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Porumbacu, Veronica

(pseudonym of Veronica Schwefelberg; 1921–1977), poet, prose writer, and translator. Veronica Porumbacu was the daughter of Arnold Schwefelberg, a renowned Jewish community leader. She was born in Bucharest and died as a victim of the earthquake that ravaged the city on 4 March 1977. She took the name Porumbacu from the name of the Transylvanian village where the nurse who raised her was born.

Porumbacu completed her secondary studies in 1940 at Domnița Ileana, a prestigious high school for girls. Anti-Jewish legislation prevented her from enrolling at the University of Bucharest; consequently, in 1943–1944 she attended the College for Jewish Students, a private initiative supported by the Jewish community. In 1948, she was graduated from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy of the University of Bucharest.

Between 1945 and 1949, Porumbacu worked as an editor for the Romanian Broadcasting Society and then held management positions in the field of publishing. She was the vice editor in chief at Viața Românească (Romanian Life; 1949–1953) and then at the Gazeta Literară (Literary Gazette; 1953–1956). From 1956 to 1964, she served as a department head at the Writers Union.

Writing under the name Maria Radu, Porumbacu first published her poetry in the Ecoul review. In 1947, she issued both a volume of poems, Visele Babei Dochia (Old Dochia’s Dreams), and one of prose, La capătul lui 38 (The Terminus of the [Number] 38 Bus Line). Although she was a prolific writer, her output between 1950 and 1960 reflected less her sense of aesthetics and more her Communist ideology; these works are dominated by civic pathos. The volumes Anii aceştia (These Years; 1950), Mărturii (Testimonies; 1951), Ilie Pintile (1953), and Generația mea (My Generation; 1955) reveal her as one of the strongest militant voices of the Communist regime during its first years of existence; this substantially shaped the way in which she is remembered by most readers.

The volume Diminețile simple (Simple Mornings; 1961) indicates Porumbacu’s turn to lyricism, the style that characterizes her later books Memoria cuvintelor (Memory of Words; 1963), Întoarcerea din Cythera (The Return from Cythera; 1966), Histriana (1968), Mineralia (considered her best writing; 1970), and Voce (Voice; 1974).

Her two autobiographical novels, Porțile (The Gates; 1968) and Voce şi val (Voice and Wave; 1976), recreate the atmosphere of a typical Jewish middle-class family against the background of interwar Bucharest. In these works, adolescent innocence and the peace of the home are destroyed by the political radicalization of Romania and by its involvement in the war. The enforcement of antisemitic legislation, the “Romanization” of the nation, the excesses of the Legion of Archangel Michael (which became the Iron Guard), and civic and intellectual isolation drew Porumbacu closer to Communist resistance.

Beyond her original writing, Porumbacu published translations of Friedrich Schiller, Louis Aragon, Rafael Alberti, Emily Dickinson, and others. She also edited two anthologies of Scandinavian poetry, Poeți nordici (Nordic Poets; 1962) and Poezie nordică modernă (Modern Nordic Poetry; 1968).

Suggested Reading

Marian Popa, Istoria literaturii române de azi pe mâine (Bucharest, 2001), vol. 2, pp. 251–252, 357–358; Veronica Porumbacu, Porṭile (Bucharest, 1968); Veronica Porumbacu, Voce şi val (Bucharest, 1976); Mircea Zaciu, ed., Dicṭionarul scriitorilor români, vol. 3, pp. 865–867 (Bucharest, 2001).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea