursor of Romanian Modernism. Some important literary figures of this period were also active in other domains. Vasile Voiculescu was a Romanian poet, short-story writer, playwright, and physician. Ion Barbu was a poet, as well as an important mathematician.

Cezar Petrescu was a journalist, novelist, and children's writer. He is especially remembered for his children's book Fram, ursul polar ("Fram, the polar bear"; the circus animal character was named after Fram, the ship used by Fridtjof Nansen on his expeditions). Elena Farago was also a children's writer and poet.

Ion Agârbiceanu was a writer, as well as a politician, theologian and Greek-Catholic priest. Gala Galaction was another writer, who was also an Eastern Orthodox clergyman and theologian.

Other literary figures of this era include Mihail Sebastian, Ionel Teodoreanu, Panait Istrati, Gib Mihăescu, Anton Holban, Otilia Cazimir, Ion Pillat and George Topîrceanu.

Postbellum Literature

Marin Preda

Marin Preda is an important post-World War II Romanian novelist. His novel, Moromeții ("The Moromete Family"), describes the life and difficulties of an ordinary peasant family in pre-war Romania, and later during the advent of Communism in Romania. His most important book remains Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni ("The Most Beloved of Earthlings"), a cruel description of communist society. Zaharia Stancu published his first important novel, Desculț (Barefoot), in 1948. Both Preda and Stancu depicted rural life in Southern Romania (both writers were born in Teleorman County).

Some of the most important poets are Nichita Stănescu, Marin Sorescu, Ana Blandiana, Leonid Dimov, and Ștefan Augustin Doinaș.[72] An important novelist of this era was Radu Tudoran. Mircea Nedelciu was a short-story writer, novelist, essayist and literary critic.

Outside Romania, Eugène Ionesco and Emil Cioran represented the national spirit at the highest level. Ionesco is one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude of humans and the insignificance of one's existence. Cioran was a writer and philosopher.

Contemporary literature

Herta Müller
Claudiu Komartin
Gabriela Adameșteanu

Some Romanian contemporary writers:

Chronology: 19th century-present day


Translations of Romanian literature

  • "Testament - Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse - Bilingual Edition - English/Romanian" (Daniel Ioniță, with Eva Foster and Daniel Reynaud; Editura Minerva 2012 - ISBN 978-973-21-0847-5). This presents a comprehensive selection of Romanian poetry from 1850 to the present (post 2010) covering 56 poets and over 75 poems. It includes classics such as Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Eminescu, Ion Minulescu, George Coșbuc, Tudor Arghezi, Vasile Voiculescu, Nicolae Labiș, as well as contemporaries such as Nichita Stănescu, Ana Blandiana, Marin Sorescu, Nora Iuga, Cezar Ivănescu, Ileana Mălăncioiu, Adrian Păunescu, George Tarnea, Mircea Cărtărescu, Daniel Banulescu, Lucian Vasilescu, Adrian Munteanu, Ioan Es. Pop [ro], Liliana Ursu, Doina Uricariu, and others. The volume is prefaced by literary critic and historian Alex Ștefănescu.
  • " The Disheveled Maidens" (Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu, Romanian Cultural Institute Publishing House 2004)
  • "Something is still present and isn't, of what's gone. - A Bilingual Anthology of Avant-Garde and Avant-Garde Inspired Rumanian poetry - English/Rumanian" (Victor Pambuccian; Aracne editrice, Rome 2018 - ISBN 978-88-255-1473-5). It includes poems of Tristan Tzara, B. Fundoianu, Ilarie Voronca, Geo Bogza, Max Blecher, Gherasim Luca, Gellu Naum, Geo Dumitrescu, Paul Celan, Ion Caraion, Nora Iuga, Nichita Stănescu, George Almosnino, Constantin Abăluță, Vintilă Ivănceanu, Daniel Turcea, Mariana Marin. The volume is prefaced by literary critic and historian of the Romanian avant-garde Mădălina Lascu.

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