Portrait of Felix Aderca. Artist unknown, drawing. (Centrul pentru Studiul Istoriei din România)

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Aderca, Felix

(1891–1962), writer, playwright, literary critic, and journalist. Felix Aderca (originally Froim Zeilic Adercu) was born in the village of Puieşti, Moldavia, to a family of merchants, and did not complete high school. He published several collections of poetry, independently and without success. Under the name Oliver Willy, he also issued an essay titled “Naționalism? Libertatea de a ucide” (Nationalism? The Freedom to Kill; 1910).

Aderca began his career as a literary critic in 1911 in the journal Masca (The Mask), and as a poet in 1913 in Noua revistă română (The New Romanian Review). He lived in Paris in 1913 and 1914, attending courses at the Sorbonne. Upon his return to Romania, he was conscripted in 1914 and served on the battlefronts of World War I, as well as in the campaign of Romanian troops against the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

In 1920, Aderca worked as a civil servant for the Ministry of Labor. At the same time, under various pen names, he contributed to several periodicals. The most important of these were Sburătorul (The Flier), edited by the literary critic Eugen Lovinescu (who also presided over a literary circle in which Aderca was an active member) and Bilete de papagal (The Parrot Tickets), a review edited by the poet Tudor Arghezi.

A fervent advocate of modernist trends in Romanian culture and literature, endowed with remarkable intuition about the European aesthetic renewal (Aderca translated Proust as early as 1924), Aderca was eventually acknowledged as a genuine speaker for his generation of writers. He carried out a set of substantial interviews with several contemporary representatives, titled Mărturia unei generații (The Testimony of a Generation; 1929). Dismissed from his government job for racial reasons in 1940, his works were banned from 1940 to 1944 (as were those of other Jewish journalists and writers); he nonetheless still continued to publish in 1940 under the pseudonym N. Popov. During the January 1941 pogrom organized by the Iron Guard, Aderca was arrested and tortured.

Between 1941 and 1944, Aderca taught aesthetics at the College for Jewish Students, an institute for Jews excluded from state universities. From 1944 until 1948, when he retired, he held a position in the Ministry of Arts. After 1948, his work was published only sporadically—mainly as books for children—as his style and content did not conform to the simplistic and Manichean discourse imposed by the new regime.

Aderca wrote an impressive number of books, covering almost the entire range of literary genres. The rebellious character of his apparently libertine novels revealed an impulsive vitality on the verge of erotic intoxication. Persuaded of the success of his own assimilation into Romanian culture, he did not hesitate to challenge the ideologists of the Romanian extreme right and their racist theories; moreover, in his masterpiece, the novel 1916 (1936), he attempted to dismantle antisemitic totalitarianism for distorting the individual conscience. Similarly, under the trauma of the Bucharest pogrom and the Holocaust, Aderca wrote the play Muzică de balet (Music for Ballet), an allegory of a totalitarian regime, and the plays Afacerea (The Deal) and Dreyfus (The Dreyfus Affair), both published only after his death. Among Aderca’s other publications were Mic tratat de estetică (Brief Treatise on Aesthetics; 1929), a science fiction novel titled Oraşele înecate (Sunken Cities; 1936), as well as a substantial monograph on Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, the Marxist theoretician and literary critic (1947). He also translated works of Henri Barbusse, Romain Rolland, Stefan Zweig, Björne Björnson, Karel Čapek, Vicki Baum, Sholem Asch, Axel Munthe, and Egon Erwin Kisch.

Suggested Reading

Marcel Aderca, F. Aderca şi problema evreiască (Bucharest, 1999); Mihai Mindra, “Felix Aderca: Jewishness and Modernism,” Studia hebraica 1 (2001): 105–113; Alexandru Mirodan, “Felix Aderca,” in Dicționar neconvențional al scriitorilor evrei de limbă română, vol. 1, pp. 25–35 (Tel Aviv, 1986); A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah (Tel Aviv, 1996), pp. 326–335, abstract and table of contents also in English.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea