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Crohmălniceanu, Ovid S.

(1921–2000), critic, literary historian, and writer. Ovid S. Crohmălniceanu (originally Moise Cahn) was born in Galați, attended high school in the same town, and began his studies at the Polytechnical University of Bucharest. He was compelled to suspend his education because of the antisemitic legislation in force in Romania between 1940 and 1944, but he ultimately graduated in 1947 with an engineering degree. He began publishing literary criticism in newspapers and reviews in 1944.

Drawn to left-wing ideology, Crohmălniceanu became an editor of the Contemporanul (The Contemporary) review in 1947; in this periodical, which was closely aligned to the Communist Party, his judgments of authors and books were expressed, especially after 1948, according to the precepts of socialist realism. Apart from several brief periods of “disgrace,” until the mid-1960s he held influential positions in the cultural press controlled by the regime. He was deputy editor in chief of the reviews Viața Românească (Romanian Life) and Gazeta literară (The Literary Gazette), respectively, and was elected to several executive positions in the Writers Union even after 1989. From 1948, Crohmălniceanu was a professor at the University of Bucharest, where he taught the history of Romanian literature until his retirement in 1991. In 1992 he moved with his wife to Berlin.

With insightful analytical abilities and extremely refined artistic taste, Crohmălniceanu was one of the most influential Romanian literary critics for more than four decades. Even while he demanded the enforcement of the ideological principle that writers’ social commitment be reflected in their literary practice, Crohmălniceanu supported genuine talent and also contributed to the publication of the works of several authors banned by the Communist regime on political grounds. Subsequent to the relative cultural liberalization of the 1960s, he played a significant role in the process of reconsidering the Romanian literary heritage according to the criterion of aesthetic value. His three-volume masterpiece, Literatura română între cele două războaie mondiale (Romanian Literature between the World Wars; 1967–1975) is acknowledged to be the most complete and credible overview of that period; in this work he adopted a canonic approach that mirrors the mainstream ideological and artistic trends of contemporary European literature.

In the 1970s, Crohmălniceanu took an increasingly public stand among intellectuals determined, through culture, to oppose nationalist communism and the antisemitic tendencies of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s regime. Crohmălniceanu used his influence to support a group of young writers promoting a postmodernism that could not be subordinated to ideological requirements. His own work, too, departed from ideological rigidity. It was during this period that he began to reveal his interest in Jewish authors’ contributions to Romanian culture; this topic is explored in his posthumous book, Evreii în mişcarea de avangardă românească (Jews in the Romanian Avant-Garde Movement; 2001). He also wrote high-quality science fiction prose.

Suggested Reading

Nicolae Manolescu, “Ov. S. Crohmălniceanu,” in Literatura română postbelică, vol. 3, pp. 132–139 (Braşov, Rom., 2001); Geo Şerban, ed., Crohmălniceanu: Un om pentru toate dialogurile (Bucharest, 2000); Eugen Simion, “Amintirile deghizate ale lui Ov. S. Crohmălniceanu,” in Fragmente critice, vol. 2, pp. 115–120 (Bucharest, 1998); Alexandru Ştefănescu, “Ov. S. Crohmălniceanu,” România literară 28–29 (2002): 10–11.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea