Felix Aderca

Felix Aderca
Felix Aderca
Froim-Zelig Aderca
Zelicu Froim Adercu
Born March 13, 1891(1891-03-13)
Died December 12, 1962(1962-12-12) (aged 71)
Pen name A. Tutova, Clifford Moore, F. Lix, Leone Palmantini, Lix, Masca de catifea, Masca de fier, N. Popov, Oliver, Oliver Willy, Omul cu mască de mătase, W., Willy
Occupation novelist, poet, dramatist, journalist, translator, literary critic, music critic, theater critic, civil servant, schoolteacher
Nationality Romanian
Period 1910-1962
Genres adventure novel, aphorism, biographical novel, children's literature, erotic literature, essay, fantasy, historical novel, lyric poetry, novella, parable, post-apocalyptic fiction, psychological novel, reportage, satire, utopian and dystopian fiction
Literary movement Symbolism, Expressionism, Sburătorul

Felix Aderca or F. Aderca (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈfeliks aˈderka]; born Froim-Zelig (Froim-Zeilic) Aderca,[1][2][3] also known as Zelicu Froim Adercu[4] or Froim Aderca; March 13, 1891 – December 12, 1962) was a Romanian novelist, playwright, poet, journalist and critic, noted as a representative of rebellious modernism in the context of Romanian literature. As a member of the Sburătorul circle and close friend of its founder Eugen Lovinescu, Aderca promoted the ideas of literary innovation, cosmopolitanism and art for art's sake, reacting against the growth of traditionalist currents. His diverse works of fiction, noted as adaptations of Expressionist techniques over conventional narratives, range from psychological and biographical novels to pioneering fantasy and science fiction writings, and also include a sizable contribution to erotic literature.

Aderca's open rejection of tradition, his socialism and pacifism, and his exploration of controversial subjects resulted in several scandals, making him a main target of attacks from the far right press of the interwar period. As a member of the Jewish-Romanian community and a vocal critic of antisemitism, the writer was persecuted by successive fascist regimes before and during World War II. He afterward resumed his activities as author and cultural promoter, but, having failed at fully adapting his style to the requirements set by the communist regime, lived his final years in obscurity.

Married to the poet and novelist Sanda Movilă, Aderca was also noted for his networking inside the interwar literary community, being the interviewer of other writers and the person behind several collective journalistic projects. Interest in the various aspects of his own literary contribution was rekindled in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.



Early life and World War I

Froim Aderca-Adercu hailed from the northwestern historical region of Moldavia, his native village being Puieşti, Tutova County (now in Vaslui County).[4] He was one of five children born to merchant Avram Adercu and his wife Debora Perlmutter,[5] his family being in the minority group of Jews to whom Romania had granted political emancipation.[6] Among his siblings were Leon and Victor, both of whom followed in their father's footsteps: the former became a shoe salesman in Milan, Italy, the latter an accountant in Israel.[7] After completing his primary education at the local school,[4] Froim spent the remainder of his childhood years in the southwestern city of Craiova and the surrounding region of Oltenia. It was there that Avram set up a new business in partnership with the State Tobacco Monopoly[7] and Froim graduated from the Carol I High School.[4][8] Around that time, the young Aderca first became interested in literature. Initially, he pondered rallying with the traditionalist writers, who later to became his ideological adversaries: the poems he sent to Sămănătorul magazine were refused, but others were published by the magazine's provincial satellite, Ramuri.[8]

Cultivating a relationship with the Craiova-based publishing house of Ralian Samitca (whose brother and business partner, Ignat Samitca, was described as Aderca's first literary sponsor),[2] Aderca published several other works in book format. In 1910, he issued the political essay Naţionalism? Libertatea de a ucide ("Nationalism? The Freedom to Kill", published under the pen name Oliver Willy)[9] and the first of his several collections of lyric poetry: Motive şi simfonii ("Motifs and Symphonies").[4] In 1912, he followed up with four separate volumes of verse: Stihuri venerice ("Poems to Venus"), Fragmente ("Fragments"), Reverii sculptate ("Sculptured Reveries") and Prin lentile negre ("Through Black Lenses").[4][10] His works were by then featured in a more eclectic venue, the Bucharest-based Noua Revistă Română.[4][11] The cycle of poems which saw print in that venue, marking his official debut as 1913, are collectively known as Panteism ("Pantheism").[4] Having also made his debut in Romanian drama with the printed version of his "theatrical paradox" Antractul ("The Intermission"),[4] Aderca left for France during the same year. He attempted to start a new life in Paris, but was unsuccessful and only one year later returned to his homeland.[4][12] During this interval, in March 1914, Noua Revistă Română published one of his early critical essays, marking the start of Aderca's flirtations with Symbolism in general and the local Symbolist circles in particular: În marginea poeziei simboliste ("On Symbolist Poetry").[6] For a while, he was tasked with the magazine's literary column, and, in this context, began a publicized polemic with the traditionalist critic (and fellow emancipated Jew) Ion Trivale.[6] Other texts he authored were published in Versuri şi Proză, a periodical issued in Iaşi city, and most often associated with the last wave of Romanian Symbolism.[13]

Having witnessed the outbreak of World War I even before Romania joined in, Aderca recorded his experience in the 1915 volume Sânge închegat... note de război ("Dried Blood... Notes from the War").[14] Much of his press activity comprised pacifist and socialist opinion pieces, in which he condemned in equal terms the Entente countries and Central Powers.[15] For a while, he displayed a Germanophile bias, arguing that the Central Powers were the more progressive of two sides and even contributing, in 1915, to the Germanophile tribune Seara.[16] Aderca was however among the Jewish men drafted in the Romanian Army in the era before emancipation was generalized, seeing action on the local theater and later serving in the war of 1919 against Soviet Hungary.[17][18] His conduct under arms, deemed "heroic" by cultural historian Andrei Oişteanu,[19] earned him a military decoration.[17][20] As a civilian, Aderca was still close to the anti-Entente intellectual circles: during the separate peace interval of 1918, he contributed to A. de Herz's Germanophile newspaper Scena, but published only poetry and literary essays.[21]

Sburătorist affiliation

After the war's end and the establishment of Greater Romania, Aderca returned to Craiova, where his wife Sanda Movilă (herself an aspiring writer, born Maria Ionescu in Argeş County)[22] gave birth to their son Marcel in January 1920.[23] The same year, the family settled in Bucharest, where Aderca was appointed to a civil service office within the Ministry of Labor (an office he kept until 1940).[4][12] During 1920, he was involved in the theatrical project of poet Benjamin Fondane, preparing lectures on various literary subjects.[24]

In parallel, he carried on with his literary activity, publishing a large number of books in quick succession and, in some cases, with significant success among the Romanian public.[25] His first novel, titled Domnişoara din Str. Neptun ("Little Miss on Neptune Street"), saw print in 1921, and marked Aderca's definitive break with traditionalism.[25] It was followed by a long line of other novels and novellas: Ţapul ("The Goat", 1921), later reissued as Mireasa multiplă ("The Multiple Bride") and as Zeul iubirii ("The God of Love"); Moartea unei republici roşii ("The Death of a Red Republic", 1924); Omul descompus ("The Decomposed Man", 1926); Femeia cu carne albă ("The White-fleshed Woman", 1927).[26] A member of the Romanian Writers' Society,[17][27][28][29] Aderca also made his debut as a translator from French, publishing a version of Henri Barbusse's Hell (1921).[4] In 1922, he reissued Naţionalism? Libertatea de a ucide as Personalitatea. Drepturile ei în artă şi în viaţă ("The Personality. Its Rights on Art and Life", carrying a dedication to philosopher and Noua Revistă Română founder Constantin Rădulescu-Motru), and contributed the first part of his theoretical writing Idei şi oameni ("Ideas and People").[10]

Felix Aderca's new life in Bucharest brought his affiliation to the modernist circle and magazine Sburătorul. Reportedly, he was among the privileged members of this club—that is, those whose opinions were treasured by its leader Eugen Lovinescu—and, according to literary historian Ovid Crohmălniceanu, he therefore assumed the task of popularizing the anti-traditionalist and Sburătorist ideology with the same intensity as critics Vladimir Streinu and Pompiliu Constantinescu.[30] A similar verdict was provided by one of Lovinescu's contemporaries and rivals, literary historian George Călinescu: "[Aderca] was one of those with the courage of taking an immediate stance, to which the master of the house [Lovinescu] would subsequently add his signature and his seals".[23] According to Marcel Aderca, it was Lovinescu who gave his father the first name Felix, although the writer himself continued to exclusively use the shortened signature F. Aderca.[23] By 1927, the writer was also directly involved in publishing the eponymous tribune, serving as a member of its editorial board and contributing its regular book review column.[31]

Increasingly, the relationships between the Sburătorists were transposed on a personal level: the owner of a Peugot car, Aderca took his colleagues on weekend trips to Băneasa, or even into the Southern Carpathians (episodes mentioned by both Lovinescu and novelist Camil Petrescu).[32] In the end, Aderca became what literary historian Ioana Pârvulescu describes as Lovinescu's "one true friend".[33] Like other Sburătorists, he acted paternally toward his mentor's young daughter, Monica (herself known in later decades as a literary critic), and was present at her baptism.[34] In June 1926, he even contributed to an anthology of poems written in her honor (Versuri pentru Monica, or "Verse for Monica").[31][34] In other contexts, the gatherings could highlight conflicts between the various members, Aderca and Lovinescu included. As literary chronicler, Aderca stood out for his negative comments on the novels of his Sburătorul colleague, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu: while acknowledging that she could display literary greatness, he criticized the liberties she took with the Romanian language, and especially her recourse to barbarisms.[31] Although Aderca repeatedly stated his admiration for the maverick poet Al. T. Stamatiad (who sparked a polemic with Lovinescu while attending the Sburătorul sessions), the two men quarreled over Aderca's admiration for Barbusse.[35]

Independent modernist promoter

Aderca's own affiliation to the Sburătorul circle was loose and his interests more diverse than those of his mentor Lovinescu. Crohmălniceanu, who speaks of Aderca's "fertile agitation", also notes that the same author divided himself among venues, breaking "countless lances in the name of modernism".[10] Lovinescu himself, reflecting back on the period of Sburătorist beginnings, noted that Aderca had acted less as a critic, and more as a militant "theorist of [Aderca's] own aesthetics."[36] Together with fellow Sburătorist poet Ion Barbu, but contrary to Lovinescu's tastes, Aderca was promoting modernism in the form of jazz music and jazz poetry: in 1921, together with Fondane and critic Tudor Vianu, they entertained an African American jazz singer named Miriam Barca, who was visiting Romania (the experience influenced some of Barbu's poetry).[37] In 1922, he helped Fondane publish his collected essays, Imagini şi cărţi din Franţa ("Images and Books from France"), with Editura Socec.[38]

By this phase in his career, Aderca was establishing his reputation as a magazine columnist and theater chronicler, being particularly interested in the development of modernism in Weimar Germany and in Italy. His 1922 articles include an overview of Italian Futurism. Published in the Craiova-based journal Năzuinţa, it argued that the movement had set the stage for innovation not just in art, but also in everyday life and in politics.[39] For a while in 1923, he tried his hand at publishing his own magazine, titled Spre Ziuă ("Toward Daylight").[4][40]

In tandem, Felix Aderca embarked on a collaboration with Contimporanul, a vocal modernist venue published by poet Ion Vinea. It was there that, in 1923, Aderca published an appeal addressed to all theater professionals. Written as a comment to a German art manifesto (originally published by Friedrich Sternthal in Der Neue Merkur),[41] it argued that authors or directors unfamiliar with modern German drama could not consider themselves competent in their field.[42] In later years, Contimporanul, with its agenda set by Vinea's rejection of institutionalized criticism, initiated a heated debate with Lovinescu and his group, leaving the undecided Aderca exposed to criticism from both sides.[43] His contributions were hosted by several new magazines of the interwar period, including Liviu Rebreanu's Mişcarea Literară, where, in 1925, Aderca notably published an introduction to the writings of German dramatist Georg Kaiser.[42] This period witnessed the incorporation of Expressionism into his literary work, an early result of this being his 1923 text for the stage, Sburătorul (named, like the magazine, in reference to the Zburător myths in Romanian folklore).[44] His growing sympathy for Expressionist drama (or what he termed "abstract theater") was also expressed in a set of articles for Rampa. Published from 1924 to 1925, these documented, alongside Aderca's admiration for the plays of Frank Wedekind, his appreciation for the Romanian Expressionists Lucian Blaga and Adrian Maniu.[45] Aderca was also among those who saluted the Expressionist-inspired Vilna Troupe, a Jewish theater company relocated in Bucharest, giving his endorsement to their rendition of Nikolai Gogol's Marriage.[46]

Other texts by Aderca saw print in Punct (a provincial satellite of Contimporanul, founded and edited by Scarlat Callimachi),[47] and in Omul Liber daily, where, in 1923, he denounced novelist Cezar Petrescu for having plagiarized the writings of Guy de Maupassant.[48] His ideas on Jewish community life were the subject of texts printed in Lumea Evree, a bimonthly put out by philosopher Iosif Brucăr.[49] His other articles and various pieces were scattered throughout literary reviews: Viaţa Românească, Vremea, Ideea Europeană,[4][17] Adevărul Literar şi Artistic, Flacăra, Revista Fundaţiilor Regale, Revista Literară[4] and the literary supplement of Universul[17][50] all featured his work. Researcher Dumitru Hîncu, who counts some 60 publications to have enlisted Aderca's contribution, also notes his collaboration with Îndreptarea, the press organ of Alexandru Averescu's People's Party.[17] In addition to signing with his name or initials (capitalized or not), Aderca used a variety of pseudonyms, including Willy, W. and Oliver, A. Tutova, Clifford Moore, F. Lix, Lix, and N. Popov.[51] He was also using the names Masca de fier ("The Iron Mask"), Masca de catifea ("The Velvet Mask") and Omul cu mască de mătase ("The Man with the Silk Mask").[51]

His activities as a cultural promoter opened the way for the recognition of other Romanian modernists. According to Crohmălniceanu, Aderca's efforts were important in formally establishing the reputation of poets Tudor Arghezi (whom Aderca viewed as the greatest of his lifetime) and Barbu in front of the literary mainstream.[10] In the early 1920s, Aderca had sporadically contributed to the magazine Cuget Românesc, where Arghezi was an editor.[10] By 1928, he became co-editor of Arghezi's humorous sheet Bilete de Papagal,[10][23] being noted as one of several Jewish Romanian writers who were among Arghezi's dedicated promoters.[6] In parallel, his contribution as a protector of the Romanian avant-garde was being acknowledged by some of its members, as noted by the aspiring author Jacques G. Costin, who, in 1932, wrote him: "You are kind and you have much perspired for the great causes."[52] His additional activities as a translator produced versions of Romain Rolland's The Humble Life of the Hero and The Precursors (both 1924), as well as of texts by Stefan Zweig (1926).[4] He also translated Karel Čapek's R. U. R. (1926),[53] and Barbusse's Under Fire (1935).[4]

Early 1930s

Aderca's advocacy of Lovinescu's ideas, which implied a rejection of didacticism and political command in art, was the connecting element of the essays he published in 1929: Mic tratat de estetică sau lumea văzută estetic ("A Concise Tract on Aesthetics or The World Seen in Aesthetic Terms").[50][54] Also that year, Aderca compiled interviews with literary figures, intellectuals and artists, under the title Mărturia unei generaţii ("A Generation's Testimony"). The book, illustrated with ink portraits drawn by the Constructivist artist Marcel Janco,[55] was, its title notwithstanding, a homage to writers of several generations. It notably included an extended discussion between Aderca and Lovinescu, in which were outlined the compatibilities and disagreements between the two Sburătorist figures.[56] Elsewhere, Aderca discusses with Ion Barbu the principal stages in Barbu's poetry. The piece shows Barbu reacting against Aderca's definition of his 1920s hermetics phase as şaradistă ("charades-ist"), a controversy which was to fuel later debates among exegetes.[57][58]

In other chapters, Cezar Petrescu discusses his ideological background and various youthful choices,[59] while Arghezi speaks about his commitment to art for art's sake.[55] The book also includes a dialogue between Aderca and sculptor Oscar Han, who reacts against the official polices in regard to national landmarks.[55] The other men and women interviewed by Aderca are: writers Blaga, Papadat-Bengescu, Camil Petrescu, Rebreanu, Vinea, Ticu Archip, Carol Ardeleanu, Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti, Vasile Demetrius, Mihail Dragomirescu, Victor Eftimiu, Elena Farago, Gala Galaction, Octavian Goga, Ion Minulescu, D. Nanu, Cincinat Pavelescu, Mihail Sadoveanu and Mihail Sorbul; actresses Dida Solomon, Marioara Ventura and Marioara Voiculescu; sculptor Ion Jalea and art collector Krikor Zambaccian.[60]

At around the same time, Aderca published his review of Benjamin Fondane's new works, prompted by Fondane's success in France, where he had since resettled. His recollections about Insula and his summary of Fondane's schooling were corrected by Fondane himself, who was somewhat irritated by the affair (the poet's reply was published in Adam, a magazine managed by Isac Ludo, during 1930).[61] Despite such disagreements, Aderca and Fondane were still corresponding frequently, and Aderca was even approached to arrange Fondane's return visit Romania (planned during Fondane's second stay in Argentina, but never actually accomplished).[62]

Aderca's next contributions as a novelist came in 1932, when he completed the fantasy volume Aventurile D-lui Ionel Lăcustă-Termidor ("The Adventures of Mr. Ionel Lăcustă-Termidor") and published, in two consecutive issues of Realitatea Ilustrată magazine, the first fragments of his science fiction work, Oraşele înecate ("The Drowned Cities"), later known as Oraşe scufundate ("Submerged Cities"). Originally, these pieces, grouped under the working title X-O. Romanul viitorului ("X-O. A Novel of the Future"), were signed with the pen name Leone Palmantini, whose fictionalized biography introduced him as an Italian debutant personally interested in Romania.[63] Two years later, Aderca's various biographical sketches of 19th and 20th century personalities were issued together as Oameni excepţionali ("Exceptional People"),[64] followed in 1935 by his essay on life in the United States.[65] These years also brought his collaboration with various other press venues, among them Petre Pandrea's Cuvântul Liber, Ludo's Adam,[66] and Discobolul (mainly a venue for young writers, managed by Dan Petraşincu and Ieronim Şerbu).[67]

Pornography scandal

In the late 1920s, Aderca also became involved in the great debate opposing modernists and traditionalists over the issue of "pornography" in literature, both foreign (translated) and local. A 1931 article for Vremea, titled Pornografie? ("Pornography?") and subtitled Note pentru un studiu de literatură comparată ("Notes for a study in comparative literature"), he spoke out against such branding, notably defending the artistic integrity of James Joyce and the sexual content of his novel Ulysses.[68] At around the same time, he offered an enthusiastic reception to a similarly controversial work by young Romanian author Mircea Eliade, Isabel şi apele diavolului, writing for Adevărul newspaper: "In a country of great culture, such a debut would have brought glory, fame, and riches to the author."[69] His political stances and his rejection of sexual conventions brought him to the attention of state authorities. A confidential 1927 report complied by Siguranţa Statului secret service stated allegations about his "lack of respect" for King Ferdinand I, his ridicule of "our healthy customs" and for tradition, his recourse to "most detestable pornography" and "deranged sexuality".[17] The period also saw Aderca and other young modernists in conflict with historian Nicolae Iorga, the editor of Cuget Clar review and doyen of Romanian traditionalism, who collectively referred to their works as "sick".[28]

In 1932, Aderca, together with fellow novelists Camil Petrescu and Liviu Rebreanu, took part in a public discussion (presided upon by philosopher Ion Petrovici and held inside a Lipscani cinema), tackling the international scandal sparked by D. H. Lawrence's book Lady Chatterley's Lover, and, in more general terms, the degree of acceptance for both erotic literature and profane language.[70][71] In the end, the participants found that they could agree on dropping some of the more rigid traditional conventions, including the practice of self-censorship,[70] while Aderca himself publicized his praise for Lawrence's "unparalleled poetic moment".[71] The following year, he completed work on a novel directly inspired by Lawrence: Al doilea amant al doamnei Chatterley ("Lady Chatterley's Second Lover"), called "an unsettling remake" by literary historian Ştefan Borbély,[65] and retrospectively listed by critic Gheorghe Grigurcu among the most important sexually-themed Romanian texts of Aderca's generation.[71] At the center of a major scandal, this text resulted, some four years later, in his arrest on charges on pornography.[72] Aderca was thus the last alleged pornographer to be taken in custody among a wave of modernist authors: directly preceding him were Geo Bogza and H. Bonciu, the former of whom publicly defended himself and his colleagues with statements than none of the works incriminated had been printed in more than 500 copies.[73] The 1937 clampdown was nevertheless celebrated by the far right and traditionalist press, and notably so by critic Ovidiu Papadima's articles in the fascist paper Sfarmă-Piatră.[74] Similarly, Iorga's nationalist magazines Cuget Clar and Neamul Românesc publicized his name among the top ten Romanian authors they proposed for official blacklisting.[75]

In the remaining years leading up World War II, Aderca was centering his interest on political themes. It was at this stage that he wrote 1916, a novel largely dedicated to Romania's World War I defeats, first printed on their 20th anniversary (1936).[26] In 1937, Editura Vremea also issued the first edition of his Oraşele înecate, on which Aderca had finished work at some point after 1932, and for which version he dropped the earlier pseudonym Palmantini.[63] Revolte ("Revolts"), first published in 1945 but, according to Aderca's own statement, completed in 1938,[76] explored the issues posed by Romania's judicial system, while A fost odată un imperiu ("There Once Was an Empire", 1939) was in part a historical novel about the decline and fall of Imperial Russia.[77]

Antisemitic persecution and World War II

In early 1938, soon after the antisemitic political partners Octavian Goga and A. C. Cuza took control of the Romanian cabinet, Aderca found himself directly exposed to political repercussions. At the time, while all Jewish non-veterans were being expelled from the public service, Labor Minister Gheorghe Cuza issued an order to have Aderca sent on disciplinary reassignment to a remote city, either Cernăuţi[17][20] or Chişinău.[78] The measure, which implied that Aderca would be forced to leave his wife and son behind, sparked a public protest from writer Zaharia Stancu, who denounced the hypocrisy of persecuting a Jew who had "done his duty in full" by fighting for Romania while Premier Goga had no military record to speak of.[17] Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian also recorded, in his Journal, the sadness of seeing how, "after two wars and twenty books", the middle-aged Aderca was being sent away from the capital and being reduced to a precarious existence "as a reprisal." Sebastian added: "I read a letter he sent to his wife: no laments, almost no bitterness."[20] Before being stripped of his clerk post altogether, he was ordered to another part of the country, in the town of Lugoj.[78]

Although expelled from the Writers' Society for being Jewish,[27][29] Aderca spent some of the following period writing a biographical novel on Russian Emperor Peter the Great; completed in 1940, it was titled Petru cel Mare: întâiul revoluţionar-constructorul Rusiei, "Peter the Great: The Original Revolutionist, the Constructor of Russia".[79] Later that year, Aderca was again in Bucharest, where he became artistic director of the Baraşeum Jewish Theater before its grand opening. The context was exceptionally difficult for the Jewish ghetto, as the radically fascist Iron Guard set up its National Legionary government. Aderca's mission was aggravated by other issues: Marcel Janco, in charge of renovation, escaped to British Palestine before the inauguration; in parallel, a conflict over the repertoire took place between lead actresses Leny Caler and Beate Fredanov, while Aderca's friend Sebastian declined interest in helping him manage the theater.[80]

The January 1941 Rebellion, when Romania's authoritarian leader Ion Antonescu was confronted by a violent rising of his Iron Guard partners, made Aderca a victim of the parallel Bucharest pogrom. Sebastian's Journal, depicting Aderca as one "almost comical in his naiveté", recounts that, instead of hiding from the Guard's murderous rampage, he had walked into a Guardist meeting house "in search of information", being subsequently kidnapped and beaten up (but released just as others in the makeshift prison were being killed).[81] Baraşeum opened, under new management, a month later.[80]

After new antisemitic legislation expelled Jews from the civil service and the education system (see Romania during World War II, Holocaust in Romania), Aderca found employment as a lecturer in aesthetics at the private Jewish school founded by Marcu Onescu.[4][17][23][82] He, Sebastian and the other Jewish Romanian literary people and journalists were mentioned on a censorship list complied by the Antonescu government, and their works were officially banned.[83]

Among those who still visited Aderca's home near the Cişmigiu Gardens were Sebastian, who also worked at the Onescu private school, and Lovinescu, who was to die shortly afterward.[23] Poet Virgil Carianopol later recalled that, around 1942, after having been formally excluded from the Writers' Society, Aderca relied on help from fellow writer Marius Mircu (known to him by the pen name G. M. Vlădescu), who had placed his land and revenue at the disposal of persecuted artists.[28] In August 1941, the measures backed by Antonescu's new government meant that Aderca risked being sent into a labor camp for Jewish prisoners. He was officially informed to take his place on one such transport of deportees, but, owing to his World War I military record, he was eventually granted a reprieve.[17]

Late 1940s

Aderca resumed his cultural activities shortly after the 1944 Coup toppled Antonescu. The new governments appointed him head of Artistic Education within the Ministry of Arts, an office he kept until 1948.[4][17] By January 1945, he engaged polemic with George Călinescu. Focusing on Călinescu's mixed review of his novels, it was sparked by Aderca's article in Democraţia gazette (titled Rondul de noapte, or "Night Watch"), and later rekindled by replies in newspapers such as Victoria and Naţiunea Românǎ.[84] Aderca was at the time being visited by the younger writer Ion Biberi, who published their conversations as a chapter of his volume Lumea de mâine ("The World of Tomorrow").[12][85] In May of that year, he represented the Ministry of Arts at the funeral of his friend Sebastian, who had been killed in a road accident.[86] Reintegrated into the Writers' Society, Aderca was a member of the panel which granted the 1946 National Prize for Prose Works to his former colleague Papadat-Bengescu. In his articles for Romanian papers, Aderca himself described this measure as a sign that Romania was returning to artistic and political normality, and rewarding talent on a democratic basis.[87]

Following Lovinescu's death, Aderca joined a special board of writers tasked with granting annual awards in his memory. By this moment, Aderca took part in conflicts opposing the established Sburătorists to Lovinescu's younger disciples from the Sibiu Literary Circle: while he shared the awards panel with Sibiu Circle leader Ion Negoiţescu, Aderca made known his opposition to making poet Ştefan Augustin Doinaş a laureate for 1947, probably owing to Doinaş's occasional recourse to patriotic, and therefore politicized, subjects.[88] In addition to the delayed edition of Revolte and the 1945 version of his collected writings (published in 1945 as Opere, "Works", and prefaced by Tudor Vianu),[89][90] he made his comeback with a 1947 volume of conversations on the art of ballet,[4][91] while resuming his activities as a translator with versions of books by, among others, Vicki Baum, John Steinbeck and Egon Erwin Kisch.[17] At the time, he also completed work on a new work for the stage, the parable Muzică de balet ("Ballet Music"), which doubled as a comment on wartime antisemitism.[92]

Final years and death

The final portion of Aderca's work, which covers the period after the establishment of a Romanian communist regime, is focused on children's literature, as well as on biographical and adventure novels (or, according to Crohmălniceanu, "books for the youth, romanticized biographies and historical-adventure evocations").[77] These volumes include the 1955 book În valea marelui fluviu ("Along the Great River's Valley"), a 1957 biography of Christopher Columbus and the 1958 Jurnalul lui Andrei Hudici ("The Diary of Andrei Hudici"), and a narrative set in Peter the Great's Russia (Un călăreţ pierdut în stepă, "A Rider Lost in the Steppe").[4] Following in part an ideological command, he also contributed a biography of 19th century Marxist ideologue Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea.[93]

Incapacitated by a severe car accident, Aderca spent the final years of his life in relative isolation.[12] His 1956 contract with Editura de Stat pentru Literatură şi Artă (ESPLA), a state publishing house supervised by writer Petru Dumitriu, resulted in public scandal: ESPLA filed a legal complaint against Aderca, accusing him of not having returned a large sum of money he had received as an advance on his planned novel Casa cu cinci fete ("The House with Five Girls"), which had been denied for publication because of "ideological-political mistakes" and "plainly reactionary ideas" (see Censorship in Communist Romania).[17] In the early 1960s, Aderca and Sanda Movilă were frequenting the Writers' Union clubs, and Aderca was reportedly upset at also being snubbed by his friend Arghezi (who, after a period of communist persecution, had been rehabilitated).[94]

The controversy about his work was renewed in 1962. That year, ESPLA's new manager, Mihai Gafiţa, decided against publishing Aderca's three-volume biographical study on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, on which the aging writer had reportedly been working since 1948. The publisher's reaction greatly upset Aderca. He appeal to the highest authority, Communist Party leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, asking him to reassess the text's ideological substance, and noting that another one of his texts, a special reportage piece on workers in the Magyar Autonomous Region, was also being ignored by Gafiţa.[17] Having by then been diagnosed with a brain tumor, the writer died before the matter could be settled.[17] In accordance with his dying request, his body was cremated and the ashes were scattered into the Black Sea by his widow and son.[95]


General characteristics

Starting in the 1920s, Felix Aderca earned critical attention with the frequency of his contribution and his various combative stances. Writing in 1945, Tudor Vianu described him as the local equivalent of "an encyclopédiste", suggesting that the evaluation of Aderca's entire work was itself the work of a lifetime.[89] Reviewing the opinions traditionally expressed in relation to Aderca, literary historian Henri Zalis noted that the writer was being viewed with sympathy for his "extreme feverishness", a wide range of literary approaches which offset many other novelists of his generation.[92] Zalis noted: "Through a system of communicating vessels, we find, in Aderca, the rural and the urban epics, the erotic annotation and the obsessive fixation, the tribulation of a mindset as much as the traumatic drunkenness."[92] George Călinescu described Aderca as primarily a "humorist" with "a subtle reserve" and "decent sarcasm", who could nevertheless err in showing enthusiasm for "a fictitious world".[17][96] The witty nature of Aderca's contribution to Romanian humor was highlighted by others among his contemporaries: one of them, memoirist Vlaicu Bârna, recalled his "causer's charm".[17]

Although acknowledged for its productivity, Aderca's writing career was seen by various critics as marked by inconsistencies and failures in fulfilling his literary promise. One such voice from his own generation, Pompiliu Constantinescu, opined that Aderca's intelligence got in the way of his sensitivity, and prevented him from reaching his potential.[79] Writing decades later, literary critic Constantin Cubleşan spoke of him as among several interwar representatives of Romanian literature who incorporated modernist influences, in a wide variety of literary genres, "without ever really deepening any". As such, he argues, Aderca's contribution may feature side by side "parabolic conflicts" and "naturalism in the least colorful manner possible".[8] Cubleşan also suggests that, in his context, Aderca was an "underachieving virtuoso" with an "undecided place".[97] The same critic argues that, despite Aderca's fertility, his books failed to impose him among the top Romanian writers "of the moment."[12] In support of this, he cites a 1936 essay by modernist writer and critic Eugène Ionesco, who defined Aderca as: "an eminent journalist [and] as such, a resilient, diversified, spirit, with such superficiality as is necessary for avoiding rooting, depth, stillness, fixation [...]."[12] Having already attacked Aderca and other established voices in criticism with his 1934 pamphlet Nu ("No"),[98] Ionesco noted: "[Aderca] enjoyed the fame well-deserved by his spirit, lively among ideas, but he also had the destiny of a journalist: his literary glory is condemned to be as ephemeral as it is diverse, and his name cannot be tied down to any somewhat important work".[12]

Aderca's modernism

The various aspects of Aderca's work, other critics suggest, are held together by the writer's strong commitment to experimental literature. In reference to such aspects, Constantin Cubleşan defined Aderca as "a permanent literary rebel, ever ready to contest anything and become enthusiastic, in equal measure, over anything, in fact searching for himself."[12] Writing in 2005, Ştefan Borbély noted that much of this literature was commercial in nature, and driven by the wish to assimilate modern themes.[65] In contrast, Henri Zalis, who cites an earlier statement made by Vianu, finds Aderca to be a storyteller in the Romantic tradition. Zalis also notes that such difficulties in assessing Aderca's stylistic category may also stem from the fact that his protagonists illustrate a single motivation, often an erotic one, to which their entire existence is "circumscribed".[90] Zalis further argues that, while it may share traits with some of the more naturalistic modernists through its search of authenticity and its apparent vitalism, Aderca's literature is ultimately preoccupied with the "bookish".[90]

In his own practice of literary theory, Felix Aderca nevertheless sought to transpose the spirit of international modernism, acclimatizing its diverse components to a Romanian context. Various researchers have noted that some of his works are more or less explicitly indebted to Expressionism, whose alteration of traditional narrative techniques they came to replicate.[99] According to art and literary historian Dan Grigorescu, Aderca's articles of the early 1920s fail to state his own affiliation to Expressionist literature, but it can be discerned from the context as a "total" commitment—equivalent to the "enthusiastic statements" made around the same time by another Romanian critic, Emil Cerbu.[42] For Crohmălniceanu, Aderca occupies the middle ground between naturalistic techniques and Expressionism, in the same manner as two other interwar Romanian authors, Gib Mihăescu and George Mihail Zamfirescu.[100] The same author also argued that Aderca mostly followed a conventional approach to writing, letting the emotional distortions of Expressionism take the forefront in cases where he aimed to suggest a "second level" of the narrative.[101] In Cubleşan's assessment, Expressionism explains the "utopian" aspect in some of Aderca's writings, where "evading the terrifying concreteness of immediate reality becomes the very requirement for humanity's self-preservation".[97] Additionally, literary historian Paul Cernat places Aderca's 1923 play, Sburătorul, in the Expressionist "harvest" of early 1920s Romania (alongside works by Blaga, George Ciprian, Adrian Maniu and Isaia Răcăciuni), but also cautions that, despite their modernism, all these texts "did not feature anything radical."[44]

In addition to borrowing from Expressionist ideology and other products of modern German literature, Aderca adopted and promoted styles associated with the competing experimental currents of Western Europe. His modernist colleague, the literary critic Perpessicius, was first to mention Aderca alongside those Romanian novelists who took direct inspiration from the explorations of psychoanalysis, the theoretical results of which were just becoming familiar to the local public.[102] Another distinguishing trait, Crohmălniceanu argued, was Aderca's accomplished rendition of internal monologues, a technique inspired by international modernism and also present with Romanian novelists such as Mihăescu and Camil Petrescu.[103] Aderca's unconventional style, like those of Ion Călugăru, Ion Vinea or Maniu, was associated by some with the trademark style of Urmuz, a maverick figure of the 1920s Romanian avant-garde scene. This suggestion was notably criticized by Perpessicius: his conclusion, believed by Cernat to be "singular" but imperfect, argued that all four authors had matured before awareness of Urmuz's work became commonplace, and as such could not be counted among Urmuz's actual pupils.[104]

Another guiding light in Aderca's work was the work of French novelist Marcel Proust: Aderca, Benjamin Fondane and Mihai Ralea were among the first Romanian critics to review Proust's literary techniques.[105][106] Crohmălniceanu saw the Proustian "formulas" in Aderca's fiction, together with borrowings from James Joyce, as pioneering in the context of Romanian modernism.[10] The accuracy of Aderca's early pronouncements about In Search of Lost Time was however at the debated within the Romanian literary community. In essence, Aderca depicted Proust as a "Symbolist novelist" and a visionary subverter of the classical novel.[106][107] His friend Mihail Sebastian energetically disputed such assessments (Sebastian contrarily believed that Proust had in fact fortified an endangered classical genre), and spoke with displeasure about Aderca's attempts to identify the real-life persons behind Proust's characters.[107]

Sburătorism and anti-Sburătorism

Despite his own beginnings with Ramuri, Aderca was mostly noted as a vocal critic of the traditionalist current produced by the Sămănătorul group and its school. Like Eugen Lovinescu and the other Sburătorul faction representatives, Aderca paid homage to an era of art for art's sake, an art that, as he put it, "must remain nude".[108] In doing so, Aderca took some inspiration from the 19th century literary club Junimea: according to Ovid Crohmălniceanu, Lovinescu and Aderca both maintained a "cult" of Maiorescu, whom Mic tratat de estetică depicted as more of an anti-establishment character more than the conservative politico favored by other accounts.[108] Overall, Aderca endorsed Lovinescu's synthesis of Junimism and modernism, known as "synchronism", and reacting against the traditionalist objections to Westernization by proposing a fuller integration into Western culture.[109] According to some of those who witnessed the contacts between the Sburătorists, Aderca's personal thoughts on poetics passed into the group's ideology after cross-pollinating with Lovinescu's views on literature in general.[32][98]

Such ideas placed Aderca squarely against the voices of traditionalism, whether right- or left-wing. His attack on right-wing traditionalists featured sarcastic remarks, for instance referring to historian and critic Nicolae Iorga a the one driving "the boorish carts of Sămănătorism".[110] In Aderca's view, the leftist traditionalists emerging from the Poporanist faction were equally wrong in demanding the application of a "national criterion" in art, a point which he rendered explicit in his polemic with Poporanist doyen Garabet Ibrăileanu: "Without wanting to offend anyone, and only admitting the universality of the human progress' rhythm, I do not know if [Romanian cultural products] are not in essence, at the stage where culture has penetrated, the same as those [of peripheral regions] where the iron man of European civilization walks with a heavy stride."[109] In general, the author of Mic tratat found writers who advocated didacticism to be ridiculous in their effort, describing them, with a term borrowed from Junimea humorist Ion Luca Caragiale, as "firemen-citizens and citizens-firemen".[109]

However, Aderca was also inclined to question the absolute validity of synchronistic tenets: suggesting that the pursuit of innovation as a goal in itself could prove equally detrimental on a writer's originality, he equated such imperatives with another sort of public command in the realm of literature.[56] Continuing to support the view according to which the distinctive and the personal at the expense of formal conventions, and thus prompting Lovinescu to reply that good literature could still be conventional in style,[111] Aderca also fell short of Lovinescu's principles about Romanian novelists eventually needing to discard lyricism for an objective approach to writing.[112] An additional debate was sparked in 1937, when Aderca, writing for Adevărul newspaper, rebuked Lovinescu for having almost persistently ignored the various contributions of Urmuz, "the extraordinary, peculiar, unique and brilliant [one]".[104] In some of his pieces, Aderca, seen by Cernat as one of several modern Romanian poets who took on the offices of critics while rejecting all displays of critical authority,[113] took a stand against all academic intervention in the area of literature. Aderca described such intrusions as restrictive, compared professional critics to barbers, and argued that empathy with the creator was more important than principles.[7] His Mic tratat declared itself interested in what "the aesthetic phenomenon" was not, rather than what it was, while ridiculing the various schools of interpretation and stating the author's own regret at ever having contributed pages of criticism.[50]

Crohmălniceanu sees Aderca as an energetic Sburătorist writer, whose presence in the pages of Contimporanul did not signify his actual affiliation to that rival circle.[114] He suggests that Aderca was in equal measure a member of two separate subgroups of Sburătorul writers: the analytical ones, passionate about "the more complicated psychologies" (a segment also represented by Anton Holban and Henriette Yvonne Stahl); the sexually emancipated ones, who blended a generic preference for urban settings with explorations into the themes erotic literature, and whose other militants were Răcăciuni, Mihail Celerianu and Sergiu Dan.[115] The analytical and erotic characteristics merged in several of Aderca's works. Crohmălniceanu notes that Aderca saw in sexuality the answer to a command arising "from the depths of life and the cosmic order", as well as the real source of human identity and individuality.[116]

Paul Cernat argues that, with fellow critic-novelist N. D. Cocea, Aderca was among the several Contimporanul contributors from outside the avant-garde movement who made few concessions to avant-garde aesthetics.[117] In the end, Aderca's conflicting allegiances were discussed with severity by Vinea himself. In a 1927 editorial for Contimporanul, where he compared Lovinescu's review to "a menagerie", Vinea stated: "[Among Sburătorul contributors,] only F. Aderca simulates controversy, shouting through his cage: 'I am independent... Not a day passes that I don't quarrel with Lovinescu...' And, at the same time, the insensitive tamer [Lovinescu] makes his elephants play the piano".[118]

Early works

Aderca's original contribution to literature came in the form of lyric poetry. His five volumes of poems, published between 1910 and 1912, were noted by Crohmălniceanu for their "intellectualized sensualism".[10] The same critic suggested that their introspective methods were ahead of their time, but argued that their cut section of the early 20th century Romanian lexis had made them seem antiquated.[10] Similarly, Călinescu discussed Aderca's love poetry as being dominated by "suggestions" and "sensations", but without "sentiment".[7] He believed that the most important part of Aderca's lyrical work was to be found elsewhere, in "pantheistic" poems he found coincidentally similar to those of Ion Barbu, and where the focus is on the cosmic or the mineral universe.[7] Aderca's parallel contribution to Versuri pentru Monica, Ioana Pârvulescu notes, falls in the category of "society games" that merely probe and train one's versification skills.[34]

In the psychological novel Domnişoara din Str. Neptun, Aderca sought to subvert a favorite theme of traditionalist and Sămănătorist literature, which condemned the city as a heartless consumer of rural energy and a place where peasants surrendered to a miserably corrupted life.[119] Henri Zalis, who describes the text as a novella rather than a novel, believes that it carries a hidden, "subversive" intent: "the suaveness in unhappiness, authenticity bursting from the burning core of alienation."[92] Zalis further noted that Aderca subscribed to the rehabilitation and "demystification" of the mahala (that is, the suburban area where migrant peasants tended to resettle).[79] The narrator refers to this setting as "the city's reproductive organ", attributing it the ability to preserve naturalness and "virility": "Only in the mahala do senses endure purified of all alien mineral, only there do poems preserve their magical venom and souls are lifted and suffer from inextinguishable romance."[120] Overall, Crohmălniceanu proposes, Aderca outlines the conflict between city and village, the "two great collective entities", with the means placed at his disposal by Expressionism.[101]

Aderca begins his narrative with the urban resettlement of Păun Oproiu, a peasant turned State Railways employee, who, instead of finding himself lured by a modern industrial city, starts his new existence in the mahala, which he finds both more comfortable and more familiar.[121] After Oproiu's death on the World War I front, the focus shifts on his family: his wife decides to return to the village, together with her daughters. One of them, Nuţa, has however grown fond of the mahala and has entirely adopted its fashion. She returns into the city, where she chooses the life of a kept woman and, in the end, becomes a prostitute.[122] Her moral decline blends into physical ruin, and she is shocked to discover that her appearance is found disgusting by even the most destitute of her many lovers.[123] Nuţa ultimately resorts to suicide, jumping in front of a moving train (an outcome transfigured by the narrative voice into an ultimate embrace).[101] The effect of such techniques received an unconventional praise from Aderca's fellow modernist, Fondane: "The book [...] is so picturesque, and carries such sensuality, that each reader can be intimate with an almost lifelike Nuţa."[124]

The war novels

As early as 1922, the Symbolist critic Pompiliu Păltânea saw Aderca's literature as forming part of an "ideological", anti-war category, which also includes works by Eugen Relgis, Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti and Barbu Lăzăreanu.[125] Moartea unei republici roşii introduces Aderca's alter ego, engineer Aurel, whose first-person narrative centers on the moral dilemmas posed by the Hungarian–Romanian War of 1919.[126] Aurel finds himself engaged in action within the region of Transylvania, where Romanian troops are meeting armed resistance groups organized by the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The protagonist's Marxist leanings, his belief in universal brotherhood and his fear that Romania's policies could spark ethnic conflict are enforced by his witnessing of random killings perpetrated by his Romanian colleagues against the Transylvanian Hungarian prisoners.[7] The atrocities are also reflected in the accounts of local Jews. Their opinions about how the war signifies a "change of masters", and their terrorized reaction in front of Romanian bloodlust and vandalism, are detailed in several portions of Aderca's narrative.[7] Crohmălniceanu finds the book notable for its introspective tone, which culminates in self-irony and offsets the depiction of battles "in a cold, record keeping-like manner".[101]

With 1916, Aderca was focusing more closely on the social impact of war. A wide fresco of Romania's heavy losses to the Central Powers, and of the human drama they unfold, the book was praised by Lovinescu as an accurate portrayal of the 1914 to 1920 interval,[79] and seen by Cubleşan as compatible with other Romanian depictions of World War I moral conflicts—in works by Camil Petrescu, Cezar Petrescu, Liviu Rebreanu or George Cornea.[26] Aderca's novel, he notes, is an inverted take on the identity struggle depicted in Rebreanu's Forest of the Hanged, where the ethnic Romanian intellectual reevaluates his military allegiance to Austria–Hungary.[26] The plot, generally rendered with conventional means, illustrates Aderca's belief that avant-garde techniques could enhance narrative authenticity: in one section, he even introduces fragments of sheet music to indicate the mood.[89]

The central figure here is Romanian Army officer Titel Ursu. A Germanophile, he finds war on the Entente side to be humiliating, and, once on the front line, sabotages the war effort to the point where he is arrested and tried for treason; in contrast, his father, Captain Costache Ursu, is by everyone's standards a war hero, and firmly believes in the patriotic virtues of the pro-Entente leaders.[127] They confront each other on prison grounds: while Titel is awaiting execution, his indignant father urges him to commit suicide and save their honor—an episode in which Cubleşan sees the book's "keystone".[128] The intimate hatred Costache develops for his son, although counterbalanced by a measure of pity and regret, is described by Aderca in terms which critics of his time have believed exaggerated and frightening.[129] One such fragment of the novel reads: "He hated Titel, hated him with ever-burning embers between his eyelids, with a slab of stone on his chest, that shortened his breath. [...] He never did imagine he could hate anyone as much. His son's existence on the face of the earth seemed to him a horrible mistake."[129] This portrayal was regarded with more sympathy by later commentators. For instance, Zalis argued that Aderca had intended to "collect, from the cortege of massacres, the effort of conscience of exasperation and perplexity".[129] Elevated to hero status in interwar Greater Romania, and decorated with the Order of Michael the Brave, Costache is attracted into far right politics, only to find that he has been manipulated by more cynical political partners.[130] In the end, his hatred for Titel morphs into burning regret, and pushes the bereaved parent to hang himself.[131]

The implicit political statement made by Aderca throughout 1916 has endured as a subject of controversy. Crohmălniceanu, who finds the description of defeats such as the Battle of Turtucaia to be accurate and impressive, argues that the book's ideological comments are "intelligent", but ultimately confused and unconvincing.[132] He finds that 1916 errs in ignoring that Romanians in general were basing their support for the Entente on the promise of postwar political union with their co-nationals in Austria–Hungary.[133] Similarly, Zalis argued that 1916 is split between "highly evocative chronicle" and, "for unexplainable reasons", a polemical format that is "confused, confusing, attackable."[92]

Both Moartea unei republici roşii and 1916 were found especially offensive by George Călinescu, who, in his synthesis of literary history (first published in 1941), argued that Aderca was in effect "glorifying [...] desertion".[134] He described 1916 as being ruined by the pacifist agenda, a "manifesto" with which the novelist was "flogging a virtue", but reserved some praise for the "somber and dramatic" manner in which Aderca chose to render the war scenes.[135] He reacted strongly against the bloodshed and thievery scenes in Moartea unei republici, calling them "enormities" and "slanted falsities", concluding: "The critic reads the book without emotion and finds in it the spiritual expression of an old people, greatly gifted but with some of its faculties blunted, [whereas] the regular reader cannot escape a legitimate feeling of antipathy."[7] Some of these points have been cited by other researchers as evidence of Călinescu's residual antisemitism, which is argued to have also surfaced in his treatment of several other Jewish authors.[78][136] One of Călinescu's conclusions read: "In the manner of many Jewish writers, Felix Aderca is obsessed with humanitarianism, pacifism, and all other aspects of internationalism."[78][137] Taking the two books as study cases, the literary historian further suggested that pacifism was a typically Jewish trait in a Greater Romanian context, and in reality prompted by "anti-national" (that is, anti-Romanian) ideas.[78][138] In Andrei Oişteanu's view, these allegations merely adapted to a modern discourse the common prejudice according to which Jews were cowardly.[19]

Although, at the time when George Călinescu's work was first published, Aderca was being exposed to official persecution, he made a point of replying in writing to the allegations. Mihail Sebastian, who read a version of this rebuttal during one of his visits to Aderca's home, elaborated on this in his diary, contrasting such reactions with his own "indifference" to criticism: "[The reply is] very nice, very accurate—but how did he find the strength, the inclination, the curiosity to write it? A sign of youthful vitality. [...] Why do I not feel personally 'aimed at' in what is said, done, or written against me?"[139] Writing in 2009, literary historian Alexandru George reviewed Aderca's comments about Călinescu's work being antisemitic, finding them "very unconvincing" and noting that the incriminated volume was itself being attacked as philosemitic by the far right staff writers of Gândirea magazine.[140] Other commentators have also described the appearance of Aderca's name in print as proof of Călinescu's courage in the face of official antisemitism.[141] Aderca's own rebuttal in the 1945 article Rondul de noapte was the topic of scandal, and, according to Călinescu's disciple Alexandru Piru, constituted a "curious" and "violent outburst".[84]

Erotic and fantasy prose

In Ţapul and Omul descompus, Aderca follows the adventures of Aurel (or "Mr. Aurel"), described by Crohmălniceanu as "an intellectual without precise occupations", with their respective plots structured around Aurel's erotic pursuits, and at times marked by the narrative subjectivity of "Proustian techniques".[142] Omul descompus, seen by Călinescu as "pale" and too indirect to be convincing, describes the relationship between Aurel and a woman ill with tuberculosis,[135] and is, according to Ştefan Borbély, a "mimetic" sample of "approximate existentialism".[65] In Crohmălniceanu's view, although sexual encounters are central to these books, Aderca manages to avoid "lewdness", and instead carries out, "with deftness", a "plunge into the unconscious".[143] The themes are explored further in Femeia cu carne albă: Mr. Aurel and his cabby Mitru take a trip along the Danube, stopping over for Aurel to have erotic encounters with various local women. The female characters are quasi-anonymous, referred to by the defining characteristic of their carnal appeal: "the red backfisch", "the woman of the rains", and the eponymous "white-fleshed woman" Ioana of Rogova.[90][144] The work builds up to the meeting between Aurel and Ioana, a study on how the seduced man becomes a prisoner and victim of female sexual energies.[90][145]

Călinescu, who believed the volume to include Aderca's "most substantial" prose, found it to be inspired by, and alluding to, the novel De la noi, la Cladova ("From Us to Cladova"), by Aderca's modernist colleague Gala Galaction.[146] The same commentator noted that Aderca shifted focus from the sexual act itself, moving it on female psychology and the bizarre atmosphere: the wild Danubian landscape is scattered with often shocking, morbid elements (such as the dead bodies of girls, half devoured by pigs); in the end, Aurel himself is murdered and mutilated by Ioana's hajduk gang.[135] The hero accepts his death in the name of a higher ideal: according to Zalis, Aderca suggests that self-sacrifice is a natural outcome for those who have known such erotic fulfillment, and accepted by the victims with a sense of detachment.[90] Throughout Femeia cu carne albă, Crohmălniceanu notes, the "purely sensory field" takes precedence over the analytical, but still provides the reader with insight into "hidden cosmic mechanics".[143] "Paradoxically", he suggests, Expressionism takes the forefront here, more than in those of Aderca's novels where psychological conflicts are central to the narrative; in this case, it serves to depict Aurel's depletion of vital energies in his confrontation with the frantic terrestrial forces.[147]

Displaying Aderca's flirtations with the avant-garde, Aventurile D-lui Ionel Lăcustă-Termidor is a fantasy work with parabolic and sarcastic undertones, seen by Cubleşan as a poetic expression of the writer's rejection of conformity.[148] The text evades stylistic conventions and rejects linear time, leading the researcher to note: "[this on its own] is a form of protest, of criticism toward the constrictive and depersonalizing human existential system."[149] Crohmălniceanu finds in Aventurile further proof of "extreme" subjectivity and, as such, of Expressionist techniques, amounting to the creation of "an entirely autonomous world".[150] The eponymous protagonist works as a writer in modern Romania, but his real identity is both ancient and plural. The narrative voice makes a point of cautioning the reader: "He is from unmeasured spaces and times, ones about which the human mind was not able to state anything other than that they might have, to a human eye, the shape inscribed by the chalk of the falling star over the blackboard that is the sky."[149] In its original edition, the novel featured photographs introduced as Ionel's other avatars: a head of cabbage, a tree, a polar bear, a Black African dancer etc.[151]

Branded an oddity by common people, Lăcustă-Termidor is actually a visionary, whose writings offer a glimpse into the magical world that has spawned him, and whose overall contribution, Cubleşan notes, amounts to an inventory of "ideal, universally human, values".[149] The stories themselves are merged into the narrative: one shows Lăcustă-Termidor evaluating the benefits of becoming an oleander bush; another is his retelling of the Atlantis myth, according to which the "happy, rational and superior" island was submerged by a conspiracy of Norwegian and Greenlander tribesmen, who decided to cut loose the Arctic Sea pack ice.[152] Crohmălniceanu writes: "[Aventurile D-lui Ionel Lăcustă-Termidor] is composed in practice from the ironic commentary on the subject of enthusiastic and insignificant experiences, repeated [by the protagonist] with insane obstinacy, despite their catastrophic result. The book is one of the most substantial and accomplished works ever produced in extreme modernism in our country."[153] In contrast with this positive assessment, the novel is seen by Călinescu as a mediocre accomplishment, inspired by but inferior to the fantasy prose of Tudor Arghezi, "aiming into the empty air" with "ungainly wit."[135] He argued that the reincarnation imagery was in reality a political statement about "the uselessness of identifying oneself with a motherland".[154]

Oraşele înecate

With Oraşele înecate, influenced by the style of British author H. G. Wells,[155] Aderca applied the conventions of science fiction to a comment on human civilization. His own prologue for the text suggests that the entire speculation was sparked by his conversations with an unnamed scientist (referred to as a philosopher in the definitive edition of 1937), while his epigraph cites one of Friedrich Nietzsche's comments about the future extinction of rational beings, in which the German thinker identified a mythopoeic quality.[63] This prophetic trait is underlined by Crohmălniceanu, who believes that, like Wells, Aderca made believable "an entirely new social and psychological reality."[133] According to Cubleşan, this aspect is of less literary relevancy than a psychological one, "the emotional state of despair" motivating its protagonists: "It is, if you will, in its own way, a fantasy novel about living on the limit."[156] Insisting on the pleasures offered by Aderca's "ingenuity" and "English humor", Călinescu nevertheless found Oraşele înecate to be lacking "extraordinary" qualities and failing to reach any "deeper significance".[154] The plot's general inventiveness has nevertheless led some critics to state that Aderca had effectively set the foundations of Romanian science fiction.[63][79]

The psychological and speculative elements of the plot are introduced by a dream sequence: in 5th millennium Bucharest, depicted as a modern and luxurious metropolis,[154] the cinema attendant Ioan (named Carel in the original version)[63] is visited by a detailed prophetic vision, occurring in his sleep. The post-apocalyptic scenario humanity faces within his dream involves drastic global cooling. The phenomenon has forced humans to flee cities on the surface and build new ones on the bottom of oceans, closer to the inner core's permanent heat. Once restructured by cataclysms, society is reborn into stark and primitive socialism, described by one protagonist as a policy of erasing "terrestrial instincts" to the point of turning all people into "mutes and idiots".[156] The system, supervised by the dictatorial President Pi (who, as noted by Călinescu, has adopted some typically fascist regalia),[154] imposes eugenics and the communal rearing of children, while banning both economic competition and all ethnic affiliation.[157]

In addition to being faced with the drastic social experiment and its consequences, which they come to reevaluate as individuals soon after the President dies,[158] humans are faced with the threat of complete annihilation, as the cold progresses down toward the ocean floor. The scientists are forced to acknowledge yet another threat: a process of biological devolution seems to be turning men and women into quasi-mollusks.[155] Their awareness of such alarming trends fails to produce unity, and the decision-makers are incapable of finding a global solution. The clash is personified by two engineers: Whitt, who suggests moving civilization closer to the inner molten regions, and Xavier, the inventor of a nuclear powered spaceship with which he plans to resettle humans on another planet. In the end, while Whitt and his secretary dig into the seafloor, Xavier and his concubine Olivia (whose initials X-O were included in the book's original title)[63] make a solitary escape into the cosmos.[155]

Cubleşan reads the text as a warning against political system which propose "man's isolation within the circle of his self-sufficiency", adding: "The solution for humanity's free existence can never be one which advances toward the individual's isolation. That is the idea which Felix Aderca places at the root of his spectacular digression".[159] The moral lesson intended by Aderca is assisted by various details of poetic nature. Described by Crohmălniceanu as fruits of "a rich fantasy",[77] the "enormous toys" imagined are, according to Călinescu, "what gives the novel its charms".[154] The underwater cities follow daring architectural lines with underline their purpose (the capital, located under Hawaiian Islands, is a crystal sphere, while the deep sea mining center in the Mariana Trench is a giant pyramid with a molten base).[160] However, once depleted of their geothermal power, settlements can turn into inverted aquariums, where men are exposed to the primal curiosity of marine creatures.[161] As an additional element of the plot, philologist Elvira Sorohan highlighted the various tributes Oraşele înecate pays to the Czechoslovak science fiction classic Karel Čapek, allegedly to the point of intertextuality.[63]

Other writings

Revolte, Aderca's study into the paradoxes of law, is deemed by Cubleşan an illustration of its author's "manifest nonconformity with all social conventions", being as such his "pamphlet novel against judicial institutions, against social corruption, written somewhat parodically".[76] Crohmălniceanu also described it as "a finely analytical probe into a puzzling psychology and [...] a fine satire of legal formalism."[77] Other literary critics have nevertheless interpreted the same work as a meditation on the human condition: building on Ion Negoiţescu's claim that Revolte was "a first-rate parabolic writing", Gabriel Dimisianu spoke of the book's absurdist connotations, of its commentary on "the absurdity of being".[162] Dimisianu finds that the narrative elaborates on a Kafkaesque interpretation of revolt which sets it against other messages of revolt in 1930s Romanian literature, since its persecuted hero is docile and middle class (see The Trial).[162] Reportedly, Aderca had discovered Franz Kafka by the mid 1930s, when he unusually recommended him as "the Czechoslovak Urmuz".[163]

At the core is the conflict between Istrăteanu, a sales representative for Buştean's gristmill, and the accountant Lowenstein. The latter, finding that Istrăteanu has been operating an unusual credit system to benefit himself and his customers, calls for a formal investigation into the affair. The affair is then managed by secondary characters who serve to highlight the ills of a judicial system: an incompetent but pompous counsel, whose many blunders only strengthen the case of an unscrupulous prosecutor.[162] Istrăteanu faces his prosecution with a smile, accusing in turn Lowenstein of being "a maniac of ledgers", and claiming that his way of conducting business was the only method of saving the gristmill from bankruptcy.[164] Such theories are outlined and illustrated within a peculiar narrative framework, and this story too veers into depicting its protagonist's exotic sexual adventures,[154] as well as his recollections from the war, which he dispenses for the sake of dealing with boredom.[162] Ironically, Istrăteanu's admittance of guilt is what ultimately leads the enterprise into bankruptcy, a process which results in him becoming the mill's new owner.[154] According to Cubleşan: "[the account] displays a sort of humor at once pawky and terribilistic, the narrative formula itself being seemingly unrestrained by docility toward the classical structure of novels."[76]

The diversity of literary approaches was also enhanced during the last stage of Felix Aderca's career. His Muzică de balet was considered highly original for its parable nature and the theme of racial persecution (see Holocaust literature). According to Zalis, it constitutes, within Romanian drama, the only sample of an "anti-racist warning."[92] Similarly, novelist and critic Norman Manea, a survivor of the wartime deportations, cited Muzică de balet as one of the few Romanian writings from the post-war period to openly discuss the murder of Romanian Jews.[165]

The biographical genre, which preoccupied Aderca throughout his final years, produced several works, experimental as well as conventional. In Oameni excepţionali, his attention was dedicated to the lives of politicians (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Woodrow Wilson), cultural figures (Sarah Bernhardt, Isadora Duncan, Leo Tolstoy, Richard Wagner) and business magnates (William Randolph Hearst, Henry Ford).[64] Reputedly seen by Aderca himself as the best of his creations,[23] A fost odată un imperiu has for a pretext the life of Grigori Rasputin, the political guru whose influence preceded the Russian Revolution. This core element is believed by Crohmălniceanu to have been borrowed from Rasputin. Roman eines Dämon, one of German novelist Klabund's several biographical sketches, but retold with the faux objectivity developed by some Expressionists (the Kinostil technique, which, according to the same commentator, found with Aderca "an ingenious and consistent application").[77] The historical account nevertheless mutates into a highly subjective, chaotic text, which Aderca himself explained as the result of being bedridden with a high fever, and which, Crohmălniceanu suggests, doubled as "a grotesque comedy".[77] In contrast, Aderca's final biographical study, the ESPLA-rejected Goethe şi lumea sa ("Goethe and His World"), was based on a methodical research that was ostensibly inspired by Scientific Socialism, and that, as Aderca himself claimed, offered insight into the conflicting sides of Goethe's life: his literary genius in contrast with his supposedly subservient position to German aristocracy.[17]

Aderca's final years were also marked by his growing interest in aphorism as a literary form. His overall contribution to the genre is described by Călinescu as evidence of his "undying curiosity" for "all aspects of art and life".[7] One such sample, quoted by the critic, read: "Had we all been born exceptional, life in common would be impossible."[7] Aderca also recorded an exchange between himself and his novelist friend H. Bonciu, who was on his death bed, losing a battle with cancer: to his own question about which death was "most bearable", which had left Aderca baffled, Bonciu gave the answer "someone else's".[166]

Political advocacy and related disputes

Aderca's take on socialism

In addition to the political choices stated in his fiction and critical essays, or those implied by his adherence to radical modernism, Aderca maintained a profile as a political journalist and social critic. His first enterprise in this field was his support for World War I neutrality, outlined in his Sânge închegat essays and his various contributions to Seara. Aderca's attitude was originally a countercritique of anti-German sentiment: his belief that the German Empire had a moral right to destroy the cultural patrimony of enemy nations, and as such was not "barbaric", was reviewed with reticence by a fellow Germanophile, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru.[167] Later, Aderca's discourse developed into claims that the Central Powers were leading a "revolutionary war" against protectionism and imperialism.[168] Committed, by the 1920s, to a personal vision of pacifist socialism, Aderca had far leftist inclinations: in the opening volume of his Idei şi oameni, he adopted a radical stance, criticizing Romanian reformism, the moderate Marxism of philosopher Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, and the Second International.[91] Călinescu identified various diatribes against the exploitation of workers, or parallel comments made against war, throughout Aderca's essays, notably citing Aderca's strong denunciation of luxurious casinos newly built in the resort of Sinaia.[96] However, Moartea unei republici roşii was seen by the Marxist Crohmălniceanu as proof that Aderca, having little clue about how "a new society is to be organized", favored "a nonconformism of a mostly moral and and aesthetic kind", where sexual freedom, creative liberty and the celebration of "irreducible human individuality" were all in supply.[91] In his early pacifist texts, the novelist adopted a view based on class conflict, and viewed Marxism as an instrument for the masses. He argued: "war is a creation of masters fighting each other for dominance. [...] What can the impoverished people have in common with the polite master? The French worker, what does he stand to gain from this war, other than a more thorough understanding of Marxism?"[169]

Although his family's roots were in Judaism, there is evidence that, for at least part of his life, Aderca openly identified with Christianity, Christian socialism and Christian pacifism. According to Călinescu, the writer's World War I articles combined "radical Christianity" with "sarcasm for the [war] victims."[154] In one context, Aderca even speculated about a more positive future shaped by Christian Universalism.[96] Nevertheless, his interview in Lumea de mâine, like all other of Ion Biberi's conversations with Marxists, avoids the issue of religion, which is nonetheless present in other parts of the same book.[85] At the same time, Aderca's leftist leanings were largely incompatible with the neoliberalism of his mentor Eugen Lovinescu, a situation acknowledged by Aderca as early as his Mic tratat years. In Mărturia unei generaţii, Aderca challenged Lovinescu to state his attitude about such differences of opinion, and was answered, with a rationale questioned by Crohmălniceanu, that Sburătorul's celebration of individualism outweighed the neoliberal stance of its leader.[56]

Aderca's socialism was doubled by a sarcastic view of traditional authority. The 1927 text which first propelled him to the police officials' attention included some remarks targeting King Ferdinand I and his wife Marie, commenting on the royal's portraits as displayed by local businesses: "the Queen in profile, bust, wearing a golden choker and between her breasts a large sugary rose, and the King, also a bust, is without goatee, all shaved and with a fresh, blond, hairdo, as if a 'fancy' model for full service barbers."[17] According to Dumitru Hîncu, although the comment irritated Siguranţa Statului people, it "still had nothing to do with an attack on State institutions or its leaders".[17] The rebellious stances blended with more conventional attitudes on various other subjects: some of Aderca's various texts on interwar social issues tend to describe the concessions made to feminism as a risky enterprise, and have been described by some as evidence of sexism. In one of his Bilete de Papagal articles, Aderca stated the claim that men, who "have taken the family's weight upon their shoulders", were justified to react against feminist ideas, which turned women "into the street of vulgar politics" (statements listed by gender historian Oana Băluţă as one of the interwar opinion pieces that "oscillated between misogyny and sexism").[170] In one other prose piece, he suggested that girls wearing the bob cut were abstract and sexless (see 1920s in fashion).[96]

The personalized elements in Aderca's socialist outlook were in part held accountable for his conflicts with the authorities of Communist Romania. During his stint at Vremea, Aderca had applied a Marxist-inspired critique to the Soviet Union and Stalinism, suggesting that Joseph Stalin himself was an "Asiatic tyrant".[64] In Lumea de mâine, he expressed his confidence that the new post-fascist age would signify the triumph of liberty and democracy (ideas which were retrospectively classified by cultural journalist Iulia Popovici as an "obsession" of all those interviewed by Biberi).[85] In one other instance, he referred to the interval between Ion Antonescu's toppling and the communist takeover as a time of "supreme democracy".[87]

His criticism of Stalinism meant that Oameni excepţionali was made inaccessible to the general public after the start of communism and throughout the subsequent period.[64] The 1956 ESPLA denunciation elaborated on his "reactionary" attitudes, hinting that Aderca had failed to adopt Marxist-Leninist principles in respect to communist revolution, the old intelligentsia and the national issue.[17] Aderca's own appeal to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, outlining the ideological credentials of his Goethe şi lumea sa, listed the positive verdicts of several professional reviewers (philologist Mihai Isbăşescu, poet Alfred Margul-Sperber etc.), argued that his reinterpretation of the Goethe subject from Marxist positions was "unique", and proposed that the conclusions were of interest to both Eastern Bloc cultures and "the Marxist circles in the West."[17] Reviewing the compliments Aderca addressed to Gheorghiu-Dej, Dumitru Hîncu warned: "Published separately, torn from the context of its inception and viewed solely in the light of present-day debates and disputes, the petition could pass for an act of opportunism, of cowardice, or even as proof of collaboration with the regime personified by Gheorghiu-Dej. But this was not the case. Aderca was purely and simply routed, he saw threatened his yearslong labor".[17]

On nationalism and antisemitism

A special section of Aderca's articles on political subjects outlined his lifelong rejection of antisemitic politics. In his Lumea de mâine interview, Aderca spoke at length of his main stylistic themes, recognizing "revolt" as the main subject of his books. He defined this in relation to social alienation and antisemitic prejudice, referring to himself in the third person: "Throughout his life [Aderca] was chased around [...] by a gang of vigilantes in cahoots with executioners, who sought to end his life. What injustice had he or his ancestors committed, that he had to admit and repent for? A mystery. To which supreme command and to what sort of ineffable order would his elimination from this luminous world have been an answer? A mystery. And that this physical and moral assassination could not have been effected yet—therein lies the deepest mystery, the strange and awesome wonder of each day's morning."[12] Faced with the rise of racial discrimination during his lifetime, the writer made known his ideals of civic nationalism and Jewish assimilation, stressing that he saw no incompatibility between having both Jewish and Romanian identities,[23] and debating over such matters with Al. L. Zissu, a leading figure in local Zionism.[2][171] According to researcher Ovidiu Morar, Aderca was "the writer whose life, in close connection to his work, is perhaps the best reflection for the tragedy of local Judaism".[1]

Aderca's criticism of antisemitic attitudes was vocal from early on. Writing in 1916, he addressed the practice of discussing Jewish identity as a monolithic notion. Seeing in it a discriminatory method, he suggested that in reality the supposed Jewish "types" could prove "antagonistic [Aderca's emphasis]", and together placed in doubt the existence of a single Jewish nation.[172] Commenting on Romania's delay in adopting Jewish emancipation, he also noted that, at the added risk of enforcing prejudice about Jews being lazy and profiteering, members of the community were being actively prevented from engaging in any line of work other than commerce.[173] Writing much later, Aderca suggested that the claim according to which Jews had taken over Romanian commerce was the equivalent of stating that "since they could not live on land, 'fish have monopolized the ponds' ".[174] In a December 1922 issue of Contimporanul, under the title Deschideţi bordeluri! ("Open up Brothels!"), he ridiculed the far right's demand for a Jewish quota in universities, while expressing his alarm that antisemitic agitation, tolerated by the establishment, was turning the students into hooligans.[175]

The writer felt troubled by the contrary tendency of philosemitism, which he identified with counterproductive positive discrimination, and suggested instead treating ethnic distinctions with indifference: "When [an intellectual] secretly confesses philosemitism, all of a sudden I have a hunch. I would prefer to know he is indifferent."[23][176] Reviewing the pre-1900 roots of Romania's antisemitic lobby, Aderca was among the Jewish voices who rejected the notion that the ethnic nationalism professed by Mihai Eminescu, Romania's national poet, was the equivalent of antisemitism, and suggested concentrating on what made Eminescu's work universal in content.[177]

Following the application of emancipation policies in Greater Romania, Aderca militated for the right of Jews to be perceived as an equal component of the new Romanian nation, on equal footing with the other ethnic minorities, writing: "We [Jews] are Romanians at least as good as the Polacks, the Hungarians, the Bulgarians, and the Gypsy in Romania, who have sought and still seek to give us lessons in patriotism."[178] Aderca's criticism of nationalism as a tool for exploitation (or, as he called it, "parasitism") prompted him to denounce the centralized government system associated with Greater Romania's administration of multiethnic regions. He opined that Bulgaria was justified in demanding to be ceded Southern Dobruja, "where no Romanian was ever born", and proposed a territorial autonomy system for Transylvania.[7] One of his Contimporanul pamphlets, Scrisoare disperată ("Desperate Letter"), spoke of Romania as excessively parochial and backward-looking: "Motherland in which one the laws and the books need to be prepared a hundred years in advance, so that then, at the right time, the needs and tastes may change!"[179]

Like Jewish community leader Wilhelm Filderman, Aderca opposed the antisemitic branding of Jews as dangerous to Romanians, suggesting that the only cases where this idea could be invoked were counterbalanced by those in which ethnic Romanians had acted against each other.[180] He expressed his bitterness at noting that Jews were still being stereotyped as fearful: "It is [claimed to be] an elementary truth that the Jew can be beaten by anyone at any time, even the children know that 'the Yid is a coward.' "[181] Fighting this perception, he noted that whole lists could be complied with the names of Jews who had fought and died in World War I.[182] As the first discrimination and censorship laws were being adopted under Octavian Goga's premiership, the writer also called for those who supported integration to combat the phenomenon by publishing and endorsing an anthology of Jewish contributions to Romanian letters.[78]

In tandem, the evaluation of Aderca's overall contribution to literature was becoming intertwined with antisemitic reflexes among some anti-modernist critics. Const. I. Emilian, who was at once the first critic to investigate Romania's modernist scene as a whole, which he did from conservative and antisemitic positions, dismissed all of Aderca's texts as "neurotic".[183] The theme was developed further by Ovidiu Papadima, in his articles for Sfarmă-Piatră. One such piece ridiculed Lovinescu as an unlikely patron of "revolutionary ideas" which had been taken up by "the Jews" Aderca, Camil Baltazar, Benjamin Fondane, Ilarie Voronca, creating "the illusion of a literary movement patroned by [Lovinescu]."[184] Papadima, who had openly campaigned for Aderca and H. Bonciu to be arrested during the 1937 scandal, repeatedly referred to them under their original Jewish names, called them "swine" and "traders in hogwash", and suggested that erotic literature was "that Jewish business".[73] As early as 1934, discussing Mihail Sebastian's publicized conflict with the antisemitic journalists, whom both writers identified as "the hooligans", Aderca reportedly snapped: "Five minutes, you understand? For five minutes, I wish that I too were a hooligan, that I could experience what it means to be the Master!"[185]

In public statements and in private notes, some of Aderca's literary adversaries who did not profess far right ideas also stated various accusations about him that were antisemitic in nature. Alongside the substance of Călinescu's controversial statements, this attitude was present in the published diary of poet-dramatist Victor Eftimiu, who included Aderca alongside other Jewish writers who had criticized his work, all of whom he portrayed using racial stereotypes.[186] According to Sebastian, Eftimiu also opposed, in 1944, that Aderca be made a member of the Romanian Writers' Society, on grounds that Jewish writers "should be pleased we're having them back".[29] In addition, Dumitru Hîncu notes, Aderca was first persecuted by an administration which included four professional writers (Lucian Blaga, Ion Petrovici, Alexandru Hodoş and Goga himself), none of whom intervened in their colleague's favor.[17] A similar point is made by Ovidiu Morar, who writes that the only Romanian literary professionals to have publicly defended Aderca in 1937 were Zaharia Stancu and Perpessicius.[78]

On fascism

Aderca's attitude toward fascism is said to have been more ambiguous than his stance on antisemitism. In addition to the retrospective parable of Muzică de balet,[92] a number of his texts feature more or less explicit anti-fascist discourse. According to both Ovid Crohmălniceanu and Henri Zalis, this is the case of his 1916 novel, which illustrates in the background the dangers posed by radical nationalism.[79][92][153] His Oameni excepţionali discusses Nazism as a heterogeneous ideology, arguing that Adolf Hitler was an imitator of Stalin, a reluctant follower of Marxian economics, and a person whose arrival in power was only made possible by the inconsistencies of German Communist Party activists.[64] According to Henri Zalis, such anti-fascist messages were even present in the 1940 book about Peter the Great: Hitler was destroying a Europe that Peter was one to have helped civilize.[79] In the late 1940s, as investigation began on the topic of wartime antisemitic crimes, Aderca expressed his opposition to any violent retribution scenario, noting that one would risk losing the moral high ground in any such situation.[23]

However, Sebastian's Journal includes several accounts of Aderca describing his sympathy for the rhetoric of fascism. One such entry for February 7, 1939 depicts Aderca stating his regret that Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, founder of the fascist Iron Guard, had been killed during the political purges of 1938: "[Aderca] told me that he deplores the death of Codreanu, who was a great man, a real genius, a moral force without equal, whose 'saintly death' is an irreparable loss."[187] In May 1940, Sebastian alleged that Aderca had retained and even radicalized such views. In this context, he reports, Aderca described both Codreanu and Goga as "great figures", spoke of Codreanu's Pentru legionari ("For the Legionaries") as "a historic book", and even argued that, had the Iron Guard not been antisemitic, "he would have joined it himself."[188] Speaking of the failed Iron Guard revolt of January, Aderca allegedly accused the two Guardist rebels, Viorel Trifa and Dumitru Groza, of having acted as agents provocateurs serving Soviet interests (an observation to which Sebastian added the sarcastic note: "that shows his level of political competence").[189] According to the same source, Aderca was also reevaluating his stance on Hitler: "He thinks that Hitler has the mind of a genius, equal to Napoleon's or indeed greater."[188]


Aderca's activities left an enduring trace in the autobiographical writings of his fellow authors, from Sebastian to Lovinescu, and from Eftimiu to Camil Petrescu. Lovinescu's notes and diaries, published decades after his death, offer a parallel intimate record of his friendship with Aderca: from a claim (disputed by Petrescu) that Aderca's automobile was of poor quality[32] to detailed records of how his literary circle received his and Sanda Movilă's works, publicly read by them at Sburătorul sessions.[33][34] According to these notes, the Sburătorul leader was also closely informed about the troubles Aderca faced in his married life.[190] Aderca is also mentioned in the memoirs of novelist Lucia Demetrius,[191] and his special contribution to the cultural life of Oltenia was the topic of an homage piece by essayist and memoirist Petre Pandrea.[95] Aderca's alleged mistakes in translating from German, like his other literary inconsistencies, form subjects for several short pieces by satirist Păstorel Teodoreanu. Part of Teodoreanu's volume Tămâie şi otravă ("Incense and Poison", originally published in 1934-1935), they include a piece titled Un parvenit al tiparului: F. Aderca ("A Parvenu of Letters: F. Aderca").[192]

The selectively permissive stance of communist authorities took a toll on Aderca's legacy: according to one testimony, his biography of Christopher Columbus was the only one of his texts still sold in bookstores during the 1950s, with the added effect that an entire generation of readers believed Aderca to have been a one-book author.[89] In the decades following the his death, his various works were published individually or collectively, into new editions. This category includes: Murmurul cuvintelor ("The Murmur of Words", collected poems, 1971), Răzvrătirea lui Prometeu ("Prometheus' Rebellion", 1974), Teatru ("Drama", 1974), Contribuţii critice ("Contributions to Criticism", 1983 and 1988), Oameni şi idei ("Men and Ideas", 1983).[4] In 1966, Oraşele înecate was reprinted into a new edition, this time under the title Oraşe scufundate. The editor, Ovid Crohmălniceanu, claimed that this change reflected Aderca's own intention, as allegedly expressed by him in old age.[63] The book was translated into German, and became familiar to an international public.[63] Several other editions of Aderca's works were reprinted in the period after the 1989 Revolution, including Femeia cu carne albă, Zeul iubirii and Revolte,[4] as well as a 2003 Editura Hasefer reprint of Mărturia unei generaţii.[60] Also issued at the time were several new editions of volumes by Aderca, including his full biography of Peter the Great[4] and his Oameni excepţionali.[64] His life and work were the object of several monographs, several of which were authored and published by Henri Zalis.[2][79][89][95] Interest in the writer is nevertheless said to have dramatically declined over the following period.[2][33] Among those who still promoted Aderca's work, poet and translator Petre Solomon, who was a student of his during the war years, credited his teacher with having decisively influenced his earliest perception of art.[82]

According to Ioana Pârvulescu, Aderca, the "protean writer", was "placed on the margin" by 21st century critics.[33] He was still the subject of commemorations organized by Jewish Romanian representative bodies, including one ceremony held in 2008 (hosted by Zalis and attended by, among others, intellectuals Lya Benjamin, George Bălăiţă, Ştefan Iureş, Hary Kuller, Toma George Maiorescu and Dumitru Radu Popescu).[2] According to Gheorghe Grigurcu, the antisemitic interpretation of Aderca's contributions survive in the post-Revolution essays of Mihai Ungheanu, one of the literary critics earlier known for promoting the nationalist tenets of Protochronism.[93]

Felix Aderca was survived by his son Marcel. Known for his own work as a translator,[4][23] he was an editor of his father's work and caretaker of his estate. In keeping with Felix Aderca's last wish, he inventoried the manuscripts and photographs in this collection and, in 1987, donated the entire corpus to the Romanian Academy.[23] His own contribution as an editor and biographer includes a collection of his father's thoughts on the topic of antisemitism: F. Aderca şi problema evreiască ("F. Aderca and the Jewish Question", published by Editura Hasefer in 1999).[2][23][78][193] A branch of the Aderca family, descending from the writer's brother, still exists in Israel,[2] and Felix Aderca's name was assigned to an annual prize granted by the Association of Romanian-language Israeli Writers.[194]


  1. ^ a b (Romanian) "Lista lui Morar", in Realitatea Evreiască, Nr. 280-281 (1080-1081), August–September 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h (Romanian) Boris Marian, "Un scriitor care nu merită uitarea", in Realitatea Evreiască, Nr. 292-293 (1092-1093), March–April 2008
  3. ^ Rotman, p.174
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y (Romanian) Aderca, Felix, biographical entry at the Alexandru and Aristia Aman Dolj County Library; retrieved March 1, 2010
  5. ^ Debora Perlmutter mentioned in Călinescu (p.792). Cubleşan (p.79) specifies the number of children.
  6. ^ a b c d Cernat, p.34
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Călinescu, p.792
  8. ^ a b c Cubleşan, p.79
  9. ^ Crohmălniceanu, p.422; Cubleşan, p.79-80
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Crohmălniceanu, p.422
  11. ^ Cernat, p.34, 61; Crohmălniceanu, p.422; Cubleşan, p.79
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cubleşan, p.80
  13. ^ Cernat, p.55; Crohmălniceanu, p.422
  14. ^ Boia, p.133; Cubleşan, p.86
  15. ^ Boia, p.133; Călinescu, p.791-792
  16. ^ Boia, p.133-135
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y (Romanian) Dumitru Hîncu, "Felix Aderca şi autoritîţile comuniste", in România Literară, Nr. 46/2006
  18. ^ Oişteanu, p.253; Sebastian, p.146. See also Boia, p.135
  19. ^ a b Oişteanu, p.253
  20. ^ a b c Sebastian, p.146
  21. ^ Boia, p.105, 135
  22. ^ Călinescu, p.936
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m (Romanian) Avram Croitoru, "Scrisul - o constantă a sufletului", in Realitatea Evreiască, Nr. 240 (1040), November 2005
  24. ^ Daniel, p.618
  25. ^ a b Cubleşan, p.80-81
  26. ^ a b c d Cubleşan, p.83
  27. ^ a b (Romanian) Victor Durnea, "Societatea scriitorilor români", in Dacia Literară, Nr. 2/2008 (republished by the Romanian Cultural Institute's România Culturală)
  28. ^ a b c (Romanian) Z. Ornea, "Evocări verosimile", in România Literară, Nr. 4/2000
  29. ^ a b c Sebastian, p.615
  30. ^ Crohmălniceanu, p.23
  31. ^ a b c (Romanian) Simona Vasilache, "Ce se citeşte şi ce se scrie", in România Literară, Nr. 19/2008
  32. ^ a b c (Romanian) Ioana Pârvulescu, "Îmblînzitorul", in România Literară, Nr. 17/2001
  33. ^ a b c d (Romanian) Ioana Pârvulescu, "Mulţi chemaţi, puţini aleşi...", in România Literară, Nr. 16/2001
  34. ^ a b c d (Romanian) Ioana Pârvulescu, "Cadouri pentru Monica", in România Literară, Nr. 45/2003
  35. ^ (Romanian) Cornelia Ştefănescu, "Viaţa documentelor", in România Literară, Nr. 45/2002
  36. ^ Cernat, p.63
  37. ^ (Romanian) Ioana Pârvulescu, "Micul New York", in România Literară, Nr. 35/2008. See also Daniel, p.626
  38. ^ Daniel, p.611
  39. ^ (Romanian) Ion Pop, "Un viitor de o sută de ani", in România Literară, Nr. 7/2009
  40. ^ Cernat, p.313
  41. ^ Cernat, p.270
  42. ^ a b c Grigorescu, p.385
  43. ^ Cernat, p.134-135
  44. ^ a b Cernat, p.271
  45. ^ Grigorescu, p.385-386
  46. ^ Cernat, p.276
  47. ^ Grigorescu, p.420
  48. ^ Alexandra Viorica Dulău, "La réception de Maupassant en Roumanie", in Noëlle Benhamou (ed.), Guy de Maupassant, Rodopi Publishers, Amsterdam & New York, 2007, p.97. ISBN 978-90-420-2254-6
  49. ^ (Romanian) Hary Kuller, "Judaica Romaniae", in Realitatea Evreiască, Nr. 250 (1050), March–April 2006
  50. ^ a b c (Romanian) Simona Vasilache, "Manuale şi manifeste", in România Literară, Nr. 36/2008
  51. ^ a b Michael Peschke (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Pseudonyms. Part I: Real Names, K. G. Saur Verlag, Munich, 2005, p.18. ISBN 3598249616
  52. ^ (Romanian) Geo Şerban, "Un profil: Jacques Frondistul", in Observator Cultural, Nr. 144, November 2002
  53. ^ Mircea Mancaş, "Recenzii. Carl Ciapek. R. U. R.", in Viaţa Românească, Nr. 5/1927
  54. ^ Crohmălniceanu, p.25-26, 31
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  73. ^ a b Ornea, p.451
  74. ^ Ornea, p.451-452
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