Bicaz Gorges

Cheile Bicazului (English: Bicaz Gorges, Hungarian: Békás-szoros), are situated in the Eastern Carpathians, on the river Bicaz, making the connection between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania, are 8 km long (from Lacu Roşu resort till Bicazul Ardelean village).

The gorges attract by their beauty many tourist every year. They are crossed by a winding road. The limestone walls of the gorges are like a medieval fortress walls. One can admire the "Altar Stone" - rocky mountain (1120 m high), impressive by its verticality, important for the alpine climbing; Piatra Pinteştilor (Pinteştilor Rock - 847 m) and Piatra Arşitei (Heat Rock - 835 m) peaks.

The road that slices through the Bicaz Gorges, 20 km west of Bicaz, along the 8 km of ravines, often in serpentines with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other, is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. The gorge twists and turns steeply uphill, cutting through sheer, 300 m high limestone rocks. At one point, the narrow mountain road runs uncomfortably beneath the overhanging rocks in a section known as Gâtul Iadului (The Neck of Hell). This stretch of road is protected as part of Parcul National Hăşmaş - Cheile Bicazului (the Hăşmaş - Bicaz Gorges National Park). A few kilometers west, you cross into Transylvania’s Harghita County and immediately hit the resort of Lacu Roşu (Red Lake - see our previous post).

One of the deepest gorges from Carpathians - Bicaz Gorges is a real rock climbing paradise. With huge walls over 300 m high, including spectacular ceilings, deep crackers, great clear faces is an area recommended for real climbers. It is also a noted location to see the wallcreeper, an uncommon cliff-dwelling bird.

The Red Lake

Lacul Roşu or Ghilcoş (English: The Red Lake, Hungarian: Gyilkos-tó) is a natural dam lake and it belongs to a very picturesque natural reserve of complex (geological, botanical and landscape) importance. It is situated in the Eastern Carpathians, at 980 m altitude, near Bicaz Gorges, at approximately 26 km from Gheorgheni city (Harghita County). The lake has "L" form, its maximum depth is 10.5 m, has an area of 12.7 ha, and a 3090 m circumference. The name Red Lake comes from the reddish alluvia deposited in the lake by its main tributary (Red Creek).

The lake was formed recently, in the summer of 1837. Then, after some abundant rains, a great quantity of rocks and debris slided from the Northen side of the Stânca Ucigaşului (Killer's Rock), blocking the Bicăjel River. The water have accumulated and formed a natural storage lake. The unusual magic is amplified by a lot of trunks of the old fir trees, which come out from the water passing through the image of Little Suhard Mountain reflected in the lake mirror. Seen from the underwater view, with the diver's eye, the surprises of the lake are major: tree trunks are still vertical, in central areas the ground is horizontal because of vegetal clasts accumulated in huge quantity, the fauna is rich and friendly, everything excepting the last aspect inviting to forget the underwater environment and to belive in a legendary, maybe a rather melancholic forest. Seen with the paleo-botanist's eye, the lake has again surprises because the vegetal deposits and in situ trunks may reveal their history.

The local tradition keep a legend related to the lake origin:
Once lived in Lăzarea a very beautiful girl with the name Estera. One day she went to the fair in Gheorgheni, where she met a handsome and strong lad (he could fight with a bear). They felt in love immediately. The lad asked her to be his bride, but the wedding did not take place because the lad was taken to army. The girl waited for him. On the evenings, when she went for water to the spring, she sang so sadly that even the mountains were touched.
In a Sunday afternoon she was seen by a thief. The thief lifted her and run away as quickly as he could to Suhardul Mic, the rock with a thousand faces, were he lived. He promised to Estera gold and silver only to love him, but she refused. The thief lost his patience and forced her to marry him. She shouted to the mountains, begging for help. The rocks responded by thunders. A big rain started, whipping all in its way. The girl and the thief were buried under the rocks. After that, the waters were gathered here forming the lake Red Lake or The Killer.

Saint Ana Lake

Saint Ana Lake (Romanian: Lacul Sfânta Ana, Hungarian: Szent Anna-tó) is one of the jewel-lakes of Harghita mountains, the only existing crater-lake in Eastern Europe.

Situated in the Eastern Carpathians of Romania, the lake is formed in the crater of an extinct volcano, and is one of Europe's greatest natural wonders. Surrounded on every side by lush green forest, sprouting from rich volcanic soil, the lake is the perfect place to go for a walk a swim or even a row in one of the boats for hire... The lake is round shaped, having 620 meters in length and 460 meters in width. It has an area of 220,000 m², it is situated at an altitude of 950 meters, and has a maximum depth of 7 m. The depth of the like is lowering (in 1870 it was 12 m). The lake water is almost as pure as that of distilled water, but because of its leak in mineral salts, it is not drinkable. You cannot find one living creature in the water, because of the lack of oxygen.

The Mohos Swamp, a swamp where you can find several unusual and rare species of plants and animals on earth, is located 1 km far from the lake. In the Neogen Era, there were two lakes in the crater of the dead volcano, Ciumatul (Hungarian: Csomad). Today Saint Ana lake is the only lake remaining, the other disappeared - got filled up with decaying remains of old trees, dry leaves, etc., and the area turned into a bushy, lightly forested, boggy land, called the Mohos-láp (Engl. Mohos Swamp). The Mohos-láp has a 10-meter-thick peat cover and becomes a very dangerous place, especially after long rainy periods, when the soft peat becomes so marshy that it inevitably sucks down everything heavy.

St. Ana Lake and it's surrounding area is a natural protected reservation. The lake is the sacred place for those living in it's neighborhood, a pilgrimage place for centuries, but the yearly Saint Ana's festival has become more of an artistic tradition than religious. It's first written mention is from 1349.

Nicolae Milescu

Nicolae Milescu or Neculai Milescu (1636—1708), also known as Spătarul Milescu-Cârnu (Chancellor Milescu the Snub-nosed), was a Moldavian writer, traveler, geographer, and diplomat.

A boyar (nobleman) born in Vaslui, he studied at the Patriarchate College of Istanbul and after returning to Iaşi, was appointed Chancellor for the Moldavian Prince Gheorghe Ştefan. In 1660-1664, he acted as representative of his country with its Ottoman overlord, and then as envoy to Berlin and Stockholm. He followed Gheorghe Ştefan in his exile to Stockholm and Szczecin (1664-1667), and visited Louis XIV's France (attempting to get the King to assist him in his wish for the creation of an anti-Ottoman alliance).

Milescu had ambitions of his own (hoping to be appointed prince of Moldavia), and conspired against Prince Iliaş Alexandru, then against Prince Ştefăniţă Lupu. As punishment, Ştefăniţă ordered for Milescu's nose to be cut off (the reason for Milescu's moniker). According to the unlikely account of chronicler Ion Neculce: "After [being mutilated], Nicolae the Snub-nosed fled to the German Land and found himself a doctor there, who repeatedly drew blood out of his cheeks and sculptured his nose, and thus day by day the blood coagulated, leading to his healing".

Milescu again left for Istanbul, where he received a letter from the Russian Tsar Aleksey I, who appointed him translator of the Foreign Ministry in 1671. Milescu arrived in Russia together with Dositheus II, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1674, he is shown as leading negotiations with both Wallachia and Moldavia, trying to rally them in the Russian-led anti-Ottoman projects. In 1695, Milescu took part in Peter the Great's Azov Campaigns.

In 1675, he was named ambassador of the Russian Empire to Beijing, the capital of Qing China, returning in 1678. At the head of a 150-strong expedition that had a military component (meant to fend off possible attacks by hostile indigenous population), Milescu had as his main tasks the settlement of several border incidents between Russia and China, the establishment of permanent trade relations with China, and the survey of the newly-incorporated Russian lands along the Amur River. The previous Muscovite embassy to China, led by Fyodor Baykov in 1656-56, had failed to achieve these objectives. Upon reaching Yeniseysk, Milescu sent one of his men, Ignatiy Milovanov, to the Chinese court in order to inform the Kangxi Emperor about the purpose of their embassy. Milovanov was the first European known to have crossed the Amur River, reaching Beijing by the shortest route possible. Milescu followed the same route to the Chinese border, and established his camp on the Nonni River (in Manchuria) waiting for news from Milovanov. The latter returned to the camp on February 18 and, taking Milescu's report to the Tsar with him, proceeded to Moscow. Milescu, on the other hand, crossed Manchuria and arrived to Beijing in the middle of May. His diplomacy proved unsuccessful, and he returned to Siberia by the same route in Spring 1677.

In his road journal - later published under the title Travels through Siberia to the Chinese borders, Milescu correctly described the middle course of the Ob, Irtysh, and Angara. He assumed the Ob to have its source in Lake Teletskoye (in the Altay Mountains). He was also the first person to describe Lake Baikal and all the rivers feeding the lake, and the first to point out the Baikal's unfathomable depth. On his way through Siberia, Milescu used the astrolabe to establish coordinates of some setlements. His materials were later used by the Jesuits who took considerable interest in China. Upon returning to Moscow, he submitted to the Foreign Ministry three volumes of notes: Travel Notes and Description of China, alongside the Travels.

In his narratives, Milescu summed up the knowledge that Russian explorers had gathered about East Siberia. Although he believed that the Amur was the largest river in the world, he listed its main tributaries without mistake. His idea that there was a vast mountain range stretching from the Baikal to the Okhotsk Sea, although fundamentally wrong, was given credit by many geographers until the mid-20th century. He also heard rumours about Sakhalin, which he supposed to be the same island as the Hokkaidō, thus considerably exaggerating its dimensions.

A highly educated man who could write in Greek, Latin, Romanian, and Russian, even Chinese, Milescu translated the Bible from Greek into Romanian; and the Bible printed in 1688 by the Walachian prince Şerban Cantacuzino was based on his translation. He wrote also Journey Across Siberia to China, The State Report, a zoology treaty, a mathematics treaty, and left many other valuable manuscripts.

Romanians at Hollywood (Part 6)

Today we will talk about other great actors with Romanian origins.

Winona Ryder (born Winona Laura Horowitz, October 29, 1971) is half-Romanian, his mother being the daughter of a family of Romanian immigrants.

Winona Ryder was born Winona Horowitz and named after her the town in which she was born, Winona Minnesota. She is the Goddaughter of Timothy Leary and her parents were friends of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and once edited a book called "Shaman Woman Mainline Lady" an anthology of writings on the drug experience in literature - this included one piece by Louisa May Alcott. Winona Ryder was later to star as Jo in this author's Little Women (1994). She moved with her parents to Petaluma (near San Francisco) when she was ten and enrolled in acting classes at the American Conservatory Theater. At 13 she had a video audition to the film Desert Bloom (1986), but didn't get the part. Director David Seltzer, however, spotted her and cast her in Lucas (1986). When telephoned to ask how she'd like to have her name appear on the credits, she suggested Ryder as her father's Mitch Ryder album was playing the background. Her first significant role came in 1988 with Beetle Juice as Lydia Deetz, a Goth teenager, in a performance that gained her critical and commercial recognition. After making various appearances in film and television, Ryder continued her career with the cult film Heathers (1989) in a prominent and critically acclaimed performance. Ryder was selected for the part of Mary Corleone in The Godfather: Part III (1990), but had to drop out of the role after catching the flu from the strain of doing the films Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990) and Mermaids (1990) back to back. She said she didn't want to let everyone down by doing a substandard performance. She later made The Age of Innocence (1993) which was directed by Martin Scorsese, who she believes to be "the best director in the world".

Great Balls of Fire! (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth (1991), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), Girl, Interrupted (1999)... Her subsequent roles have won her not only critical praise but numerous film awards (Golden Globe, Oscar). In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.

Dustin Hoffmann (born August 8, 1937), one of the greatest actors of all-times, "...and particularly, I am a Russian, Romanian Jew. I love herring and vodka; I feel it comes from something in my DNA. I do love these things"

Hoffman began acting at the Pasadena Playhouse with Gene Hackman. After two years at the playhouse, Hackman headed for New York City, and Hoffman soon followed and worked a series of odd jobs. In 1960, Hoffman landed a role in an off-Broadway production and followed with a walk-on role in a Broadway production in 1961. Hoffman then studied at the famed Actors Studio and became a dedicated method actor. Through the early and mid-1960s, Hoffman made appearances in television shows and movies. Dustin's debut was in The Graduate (1967), and he received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Hoffman's next roles were in Midnight Cowboy (his second Oscar nomination), while the film won the Best Picture honor, Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, Papillon and Lenny in 1974, for which Hoffman received his third nomination for Best Actor in seven years.

Followed remarkable roles in All the President's Men, Marathon Man, Kramer vs. Kramer (his first Academy Award), Tootsie, Death of a Salesman (Emmy, Bafta), Barry Levinson's Rain Man (his second Academy Award). It was in the 1990s that Hoffman starred in Hook, Billy Bathgate, Dick Tracy, American Buffalo, Wag The Dog, Sphere. More recently, Hoffman played in Finding Neverland, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, and many others memorable movies.

Harvey Keitel (born May 13, 1939) the son of Miriam Klein and Harry Keitel, Jewish immigrants from Romania and Poland.

At the end of the 1970s, Keitel was mostly working in European films for directors such as Ridley Scott, usually in sinister character parts. Keitel came to prominence in the early films of Martin Scorsese after working in theatre for around ten years, particularly Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976).

Faded into anonymity in the eighties even though he turned in some impressive performances in films by some of America's leading directors. He re-emergered into star status in Thelma and Louise in 1991, with his role as Mr. White in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992), Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992), The Piano (1993), Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn (1997), Cop Land (1997). Later roles were in U-571, National Treasure, Be Cool, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He won important prizes at major film festivals.

"I don't want people to think that awards amount to the value of an actor. Real success means involvement - to engage oneself totally in something. Unless you become involved, you will stay uninvolved. If money is your god, you will accumulate money, but little else. If you seek out the experience of something... you have a good chance to have a full life".

Romanians at Hollywood (Part 5)

Jean Negulesco (born Jean Negulescu; February 26, 1900, Craiova, Romania – July 18, 1993, Marbella, Spain), great Romanian film director and screenwriter.

Born in Craiova, Dolj County, he attended Carol I High School. In 1915, he moved to Vienna, and, in 1919, to Bucharest, where he worked as a painter. He later worked as a stage decorator in Paris. In 1927 he came to New York City for an exhibition of his paintings, and subsequently settled there. He entered the movie industry in 1934 as an assistant producer and later became a second unit director on pictures such as Captain Blood and A Farewell To Arms. He spent much of the middle and late 1930s as an associate director and screenwriter (including the original story for the Laurel and Hardy musical comedy Swiss Miss).

He made two-reel shorts at Warner Bros., and was given his abortive feature directorial debut in 1941's Singapore Woman, from which he was removed but retained credit as director. In the early days of 1942, he took over direction (including the denouement) of Across The Pacific from John Huston when Huston was called up for military service. The Mask of Dimetrios (1944) was Negulesco's formal debut, and proved successful as an offbeat thriller based on an Eric Ambler mystery novel. He later made Johnny Belinda (1948), a groundbreaking drama about a deaf-mute girl who is the victim of rape, which won Jane Wyman an Oscar as Best Actress, and the fact-based prisoner-of-war drama Three Came Home (1950), starring Claudette Colbert.

During the 1950s, Negulesco moved comfortably into slicker entertainment, including the comedy How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), the first film shot in CinemaScope (BAFTA Award for Best Film), and Three Coins In the Fountain (1954), as well as Fred Astaire's first wide-screen feature, Daddy Long Legs (1954). His 1959 movie, The Best of Everything, made it on Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time" list.

He retired from film-making after many years of declining work in features, and was one of the most honored of Hollywood's elder statesmen for the last two decades of his life. Although never a noted director, Negulesco, in his early prime, showed unusual sensitivity in his choice of subjects and actors. From the late 1960s, he lived in Marbella, Spain. He died there at age 93, of heart failure.

The Skylarks (Part 7)

Nelly Miricioiu (born March 31, 1952), great Romanian soprano, one of the most versatile artists of our day.

Born in Adjud, Romania, Nelly started singing at 5 and was hailed as a child prodigy. At 9 she started studying piano and at 14 she won her first singing contest, Young Talents, Great Hopes. At 18 she sung in Pergolesi's La serva padrona and joined the Conservatory in Iaşi where she continued her studies with Tiberiu Popovici. In 1972 she was the youngest contestant in the Francisco Vinas Musical Competition in Barcelona and in 1975 she won the first prize at the very first Maria Callas Grand Prix in Athens. More 1st prizes followed at competitions in Geneva, Paris, Sofia, Oostende etc.

Nelly made her operatic debut in Mozart's Magic Flute, as the Queen of the Night at Iaşi Opera House, and continued to sing at Braşov Opera House between 1975-1978 in roles such as Mimi in La Bohème, Micaela in Carmen and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.

In 1981 she fled the communist regime and months later she debuted in Glasgow at the Scottish Opera as Violetta in La Traviata. Manon Lescaut and Tosca followed. A year later she had her big breakthrough and starred at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden as Nedda in I Pagliacci opposite John Vickers, Piero Cappuccilli and Thomas Allen. After her successful debut she became a household name at the Royal Opera House where she has sung for over two decades in roles such as Marguerite in Faust, Antonia in Tales of Hoffmann, Valentine in Les Huguenots, Norma, to name just a few. In 1996 she was trusted with the revival of the infamous Tosca production for Maria Callas. The revival was a huge success and established her as one of the best Tosca's seen on stage. She reprised her appearance as Tosca on the Royal Opera House stage in 2001 and in 2003 she enjoyed an immense success as Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux by Donizetti of which a recording was later released by Opera Rara.

In 1983, Nelly Miricioiu was called to replace Luciana Serra in Milan, at Teatro alla Scala as Lucia di Lamermoor. Her debut on the demanding stage was an absolute triumph. There was unanimous praise from the critics and newspapers for her extraordinary performance. After this success, Nelly went on to sing on the stages of the most important opera houses in Europe such as Amsterdam, Bruxelles, Rome, Hamburg, Berlin, Geneva, Munich, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona etc. where she has been highly praised and acclaimed for her characterization of roles. Nelly has enjoyed also an extremely successful relationship with the Washington Opera.

She has a triumphant voice. The Romanian soprano show charisma, an imperious presence which is admirable in the way she pace herself through the vocal score which she does with a compelling style.

The Skylarks (Part 6)

Maria Cebotari (February 10, 1910 - June 9, 1949), famous Romanian opera singer. During her short but brilliant career Maria Cebotari became to be recognized as one of the greatest singers of her time.

Born in Chişinău, (now the capital of Moldova Republic), Bessarabia, Romania, Maria attracted attention by her singing in the local church choir. After attending her home town conservatory, she met Russian actor Count Alexander Vyrubov who managed the Moscow Arts Theatre. He offered her a contract, marriage as well (she divorced him in 1938 and married film actor Gustav Diessl), and they traveled from city to city ending in Berlin where she met Max von Schillings who recommended her to noted singing teacher Oscar Daniel.

After intensive studies, she was signed by Fritz Busch for the Dresden State Opera where she made her debut April 15, 1931 as Mimi in La Bohème. Bruno Walter engaged her for the role of Amor in Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice at the Salzburg Festival. Her career skyrocketed and she was a great favorite at the Berlin and Dresden State Operas. Beside her hugely successful operatic career, Cebotari appeared in several films related to operas - such as Verdi's Three Women, and The Dream of Madame Butterfly. In 1934 she received the title Kammersängerin, a distinction (the highest of its kind existent back then in Austria and Germany) reserved for meritorious singers which had never been, and has never since been, awarded to a 24-year old. In 1936 she sang for the first time with the Vienna State Opera where she became a great favorite. Her busy schedule with leading European opera houses made it impossible for her to accept invitations from America. Cebotari was known for her Mozart and Strauss; in 1935 she sang Aminta in the world premiere of the latter's Die Schweigsame Frau, and also was known for her Salomé. She also sang in the Salzburg world premiere of von Einem's Danton's Death. Aware of her fatal illness, she performed extensively before her untimely death June 9, 1949 when her funeral in Vienna was one of the most imposing demonstrations of love and honor any deceased artist has ever received. Only the good die young...

George Enescu

George Enescu (August 19, 1881, Liveni – May 4, 1955, Paris), Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher, preeminent musician of the 20th century, and one of the greatest performers of his time.

Enescu was born in the village of Liveni, Romania (Dorohoi County at the time, today Botoşani County), and showed musical talent from early in his childhood. At the age of five he received his first musical instruction from his local teacher and at seven his father sent him to Vienna to study at the Conservatory where, only four years later, he was awarded the grand medal of honor. His violin teacher was Joseph Hellmesberger Jr., he also studied composition and harmony with Robert Fuchs. At the age of 14 he went to Paris to study at the Conservatoire National with Jules Massenet, André Gédalge, Gabriel Fauré and Armand Marsieck.

In 1898, Enescu's Op. 1, the Poème Roumain (Romanian Poem), was performed for the first time in Paris at the Concerts Colonne, becoming a huge success; the same year, George Enescu had his first public appearance as a conductor, performing his own Poème Roumain at the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest. This year also marks the beginning of his outstanding career as violinist, that will lead him through Europe and America.

During World War I Enescu stayed in Romania. Before and after that war he made numerous concert tours in Europe and traveled to the United States. He played Beethoven with Felix Weingartner, conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the New York Philharmonic Society, and appeared together with Béla Bartók.

From 1927 on he choose France as his second home. He appeared with many musicians. He conducted the Paris Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de l'association des concerts Colonne. He also performed and conducted in other European countries. In those years Enesco taught both in Romania and in France. He again travelled to North America to appear in front of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1936-37 season, not long after the premiere of Oedipe, the opera on which Enesco worked for merely ten years, leaving hardly any time to write other music, except for Symphony No. 2. During World War II the maestro stayed in Romania, but after the war and the Soviet occupation of Romania, he remained in Paris. On January 21st, 1950, George Enescu gave a farewell-concert in New York, performing as a violinist, as a pianist and as a conductor. After that his health did not allow him to play the violin any longer, but he still was able to conduct from time to time. He died on May 4th, 1955 in Paris.

Perfection, which is the passion of so many people, does not interest me. What is important in art is to vibrate oneself and make others vibrate. (George Enescu)

Oltenia Carpets

The Romanian peasant has always tried to create an as harmonious as possible environment, in which even the objects for daily use could render his life more enjoyable. Women used to weave cloth of hemp, flax, wool or cotton threads of which they made pieces of clothing for their family members or tissues for household use, such as towels, carpets and wall-carpets. The wall and bed-carpets are traditional for the peasant household where they are used to cover the walls and beds (but never the floor).

Oltenian carpets are actually genuine documents showing the ancient traditional local elements as far as the ornaments and weaving technique are concerned. The ornamental repertory includes such birds that are specific to the local fauna (the hoopoo, the cuckoo, the goose, the turkey) as well as animals belonging to the Oriental world (saddled horses, camels, lions). Feminine representations are exquisite, the characters being rendered in the most various situations in their lives; they are always clad in bell-shaped dresses, according to the fashion of those times. A particular care is also obvious for the rendering of the most particular accessories of their clothing, such as hats, umbrellas, etc. From among exotic birds, parrots are most frequently represented: they are big, placed in a central field, while the lateral ones are ornamented with flowers (tulips, lilies-of the valley, hollyhocks). Their disposal into the surface of the carpet offers the viewer a genuine chromatic picture in which the blending of the colors is made in perfect good taste. By processing special plants, the women in the Oltenia county used to obtain dyes: red, cherry-red, dark blue, yellow, etc. The dark-shaded spaces alternated with the light ones, like in a play of lights and shadows.

The Oltenian carpets are woven on a tambour like loom, with two threads; their warp is made of hemp or cotton and the filling is always made of wool. The weaving technique - known as the Oltenian weaving - determinates the orientation manner, hence the curved outlines of the plants and animals. Although they are rendered in a stylized manner, the technical performance make the branches with flowers and leaves look like a blooming garden.

The carpets, which were usually woven in the specialized workshops in the city of Craiova or in the monastic centres all over the Oltenia county and last, but not the least, in the peasant households, had not only merely utilitarian or decorative functions, but they also had a particular role at weddings and funerals ceremonies.

The Queen of the Heights

Smaranda Brăescu (May 21, 1897 – February 2, 1948), Romanian flight and parachutist pioneer, WWII hero, anti-communist fighter.

Smaranda Brăescu was born in the village of Hânţeşti, Buciumeni commune, Covurlui County (now Galaţi County), in a poor farmer's family. In spite of the family’s limited resources, Smaranda is sent to school and later to college in the nearby city of Bârlad. Here, at the age of 15, she witnesses the first landing of an airplane, an event which was going to change her life. Six years later, at the Aviation Training School of Tecuci, Smaranda flies for the first time. Next comes her being acquainted with the parachute jumping in Bucharest, whilst a student at the Fine Arts School in 1928. That same year she jumps from 600m altitude, which makes her the first Romanian female parachutist and only the fourth one in the whole world. This debut prompts her in beating first the European record, which was held by Germany, at 4,000, a feat which she achieves in 1931 by jumping from 6,000 m altitude, for which she receives the Romanian Golden Cross of “Virtutea Aeronautica”. The following year, in the United States, in Sacramento, Brùescu establishes an absolute world record, previously held by an American at 21,733 ft, by jumping successfully from 24,000ft (7,200m). From then on she becomes a heroine, being escorted by 30 other planes to an air show in Canada where she is invited. In America, she declines commercial stunt shows which would have made her a rich woman only to return to Romania. En route she is feted in Italy by the Minister of Aviation in Genoa and is invited to meet the Pope.

In 1932, receiving her pilot license, she establishes another record by crossing the Mediterranean in a Milles Hawk plane which she bought - the trip of 1,100 Km during 6hrs and 10 minutes. A Romanian senator proposes Br&3259;escu for honors which she never gets, in a country where women were more appreciated for their decorative qualities than for their achievements. With the advent of the Second World War Smaranda enrols with other women pilots in the “White Squadron”, active on the Eastern front where Romania was trying to retrieve from the Soviets the provinces taken by Russia as a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. After 1944, she joins the 13th squadron which fights the Germans on the Western front, first in Transylvania, then in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Although a war hero, Smaranda soon fall foul of the Communist puppet regime, installed in Romania by Stalin’s armies. She protested to the United Nations about the legality of the 1946 elections and her letter of protest to the Allied Command in Romania falled in the hands of a Russian general. From now on, Smaranda becomed a pariah and joined the underground resistance in order to escape emprisonment and sure death. She operates under an assumed name first from a convent and then from the maquis. She died of cancer at the age of 51, being buried at Cluj, under her alias name of Maria Popescu, a grave on which her merits and real identity cannot be spelled out. The people who helped her were hounded out and given long prison sentences.

"My life means nothing if I'm keeping it for myself. I dedicate my life to my country, and I want to live it in glory. I will only come back as a winner"...


Today, after three months of constant activity, our blog reached 100 posts. We hope that the subjects were interesting and we expect your suggestions for our future posts...

The Blog Team

Theodor Pallady

Theodor Pallady (April 11, 1871, Iaşi — August 16, 1956, Bucharest), great Romanian painter and draughtsman.

He studied painting from the age of 15 under the Tyrolean painter Fidelis Walch. Between 1887 and 1889, he studied engineering at the Dresden University of Technology, where he also had painting lessons with Erwin Oehme who, recognising his artistic intuition, suggested that he went to Paris.

He decided to abandon his proposed career in engineering to dedicate himself to painting, and in 1889 he moved to Paris to attend the studio of Edmond Aman-Jean. In 1891 he and enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts (Académie des Beaux-Arts), where he studied first under Gustave Moreau (he had as colleagues Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, and Albert Marquet), and after Moreau's death in 1897 he became a student of Aimé Morot and Fernand Cormon. Among his near contemporaries were Henri Matisse and André Rouveyre, with whom he had a lasting friendship and correspondence. He frequented the studio of Puvis de Chavannes, whose wife, Marie Cantacuzene, was related to him.

He exhibited for the first time in the Salon and the Exposition Universelle in 1900 in Paris. His first one-man exhibition in Bucharest was in 1904 at the Atheneum, and after settling in Paris in 1906 he had further exhibitions at the Galerie Nunés et Fiquot (1920) and at the Galerie Eugène Blot (1928). He also exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1924, 1940 and 1942.

Pallady was influenced by the Symbolist environment of the late 19th century, and his paintings before 1916 contain Symbolist motifs, sometimes with echoes of Moreau and Puvis de Chavannes. His drawings and colouring show a debt to Renaissance tradition, and his landscapes, which were sometimes large-scale, owe much to the vision of Romania made popular by Nicolae Grigorescu and Ion Andreescu. Around 1920 his style began to show the influence of the analytical drawing of Cubism. His friendship with Matisse was of equal importance: Pallady introduced Matisse to the attraction of Romanian embroidered blouses which formed a recurrent theme in Matisse's work, and Matisse probably encouraged Pallady to use heightened colours a range of subject-matter similar to that employed by Matisse in the 1920s. This diversification was not to last: he came to concentrate on views of Paris and of the south of France, but he also portrayed women, or nudes in interior compositions, as well as painting still-lifes and self-portraits. He was an indefatigable draughtsman, producing numerous drawings of his impressions of nature and also of his observations of Parisian or Bucharest café society. The largest collection of his paintings and drawings is in the National Arts Museum in Bucharest.

Elie Carafoli

Elie Carafoli (September 15, 1901, Veria, Greece – October 24, 1983, Bucharest, Romania) was an accomplished Romanian engineer and aircraft designer. He is considered a pioneering contributor to the field of Aerodynamics.

Carafoli was of Macedo-Romanian (Aromanian) descent. In 1915, he left Greece for Bitola, and then Bucharest, were he studied at Gheorghe Lazăr High School. In 1919 he entered at Polytechnics University of Bucharest, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering. He pursued his studies at the University of Paris, while also working at the Institute Aérotechnique in Saint-Cyr-l'École, France. He obtained a Ph.D. in 1928, with a thesis entitled Contribution to the theory of aerodynamic lift.

In 1928, Carafoli returned to Bucharest, where he joined the faculty at the Polytechnic University, and founded the Aerodynamics chair; later in 1936 he was promoted to full professor. It was here that he built the first wind tunnel in South-Eastern Europe, and elaborated some of the theory on which calculations of wing profiles of supersonic aircraft are based.

From 1930 to 1936 Carafoli worked at Industria Aeronautică Română (IAR) in Braşov. Together with Lucién Virmoux from Blériot Aéronautique, he designed the IAR CV-11, a single-seat, low-wing monoplane fighter aircraft. A prototype was flown in 1931 by Captain Romeo Popescu, in an attempt at breaking the flight airspeed record, but the plane crashed, and the pilot lost his life. Carafoli also designed the IAR 14 and IAR 15 aircraft, and later in 1937 initiated the development of the legendary IAR 80 fighter aircraft, at the urging of Prime Minister Armand Călinescu.

In 1948, he was elected to the Romanian Academy. In 1949 he became director of the Institute of Applied Mechanics of the Academy. Carafoli was President of the International Astronautical Federation from 1968 to 1970. In 1971, he reorganized, along with Henri Coandă, the Department of Aeronautical Engineering of the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, spinning it off from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Carafoli was awarded the Louis Breguet Prize (Paris,1927), the Gauss Medal, and the Apollo 11 Medal (1971), the Tiolkovsky Medal (1981), the Romanian State Prize and the Star of the Republic.

The Virtuoso

Gheorghe Zamfir (born April 6, 1941, Găeşti), Romanian musician widely known as The King of the Pan Flute.

Although initially interested in becoming an accordionist, at the age of 14 he began his pan flute studies. He continued his education at the Bucharest Academy of Music where he was a student of Fănică Luca at the Conservatory of Bucharest, Romania in (1968). He currently resides and teaches pan flute in Bucharest. Zamfir came to the public eye when he was discovered by Swiss ethno-musicologist Marcel Cellier who extensively researched Romanian folk music in the 1960s. Largely through television commercials, he introduced the folk instrument to a modern audience and revived it from obscurity; in the United States his commercials were widely seen on CNN in the 1980s.

Already in 1966, Gheorghe Zamfir had released his first record. The 1970s and 1980s see an artist who tirelessly changes sound studios, great concert halls and continents. In 1974, he composes the first Mass for Peace for the pan flute, choir, organ and orchestra. In 1976, his single Été d’Amour becomes one of the hits of the year. Zamfir makes stylistic and exemplary recordings with organ accompaniment, small ensembles and large orchestras that produce self-composition, classical and religious works, ethnic and popular music with the yearning tone color of the pan flute. He gives legendary concerts in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in Royal Albert Hall in London, in Paris’s Olympia, in Shanghai, Tokyo and Cape Town. He is to be found upon the “great parquet”, is received by the Japanese empress and heads of state throughout the world, chitchats on the talk shows of David Letterman and Johnny Carson and gives the pope a sampling of his art form at the Vatican.

What reads like the biography of a rock star is the story of the most famous pan flutist in the world, Gheorghe Zamfir. An artist, whose name is synonymous with the instrument. The press and the public have anointed him as the true virtuoso, as the maestro and the Master of the Pan Flute. Euphorically celebrated as the Reincarnation of the God Pan, he has been considered for decades around the world as an icon and already today as a living legend. With Zamfir, music lovers and music critics are in agreement: He is one of the most important representatives of a wind instrument that for a long time played only a minor role in music until Zamfir brought it to the great stages of the world and displayed his multi-faceted magic there.

This wind instrument: the pan flute, panpipes, flûte de Pan, Pan's pipes, syrinx, pandean pipes, or Romanian "nai", was said to have been invented by Pan, the god of nature in Greek mythology. Zamfir is known for playing an expanded version of the traditional Romanian-style pan flute (nai) of 20 pipes to 22, 25, 28 and 30 pipes to increase its range, and obtaining as many as nine tones from each pipe by changing the embouchure.

And praised again and again: The artistic breadth of the virtuoso. His repertoire is like a link between the different musical worlds. Zamfir’s love for the music of the gypsies, to the folklore of his fatherland, finds expression in his repertoire as does his appreciation for the classical works of Puccini, Verdi, Mozart or Schubert, which he often “interprets in a strange and bizarre dialect and thus obtains from them a subtlety that the tired originals had long since lost”. Precisely this multi-dimensionality and creativity are what have brought the artist worldwide plaudits and awards. Zamfir received, among others, the distinctions of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres de France and Most Popular Composer and Artist of the 20th Century.

Even his excursions into popular music, the expression of Zamfir’s pronounced love of experimentation, have been positively received by critics and fans. He plays music with the bandleader James Last, records the well-known title The Lonely Shepherd with him. More and more active as a composer – Zamfir: “Being creative is the most important thing to me” – , he regularly focuses upon film music. He writes the soundtracks to the films Mourir à Madrid and Picknick at Hanging Rock and, for the blockbusters Once Upon a Time in America, Kill Bill and Karate Kid, he has supplied modern film music, the melodies of which still ring today in all ears. His success story provides big headlines and record statistics: Over 200 albums and CDs released, over 40 million recordings sold, over 120 gold and platinum records, countless awards, numerous tours on all five continents. In 2008, the Malmö Science Institute (Sweden) published the results of a two-decades research about the world's greatest cultural personalities: Gheorghe Zamfir was ranked first, with over 1,500,000 votes!

A Perpetuum Mobile?

Nicolae Vasilescu-Karpen (November 28, 1870, Craiova – February 1964), Romanian engineer and physicist, who did pioneering work in the field of telegraphy and telephony. He also had notable achievements in mechanical engineering, elasticity, thermodynamics, long distance telephony, electrochemistry, and civil engineering.

After studying at the Carol I High School in Craiova, he went to the School of Bridges, Roads and Mines in Bucharest. Upon graduation in 1891, he worked as a civil engineer for three years. He went to France to study physics at the University of Paris. In 1904, he was awarded a PhD degree in physics; his thesis was titled Recherches sur l'effet magnétique des corps electrisés en mouvement. After a year spent as Professor at the University of Lille, he returned to Romania, to teach at the School of Bridges, Roads and Mines, where he was appointed director in February 1920. Due to his efforts, the School was transformed later that year into the Polytechnic University of Bucharest. Vasilescu-Karpen was the first rector of this University, serving in that capacity until 1940. In 1922, he was elected to the Romanian Academy.

In 1908 he invented the Karpen Concentration Pile, or the K Pile, which works in the absence of a magnetic field, but takes advantage of the thermal-siphon effect of the electrolyte density variation. He obtained a brevet in 1922 and constructed a prototype in 1950, now exposed at Dimitrie Leonida Technical Museum in Bucharest. While the best modern piles produces electricity for less than 5 years, the K Pile still works, after 59 years!


Urmuz, pen-name of Demetru Dem. Demetrescu-Buzău (March 17, 1883, Curtea de Argeş — November 23, 1923, Bucharest), Romanian writer of absurdist and avant-garde prose. Urmuz’s work has been claimed as a forerunner of Dada, and of Surrealism as well, and shows again the sharp sense of the vitality of the avant-garde amongst Romanian practitioners.

In his early youth, he dreamed of becoming a composer, he read science fiction and travel literature. During his years at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School, he became friends with George Ciprian (who later wrote an affectionate memoir on Urmuz, in which he recorded some of his writings as he had memorized them) and Vasile Voiculescu. He studied law and after he obtained his degree, he became a judge in the Argeş and Tulcea Counties, as well as in Târgovişte. He took part in the Romanian military intervention in Bulgaria, during the Second Balkan War (1913), and afterwards became a court clerk at the High Court of Cassation and Justice in Bucharest.

He began writing only to entertain his brothers and sisters, by mimicking the clichés of contemporary prose. His texts were noticed by Tudor Arghezi, who was also the one to name him Urmuz, and he was published in 1922, in two consecutive issues of the Cugetul românesc magazine - with his Pâlnia şi Stamate ("The Funnel and Stamate"), a short "anti-prose" which has the ironic subtitle "a novel in four-parts". It relied on a series of sophisticated puns using the double meanings of some Romanian language words.

He committed suicide the following year, without giving any reason for his gesture. Apparently, he had intended to die originally, "without any cause". Except, prthaps, anxiety.

Urmuz by Marcel Janco

His writings earned a posthumous glory and had an important influence over subsequent Romanian avantgarde literature. Saşa Pană printed a collection of his works in 1930, and Geo Bogza published a magazine named after him. Eugène Ionesco continued exploring the literature of the absurd, considering Urmuz one of the forerunners of the "tragedy of the language". Urmuz was closer to the spirit of Dada (although apparently he never heard of it), through his taste for the random creation of mechanic characters rather than a Surrealist opposition to lucidity. His work is, thus, an exploration of everyday, but nonetheless grotesque occurrences, having their limits explored through characteristic buffoonery.

Eugène Ionesco

Eugène Ionesco, born Eugen Ionescu (November 26, 1909 Slatina – March 28, 1994 Paris), Romanian playwright and dramatist, one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude and insignificance of human existence.

His father, a Romanian lawyer, was also called Eugen Ionescu. His mother, Thérèse Ipcar, was the daughter of a protestant French engineer who had settled in Romania because of his work. When they married, Thérèse converted to the orthodox religion. Their son Eugen was baptised and remained orthodox until his death, in spite of the long periods of metaphysical doubts he went through. Shortly after Eugen's birth, the family moved to Paris, where his father continued his studies and eventually became a doctor of the Faculty of Law in Paris. His father went back to Bucharest in 1916, just when Romania entered the First World War, but his wife and the two young children remained in Paris and had to manage all by themselves. In Ionesco's writings, this period is depicted as the most peaceful and harmonious period of his life. In this period he wrote a "heroic" play in two acts (32 pages in an exercise book) and a comic scenario. These texts were unfortunately lost. He attended the school in rue Dupleix.

Eugen therefore returned to Romania in May 1922 together with his sister. He learned Romanian and attended the college Sfântul Sava (Saint Sava) in Bucharest and eventually passed the baccalaureate at the secondary school in Craiova in 1928. In 1928 he had his debut as a poet in Bilete de papagal (Parrot Notes), which appeared daily and was famous for its tiny format. From 1929 to 1933 he studied for a French degree at the University of Bucharest. He published his first article (on Ilarie Voronca) in the Zodiac review in 1930. In 1931 he wrote Elegii pentru fiinţe mici (Elegies for tiny beings) (poetry) influenced by Francis Jammes.

Between 1928 and 1935 he wrote articles for Romanian reviews; in 1934 he wrote Nu! (No!), (articles and diary notes) - this collection of critical, protest essays provoked an enormous scandal in the Romanian literary world, by its devastating, subversive attack, perpetrated in a lively and sarcastic style, against the established values of Romanian literature. This volume received a prize from the Royal Foundations Publishing House, granted by a jury chaired by the literary critic and theorist Tudor Vianu.

In 1938, he obtained a Romanian state grant to go to Paris to write a thesis (which he never finished) on: "The topic of sin and the topic of death in French poetry since Baudelaire". In Paris, he became interested in the writings of Emmanuel Mounier, Berdiaev, Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel. In 1939 he met Henri Thomas and the group behind the Esprit review. He went to Marseilles (contacts with Les Cahiers du Sud and Léon-Gabriel Gros). From Paris he sent reports to the prestigious literary and scientific monthly review Viaţa Românească (Romanian Life).

When the 2nd World War was declared the same year, he went back to Romania. The situation in Romania was so bad that he bitterly regretted having left France and, after many failed attempts, he finally returned to France in May 1942 with his wife, thanks to friends who helped them to get travel documents. At first they lived in Marseilles, they had great financial difficulties. Eugène Ionesco was appointed to the cultural services of the royal Legation of Romania in Vichy. He eventually became cultural attaché. His daughter Marie-France was born on August 26, 1944.

In March 1945 they moved to Paris, where they resided in rue Claude-Terrace 38 until 1960. Life was difficult and work scarce at that time. He worked as a proofreader for an administrative publisher. From 1945 to 1949, he translated the works of Urmuz (1883-1923), a Romanian writer, who was a forerunner of surrealism, the literature of the absurd and the anti-prose. During this period the Ionesco family received financial help from a relative.

In 1948 Ionesco started writing the play that was later to be entitled The Bald Prima Donna, and which was performed for the first time on May 11, 1950 at the Théâtre des Noctambules, under the direction of Nicolas Bataille. It was far from being a success. Only a handful of intellectuals appreciated it and supported him. Ionesco associated with André Breton, Luis Buñuel, Arthur Adamov and Mircea Eliade. In rapid succession Ionesco wrote a number of dramas, including The Lesson (1951), a picture of the erotic thrust of tyrannical power, Les chaises (1952), in which the real and the imaginary coincide in a single semicircle of chairs, and Victimes du devoir (1954), a detective-story parody. Amédée (1954) portrayed a couple who share their apartment with a slowly growing corpse. Bérenger, a little Everyman, was featured first in Tueur sans gags (1958). By 1955 Ionesco's reputation was established in France. Gradually he was acclaimed as one of the leading exponents of the theatre of absurd. Among Ionesco's other well-known plays are Le Roi se meurt (1963) and Les Rhinocéros (1959); when The Rhinoceros was produced in Germany, it had fifty curtain calls and the next day the papers wrote, "Ionesco shows us how we became Nazis".

He sought and was granted French citizenship. His taste for fun, adventure and nihilism led him to become a member of the College of Pataphysics (with Boris Vian, Raymond Queneau, Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duchamp and Michel Leiris). Over the following years, many of his works were published in Cahiers du Collège de Pataphysique. 1958 was the year of the "London Controversy" where Ionesco defended his theatre and his vision of the theatre in a virulent polemic with the English critic, Kenneth Tynan from The Observer. In 1959 he participated in the Helsinki talks on the avantgarde theater.

On May 8, 1969, he received the Medal of Monaco and in December the Great National Theater Prize. On the 22th of January 1970, Eugène Ionesco was elected a member of the French Academy, to take over the seat of Jean Paulhan. The same year he received the Great Austrian Prize of European literature. On April 30, 1973 he received the Jerusalem Prize and in June the Medal of the town of Vichy. In 1974 he became honorary doctor of the University of Warwick (UK) and in March 1975 of the University of Tel-Aviv. He received the Max Reinhardt Medal in August 1976 during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival. In November he participated, with Tom Bishop, Emmanuel Jacquart, Françoise Koutilsky and Rosette Lamont, in a round table at the University of New York, in front of an audience of 900. In January/February 1982 Ionesco gave a conference at the University of Bonn where he received the German Order of Merit. On April 16, 1985 Ionesco received two medals: that of Mayenne and that of La Flèche. In May, he received the Monte-Carlo International Prize of Contemporary Art. He was a member of the jury of the Venice Film Biennial. On 22 November he received the T.S. Eliot-Ingersoll Prize in Chicago, in presence of Saul Bellow and Mircea Eliade. In March 1987 he received the Medal of the city of Paris and in October two gold medals: that of Saint-Etienne and that of Saint-Chamond. On May 7 1989, Eugène Ionesco and Jacques Mauclair both received a Molière Prize. On December 30, Ionesco and Cioran became members of honor of the French Writer's Union. On November 27, 1992 the Uniwersytet Śląski, Katowice, Poland, gave Eugène Ionesco the title of honorary doctor. The ceremony took place in Paris. Ionesco was a member of the C.I.E.L. (Comité international des écrivains pour la liberté) which militates for the observance of human rights in all countries and for freedom of scientists, writers and artists.

Eugène Ionesco died on March 28, 1994 in his residence in Paris. He was buried in the Cemetery of Montparnasse.

Ilarie Voronca

Ilarie Voronca is the pen-name of Eduard Marcus (December 31, 1903, Brăila — April 8, 1946, Paris), Romanian Jewish ethnic avantgarde poet and essayist.

In his early years, he was connected with Eugen Lovinescu's Sburătorul group, making his debut in 1922 in the Sburătorul literar (symbolist pieces inspired by the works of George Bacovia and Camil Baltazar). Voronca's poems of the period, gloomy and passive in tone, are in marked contrast to his later works. Only a year later, Voronca adopted a change in style, adhering to the modernist manifesto published in Contimporanul and contributing to literary magazines such as Punct and Integral. He and Stephan Roll issued a Constructivism-inspired magazine entitled 75 HP, of which only one number was ever printed.

In 1927, Voronca published a volume of poetry in Paris. Entitled Colomba after his wife Colomba Voronca, it featured two portraits drawn by Robert Delaunay. Colomba marked Voronca's new change in style: he had become a surrealist. Soon after that, his creations gained a regularity, and he was published frequently - especially after he settled in France (1933) and began writing in the French language. There followed: L'Apprenti fantôme ("The Apprentice Ghost"; 1938), Beauté de ce monde ("This World's Beauty"; 1940), Arbre ("Tree"; 1942). Several of his works were illustrated with drawings by Constantin Brancuşi, Marc Chagall, or Victor Brauner.

A French citizen in 1938, Voronca took part in the French Resistance. He visited Romania in January 1946, and was acclaimed for his writings and Anti-fascist activities. He never finished his Manuel du parfait bonheur ("Manual for Perfect Happiness"), committing suicide later in the same year. An edition of selected poems was published in France in 1956; it was followed ten years later by prints of never-published works. Saşa Pană oversaw a Romanian edition of many of Voronca's poems in 1972.

Benjamin Fondane

Benjamin Fondane (November 14, 1898, Iaşi – October 2 or 3 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau), Romanian poet, playwright, literary critic, film director, and translator.

Born as Benjamin Wechsler or Wexler to a family of Jewish heritage, he published under the pen names of Barbu Fundoianu (he is still known by them in Romania) and Benjamin Fondane. He published poetry after 1912, translations of Yiddish poetry and its own "biblical sonets" in the Jewish journals Rampaet, Chemarea, Hatikvah, Lumea Evree, "Bar-Kokhba, "Hasmonaea". After unfinished law studies at the University of Iaşi, he left for Bucharest in 1919, and became the center of an avantgarde group which also included Marcel Iancu, M. H. Maxy, Iosif Ross, Saşa Pană, Ion Vinea, Ştefan Roll and Ilarie Voronca. He published frequently in major periodicals such as Contimporanul, Adevărul literar şi artistic, and Sburătorul, and formed a short-lived (1921-1923) theatrical company named Insula ("The Island"), influenced by the views of Jacques Copeau.

After moving to Paris in 1923, Fondane wrote his first French language poem, Exercice de français, in 1925. He met Tristan Tzara in 1927, interviewing him for the Integral magazine (for which he was the French-section editor), and affiliated himself with Surrealism, publishing notable poems, such as A Madame Sonia Delaunay, part of his unfinished Projet Ulysse 1927. He then adhered to the subgroup around Arthur Adamov and his Discontinuité paper. Fondane became close to such figures as Shestov, Martin Buber, Constantin Brancuşi, and Victoria Ocampo (whom he visited in Argentina in 1929). In 1933, he worked with Dimitri Kirsanoff on the experimental film Rapt, a free screen adaptation of La séparation des races, the novel by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. He wrote and directed the Argentinian film Tararira in 1936.

In 1940, Fondane was drafted upon Nazi Germany's invasion of France. Taken prisoner, managing to escape, and recaptured, he was hospitalized at the Val de Grâce for an appendicectomy. After regaining his house, Fondane started work on Projet Ulysse and several essays. In March 1944, he was arrested by Vichy France policemen and held in the Drancy camp, until being deported to Auschwitz on May 30. He was killed in the infamous gas chamber.

A place in Paris bears his name from 2000, his name is also on the Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris) and at Pantheon - the French Resistance wall, and from 2006 The Romanian Cultural Institute in Paris, the B. Fondane Study Society and Le Printemps des Poètes Association created the Prix Benjamin Fondane for francophone literature.

Victor Brauner

Victor Brauner (June 15, 1903 Piatra Neamţ - March 12, 1966 Paris), Romanian Surrealist painter and sculptor with Jewish roots; his art, obsessed with the real and unreal, and laden with symbolic eroticism, feeds off of ancient mythology as well as popular art.

In 1912 young Victor settled in Vienna with his family for a few years; his father, a passionate devotee of Spiritualism, regularly organized séances and corresponded with the famous mediums of the day. As an observer and participant, young Victor acquired a taste for the fantastic, which his art distinctly reflects. When his family returned to the country in 1914, he continued his studies at the Evangelical school in Brăila, then at the School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, where he painted Cézannesque landscapes. He exhibited paintings in his subsequent expressionist style at his first solo show at the Galerie Mozart in Bucharest in 1924. He went to Paris in 1925 but returned to Bucharest approximately a year later. Brauner helped found the Dadaist review 75 HP in Bucharest and in 1929 was associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist review UNU.

Composition (1929)


He moved to Paris in 1930 where, through the sculptor Constatin Brâncuşi (a fellow-Romanian), he met the painter Yves Tanguy, who introduced him to other members of the Surrealist movement. The Surrealists were departing not only from the realism and academicism of nineteenth-century art but also from tendencies toward painterly abstraction of the early modernists. Partly under the influence of contemporary psychology, they sought unexpected juxtapositions of sharply depicted figurative images, often recalling the landscapes of dreams. In 1934, André Breton wrote an enthusiastic introduction to the catalogue for Brauner’s first Parisian solo show at the Galerie Pierre. In 1935 Brauner returned to Bucharest, where he remained until 1938.

Self-portrait with a plucked eye (1931)

That year he moved to Paris and painted a number of works featuring distorted human figures with mutilated eyes. Some of these paintings, dated as early as 1931, proved gruesomely prophetic when he lost his own eye in a scuffle in 1938. At the outset of World War II, Brauner fled to the South of France, where he maintained contact with other Surrealists in Marseilles. Later he sought refuge in Switzerland; unable to obtain suitable materials there, he improvised an encaustic from candle wax and developed a graffito technique. Brauner returned to Paris in 1945. He was included in the Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1947.

Recto: Sans titre (1945)

L'Archechat (1948)

In 1948, after he broke with the Surrealists, Brauner's work was more inspired by relics of archaic and primitive civilizations. Visitors to his studio in the Montmartre section of Paris often commented on his collection of primitive art, which comprised Oceanic cult objects as well as Native American artifacts. Gradually, his imagery became more heraldic, stark, and simplified, often evoking Egyptian or Pre-Columbian art.

Prelude to a Civilization (1954)

Beginning in the early 1960's Brauner lived and worked in Varengeville, France; he represented France at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and in 1966, the year he died in Paris as a result of a prolonged illness.


The epitaph on his tomb from the Montmartre cemetery is a phrase from his notebooks: "Peindre, c'est la vie, la vraie vie, ma vie" ("Painting is life, the real life, my life"). The painter’s notebooks with private notes, which he handed to Max Pol Fouchet, partly enclose the "key" of his creation: "Each painting that I make is projected from the deepest sources of my anxiety..."