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chemistry.8 Already politically engaged as a teenager, he learned about Marxism and the class struggle during some days he spent in jail in 1934 after he and friends signed and sent a highly provocative screed, Pula (which translates as “cock”) to Nicolae Iorga, a prominent right-wing author, intellectual, and politician. Luca was not only a youthful provocateur and poet. Ion Pop records that, in addition to powerfully engaged verse written in the late 1930s, Luca was also “decidedly present in the leftwing press… His articles, highly critical of the state of things in Romanian society, concerned the condition of the oppressed worker and […] firmly rejected the fascist ideology as incarnated in the Iron Guard, and put into question the troubled state of mind of the ‘younger generation’ of intellectuals at the time.”9 Over time he appears to have moved from militating in favor of “proletarian” poetry to a full-scale rejection of socialist realism and embrace of surrealism; by 1938, when he journeyed to Paris, his sensibility must have been pretty fully formed. Luca spent the war years in Bucharest, like other Jews who escaped massacre and were spared deportation, in a kind of suspended animation. Romania had the third largest population of Jews in Europe, about 750,000 in 1940. When it joined with Germany, blessed by the Orthodox church (Hitler and Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu were God’s “archangels on earth”), in invading the Soviet Union in 1941, the Romanian military slaughtered some 60,000 Jews in the Ukraine.10 But the government balked at deporting Jews to the death camps, both to preserve independence from Hitler and in great part because it became clear that Romania could not afford wholesale loss of its professional intelligentsia; their absence would have more than decimated what remained of an educated class.11 These were the years during which Luca composed The Inventor of Love and other texts, including The Passive Vampire. In later life, he maintained a “distance he                                                                                                                       8

Luca’s status as a war orphan, however obtained, could explain a good deal. Carlat and other sources state his father died about 1914, but Romania only entered World War I in 1916. Nevertheless, war orphans were many after World War I, and some Jewish children without parents were baptized, which later could spare them the depredations to which anti-Semitic measures subjected many others, as early as 1921. 9 Ion Pop, “L'avant-garde littéraire roumaine et la politique,” Arcadia 41, No. 2 (2006) 325. 10 Burleigh, ibid., 271–73. 11 Ibid., 274.

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Profile for Contra Mundum Press

Gherasim Luca Centenary Issue  

Essays and reflections in English and French on Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca, including Luca's own texts and art. Also featuring rumi...

Gherasim Luca Centenary Issue  

Essays and reflections in English and French on Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca, including Luca's own texts and art. Also featuring rumi...

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