Lucian Boz (Romanian pronunciation: [lut͡ʃiˈan ˈboz]; November 9, 1908 – March 14, 2003) was a Romanian literary critic, essayist, novelist, poet and translator. Raised in Bucharest, he had a lawyer's training but never practiced, instead opting for a career in journalism and literary criticism. An active participant in the 1930s cultural scene, he theorized an empathetic and "enthusiastic" approach to literature, which was in tune with the avant-garde tendencies of his lifetime. After a stint editing the review Ulise in 1932–1933, he became a contributor to more major newspapers, including Adevărul, Cuvântul Liber, and Vremea.
Boz's Romanian career was cut short with the advent of a censorious authoritarian government in 1937. Moving to Paris, he settled into journalistic work there but was displaced by the German occupation, which saw him first join the French Resistance and then be interned at Drancy, where he was one of very few Jews to escape alive. Resuming his reporter's activity, and contributing to Le Monde, he divided his time between France and Romania from 1944 to 1947, but never returned to his native country after a Communist regime was established.
After a few more years in France, Boz left for Australia in 1951. There, he was eventually hired by Air France to head its local office, and Boz's literary activity abated until his retirement in 1974. Afterwards, he republished some of his old work in photocopy and contributed to Romanian cultural activities in his adopted country. Never a declared opponent of the regime, his work was nonetheless unwelcome in Communist Romania, and had to wait until after the 1989 Revolution to regain critical favor. During the 1990s and until soon before his death, Boz contributed material to a Romanian magazine. In 2000, a short novel of his dealing with the war years saw publication.
Early life and careerEdit
A native of in Hârlău, Iași County, Boz was born to Jewish parents Mendel, later wounded and decorated in World War I, and Clara (née Sapina). The family moved to the national capital Bucharest in 1909, where Lucian attended Gheorghe Lazăr High School. He then enrolled in the Law faculty of the University of Bucharest, where his professors included Istrate Micescu, Constantin C. Stoicescu and Vintilă Dongoroz. He graduated in 1934 but never practiced, instead entering a career in the press and in literary criticism.
Boz's first published work, a biographical sketch of Walt Whitman, appeared in Premiera magazine in 1927. A member of the Eugen Lovinescu-led Sburătorul literary society, he contributed to Facla, Isac Ludo's Adam, Adevărul Literar și Artistic, Tiparnița Literară, Capricorn, Mișcarea, unu (where he used the pseudonym Vasile Cernat), Contimporanul (where he was editorial secretary in 1930-1931), Discobolul, and Viața Românească. He began frequenting literary cafes, befriending, among others, Eugène Ionesco, Alexandru Sahia, and Ionathan X. Uranus.
Boz was a noted promoter of literary modernism, and, according to scholar Paul Cernat, "the only enthusiastic supporter of the homegrown avant-garde". In Contimporanul, he introduced Romanians to the work of James Joyce. It is seen by Cernat as his "most important" piece of commentary, even though (as noted by Arleen Ionescu) his reading of Ulysses contains "errors of interpretation" which "today [...] appear hilarious." In March 1930, in Facla, he published the only interview ever granted by Constantin Brâncuși, then on a visit to Bucharest. The same newspaper carried his posthumous homage to the avant-garde hero Urmuz (whom he described as a "reformer of Romanian poetry" and as a local equivalent of Rimbaud) and his praise of modernists such as Jacques G. Costin. At Zodiac, a literary sheet put out by I. Peltz, Boz wrote similar reviews of literary works by Ion Vinea and Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu. In 1931, Adevărul daily hosted his homage to Tristan Tzara.
Alongside Em. Ungher, Boz edited his own publication, the avant-garde magazine Ulise, which appeared in four numbers in 1932–1933. Largely a continuation of Contimporanul, it grouped around it an eclectic circle, comprising Ionesco, Uranus, alongside Arșavir Acterian, Dan Botta, Emil Botta, Marcel Bresliska, Barbu Brezianu, Petru Comarnescu, Virgil Gheorghiu, Anton Holban, Eugen Jebeleanu, Alexandru Robot, Horia Stamatu, Simion Stolnicu, Octav Șuluțiu, and writer-cartoonist Neagu Rădulescu. In 1933, Boz became editor at Adevărul and Dimineața, as well as at the weekly Cuvântul Liber. His 1932 essay on Mihai Eminescu (Eminescu. Încercare critică), originally printed in Capricorn, drew lavish praise from George Călinescu. Other contemporary critics who appreciated his work included Lovinescu, Ionesco, Perpessicius, Pompiliu Constantinescu, and Ion Biberi.
Before 1935, Boz was a columnist at Vremea, where he covered the modern literature of France. He followed up on his writing with Cartea cu poeți ("The Book of Poets"), published in 1935. Displaying "extreme eclecticism", it included essays about 31 contemporary Romanian poets, nearly all of whom entered the literary canon. The preface outlined Boz's credo: a rejection of critical impressionism, and an empathetic, anti-intellectual, "enthusiastically visionary", reception of the literary work up for review. His essays often focused on finding international connections for Romanian particulars, for instance tracing links between Vinea and Frank Wedekind; Tudor Arghezi, Urmuz, and Ramón Gómez de la Serna or François Villon; Geo Bogza and the Marquis de Sade.
In later decades, Boz was reviewed with reserve. In 1941, revising his early stance, Călinescu suggested that Boz's "visionary enthusiasm" was "an aberration", since it impaired the selection of values. He found Boz to be an "intelligent" writer, but one of "unthinking generosity". However, he also described Ulise as the more mature of Romania's avant-garde papers. Sergiu Ailenei also notes that Boz's attempt to describe Eminescu by means of national psychology was "far-fetched". Cernat takes the middle ground, describing Boz as "second-rate", "prolix" and "rather invertebrate", but "sometimes surprisingly intuitive". His opposition to mainstream literary theory, Cernat notes, is suited to the avant-garde requirements, surpassing Călinescu's own limits. Boz, he concludes, "is worth rereading."
In wartime FranceEdit
Boz opposed the rise of fascism, and, in a 1937 interview with Azi, spoke out against its attempts to threaten and silence Jewish authors. After Dimineața and Adevărul were suppressed by the National Christian government in December 1937, he left for Paris. There, he took courses at the École pratique des hautes études. He took part in public conferences and attended lectures by Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Péri and Dolores Ibárruri, also joining PEN International. He met Benjamin Fondane and Ilarie Voronca. In 1939, he was accredited as the Paris correspondent of Tudor Teodorescu-Braniște's Jurnalul, and still contributed to Adevărul Literar și Artistic, which sought to protect and recover Jewish Romanian intellectuals. He also sent diplomatic reports for United Press. In order to make ends meet, he worked for French newspapers as well, including Le Petit Parisien, Excelsior and Dimanche Illustrée.
Boz was unable to complete his studies, due to the outbreak of World War II and subsequent German occupation. He joined the French Resistance. In 1943, the Gestapo arrested him and his wife Carola, sending them to the Drancy internment camp. While there, the only one of their friends from hunger-stricken Paris who brought them food was Emil Cioran, the Romanian philosopher. Of several thousand Romanian Jews who passed through on their way to the Nazi extermination camps, a dozen were saved by the intervention of the Romanian legation, including Boz and his wife. Once released, he and Carola went into Vichy France, where she was arrested and threatened with a return to Drancy. She was freed upon the insistent intervention of Cioran, who accompanied the couple to the border and ensured they had left France safely.
At the end of 1944, following the King Michael Coup, Boz returned to Romania, where he co-founded the French-language daily L'Information Internationale. He was a columnist at Democrația, the independent left-wing weekly, and had poetry published in the Communist Youth journal, Scînteia Tineretului, while also working as an editor at Finanțe și Industrie daily and a correspondent of the Romanian Press Information Agency (ARIP).
In 1945, he published a book on wartime France, Franța, 1938—1944, described at the time by Petru Comarnescu as one of "the books that so richly provide us with full awareness about the civilizations that will shape tomorrow's world." It is equal parts memoir, historical account, and a reportage with colorful detail. The first part deals with the Paris of 1938-1940, up through the Battle of France and the beginnings of the Resistance. In the second part, which begins with Operation Torch, he describes his arrest, with a chapter on his wife's detainment written by her. He supplies descriptions of French people on both sides of the conflict and ends with the Liberation of 1944. It earned praise from the literary chronicler at Revista Fundațiilor Regale, who noted its "adherence to the French spirit" and its "vivid and suggestive" depictions of "Maquis figures". Boz also translated Jean Bruller's Le Silence de la mer, in his introduction discussing the choice between resistance and collaboration faced by wartime French writers.
In March 1946, he returned to Paris as a correspondent for the revived Adevărul, and for the dailies Finanțe și Industrie and L'Information Internationale, which would become an English-language weekly. At the same time, he occasionally wrote pieces for Le Monde and sent reports to Scandinavian papers. In 1947, Le Monde sent him on assignment to the famine-stricken areas of Romania; this would be his last visit to his native country. Because the Romanian newspapers who employed him disappeared with the advent of the Communist regime and his work for French newspapers and radio was only sporadic, he took a job at a Paris business.
Australian experience and legacyEdit
At the end of 1950 he decided to emigrate. Avoiding Soviet-occupied Romania, he briefly stayed in Genoa before arriving in Australia in February 1951, after a 35-day journey. First stopping in Canberra, he took on blue-collar jobs to support himself. He began as a factory welder, having taken a course on arc welding in France, but changed jobs after suffering an accident. Boz then moved to Sydney, where he opened a public relations firm with no employees. His only assistant was his wife, a former journalist for Dimineața and herself a devotee of literature and culture.
Thanks to his fluency in French and English, he was hired by Air France as the head of its Australian office, while his wife found work at the French embassy in Canberra. During his time in this position, he published hundreds of articles about France's aviation and aerospace industry in Australian newspapers and magazines. He was a member of the Australian Journalists Association, and the newspapers that featured his work included The Daily Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. In 1958, he was made a knight of the Ordre du Mérite Commercial, while in 1979, he was conferred a knighthood in the National Order of Merit.
Because his commercial work kept him very busy, Boz had little time for cultural pursuits and could only read evenings and Sundays. However, after retiring in 1974, he resumed his engagement with literature, still displaying attachment toward his native land, organizing Australian conferences about Romanian culture, and publishing articles about writers such as Emil Cioran. His frequent reviews of novels published during the interwar appeared as a book he edited himself in 1981, Anii literari '30. He sent letters to his Romanian friends, both inside the country and in the anticommunist diaspora. Among the cultural figures with whom he carried on a correspondence were Cioran, Ionesco, Constantin Noica, Ștefan Baciu, Anton Dumitriu, Mircea Eliade, and Nicolae Steinhardt. Noica at one point marveled at how good Boz's Romanian still was.
Although he never criticized the communist regime, and even privately only did so in 1992, in a letter to Arșavir Acterian (calling the Danube–Black Sea Canal "an ill-fated undertaking of the demented Ceaușescu"), publication of his work was blocked by the authorities, who considered him a political émigré. Franța, 1938—1944 was kept in a secret archive by Romania's censorship apparatus. In the 1980s, Boz made photocopies of some of his interwar work, sending them to friends and acquaintances. Asked by Ionel Jianu to supply details about Romanian artists living in Australia, Boz submitted information about four of them, all of whom appeared in Jianu's subsequent 1986 volume, Les artistes roumains en Occident. Emil Boldan and Constantin Crișan attempted to edit a volume of his essays, but the project came to nought. Nevertheless, several censored or self-censored articles about him did appear in the press, for instance a 1981 piece in Orizont by his friend Steinhardt, who knew the facts of the situation, that implied Boz left Romania for good in 1937.
Following the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Boz worked with Jurnalul Literar between 1994 and 2002, publishing letters, memories and biographical sketches. He did similar work with Iosif Vulcan, the Romanian expatriate review in Cringila. In private correspondence, he was particularly indignant about Lucian Pintilie's film The Oak, lamenting its presentation of Romania as "a kind of barbarian, brutal, violent state". In 2000, he published a short roman à clef, Piatra de încercare ("The Testing Bench"), which featured a fictionalized portrayal of himself as the protagonist, with appearances also made by his wife and their son Alan, Cioran and Eliade. The plot unfolds in wartime France, with the title referring to the French civilian population and its response to occupation.
Boz died in Sydney in 2003. He had by then came to be included in literary reference volumes, and his work was analyzed by, among others, Nicolae Tzone, Nicolae Florescu, Florin Manolescu, Andrei and Barbu Brezianu and Constantin Crișan. His essays on Eminescu were republished by Constantin Cubleșan in the 2001 volume Eminescu în oglinzile criticii ("Eminescu's Critical Mirrors"). Samples of Boz's other work, reviewed by Tzone, saw print in Aldebaran review, and his correspondence was issued as a volume at Editura Dacia.
- (in Romanian) Ilie Rad, "Recuperarea unui scriitor: Lucian Boz", in România Literară, Nr. 34/2009
- Neagu Rădulescu, Turnul Babel. Cugetarea-Georgescu Delafras, Bucharest, 1944, pp. 45–46
- Cernat, p. 293
- Cernat, p. 330
- Arleen Ionescu, "Inter-war Romania: Misinterpreting Joyce and Beyond", in Geert Lernout, Wim Van Mierlo (eds.), The Reception of James Joyce in Europe, Vol. I. Continuum International Publishing Group, London & New York, 2004, ISBN 0-8264-5825-4, p. 215
- Cernat, pp. 330–331, 347
- I. Peltz, Amintiri din viața literară. Cartea Românească, Bucharest, 1974, OCLC 15994515, pp. 179, 189, 190
- Cernat, p. 331
- Cernat, pp. 330, 333
- Cernat, pp. 333–334
- Ecaterina Cleynen-Serghiev, "La critique littéraire roumaine et la France durant l'entre-deux-guerres (I)", in Revue des Études Sud-est Européenes, Nr. 3–4/1993, p. 391
- Cernat, p. 334
- Cernat, pp. 332–333, 336–337
- Cernat, pp. 334–336, 348
- Călinescu, p. 915; Cernat, p. 333
- Călinescu, p. 967; Cernat, p. 333
- (in Romanian) Sergiu Ailenei, "Eminescu în ultimii ani", in Convorbiri Literare, June 2002
- Cernat, pp. 331, 339
- Cernat, pp. 336–337
- Boia, p. 82
- Boia, p. 143
- "Revista Revistelor. Revista Democrația", in Revista Fundațiilor Regale, Nr. 11/1944, pp. 452–453
- "Revista Revistelor. 1 Mai 1945", in Revista Fundațiilor Regale, Nr. 5/1945, p. 458
- Petru Comarnescu, "Note. Cărți pentru cunoașterea țărilor prietene", in Revista Fundațiilor Regale, Nr. 4/1945, p. 237
- Florian Nicolau, "Note. Franța, 1938—1944", in Revista Fundațiilor Regale, Nr. 6/1945, pp. 714–715
- Florian Nicolau, "Note. Tăcerea mării", in Revista Fundațiilor Regale, Nr. 4/1945, pp. 231–232
- (in Romanian) Ilie Rad, "Revista Iosif Vulcan din Australia", in Apostrof, Nr. 1/2010
- Cernat, p. 332
- Lucian Boia, Capcanele istoriei. Elita intelectuală românească între 1930 și 1950. Bucharest: Humanitas, 2012. ISBN 978-973-50-3533-4
- George Călinescu, Istoria literaturii române de la origini pînă în prezent. Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1986.
- Paul Cernat, Avangarda românească și complexul periferiei: primul val. Bucharest: Cartea Românească, 2007. ISBN 978-973-23-1911-6