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Sebastian si Mircea Eliade

O sa va spun cate ceva ce stiu de la o doamna, Dumnezeu s-o ierte!, fosta colega de generatie cu Eliade si care s-a intalnit cu el inclusiv in ultima sa vizita la Paris inainte de fulgeratorul sfarsit de la Chicago. Eliade a fost extrem de afectat de folosirea jurnalului lui Sebastian de catre grupul de la Toladot (ii stiu si eu, poate voi reveni alatdata cu nume si detalii) atunci cand era practic pe punctul de a lua premiul Nobel pentru literatura. Eliade vorbea cu fratele lui Sebastian, care emigrase impreuna cu manuscrisul (nu-i mai retin numele, dar el nu si-l romanizase ca Sebastian), care frate, in amintirea relatiilor prietenesti dintre Mircea si mai ales Nina Eliade cu Sebastian facuse pana atunci tot ce putuse sa impiedice utilizarea jurnalului in scopuri politice (era si argumentul pasajelor delicate despre familie, fratele neacceptand publicarea epurata a jurnalului ci preferand ca aceasta sa se faca dupa moartea sa). Deci jurnalul a fost folosit si este si acum in scopuri cu tzinta precisa, Eliade in primul rand dar si intelectualitatea de dreapta romaneasca interbelica, intamplator sau nu, cel mai valoros "produs" cultural romanesc din toate timpurile. De aceea eu as dori ca fundatia ce detine manuscrisul sa accepte accesul la el al cercetatorilor romani pentru ca eventual sa fie facsimilat si sa se vada clar ce a scris intr-adevar Sebastian cu mana lui. S-ar putea ca textul de "justificare" a intreruperii jurnalului timp de sase luni scris in ianuarie 41 (UNICA intrerupere timp de peste 10 ani de jurnal) sa fie autentic. Dar, ca Toma Necredinciosul, pana nu vad manuscrisul eu nu pot sa exclud varianta "corecturii" introduse de interesatii clar - hai sa zic - ideologiceste. Reamintesc si cazul arhivei Filderman, aflata tot in Israel, care la fel are accesul restrictionat.
Penibil in cazul Eliade s-a comportat insa Saul Below, care, prin a patra (cred) nevasta, fata Floricai Bagdazar, era prieten de familie cu Christinel si Mircea Eliade. Culmea, la inmormantarea lui Eliade din marea capela a universitatii din Chicago, Below a rostit si el un elogiant panegiric in fata asistentei de cca o mie de persoane. Dar dupa vreo doi ani a divortat de romanca si, recasatorit a vrut sa plateasca o politza vechilor cunostinte. Asa a aparut Grielescu din Ravelstein, o jegosenie din partea cuiva care mancase de atatea ori in casa lui Eliade si, culmea, mai si il laudase la inmormantare.
Cam asta e cu folosirea lui Sebastian in anumite scopuri. Pacat ca azi totul e focalizat pe jurnal, caci eu cred ca piesele lui sunt macar la fel de valoroase. Eram elev si ascultam cu mare placere teatrul radiofonic cu Beligan in Jocul de-a vacanta anuntandu-si colegii de pensiune ca la ora 8 seara se retrage sa asculte la radio Salzburg Eine Kleine Nachtmusik...
Lucid

4 comentarii:

calator spunea...

Si pe mine m-a surprins "schimbarea la fata" a lui S. Bellow.
Un scriitor ca el, confirmat, cu cariera facuta, nu avea nevoie de "luarile de pozitii" ale unor intelectuali în ascensiune sau care doreau tardiv sa-si faca un nume.
Iar tot ca scriitor, cu experienta lui despre oameni, cu cunoasterea variatiilor de opinie ce pot avea loc în procesul de formare a individului, stiutor al istoriei, etc. ar fi putut sa pastreze distanta în campania deslantuita împotriva lui Eliade, sa relativizeze opiniile tânarului Eliade lasând-o pe doamna Levastine stapâna a problemei.
Mai ales ca Eliade frecventând pe Bellow, daca ar fi fost atât de "anti" cât de spune, nu l-ar fi întâlnit asa de des.

Dar si asta face parte din misterele naturii umane, din care nu sunt exclusi nici scriitorii.
Poate vom afla mai mult...când Saul Bellow îsi va publica si el jurnalul.

Seherezada spunea...

un articol interesant pe aceasta tema:

http://www.geocities.com/mircea_eliade/eliadefrancisc2.htm

Da, e tragic si gretzos ca un Jurnal intim a fost folosit de multi in scopuri politice, in scopuri nobelabile, in scopuri fratzesti ..... insa stiu ca sinteti de acord cu mine, asta nu e vina Jurnalului si nici a lui Sebastian, omul traia vremuri si experiente zguduitoare pentru el pe toate planurile si-si gasea consolarea in asternerea impresiilor pe hirtie ... era a secret affair intre el si hirtie.

... mai ales ca (asta e ceea ce admir cel mai tare la acest jurnal) sint impresiile unui om ca toti oamenii, cu lasitatile, complexele si slabiciunile lui, plin de sentimente contradictorii ... Sebastian cind admira, el iubea, si atunci cind iubesti, cu greu renunti la aceasta dragoste chiar si cind te incearca dezamagirea, ... preferi sa crezi ca nu intelegi, ca intelegi gresit ... Se vede cu ochiul liber ca Sebastian il iubeste pe Eliade, tot ce scrie de rau sint rabufneli de ciuda, orice copil si-ar da seama de asta.
Deci, huuuo lui Saul Bellow, si celorlati ...

... pentru mine Jurnalul e pretios fiindca m-a facut sa inteleg cam cum as fi simtit eu daca as fi trait in perioada aia (m-a ferit dzeu), m-am identificat fara efort cu lipsa de eroism, cu complexele si slabiciunile omenesti ale lui Sebastian. Fireste ca Sebastian avea si merite, insa Jurnalul nu se ocupa de asta. Asta e un alt plus al jurnalului ...

calator spunea...

Seherezada,

Il citisem cu interes, gasindu-l uneori proaspat în afacerile lui sentimentale si împartasind ceva din tristetea lui când îl paraseau, sau se îndepartau, prietenii de el.

Dar, cu multi ani în urma îl citisem si ca autor.
Si nu ma împac azi ca autorul unui jurnal - pe care l-ar fi epurat singur de detaliile prea personale, de ar fi avut viata, - sa eclipseze total autorul care spera el însusi ca este.
S-ar putea ca jurnalul sa fie capodopera lui involuntara.
Câti au rasfoit Logica simbolica a lui Lewis Carrol, în raport cu cei care au citit Alice in Wonderland ?.
Sa vedem ce piesa de teatru se va scoate din jurnal, ce elemente vor fi scoase, care vor fi subliniate si îmbogatite.
Affaire a suivre.

In rest, pentru ieri, pasiuni, caldura mare, neîntelegeri.
Se mai întâmpla.

Anonim spunea...

Mircea Eliade and his detractors

by Francis I. Dworschak

Early May this year (2000) to my greatest surprise I discovered in the local Ottawa newspaper a review of Saul Bellow's latest book "Ravelstein" where the name of Mircea Eliade appeared and certainly not in flattering terms. I had been aware of some criticism against Eliade in the press and every time I was perplexed that his political errors of judgment in his young years were mixed up in the same cup of tea with his work as historian and philosopher of religions which I found most unusual.

I decided to buy Bellow's book and read it. The vehemence of his attacks against the character representing Mircea Eliade was approaching the realm of the absurd. This simply could not go unchallenged.. I had read most of Eliade's literary books during my adolescence and more recently his History of Religions in English and some other works. . I had also read the "Journal" of Mihail Sebastian. I have also made an effort to read as much of the available anti-Eliade literature and have tried to arrive at my own conclusions about this man and his critics.

Without going into the field of history of religions and its philosophical implications where I have no expertise, I have tried to be as objective as possible, taking into consideration Eliade's age and the turmoil of the times when for a short-lived period of his life he flirted with the extreme-right political party in his country. I have also taken into consideration the fact that his critics most likely are of mature age, live normal comfortable lives in rather "normal times", and have access, if they want, to all possible information, (albeit there is also so much misinformation ), they also live in countries with democratic political systems where truth and justice are to be respected, and have no excuses for expressing politically motivated biased opinions. I have also tried to be Eliade's critic, but a just one.

Perhaps one might best describe Eliade's main political error in his early life as his lack of a full appreciation of the principles of democracy towards which everybody should strive. However, there are many attenuating circumstances. This took place during a time when the democracies of the world were undergoing a period of deep crisis. In Europe they were in full retreat culminating in 1940 with the collapse of mighty France. It was not that it lost the military campaign, but the shameful way this took place as it disintegrated because it did not have the will to fight nor the sagacity of understanding how a war should be fought in that era. Romanians had always been and remained Francophile and the sad spectacle of France collapsing like a house of cards, devastated Romanians. The director of my high school stayed home when the victorious Germans entered Paris and he cried. And there were many like him.

Certainly democracy such as in France was not an example to follow for many Romanians when their country's frontiers were threatened from both east and west. The other democracy was England, but England was democratic only in England, not in its Empire. And as Eliade had spent several years in India, where he lived with the Indian people and watched their struggle for freedom, and it was clear on which side his sympathies were. He had met Mahatma Gandhi and was deeply and lastingly influenced by him, and many other Indian scholars and disliked intensely the British in India. Certainly he could not be impressed with the English democracy in her Empire. Yes there was another democracy, the USA, but this was so far away, and living in its splendid isolation!

Back in Romania, he found the most corrupt form of democracy, which was in name only and to a great extent as result of King Carol corruption and his ‘camarilla’. It is also true that real democratic traditions had never existed in this country even before this king. Something had to be done to restore some decency in this country. Democracy in Romania had failed, just as it is failing now, not only in Romania but in most countries of the former eastern block. Democracy, particularly free enterprise overnight is impossible. The terrain has to be prepared, people have to be educated first. Otherwise we'll all be assisting to the same phenomena as in the eastern European countries now in which pornography and mafia-like speculations were the first manifestations of "democracy". To impose democracy and a free market system overnight can have serious consequences.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau expressed similar views when he reminded us that it took almost 5 years for Canada until the last restrictions to free trade and free economy imposed by war were lifted in Canada after WW 2! It is this type of "democracy" in Romania, corrupted to the bones, which Eliade had to face in Romania when he was in his twenties. It is not surprising that like so many other young Romanians he was moved by events to look for some form of "benign" dictatorship, to put an end to corruption at home and be ready against the danger from the east, from the mighty Russian communist colossus. There were not many alternatives.

Yes, there were some Romanians who dreamed that the miracle from 1916-1919 would repeat itself and Germany would destroy communist Russia and the Allies would defeat Germany and then Romania would get rid of both. But they were dreamers, and after the war many went to jails and died as "Fascists", because they had supported the western Allies. ‘Entre la peste et le choléra, pas de choix’ one could say. Perhaps the only ones who were not tormented by the impossibility to find the right answer were the Hitler-ites, who were not only for removing the danger represented by the Soviets but also for the Nazi agenda, and the communists where the choice was simple and logical.

These were the grim prospects facing Romanians including Eliade at that time and one has to fully appreciate this before passing judgments. Eliade himself never showed any acceptance of Hitler's creed, on the contrary, he showed only contempt. He was never very enthusiastic about German culture, preferring Italian and particularly French culture and accepting the French language which he used in the vast majority of his well over 1000 published articles and books. But he preferred to the end Romanian for his literary works. Only a few became known in the West. In 1978 he was seriously considered as a candidate for the Nobel price in literature.

So one should not be too harsh in condemning Eliade for giving up on democracy for few years when he was still in his twenties. Surely he did not show political wisdom, but how many did ? In Romania, in his group ("generation 20 ") it was only Comarnescu (he had spent few years in USA, and I believe his wife was American), Eugène Ionesco ( his mother was French), M. Sebastian, who as a Jew not surprisingly opposed the slide towards the Axis in Romania at that time , and for whom the choice was simple and logical, and few others. For the rest, for whom there simply was no "right choice" it is sad that they could not just go into retreat and write about St. Augustin or about Shakespeare's sonnets.

The Nae Ionescu factor is well known. It is important to realize the influence of this professor of philosophy who dominated the young students during most of the 20s and the 30s. He attracted bright young students around him, including Eliade and Sebastian. And around 1933 he openly sided with the extreme right Iron Guard. He had a charismatic influence on the young generation. As a teacher he was brilliant and unique, but his political influence was malefic. The young generation of that time was fortunate to have such an unequalled teacher in philosophy, but they were most unfortunate to be influenced by his extreme naiveté in politics, a field where since Plato and perhaps even before him, no philosopher has ever shown much acumen. Even the Jewish Sebastian was unable to shake off Ionescu's spell until about 1936.

Before Sebastian published his book "After 2000 years" dealing with anti-Semitism, Sebastian had asked his beloved and highly respected teacher Nae Ionescu to write the preface. This preface was devastating. Nae Ionescu justified anti-Semitism, based on the presumption of deicide. And the unbelievable happens, Sebastian publishes his book with the defamatory introduction of Nae Ionescu, and continues to be a servile follower for few more years , thus incurring the wrath of his coreligionists in Romania. Only Eliade had the courage and decency to attack their common teacher and icon (after obtaining the latter's permission ! ) and defend his friend Mihail Sebastian in public articles.

How can one explain this action of Sebastian, except as a proof of the pervasive influence N. Ionescu had over his disciples? And if we accept this fact how can we deny this explanation to others under the spell of the professor?. To show his solidarity and respect for his much admired teacher Eliade even undertook to publish a few articles showing sympathies toward the Iron Guard (extreme right ), articles which formed the basis of all later accusations. They were written starting in January 1937 and until January or February 1938 and nowhere can one find a word of praise for Hitler or anything which could be interpreted as militantly anti-Semitic or anti-anything.

It is obvious that his leanings to the right (the Iron Guard) to a great part evaporated after he was released from jail (in 1939?) . Perhaps more important was the death of his mentor Nae Ionescu and after his death (15/03/40, some claim that he was poisoned) he finally felt free to discount the political ideas of N. Ionescu. Once out of jail he seriously considered emigrating and the USA was one of his choices. Fortunately for him, with the help of Al. Rosetti, and Professor C.C. Giurescu, under the pro-English Tatarescu government ( certainly not a pro legionnaire regime) he was sent to London as press (cultural) attaché and left Romania on April 10, 1940. He was out of Romania and had no participation whatsoever in the tragic events which followed.

Let us establish as mentioned above, that prior to his release from jail, over a period of about two years he had undeniably written a series of articles of "legionaroid" character. The term legionaroid is used in some articles of Z. Ornea and describes best his "political "activities. Prolegionaroid would be even more accurate. He had not been a member of the Iron Guard. In his articles, often ambiguous he confines himself to the theoretical- intellectual aspects of this movement, often considering it more a spiritual movement rather than a political party. He lays so much stress on the spiritual, orthodox aspect of this movement and opposes it repeatedly to the racial doctrines of Hitler, to the ideas of corporate state of Mussolini, the anti Christian persecution of the communists and the absolute corruption of democracies as he had seen it. There was not much left to choose from.

Yes, on one occasion he condemns the high-scale influx of Jews from Galicia into the Bucovina and Maramures parts of Romania while at the same time expressing his regret that Romania had lost three Jewish intellectuals of very high caliber. And on one occasion in a celebrated article of which Eliade disclaimed authorship and where he (or the real author) deplores the awful state of his country. And here comes the often quoted (mostly misquoted) text: "this nation....sunken in misery and syphilis, infiltrated by Jews and fragmented by foreigners etc."( Buna Vestire, Nr. 244-17 December 1937). The term "Jewish arendasi" is also quoted. "Arendasi" were the Jews administrating large rural properties belonging to large landowners. Naturally the Romanian peasants were suffering under those conditions, and as it has always happened in the course of history, they, the relatively little guys (Jewish arendasi) being so visible, even if not guilty attracted the resentment of the masses. Again Eliade was found guilty of writing prolegionarid articles on the deaths of Mota and Marin, whom he knew well, as well as of old general Cantacuzino, at one moment the puppet chief of the party. To exaggerate the virtues when writing eulogies about the dead, is this such a great crime?

They had all been together in the early 20s, forming the group "Criterion", dreaming of raising Romanian culture to European standards, before they split in right and left, extreme right and extreme left. Names like Eugen Ionescu, Ionel Jianu (Jewish), Vulcanescu, Mota, Polihroniade (extreme right), Belu (a communist), Comarnescu, Mihail Sebastian (also Jew) etc. formed a group of most talented, enthusiastic young men, committed to raise Romanian culture to new heights and which left its permanent marks on Romanian culture. This is until, as someone very aptly said " ideologies replaced ideals". But how many people know that Eliade had signed a petition to the government to free from prison Gheorghiu Dej, the communist leader, who after the war became the ruler of communist Romania, or that he had Lucretiu Patrascanu , a leading communist, participate in their discussions during the Criterion era?

It is also true that on one occasion he accompanied his friend Polihroniade, who was by then a member of the Iron Guard, for few days during the election campaign in 1937. As a writer I understand that one might be eager to see for himself how these things are being done. It would be perfectly understandable. His critics have not been able to prove if and how much actual campaigning he did, if any. And, yes, we have to thank Z. Ornea for having discovered among old documents that his name was mentioned as being responsible to ascertain that the legally required deposit of a certain amount was made in time in order to become eligible for same elections .This is held as proof that he was "integrated" in the machinery of the Iron Gard.. I have also discovered that he was found guilty for siding with Italy during the colonial war in Ethiopia (similar to the British war in South Africa 30 years earlier or the French colonial war in Marocco just over 20 years earlier), and also during the Spanish civil war where atrocities were committed on both sides and the Church was under fierce and bloody attacks. Perhaps I have overlooked one or two other "criminal" indiscretions. And that's about all the "criminal" record against Mircea Eliade. But now let's straighten out a few facts once and for all.

Up to this point, this is up to his release from jail and his quick departure to London (April 1940), to the best of my knowledge not one single Jew had been killed for political or racial reasons. ( And if someone was killed for political or racial reasons, it certainly did not draw any publicity and in this case I humbly retract this statement). They, the members of the Iron Guard had tainted their hands with Christian blood. The leader of the Iron Guard himself had killed in 1924 the police chief of Iasi, Manciu. Other members of this party assassinated the prime minister Duca in 1933, and Stelescu in 1936 and Armand Calinescu in September 1939. No excuses can be found for such actions, although this movement had been subjected to horrible persecutions, but nevertheless it was tainted already. In spite of the fact that its main enemies were the liberal and peasant parties, it also harboured anti-Semitism, although the main anti-Semitic party was the party of Cuza- Goga, which eventually was called to form a short-lived government by King Carol. Short-lasting, but long enough to allow passage of restrictive anti-Semitic laws.

While the Cuza- Goga party was basically just an anti-Semitic party, the Iron Guard was much more complex or perhaps better described as a "distorted" movement (With the bible in one hand but not shying from using the gun with the other hand) . While at times it was not a political party at all, it went deeply into mysticism, orthodoxy type, proclaiming to fight corruption, transform radically the present society, eliminate the evil political parties, talking of building a "new man", superior, more "moral", celebrating death (with hate for their enemies and with delirium for their own members for their "heroic sacrifices", etc. ). It is not too difficult to understand how they could get so many supporters but the vast majority were young and many were very young, loving their country but politically immature, and not necessarily adopting all aspects of this movement. And such noble words, as eliminating corruption, creating a new man, honest, loving his country and his religion can easily inflame the minds of young idealist people. And furthermore these were not normal times and they were living in a country without deep democratic traditions. It was not easy to know what was true and what was just allegations. It can be confusing for a young boy to think objectively when in 1938 the government assassinates the leader and top echelons of this party (The Iron Guard ) pretending that they were trying to escape, which nobody in the country believed.

Then on September 22, 1939 going to high school to discover that the prime minister Calinescu was himself assassinated on the previous day. And on the way home to see lots of people in front of the Courthouse (in Ramnicu Valcea) . Two corpses were lying on the ground, guarded by armed military and on a sign one could read: this is the fate for all traitors of the country! During the previous night the authorities in every county (judet) were ordered to pick up at random two members of this party, shoot them and display them the way I have mentioned. By the time one got home it was difficult to know whether mental sanity still existed and where. In those days objective journalism did practically not exist. Every newspaper was politicised and to obtain exact information was practically impossible. We knew (at the high school in Ramnic) that Codreanu (the chief, the "Captain" of this extreme right organization ) had killed the police-chief of Iasi, but "in self defence". And actually he had been acquitted in the court on these grounds, but was this morally right, for someone so committed to Christianity and its teachings? Who could tell, when the true facts were not available?

So we believe that the explanation must be that the then existent political system of the country was so rotten that many people were willing to experiment with anything, even if they could not accept all items on the agenda. To make things worse, after the assassination of Codreanu and other Leaders, the Iron Guard had to go underground and ceased to be any longer an independent national party. Instead it became subservient to German Nazism trying to keep a resemblance of identity by still adhering to its "mystic" notions and celebrating sacrificial death.

To the best of my knowledge there is no proof whatsoever that Eliade was a militant anti-Semite, supporting persecutions against Jews. That he did not like the excessive influx of Galician Jews into Bucovina and Maramures as mentioned above was his right. Not anybody can immigrate into Israel today. And how many Jews were refused entry in the USA before and during WW2? That he felt that the Jewish "arendasi" in Moldova and Bessarabia were adding to the suffering of the peasantry, I don't know how justified this accusation was. But as it appears to me one thing is certain, there was a gulf between them (the peasants and the Jewish population in Moldova, Bucovina and Bessarabia). And in a certain way this should not come as a big surprise. During the previous two centuries these parts of the world were continuous battle ground between the great powers.

When the Austrian armies occupied, these likely innocent Jews (likely because nobody else spoke German), were their intermediaries. When the Russians came, the same thing. No wonder that they became to a certain point identified with the enemies, perhaps unjustly. It was the same reason why in so many countries the Catholic Church was so detested (see Mexico for instance), because they almost always in the past had allied themselves with the occupying powers, or the ruling regimes and against the oppressed masses. And this is one sure formula to lead to mistrust . In my view, both the Jewish population in these territories and the Romanian peasants were all poor victims of History. The more I think about these problems, the more I realize how in so many instances so many people just became victims of History without any fault of their own. Surely there were criminal elements which deserved punishment. In the part of Romania where I grew up (Oltenia) there was no anti-Semitism whatsoever, and I read recently that the city of Timisoara had 13.000 Jews when the war broke out and exactly the same number at the end of the war.

There is no proof that he ever approved violence. On the contrary he was deeply impressed with Gandhi, his emphasis on the spiritual values and use of peaceful means, but for a brief period in his life and through some not too difficult to understand mental process, most likely due to the influence of his mentor N. Ionescu, he thought to have discovered the same mystical spiritual values in the Iron Guard ideology, while trying to overlook some rather sinister aspects of their actions. Likely he thought there were no better alternatives. And certainly , as someone mentioned , the moment they behaved like a true fascist party once in power, he left them. He was 29 years old when he turned "green", only three years older than when Emil Cioran was writing his virulent pro- Hitler articles and his book "The transformation of Romania ('Schimbarea la fata a Romaniei'). Z. Ornea stresses the young age of Cioran at that time but refuses any such attenuating circumstances for Eliade (only four years older)

There is no proof to the best of my knowledge that he ever accepted Hitlerism, which he only despised. This becomes evident again and again. He makes distinction between what he perceived as the Iron Guard ideology (because of the emphasis on spiritual and orthodoxy in theory,) and the Nazi racial ideology. He always preferred the Italian and particularly the French languages and cultures. He published mainly in french. You can see in his articles of that time again and again how he opposed the Nazi racial theories and the Italian corporate state.

He had expressed sympathies for Mussolini, but that was earlier, while Mussolini had normal and friendly relations with the Vatican and the Jews. As mentioned above he definitely opposed the Italian concept of corporate state and Mussolini's later political adventures. Later on his model became Salazar of Portugal. He never was a member of the Iron Guard. Was it because he had some reservations against the more repugnant aspects of this party and he was not prepared to go all the way, I don't know. Did he want to buy time and see in which direction it would evolve? Nobody can answer this question.

His political life after leaving Romania is in no way compromised, except to those who want to use any methods to discredit him. Soon Antonescu and the Iron Guard came to power ( September 1940) the guardists started their criminal acts of revenge, killing N. Iorga, Madgearu and other political enemies (no Jews yet) and Eliade reacted vehemently and condemned them in no uncertain terms. And then soon (after about 140 days) comes the so-called Rebellion. Antonescu destroys the Guard with the help of the Romanian army, but not before Jews are slaughtered in Bucharest, together with Romanian soldiers taken prisoner (some Romanian soldiers are burnt alive). Antonescu becomes sole ruler of Romania, the war against Russia begins, in order to recuperate Bessarabia, taken by force by the Russians in 1940.

All the unimaginable horrors of the war explode. But only a sick mind could connect Eliade even in the most oblique way to these tragic events. Eliade has to leave London as Romania had became an enemy country. M. Sebastian relates in his Journal that somebody who had talked to somebody else, just returned from Portugal, had said that Eliade was "more legionnaire that ever". And such a nonsensical hearsay "evidence" is copiously quoted. Anyone who knows Romania should know the Romanian propensity for rumours (creating rumours and believing them), no matter how far fetched. And this goes for N. Manea and all others who want to be taken seriously. One thing is certain. Romania was in a war, a total war and Eliade was their cultural and press attaché in Lisbon and his duties were clear. And it appears that he, like many other Romanians feared the Bolshevik invasion of Romania more than anything else (la peste ou le choléra?)

Another fact cannot be denied but perhaps can be explained. Yes, he had kind words for Salazar of Portugal after he was posted from London to Lisbon. At that time Romania was engaged in a bitter struggle with the Russians for liberating the territories the latter had grabbed by force from Romania in 1940. He based his attitude on the fact that Salazar had normalized the economy of Portugal, eliminated unemployment, had given it economical and political stability, had crushed down the coup of the extreme right (the blue shirts) and had managed to keep Portugal out of the war. He (Salazar) hated and feared Hitler and detested Mussolini, was not anti-Semite nor anti- Christian. And above all, although dictatorial the regime was not totalitarian. When compared with the dictatorship in Romania, Salazar's regime appeared even enlightened. Salazar had even sent through him a message to Antonescu, during a rather prolonged interview with Eliade, to take the Romanian army back home. In my opinion, this unqualified approval of the Salazar regime is the only time in his life when he unreservedly accepts a political agenda on his own, without having to please anybody (e.g. Nae Ionescu), and without confining himself only to certain ideological aspects (like in the case of the Iron Guard).

Yes, he (Salazar) had not allowed democracy and it is obvious that to Eliade this was not a political sin. This could theoretically be interpreted as one flaw in his perception of the political realities at that time but as mentioned earlier his options were tragically limited and the times were apocalyptical. And he was fully aware of the disastrous consequences for Romania if the Bolsheviks would win the war, as we have unfortunately seen. It boils down to the fact that in war your enemy's enemies become your friends, and no other than Churchill has proven this axiom. Just as nobody could say that Churchill was a communist just because they were war allies, nobody can accuse Eliade and others because they supported Romania's war effort against Russia and found themselves allied with dictators.

After I have exposed to the best of my abilities what can be perceived as flaws of political judgment during a short period in Eliade's young years let's see what accusations his detractors have thrown against him. It appears to me that the real war began with the posthumous publication in 1996 of the book "Journal" by the highly respected Romanian author Mihail Sebastian in 1996. Or perhaps it would be better to say what these critics have made out of this book.

I have read his book with deepest empathy for his torments, sufferings and later on persecution. But I have read it as a sincerely written Journal, where one writes down about events in his life and the world around him as one can see it from his point in time and space and expresses his often subjective opinions. But now when so many use this book as a source of information for political attacks against others, or even for rewriting history, they have transformed it from a great book, written with such sensitivity and style, into a third class political document. I wonder, if he was alive today, how many accusations in his book he would still support. It is one thing to feel sympathy for Sebastian's hardships and persecutions, and another thing to take everything he says as the word of the Bible.

Some of his accusations are nothing but hearsay (that in Lisbon E. was more legionnaire than ever!). Others are based more on jealousy or are strictly personal. He wants to have a "rafuiala" (to fight it out) with Eliade, but on one occasion when they meet Eliade embraces him warmly.! He is actually mad because this deprived him of a chance to launch his attack! Etc. It is high time that his book should be analyzed critically and I do not mean the quality of the book, but the interpretations it was given. Not Mihail Sebastian, but Z. Ornea, N. Manea, L.Volcovici etc. After all you cannot assassinate one's character for posterity and remain immune to criticism. I was slightly amused when Sebastian was admitting his almost total absence of musical knowledge while at the same time he was a music critic for some publication!

He is much more tolerant to Camil Petrescu who makes on several instances anti-Semitic remarks, than to Eliade who is never quoted for such remarks in his presence, just showing sympathies for the Iron Guard. Naturally not everything he writes in his book was witnessed by himself, this is obvious and has to be expected. But to accept every word as the gospel of truth is inexcusable. If this is the case, than yes, Eliade was a most contemptible person and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was, and is, vulgar (according to M.S. in his book !) . I wish I could tell Sebastian that these critical remarks are not against himself, but against those who are misusing his book without any scruples. He had all rights to write anything his conscious dictated.

And what do all these accusations actually lead to: According to Norman Manea, indirectly Eliade becomes guilty for all evils after his departure from Romania, like the terrors during the rebellion, the ferocity of the massacres at that time, and later on in Iasi (1941). Even before that, Eliade is accused of being a propagandist in London for the Iron Guard according to "eyewitnesses". What is difficult to believe is that even the most innocuous remark which may be interpreted anti-Semite becomes automatically criminal and any hearsay allegations are accepted as indisputable proofs. Even if it expresses only a preference of taste. And now since when has taste become a matter of political correctness ? Or expressing it publicly? Or mentioning the name of his previous mentor, who was admired by so many as a teacher ?

Coming to Z. Ornea, it is difficult not to admire him for his tenacity and perseverance in accumulating an impressive amount of documents. The problem comes when he interprets these data as he obviously has preconceived ideas and again and again his conclusions or insinuations lack somewhat logic and certainly objectivity . He is also guilty of choosing the texts he uses out of context as he is determined to prove his case at all costs especially when he writes about Mircea Eliade. So his verdict about Eliade is gravely tainted and not acceptable and does not pass an objective critique. He finds mountains of "evidence" but fully lacks the capacity to evaluate events critically, in perspective of time and space, to try to see what other interpretations could be considered. He even quotes Miron Radu Paraschivescu who once stated that Eliade in his work shows no concern about the" social".

I admire Paraschivescu for his unquestionable talents, but for Ornea to mention this as an oblique critique against Eliade is inexcusable. We are no longer in the communist era and every artist is free to choose his subject of preference. Does Ornea mean that we should throw away Eliade's works, and La Divina Commedia, Hamlet, Faust, and the great French poets because they do not treat the "social" in their works? Oh yes, he is capable of being magnanimous once you have prostrated and asked for mercy. How gallant he is with Emil Cioran who has publicly admitted the errors of his young age and this detail (his age of only 26) is deeply stressed. Most of his accusations against Eliade have been quoted earlier in this text , but how can they be compared to the violence, open pro-Hitlerism of the writings of Emil Cioran at the age of 26? Cioran had practically no alternative but to retract, firstly because he had matured in the meantime and secondly because of the vehemence of his writings.

But Eliade, who was only three years older and had never incited hatred against anybody, never supported Hitler's anti-Semitism from the beginning, had briefly believed in Mussolini, long before Mussolini adopted Hitler's stance, and then rejected him too. Who believed in orthodox Christianity and the mysticism that he had found in Gandhi and later almost irrationally thought to have found it in the legionnaire movement during a brief period (1936-37), when he was 28-29 years old, surely he saw no reason to apologize. But this is totally unacceptable to Z. Ornea. It is furthermore criminal. He does not say so but he treats this like a criminal act. Just like M. Sebastian he had to make a living and had to write articles ( Sebastian about music where he was a novice, although he had a genuine love for it, and Eliade for a short period of time about politics, which was not exactly his field).

And to go even further and enter the field of religious- historical studies and echo some absolutely silly accusations that because he did not include in the history of primitive religions the ethical component, Eliade should be accused for the amoral-immoral neo-pagan Nazi ideology, this reaches the absurd, to put it mildly. As Eliade did most of his work in Chicago starting in the fifties, he becomes responsible for the Nazi ideology and atrocities which had been extirpated by 1945 as everybody knows. And the earlier publications in this field were published in French, were not translated in those days in German, were not accessible to the German public, and how many people read such books? And how many did understand them? How absurd such accusation ( Eliade as co-author of Nazism !) or even implications. And what did he publish in Romania which would be dacian-neo-pagan and incite to intolerance and massacres? Such accusations are sick, pathological.

I might add two more names, Daniel Dubuisson and Russell McCutcheon or Juliane Geran Pilon and others. The first openly admits that because of political factors he "cannot treat Eliade in a neutral fashion". This is his privilege, but he thus disqualifies himself to be taken seriously and no more word shall be said about him. The same goes for McCutcheon, and few others more obscures who say about the same thing, even more hysterically. Some would be completely unknown if it wasn't for their hysterical campaigns against Mircea Eliade. To have mentioned their names but once is enough.

After all this investigative work by such authors, the anti Eliade campaign mushrooms. Having red such works, Saul Bellow who won the Nobel price in literature in 1976 can feel free to make such statements in his recently published book "Ravelstein" about Eliade: "As a Romanian Nationalist back in the thirties he was violent towards Jews. He wasn't an Aryan- no, he was a Dacian." Or: "The man was a Hitler-ite. Has he even denied that he ever belonged to the Iron Guard?". Another sample: "Grielescu (this was the name assigned in this roman à clé to Eliade) became a big shot in London and later on he cut a figure under the Salazar dictatorship". And now : "The record nevertheless shows what he wrote about the Jew-syphilis that infected the high civilisation of the Balkan". Later on he connects him to the "protocols of Zion", after all Eliade had published books about myths!!!.

And the tragic murder of the highly respected Eliade disciple Ion Petre Culianu is presented like another event in the mafia underworld, and the implications are obvious. How low can one get! Etc, etc. As mentioned above he uses the name Grielescu for Eliade, but it is obvious whom he means. Furthermore in the review of this book (Ravelstein) in the Ottawa Citizen of May 07/00 the reviewer, Robert Fulford openly names Eliade, and the other figures in this book, adding that Eliade was recently "unmasked "as a fascist (he was very "eccentric" too!). I must admit that the great pseudo-detective works by Ornea, Manea, Volcovici and other , have come to full fruition (but also to the lowest possible level ) in the book of Nobel prize winner Saul Bellow and others. But let me close by reminding his critics about two brilliant men, who knew him well and were proud to be his friends.

First Ionel Jianu, this great Romanian, the great esthetician, the author of the monumental work about Brancusi. In his book "A man, A life, A destiny ( 'Un om , o viata, un destin') published in 1991 he dedicates one full chapter to "My friend Eliade". He happened to be a Jew ( his name was Stark) and knew Eliade and the whole "Generation of 20" very well. He was for a while part of it before he went to France. He concludes his article in Romanian with these words: "Although he departed before me from this world which he has enriched with his work, still for me Mircea Eliade is a continuous presence, a spiritual presence, so as it has been during a whole life". Now this great Romanian knew Eliade very well . He knew more about Eliade than Eliade's present day detractors. Jianu was a great man and this explains everything.

Next is Eugène Ionesco. Z. Ornea quotes one text from 1945 (in a letter to Comarnescu) where they are called hyenas, this is the survivors of the "Criterion Group". Ornea uses this text as the supreme proof about the criminality of M. Eliade as after all E. Ionescu knew them personally and very well. It might be interesting to note that only few months after this letter from 1945, quoted by Ornea, Eliade and his wife have dined as guests of E. Ionesco in his apartment! He also fails to mention that Eliade and Ionesco remained good friends (and Ionesco's mother was a Jewish French lady) and Ionescu ( his actual Romanian name ) defended him fiercely in the 90s. And I am not at all surprised that Z. Ornea does not mention what Eugen Ionescu has written or said afterwards about his great friend M. Eliade after his death in 1986.

May I quote just the concluding words of the great Romanian Eugen Ionescu at the death of the great Romanian Mircea Eliade? "I prostrate in front of the memory of Mircea, my unforgettable friend. I am, in my moments of sadness, obliged to those who have permitted me to say that we have loved him, admired him, respected him and that once more he , Mircea does never cease to be missed spiritually and emotionally , by all of us. But his work, so rich, so immense, still exists". Signed Eugène Ionesco, member of the French Academy. And by Ornea's own admission, E. Ionescu knew him and the whole lot of them very well ! And there is nothing in Sebastian's book Ionescu did not know, as they were close friends.

And now , may I ask , how is it possible that Z. Ornea misuses the immense moral authority of Eugen Ionescu, based on just one text only, dated early 1945? And he dares to accuse Mircea Handoca of not using all papers which might suit Ornea for his interpretations against Mircea Eliade!. If Handoca is accused of idolatry, then so should be I. Jianu and E. Ionescu, after the words quoted above. What word shall I use to qualify his deplorable double standard ?

And lastly I want to let his critics know, that in my opinion Eliade's contribution to the understanding of primitive religions will long survive their petty dishonest attacks. Naturally some of his theories will be modified, some will be discarded, science and philosophy will march forwards, as it has always been in the past. But this will not diminish the great contributions he has made in opening new vistas of understanding these phenomena and his contributions will always be respected. For the time being I want them to know that in August of this year took place in Durban , South Africa the 18th quinquinal congress of the International Association for the History of Religions and the main symposium was dedicated to" Mircea Eliade, his vision and our present understanding of religions". If they, his detractors, believe that they have destroyed Eliade, they are wrong. By resorting to such smear campaign tactics they are just lowering themselves.

Ottawa, 24 september 2000.