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Ludo, Isac Iacovitz

(1894–1973), journalist and writer. Isac Iacovitz Ludo was born in Iaşi, Romania, where he published his first writings as a teenager in the literary review Absolutio. In 1919, he moved to Bucharest and joined Abraham Leib Zissu on the editorial board of the Jewish national newspaper Mântuirea (The Redemption). From 1923, Ludo served as editor of the magazine Ştiri din lumea evreiască (News from the Jewish World), focusing on issues agitating Romanian Jewish circles after World War I.

From 1929, Ludo was editor of the social and cultural review Adam, a major journal dedicated to Judaism, to the works of Jewish writers worldwide, as well as to social and political problems facing the Jewish community as it confronted the rise of Nazism. With Zissu, he was dedicated to the possibility of a “Jewish literature” in Romanian; he often ridiculed assimilationist tendencies and the “Romanian aesthetes of Jewish origin” who avoided fully assuming their Jewish identities.

The characters in Ludo’s stories are drawn from the Jewish environment and from impressions during his travels in Palestine and America; noteworthy is his Hodge-Podge şi alte nuvele umoristice (Hodge-Podge and Other Humoristic Short Stories; 1928). He also adopted a humorous tone in recounting the adventures of a Jew from Romania traveling across mandatory Palestine: Mesia poate să aştepte. Cu maşina pe urmele profeților (Messiah Can Wait: Driving in the Prophets’ Steps; 1933). In his best pieces, Ludo showed spirit and humor obviously inspired by Sholem Aleichem, from whose works he also translated several volumes. The novel Domnişoara Africa (Miss Africa; 1935) depicts Jewish emigrants in America, where the Jewish “ghetto” meets the black ghettos.

In the 1930s, as antisemitic propaganda in political and cultural realms increased, Ludo’s journalism concentrated on fighting such trends. His almost exclusive weapons were libel and ridicule; he attacked his opponents by resorting to popular humor rooted in Yiddish literature. A. C. Cuza, the antisemitic leader of the Christian Defense League, was a particular subject of Ludo’s farce and buffoonery, in feuilletons published in Adam and in Ludo’s book Doi mari poeți: Heinrich Heine şi A.C. Cuza (Two Great Poets: Heinrich Heine and A. C. Cuza; 1934).

Ludo was a feared polemicist who dismantled his opponents by satirical means. His method is evident in his In jurul unei obsesii (Around an Obssession; 1936), a sarcastic commentary on the obsession with Jewish topics in the Romanian antisemitic press. Shortly after World War II, his essay Despre pseudonim (On Pseudonyms; 1947), in the same style, exposed the failure of an entire category of Jewish intellectuals and writers who had aspired to illusory and deceptive—according to Ludo—integration in the Romanian literature. However, Ludo’s shocking transformation in the Communist age was equally deceptive. During the Stalinist years, flattered by the new power, Ludo became an assiduous anti-Zionist propagandist, writing satirical pamphlets and novels about the Romanian “bourgeois” society. His cycle Domnul general guvernează (The General Is Governing; 1953–1960) is written in the spirit of socialist realism. Despised by his former Zionist friends who considered him a shameful opportunist, he was, in the late 1960s, also abandoned by the Communist cultural establishment, and died totally ignored.

Suggested Reading

Isaac Bercovici, Pirke Romanyah (Tel Aviv, 1975), pp. 148–150; Nicolae Cajal and Hary Kuller, eds., Contribuția evreilor din România la cultură şi civilizație (Bucharest, 1996), pp. 281–282; George Călinescu, Istoria literaturii române de la origini până în prezent (Bucharest, 1941), p. 746; Marius Mircu (Israel Marcus), “Drama unui umorist,” in Treizeci şi şase de stîlpi ai lumii, pp. 393–423 (Tel Aviv, 1994); A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah, 1880–1940 (Tel Aviv, 1996), pp. 405–407, abstract and table of contents also in English.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea