Book Censorship

Here is my collection of books of dissident authors, poets, playwrights and journalists. Some are banned writers publishing outside of Romania or emigres living in such places as Hungary, Germany, France, Spain and the U.S.

In Romania from the late forty’s until 1989, intellectuals and writers were imprisoned, sentenced to hard labor, had their works suppressed, and some were killed for their critiques of the communist rule.

The philosopher, poet and essayist Constantin Noica (1909-1987) was harassed and jailed for six years. Author Marin Preda (1922-1980) detailed writers sentenced to forced labor camps in a lead mine and the conscription building the Danube-Black Sea Canal. Author Paul Goma (1935-) survived an attempted poisoning by the Securitate and beatings in 1982 while living in France.

However works before the communist takeover that were previously considered bourgeois and decadent were reinstituted to promote nationalism as a counterpoint to the spreading Soviet influence in Romanian institutions and affairs. Communism could not be realized without the help of national writers and propaganda books.

Author, poet and historian Ion Negoitescu (1921-1993) stated, “The writers who enjoyed social and material advantages because they supported the regime have been punished by aesthetic faults which undermine their words.” He goes on to say, “One could publish without compromising, if one accepted that one would be pushed to the margins of society and fight censorship if one took risks for the sake of culture.”

These “risks” meant less radical, more indirect criticism of the existing order in a country where foreign movies, western TV and music and literature were banned. (Not including the show “Dallas” which portrays the decadent and corrupt aspects of American life)

Some less critical writers negotiated with the censors or self-published books. Others had connections within the Party. Editors were fired at times and books were withdrawn from stores when the true meanings were discovered.

A 1971 law in Romania prohibited publication of books abroad that were against the interests of the state and forbade Romanians from having contact with foreign radio or newspapers.

After 1981, national conferences of the writer’s union and the giving of literary prizes were disallowed. Books had to go through three levels of editing. Fear induced compliance by authors.

“You are assigned a school, you are assigned a job and you are given a place to live. Conformity is a rule, your expectations are limited and you do not step out of line,” writes Dennis Deletant in his book, “Ceausescu and the Securitate.” 2008.

But still there were authors and poets who defied the Communist order, like Dorin Tudoran and Vladimir Tismaneanu, whom I met in Philadelphia at a law firm talk in the early 1990s. (Tismaneanu headed a criminal inquiry against Communists in Romania after the Revolution.)Author and philosopher, Constantin Noica formed an intellectual community in the mountains of Romania and a disciple published a subversive book called “The Paltinis Diary”, that was nevertheless removed from shops. Censorship of plays became more subtle after a popular play by Gogol was banned and people spoke up. Books were smuggled across the border and authors within Romania bypassed the Council of Culture censorship body by self publishing and using a nom de plume. They were the defense weapon against the “enemies from the outside and the enemies from the inside.” Jon Dumitru, “A Servirea” (To Serve) 1983

But it was also the writer community in exile that maintained that freedom was indispensable to record the interpretation and knowledge of facts and events that determine Romania’s national destiny.

Published by Eric Sorlien

I am 51 and live in Philadelphia USA. I traveled to Romania about 30 years ago and I remember it still.

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