Ion Zainea, Carmen Ungur-Brehoi, “The literary creation as an endurance form in Romania during Communism - Known cases of Censorship (1966-1971), (Remembrance in time, Transilvania University Press of Brasov 2012), pp. 181-186.
The title of our study might seem, for some, ambitious, for others, probably not. Depends on whose side you are regarding the optional answers to the question: Was the literary creation an endurance form in Ceausescu’s Romania? We will try to answer below, from the perspective of the censorship institution: The Press and Print General Directorship/ The Press and Print Committee2. In Romania during communism, the censorship had ideological basis, its aim being, ultimately, the production of a literature that fits the ideological request and the will of the Communist Party. Talking about the mission of the writers and that of the artists, in his statement of The Work Deliberation with the Party’s Effective, regarding the field of ideology and that of the political and cultural-instructional activity, in July 1971, Nicolae Ceausescu pointed out: “The ideological conception must be one and one alone: the revolutionary ideology and conception of the working class... For that purpose, we sustain the complete freedom of creation, for the total expression of imagination, but in the spirit of our conception about life and the world”3.
So, writers had either to accept or to learn to accept the conditions and the suggestions of the board of the party and those made directly by Nicolae Ceausescu. To be published, they had two options: they either wrote about subjects and modes that fit the party, and of course, the censors, or they avoided or hiden the controversal and unfriended cases, if not, they had „to fight”, to negociate, to bargain with the censors4, this happening in the best case. Some divided the writers in “reds” and “whites”, the first ones, „the reds”, where the writers devoted to the system, and „the whites”, those that stand against it. It’s about an “endurance in specific forms, literary forms, not factionalism” – said Nicolae Manolescu – the factioneers didn’t come into question, some being under a ban, and some in exile5.
Beyond what it is said and sometimes written, we have to keep in mind what the censorship institution says, what the censors write, what is their vision, what are their convictions. I’ve chosen as a reference, The Proceeding compiled by The Training- Control Directorship6, from November 30 1967, that analyses the country side’s publications during the period November 1966-November 1967. From its first lines, we find out that the number of political, social, scientifical, cultural and literary publications that appeared in the country side was growing continuously, answering more and more to the demand (s.n. -I.Z.) to „inform and guide” the mass of readers. There were also
mentioned, as positive elements, the augmenting of the thematic diversity, and a qualitative improvement of the published materials, fact due mainly to the editorial offices, that tried to answer to the readers’ growing requests, for the content and the intellectual attitude.
However, is still mentioned that many materials (s.n.- I.Z.) included in the pages of the named publications „continued to debate in a wrong way, even tendentiously” the argued problems, their appearance being considered unfitting. Many of the materials were „negative, calumnious”, because, trying to debate upon a „supposed enclosure” in the normal development of our values, presented „a distorted image of our reality”, transforming the particular into general. Others handled „in an inadequate way” (understood different than the oficial line) the origins of the Romanian language and the Romanian people, or moments of its history. There were also frequent the “unprincipled controversial” articles, the tone used giving here and there, a shade of personal dispute, the fact destroying the quietness and prestige of the magazines that appeared in. Anyway, the articles refering to the international events, where seen as „getting to a manner of reporting” that could strongly affect our country’s relations with other states7.
Briefly, The Training-Control Directorship considered that the materials that dealed with censorship were many, so they were grouped in more categories: first were those that “debated in a wrong way, sometimes tendentiously” the problems approached, than were the “negative, calumnious” ones, that treated in a „wrong” manner historical issues or international aspects. The materials that dealed this kind of problems, or some similar ones, it is said further more in the proceeding, were „in their majority felt”, being necessary „either to give up completely to their printing, or to make in part changes of structure”. In all the cases, we are told, before being discussed and solved with the editorial office, that „the observations have been presented to the regional committees of The Romanian Communist Party, for monitoring”. The problematic articles, whose solution interested first of all the guidance forums, were pointed out to the local organs of the party, these deciding „if they can appear in the initial form or with
modifications”8. As we can see, this part of the paper reveals on one hand the fate of the so-called „wrong” materials, and on the other hand, aspects related to the work of control and procedure/subordination. We get the idea that those who made the control/the reading had the necessary experience, if they „sensed” (i.e. discovered) the majority of the materials, which, on the other hand, makes us think that existed also „leaks”. As for the procedure/subordination part, we find out that the observations were, first, presented to the regional committees of the party for monitoring, and then discussed and solved with the publising houses; those that interested the superior organs of the party were presented to the local organs of the Romanian Communist Party, who decided if those can appear in the initial form or woth modifications.
After this general part, the paper deals with concrete cases, for each category of the presented problems. We shall also show the most significant cases. From the first category, the first because contains many cases, who were also very serious, is that of the materials that presented „a distorted image” of our realities. It was said, that „starting from the deficiencies of different fields of activity”, from „some singular actions”, some authors were „exaggerating, giving them a critic, general and denigration note”, putting unprincipled relations, negative practices on the social relations who would generate them. So, it was recognised the existence of some „minuses” and of some „actions”, even if „singular”, but also considered that some evil-minded authors were augmenting them, criticizing them in general, denigrating them, or worse, putting them on the social relations (therefore, socialists). A first example is offered by the pamphlet of Traian Cosovei The Deratization Project9. In his vision, our world had to be „desinfected” by the rats (in the pamphlet, the rats were the people, good and evil, grouped and labeled after their professions, characters, characteristics). „Small rats, middle rats, big rats, perched rats..., rats with nephews..., rats with big mouth, ...rats playing in a gear with millions of wheels..., rats-all-in-its-turn”10.
Amplifying the criticism from the particular, isolated case to a general one, and then denigration was considered evident also in the pamphlet Zoodidactic by George Mihaescu11. Satirizing the abusive way of obtaining study certificates by some with high positions, unadvised regarding culture, outdated by the events and impelled by the daily demands of life, the author transfers as in a fable his opinion, in the fate of a common dunkey. This, in the past, had a raw live, working for masters, having no food or drinks, and nowadays becomes a Grand Old Man. Instead of enjoying that he is „the ruler of a yard and eats alone from the big rack”, he hasn’t any peace, because the pensioners gossip „he’s a fool dunkey and the duties go wrong, from this reason”. He finds the solution in getting with all means, except working, a study certificate. So, with some „dirty jobs”, he gets his first school diploma when „having some few more teeth left in his mouth”. „Bucking with his hoof in a headmaster’s desk”, he gets a general certificate of education, then he signs up for faculty (extramural). When close to graduate „he was pulled by the ears and taken who knows where”12.
The article Marginals to an overture by Romulus Zaharia13, was claimed because presented too realistic, and not after the regime’s wish, the doctor’s situation; similar facts but related to professors, try to approach also Szilagyi Istvan in his article The Problems of the Countryside Teachers14. This kind of accounts „have been practised before” in materials regarding other fields of activity, such for example „Nowaday Oceanology”15 (where was criticized the lack of contribution of our country in the field of oceanologic explorations, underlining the fact that brought many benefits from others’ researches and discoveries), Cinematographic Repertoire facing the audience16 (investigation made by St. Oprea regarding the Romanian cinematographic production, who had as a conclusion the fact that except the movie „The Dacians”, all others are at the bottom of the world’s contemporary cinematrography). Calumniouns accounts for the editing activity came from the narrator’s interview Ion Lancranjan, taken by Petru Sfetcu17. According to the author’s opinion, books fate in general was not determined by their value, but by the author’s position, by his situation. „If their author – it was said – is a boss somewhere, or is going to be a boss or a general, if he has high relations with some literary circles, very competent and able to cover ups, who guide an absent but very good „literary scholarship”, then obtaining the certificate of authenticity and constancy for the characters of different literary „creations”, those being poorly written, pauper or practically gross, was vividly and for ever assured. Regarding the literary phenomenon from our country, the person interviewed was saying that „the analysis of this one is so badly made, that would be a shame for the writer who coult guide his activity following such an analysis”18.
A second category contains those literary writings, prose and poetry, that debated the problems of the artistic creation and generated „the feeling of the lack of perspective, of the impossible way of value expression, hinting social causes”19. A part of these materials, through symbol, or directly, „stands up fiercely against the so-called freedom’s limitation”. It’s designated for start, the short story Only with the right (treacherous style) by Romulus Vulcanescu20. Using an allegorical form, it was considered that the author protested against the so-called compulsoriness for poets to write ordered lines, without content and truth. In the short story, all the poets are called at the „grand merchant of artistic products”, that for assuring the material daily standards, asked them to write lines in a certain way. Although he promises, demagogically, that they are free to write what they want and how they want, „the grand merchant” sets some rules, „in the agenda, alphabetically”, saying that there is a single censorship, a single judge: „me”, and a single penalty „pen life forbiddance”. When, shortly after, some poets try to write about truth, their right arm is plaster in gypsum. The rebellion attempt is late, because the gypsum falls, for some of them together with the arm, and for the others remains forever rigid.
Against the guidance of art and literature, stands up N. Manolescu in the article Contemporaneity and artistic universe21, where he writes, among the others: „Any mixture in the inner atributes of literature is a disaster; literature must be left to evolve by itself, because – why is this thing so hard to get?- literature is made by writers, not by theoreticians”. The short story The Corridor by Dumitru Tepeneag22, was approached because the author „tried to demonstrate the nowadays man follows a checkpointed road with compulsory rules, being obligated to escape on a corridor without any perspective, full of obstacles and of the bleeding bodies of the sacrificed ones” 23. Into a long corridor, with pieces of furniture, one upon another, the hero of the story agonizes desperately to get to the light, to the window. His efforts are useless, because at every step he hits the furniture with different destinations and a huge and massive stall, immovable. His despair is amplified by the terror made by the smell of „bruised, chopped books”. In the middle of such a heavy climate, he nostalgically remembers his childhood, when, on the same corridor, he had the opportunity to watch through a window a white horse, colored birds, green grass, everything in a vivid, shiny light, while now, prisoner in the wildwood of furniture, he can’t even get to the window, feeling himself no enough high and strong to destroy the obstacles on his way.
Problems for censorship made also some materials on themes related to the origins of the language and of the Romanian people, the older or newer boundaries of the country. Many contained frequent references to territories that didn’t make part of Romania, and proved that the economical and cultural tradition of the inhabitants who lived here, showed their common origin with Romanians. It was mentioned the study The Roman Ruins from Komarovo by N. Gostar24, where the author confuted the soviet scientist’s opinion M.I. Smisko, that all the material tracks discovered at Komarovo, Cernauti region, could have aborigine origins, saying that on the contrary, the close study of those tracks prove Roman origin. The historiographer from Iasi added that there was a Roman castrum made with the purpose to defend the boundaries of Trajan’s Dacia and that only in the III-IV centuries appear the inhabitants’ tracks, overlapping them.
Another category of notices materials of censorship referred to those who discussed about different contentious international problems, using often the symbol or an allegorical way of expression. Using as a comparison element the potato, the satire with the same title by Valeriu Sirbu25 „condemn, with a cynical tone, the abusive dealing of the states by outlander forces”. The poet’s outrage, said the censors, was directed against the mixture of the great powers into the inner life of other countries, mixture that goes till the administrative separation of those and even to the control of the people’s ideas and conceptions, to hatred and hostility between brothers26. This is what the censors say. The author says it differently. He appeals to the story of a gardener, who, tired of so many flowers, decided to make an exceptional thing. He took a potato and divided it into two with a chalk, expressing a speech as a constitution, by which he decides that „although pieces of a whole, the two parts will never be called the same again” and forbidders „the sap and the food, even ideas to circulate from one part to another”. Not being able to predict what will happen in the future with the potato, the author exclaims ironically at the end: „I understand that the big bosses of the states/would share the country into two/It’s normally and just/But a simple gardener to do such thing with a potato/It is just too much”.
At the same category was noticed the sketch My dam by Marin Sorescu27, that, said the censors, „suggests the idea that the battle for power is an unvoiced phenomenon of the human society, that in this battle for getting new luxuries and territories, the masses act as blind instruments, without reaction to the crimes and that the development of the society is made with imminent wars”. More to come, the paper, it was said, „mocks the idea of pacts at the round table for total or partial disarmament, these pacts being used with the purpose of covering the race for the munitions’ improvement” 28. It was observed the story Pseudo tauro manie by Marin Porumbescu29,, a burlesque fantasy, a parody of an imaginative performance of bullfight offert by a foreign group on our national Circus’ arena. Presenting the main heroes of this bullfight, the author, among other details, shows that the bull Spuryus, coming across the borders and passing through Moldavia, on all his itinerary made in our country he left deep marks. „With his nose forever red, has stable, bloodshot eyes..., heavy hooves with surrealistic stamps and some horns that terrify, imposing respect and fear”. Surprisingly, the bull Spuryus reacts only to yellow. The matador, named Escondido Sacha Sehohr Ubu, surnamed Ledykiler, coming from somewhere far away, from the east, is tall, thin, agile and with the walk of a cat, wears a yellow jacket, uses a yellow roulette, is saluted with yellow handkerchieves.
There is also a smaller torero, with a more humble role in the fight, who also wears „a dirty yellow” roulette, and in the battle with the bull he only tries to angry it, to get it tired. The author shows in many details the fierce fight between the bull and the matador. At a certain moment, the small matador introduces a crosstree in its nose, and from Spuryus nose begins to flow wheat „as in Constanta’s silo”. At the end, looking inside the dock of the woundeds, the author ascertain that the bull and the matador are some madeup, disguised impostors, that the whole show (fight) was a trick. A part of the fault for the existence of many problematic materials from thi category
was considered to be because of the magazines’ editorial offices from the countryside, who introduced in their pages materials whose publishing wasn’t advisable in the given
conjunction. As examples, were given more materials, Reflexes by Augustin Buzura30, who made some considerations upon the satire of A. Avercenko, whose short stories were populated with „idiots of all kinds”, emphasizing the special value of the social short stories, showing that „in a period as that in which lived the author, when the authorities tries heavily to restrict, to impose their way of thinking, the satirical literature was the only one who could reflect properly the period, and who, as a paradox, got the right to appear exactly from those described, because foolishness fits pride in ample, declared gestures... Cehov, as Avercenko escaped all possible censorships because they knew how to gain over these real characteristics of the idiots” 31. There were considered unfit other materials, such as the notes of V. Rebreanu, At S. Esenin’s tumb, where were blamed indirectly the sovietc authorities; in the same manner, the article Marasti, Oituz, Marasesti, by C. Stefanache32, who contained harsh expressions against the German army, even during the visit of Willy Brandt in our country, or in the story The Refuge by Leonida Neamtu33, where are described in detail the terror and the panic that layed over the Romanian population when the soviet troops entered the country, in the year 1944, even in the moment of the aniversarry of the „liberation of the country”. A special chapter in our paper is represented by the materials (articles and studies) referring to the moments of our history and of the communist and proletarian movement, treated „one-sided, ill-suited or unreal”. It was nominated the study The Romanian Historiography about Romania’s participation at The First World War, by C. C. Giurescu34, connected to this it was mentioned that trying to clarify the character of Romania’s participation to this conflict and presenting works on this theme, appeared before and after August 23 1944, the author gives appreciations that signalized that from our country’s point of view this was a just, legitimate war, determined by the creation of a „rounded Romania”; he insisted on the king’s and of the prime minister’s, I. C. Brătianu, positive role, on the support promised by Russia for retaking Transilvania and on the desire to decide over Bucovina, following the nationalities’ criterion.
Regarding the historiography after the Second World War till the end of the year 1963, Giurescu shows that appears a special aspect – sustained by V. Liveanu, G. Tudoran and others – according to it, Romania’ participation to the war had an imperialist character, fact confuted strongly by the author, showing the just appreciation of the First World War’s character, started to be made in our historiography only in „the last years” and especially after The Central Committee’s Declaration from the Romanian Communist Party from April 1964, quoting for this his articles and one of the academician C. Daicoviciu35.
Furthermore, it was mentioned the article Beautiful death of Balogh Edgar36, who evoked the event happened at Cluj, during the fall of the year 1944. A great part of the work, re-edifies aspects of the antifascist resistance monument from Cluj led by „a group
of Hungarian, Romanian (in small number) and Jews communists soon liberated from jail”. It was also written about the departure of a peace delegacy to Moscow, made out of communists, with the purpose to obtain the unite of Transilvania to Hungary. It was spoken about a certain Hegedus, arrived to Cluj from Budapest, to represent The Hungarian Revolutionary Communist Party, to handle the problem of the proclamation of the „Socialist Republic from Tisza”, idea that had as a goal the proclamation of a „soviet republic” even before the arrival of the Romanian troops in the region of Ardeal. This could not be edited Similar aspects regarding the censorship’s way to act upon the literary prints in the newspapers of that period are seen in The Central Press Printing Directorship’s notes37.
We’ll show just a few aspects. The poem Requiem by its author Ana Blandiana, sent into print to the newspaper “The Contemporary”, is suspended. The Directorship states, without to many explinations, that in November 23 1966, “at our exigency, it was indicated to be suspended the poetry Requiem from a group of poems signed by Ana Blandiana, that was supposed to appear”. The poetry used many allegories and made references to departure, to death, but also to liberty, naively, abandonment. The poetry
Our star from the newspaper „The sanitary laborer”, is modified, because „the author (unspecified) declares in images the symbols of the blazon: the sun, the abies’ forests, the bores, the sheaves, the star. Nothing was said about the tricolor”. Thereby, at the censors’ demand the poetry „was modified”. At the end of 1966, in “Students’ Life” was supposed to appear the chronicle 30 Dicember ’47 – the end of the year and the beginning of the century. The censor’s attention is directed upon two aspects rendered below38, that he doesn’t agree and that he pointed out to be easier for the editorial office to modify them: “the editorial office was adverted upon the following historical and political errors: a) that it isn’t almost a quarter century, but in fact it’s really a quarter century since the first event mentioned; b) that the insurgence isn’t, as said in the citation, the effect of the two previous events, but their cause, so it must be post before those two”. Once the mistakes solved, the author of the text accepted the corrections and „the editorial board modified it”.
Conclusions: We detect, according to these, that it was written and a lot, said the censors, in a different way than the indications, directions, official line asked; that the writers, the artists, especially those educated in the period betweens wars, proved to be adaptable to the new cultural politics, they being the censorship’s clients; that the writings called „problematic” by the censorship, kept in a form or another, so that we can recover them nowadays; that these don’t discuss upon the communist regime in general, but its elements, its aspects, such as the limited freedom, the system of values, aspects of the social life, types and characters, periods such as the dogmatism, the soviet model introduced in Romania, are harshly criticized, denigrated. More over, the censorship says, the critique was extended from the particular to the general, so, to the system, to the social relations that generate it; strong efforts were made for the recovery of the Romanian historical truth, older or more recent, of the place and role of the communist movement. It’s, without a doubt, this segment of the literary creation, a form of resistance, by the help of writing, during possible forms and limits. The regime controlled, supervised and punished writings through censorship, one of the communist politico-ideological instruments of the power.