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Voronca, Ilarie

(1903–1946), poet. Ilarie Voronca (Eduard Marcus) was born in Brăila, Romania. After graduating from law school in Bucharest, he worked for various insurance companies and banks and traveled on several occasions to Paris, where he settled in 1933. His first anthology, Restrişti (Hard Times), was published in 1923 with illustrations by Victor Brauner. The poems reveal the poet’s desperation in words sounding like stifled screams, and tell of his anguish when faced with the monotony of life in the shtetls of Moldavia, the region where most of Romania’s Jews lived. Nine more volumes followed: Colomba (An Ode to the Beloved Woman; 1927), Ulisse (1928), Plante şi animale (Plants and Animals; 1929), Brățara nopților (The Bracelet of the Nights; 1929), Zodiac (1930), Invitație la bal (Invitation to the Ball; 1931), Incantații (Incantations; 1931), Petre Schlemihl (1932), and Patmos (1933).

Voronca discovered dadaism and made his most innovative contributions in the avant-garde reviews Contimporanul (The Contemporary), Punct (Point), and Unu (One); he also founded and wrote for the journals 75 H.P. and Integral. In his theories about writing, he advocated a new poetical language related to the genre of modern painting created by his friends, all Jewish: Marcel Janco (Iancu), Victor Brauner, Jacques Hérold, and Max Hermann Maxy. Voronca’s own style, known as picto-poezia (picto-poetry), initiated a trend related to Dada, but kept its originality. His constructivist and integralist platform can be identified in Invitație la bal, his love of nature in Plante şi animale.

After arriving in Paris, Voronca wrote in French, publishing the collections Ulisse and Petre Schlemihl under the titles Ulysse dans la cité (Ulysses in the City; 1933) and Poèmes parmi les hommes (Poems among Men; 1934); the first of these contained an illustration by Marc Chagall. Voronca also contributed to prestigious publications, including Nouvelles littéraires and Cahiers du Sud, and wrote numerous books of poetry, among them Permis de séjour (Residence Permit; 1935), La poésie commune (The Common Poetry; 1936), La joie est pour l’homme (Joy Is for Man; 1936), Pater noster (1937), Beauté de ce monde (Beauty of This World; 1939), and Contre solitude (Against Solitude; 1946). He also published the prose books Lord Duveen ou l’invisible à la portée de tous (Lord Duveen, or the Invisible for All; 1941), La Confession d’une âme fausse (Confession of a False Heart; 1942), and Souvenirs de la planète Terre (Memories of the Planet Earth; 1945).

A man “from here, there, and anywhere,” according to his wife Colomba, Voronca also emerged as an actively engaged writer, aware of the condition of the humble. He took refuge in the south of France in 1940 and enrolled as a volunteer in the Maquis resistance movement, taking part in the battle to liberate the city of Rodez. After the war and after having completed Petit manuel du parfait bonheur (Small Manual of Perfect Happiness; edited in French and Romanian by Saşa Pană, in Bucharest; 1973), he committed suicide in Paris. An avant-garde poet, a bard of social protest, he was deeply influenced by his Jewish identity (he never converted, as some have erroneously stated).

Suggested Reading

Ovid S. Crohmălniceanu, “Ilarie Voronca,” in Evreii în mişcarea de avangardă românească, pp. 95–123 (Bucharest, 2001); Carol Iancu, “Voronca: Une voix solitaire,” Dialogue (Montpellier) 7 (1981): 11–44; Saşa Pană, “Ilarie Voronca, aşa cum l-am cunoscut,” in Poeme alese, by Ilarie Voronca, vol. 1, pp. v–xv (Bucharest, 1972); Plein chant 77 (Spring–Summer 2004), special issue dedicated to Ilarie Voronca, edited by J. P. Begot.



Translated from French by Anca Mircea