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Eugène Ionesco, 1942-1944 : Political and Cultural Transfers between Romania and France

Eugène Ionesco, 1942-1944 : des transferts culturels et politiques entre la Roumanie et la France
Julia Elsky
p. 200-214

Résumés

Cet article traite des échanges culturels et politiques organisés sous l’égide d’Eugène Ionesco, lorsque ce dernier travaillait pour la Délégation roumaine à Vichy entre 1942 et 1944. À partir des archives inédites du Ministère roumain de la propagande, ce travail analyse la nature et les enjeux des échanges académiques entre professeurs et étudiants français et roumains, mais aussi le rôle de Ionesco dans le recrutement d’enseignants roumains pour la France. Les écrits diplomatiques de Ionesco mettent en lumière une diplomatie culturelle, qui se donnait deux objectifs : promouvoir les rapports franco-roumains et combattre la propagande hongroise en France, au travers des échanges littéraires, culturels, académiques et linguistiques. Au-delà de la figure de Ionesco, cet article souhaite ainsi mettre l’accent sur la notion de circulation dans la diplomatie culturelle pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, en détaillant ses moyens, ses processus et ses enjeux y compris politiques, pour les différents acteurs.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco: L’oubli du fascisme, Paris, Presses Universit (...)
  • 2 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration? Le cas d’Eugène Ionesco à Vic (...)

1In 2002, Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine published the first major study of Eugène Ionesco’s involvement in the Romanian delegation in Vichy, Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco: l’oubli du fascisme. Since the performance of his first French play, La Cantatrice chauve in 1950, Ionesco has been widely known in France as an anti-authoritarian playwright. In her text, Laignel-Lavastine seeks to debunk a “myth” created by these three émigré Romanian writers and to uncover a Romanian “prehistory1”. She focuses on their lives in Romania as well as their first years in France before they became famous. In her thorough archival work, she places together these writers within a network, demonstrating that Ionesco knew Emil Cioran and Mircea Eliade from Romania even if he distanced himself from them in his French life. One conclusion among many to glean from Laignel-Lavastine’s study is that the world of Romanian cultural diplomacy especially (but not exclusively) during the Second World War was a writers’ space: Ionesco held a Romanian diplomatic position in Vichy, Cioran in Paris, and Eliade in Portugal. All three worked for Antonescu’s fascist government, which had joined the Axis powers in 1940. Paul Morand, the French writer, was their counterpart, working in French diplomacy in Bucharest during the war. By looking at this purposely forgotten history of Romanian fascism and anti-Semitism, Laignel-Lavastine shows that these three émigré writers and philosophers did not begin their careers in France tabula rasa. Rather, she argues that their fascist backgrounds played fundamental roles in their development as writers and as thinkers. Ana-Maria Stan, who has studied the intricacies of Franco-Romanian relations during the Second World War, argues the exact opposite; Ionesco was motivated to work for the Romanian Delegation “plutôt par le patriotisme et le désir de contribuer selon ses possibilités à faire connaître son pays à l’étranger que par quelque sympathie pour le régime de droite d’Antonescu2”.

  • 3 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române în timpul regimului de la Vichy 1940-1944, Cluj-Napoca, Argo (...)

2While Laignel-Lavastine uncovers Ionesco’s history in Vichy, she does not focus her energies on analyzing the contents of Ionesco’s cultural, literary, and academic activities, which make up most of the documents related to his work in Southern France in the period that spans the year 1942 to 1944. While Stan does take great care to look at the cultural aspects of Romanian diplomacy in this period, she sees Ionesco’s involvement in culture not as political, but rather as a means to exclude himself from his colleagues and avoid explicit political work3. This article studies Ionesco’s reports, which reveal a cultural policy of circulation in the aim of promoting Franco-Romanian relations often through literary, cultural, academic, and linguistic exchanges. Rather than uncover a hidden history that Ionesco purportedly erased when he started anew in postwar France, this article focuses on the notion of circulation. It adds to Stan’s research on Romanian diplomacy in Vichy by exploring the political import of Ionesco’s work and the process of language politics. It takes a closer look at both the exchanges between French and Romanian professors and students–as well as the books and culture they promoted–and at the role Ionesco played in seeking faculty positions for Romanian professors in France. It fleshes out a dynamic history of circulation between these two countries during the war.

  • 4 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration?”… art. cit., p. 61.
  • 5 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române, art. cit., p. 442, 484.
  • 6 Alain Dubosclard, “Les Principes de l’action culturelle extérieure de la France aux États-Unis au x (...)
  • 7 Jessica Gienow-Hecht and Mark Dofnried, “The Model of Cultural Diplomacy: Power, Distance, and the (...)
  • 8 Ibid.
  • 9 See note 30.
  • 10 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration?”, art. cit. p. 66.
  • 11 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române, art. cit., p. 399.

3Ionesco began his career at the Romanian Delegation just as Antonescu intensified propaganda work in France, one of the country’s main prewar allies4. In her studies of the period, Stan states that during the Occupation cultural propaganda was important for both Vichy and Romania: Vichy had no possibility to engage in high power external politics so it relied on cultural avenues. Romanian diplomats in turn worked to uphold Romania’s right to territories lost in the spring of 1940, especially Northern Transylvania, through cultural means like literary publications and university programming5. The Delegation from Romania was especially invested in countering Hungarian propaganda in France. In this context, Ionesco’s work as a cultural diplomat was to “accumuler un capital de confiance”, to use Alain Dubosclard’s definition of one of the long-term goals of cultural diplomacy. Over time, government-sponsored exposure of its cultural products–including its very language–to the inhabitants of the host country instills in them an incalculable amount of confidence that contributes to economic, political, and cultural advancement6. Ionesco’s work falls along the lines of Gienow-Hecht and Dofnried’s discussion of cultural diplomacy as “a national policy designed to support the export of representative samples of that nation’s culture in order to further the objectives of foreign policy7”. Historians have debated, often in the context of the Cold War, whether or not cultural diplomacy should be included in the study of public diplomacy more generally, depending on who is in charge of the cultural policy8. In the case of Ionesco, I argue that his cultural activities were based on Romanian policy and that he worked within the Romanian Delegations’ framework of using cultural propaganda as an “armă psihologică” [psychological weapon]9. Unlike Stan, I argue that Ionesco did not separate himself from the goals of the Delegation. He did not use his office just as a means to do his separate literary work10, as Stan argues, but rather was himself engaged in political initiatives. He used language and academic exchange in particular as a means to reach the French public. Stan has shown that academic exchanges had long been a part of Franco-Romanian relations, and continued in Occupied Paris11. Yet she does not focus on the initiatives in the Southern Zone, specifically the ones in which Ionesco engaged. In this article, I show how Ionesco’s involvement nuances our view of academic and linguistic circulation in the Southern Zone.

4There are multiple archives relevant to this study. Although Laignel-Lavastine and Stan carefully use the archives to study Ionesco’s work in Vichy, this paper will draw out reports and aspects of Ionesco’s work that have not previously been explored. Relevant archives include the open archives of the Ministerul Propagandei Naționale [Ministry of National Propaganda] at the Arhivele Naționale ale Romaniei in Bucharest, archives related to France at the Ministerul Afacerilor Externe [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] in Bucharest, and archives related to Romanian foreign affairs at the Archives Nationales in Paris and at the Centre des Archives diplomatiques de Nantes. For the purposes of this paper, I will focus on my original research at the Arhivele Naționale ale Romaniei. These archives (Fonduri 2904-2906) span the period from 1921 to 1949. Fondul 2904 encompasses the sections: “Presă internă”, “Presă externă”, and “Studiiși documentare”; Fondul 2905 comprises “Propagandă” and Fondul 2906 contains “Informații” and “Personal” [personnel]. The inventory alone contains 1,296 pages of folder entries, and each of the three Fonduri includes over one thousand official reports sent from France to Bucharest. The reports of Ionesco’s delegation were sent to the Ministry of Propaganda. These frequent reports, daily or weekly, are sometimes, although often not, printed on official stationary. They are all numbered, dated, and signed by the author(s) with the seal of the Delegation. Some include newspaper clippings from French sources as well as photographs of events. Hundreds of shorter telegrams to and from France are present as well. The fact that certain documents, including French radio scripts and intellectual correspondences, survive only in archives in Romania attests to the importance for scholars today of the circulation of documents between France and Romania in the war via the diplomatic mailings of Ionesco’s delegation. Our work focuses on Ionesco’s wartime experience for the Romanian Delegation in France. His surviving and unstudied memos, reports, and correspondence from the Arhivele Naționale ale Romaniei reveal circulation in the cultural and academic worlds.

A Life in Circulation

  • 12 Ibid., p. 49.

5Ionesco’s life amounts to a dizzying back and forth between France and Romania, and shows how he lived between two countries and two languages. Rather than experiencing a one-directional emigration, he inhabited an in-between space in which he developed his own literary and linguistic persona. His many comings and goings are representative of what this article means by “circulation”. Ionesco was born in Slatina, Romania in 1909. His legal name was Eugen Ionescu. His father, the famous lawyer Eugen Ionescu, was Romanian. Ionesco always spoke of his mother, Thérèse Ipcar, as a French woman. In reality, she was Romanian, and was born in Craiova12. She was also of Jewish origins, something that Ionesco never mentioned. Ipcar was a common Sephardic name in the Craiova region. Her mother, Annette Abramovici, was probably Jewish as well. In his diaries, the Romanian Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian tells how Ionesco confided in him in 1941 that he was Jewish:

  • 13 Mihail Sebastian, Journal 1933-1945: The Fascist Years, Patrick Camiller, trans., Chicago, Ivan R. (...)

he started to “spill the beans” with a kind of sigh of relief, as if he had been gasping all this time under its weight. Yes, she had been Jewish, from Craiova; her husband left her with two children in France; she remained a Jew until her death, when he–Eugen–baptized her with his own hand… Poor Eugen Ionescu! What fretting, what torment, what secrets for such a simple matter13!

  • 14 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, op. cit., p. 49.

6Ionesco was baptized in the Orthodox Church and hid his Jewish background, his painful secret, as Sebastian describes14. His departures and returns to and from France and Romania allowed him to hide his identity, but also reveal the complications and pain of multiple identities.

  • 15 Ibid., p. 46.
  • 16 Eugène Ionesco, Entre la vie et le rêve: entretiens avec Claude Bonnefoy, Paris, P. Belfond, 1977, (...)

7In 1911, the Ionescus moved to Paris while Ionesco’s father wrote his thesis in legal studies. He thus spent his childhood in France. In 1916, Ionescu senior abandoned the family and remarried; all the while Ionesco’s mother was alone and penniless. In 1923, Thérèse Ipcar sent her fourteen-year-old son to his father in Romania where he could be cared for. He was schooled in Romania during the period of the rise of the fascist Iron Guard and the rise of violent anti-Semitism. He said he always felt an outsider in Romania, and he hated his father. Ionesco describes the man as a strict person who worshipped authority and whose right-wing politics clashed with those of his son15. Living in his father’s country was a “déchirure parce que là-bas, je me suis senti en exil16”. His experience breaks with the typical view of immigrants who came to France as their country of exile. It was the opposite for Ionesco, who felt in exile in his own native country and at home in France.

  • 17 For example, he published a series “Scrisori din Paris” [Letters from Paris] in Viața românească in (...)
  • 18 His exit visa was issued on June 4, 1940. Prefecture of Police Archives, Paris. Series IC, Box 8.
  • 19 Mihail Sebastian, op. cit., p. 335. Diary entry dated March 26, 1941.
  • 20 Eugène Ionesco, Présent passé passé présent, Paris, Mercure de France, 1968, p. 164. I have not bee (...)

8In 1938, Ionesco returned to Paris on a fellowship from the Institut français de Bucarest to write a doctoral thesis on Baudelaire. He never finished it; he instead focused on literary criticism, which he wrote in Romanian17. But that was not the end of his back and forth between France and Romania. At the moment of the defeat in 1940, he fled back to Romania18. But almost immediately Ionesco desperately sought to leave for France, especially after Romania joined the Axis powers shortly after he returned to Romania. Mihail Sebastian writes that Ionesco was “desperate, hunted, obsessed, unable to bear the thought that he may be barred from working in education” because of “the curse of having Jewish blood in his veins19”. His trajectory breaks the mold of our usual understanding of immigration as a departure and an arrival. For Ionesco, immigration was a series of comings and goings, both between countries and languages. He went back and forth between two cultures that were both descending into fascism. He seemed to think that in France, despite being under Nazi occupation, he would be safer as a Jewish person. Ionesco has said that at that time he felt in exile in Romania and was homesick for France, as opposed to the other way around. In his 1968 text Présent passé passé present, Ionesco quotes from his 1940 diary: “Retourner en France, c’est mon seul but, désespéré. Là-bas encore je peux trouver des gens de ma famille, de mon espèce … Si je reste ici, je meurs du mal de mon vrai pays. Affreux exil20”.

  • 21 Nicolae Mares, Eugen Ionescu: diplomat român in Franța, Bucharest, Editura Fundatiei Romania de Mai (...)
  • 22 Eugène Ionesco, Théâtre complet, Paris, Gallimard, 1991, p. xxxix.
  • 23 Nancy Lane, Understanding Eugène Ionesco, Columbia, SC, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, p (...)
  • 24 Rosette Lamont, (ed.), The Two Faces of Ionesco, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1993, p. (...)
  • 25 Martin Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, NY, Vintage, 2001, p. 136.
  • 26 Arhivele Naționale ale Romaniei, Ministerul Propagandei naționale (1921-1949), Fondul 2904, Presă E (...)
  • 27 Ionesco mentions Valla in Referat 1289 (Sept. 22, 1943). For proof that Valla was Voronca’s pseudon (...)

9Ionesco finally received a visa to return to France, but as a member of the Romanian Delegation to Vichy. Ionesco has written that the only legal way for him to return to France was to take an official post in the Romanian government. He had been rejected numerous times for visas before taking a position as one of the press secretaries for the Ministerul Propagandei Naționale [National Ministry of Propaganda] in 194221. Perhaps he felt safer in France, or perhaps this was an excuse he made for why he came to work in Vichy. Either way, this era of his life is usually glossed over by critics; scholars have completely ignored it or provided incorrect information about it. Emmanuel Jacquart writes in the introduction to the Pléiade edition of Ionesco’s plays: “Toutefois, en mai 1942, Eugène et Rodica parviennent à regagner la France et se réfugiaient en zone libre, à Marseille. Leur existence est précaire : ils ne jouissent ni de la nationalité française, ni de ressources suffisantes pour assurer leur subsistance. Ionesco vivote en traduisant des documents pour la légation roumaine à Vichy22”. Nancy Lane writes in Understanding Eugène Ionesco that he “spent the years 1942-44 in Marseille before settling in Paris in 194523”. Rosette Lamont writes in her edited volume The Two Faces of Ionesco: “1942: The Ionescos move to Marseille. They are poor refugees24”. Martin Esslin’s only comment on Ionesco’s wartime activities in The Theatre of the Absurd is: “At the outbreak of war Ionesco was at Marseille. Later he returned to Paris25”. Until Lavastine-Laignel’s publication, there had been a refusal to address Ionesco’s wartime activity. While this article does not aim to condemn Ionesco, it does point to his deep involvement in the politics of his time. Nevertheless, the situation was not always as black and white as it seems. He was, according to Nazi law, a Jewish man hiding in plain sight in Vichy. He also corresponded with Jean Ballard of the Cahiers du Sud, who published writers on the Left as well as Jewish writers such as Benjamin Fondane, about publishing translations of Romanian poetry26. Furthermore, one of the translators Ionesco hired was the Jewish Romanian émigré poet, Ilarie Voronca, who was living in Rodez. He referred to Voronca by the pseudonym Edouard Valla27. Ionesco’s ties to personalities all over the political spectrum make it impossible to define his work along the lines of any one strict political category. Instead, his network provides a new opportunity to study the role of language in cultural diplomacy in Occupied France.

The Romanian Ministry of Propaganda in Vichy

  • 28 Préfecture of Police Archives. Series IC, Box 8. “Demande de visa/titre de séjour pour étranger” cc (...)
  • 29 ANR, Fondul 2904, Inventar, vol. 1, “Prefața,” p.1. From 1926-1938, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (...)

10Ionesco arrived in France as a member of the Romanian delegation to France on June 30, 1942, about two years to the day since he had left as a poor student after the defeat28. The Ministry of Propaganda was created in Romania in October 1939, one month after the outbreak of World War II and a little over a year before Romania joined the Axis Powers29. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the government had managed propaganda through both the President of the Council of Ministries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The new centralized Ministry of Propaganda dealt with questions of the press and “informații” [information] that affected all the different ministries and departments of the Romanian government.

  • 30 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 559 (June 25, 1942).
  • 31 Ibid., p. 2.

11A few days before Ionesco arrived in France, his superior Ion Dragu wrote a report that summarizes the goal of his department’s propaganda in France. Dragu served as the head of the press services in the Southern Zone of France. He writes that Romanian propaganda in France is a psychological arm, which he and his staff use in an organized, methodological, and scientific manner30. Dragu presents a wounded France (“care a trăit un lung șir de ani în euphoria ignoranții”), “which has lived a long series of years in euphoric ignorance”, as a decentralized and suffering country. Dragu recommends a propaganda campaign over the press and the radio that speaks to the French: “trebuie să îmbrace haina și să ia toiagul pelegrinului spre a cutreera toate drumile Franței” [it must don the clothes and take the staff of the pilgrim to travel all the roads of France from one end to another]31. Donning the clothes of France meant understanding and reporting on the political, economic, and cultural atmosphere of France. Among the proposed cultural projects, Dragu mentions four that became the framework of Ionesco’s work at the Delegation: to create more positions for Romanian language and literature lectureships at the Universities in the Southern Zone; to encourage professors to work with the propaganda services of Romania in Vichy; to publish Romanian propaganda in a French journal; and to participate in the Lyon book fair.

  • 32 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 1158 (July 12, 1943), p. 10. See also Mares, op. cit., p. (...)
  • 33 ANR, Fondul 2904, Studii și Documentele (1941), Dosar 143: Emil Cioran, Consilier cultural, Paris.
  • 34 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 1158 (July 12, 1943), p. 12.
  • 35 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, op. cit., p. 356. See note 18.
  • 36 Cahiers du Sud 261 (Nov. 1943); ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă Externă, Referat 576 (Sept. 13, 1942); Rapo (...)
  • 37 I discuss Ionesco’s translations at length in my book manuscript in progress, tentatively entitled (...)

12About a year after he joined the delegation, in April 1943 Ionesco became one of the principal cultural secretaries and was put in charge of the cities of Nice, Toulouse, Montpellier, and Marseille. His main headquarters remained in Vichy32. The Romanian delegation focused its activities in these four cities, as well as in Vichy and Paris. The Paris offices also included another young Romanian writer: Emil Cioran33. Ionesco’s work involved two major tasks: to control and collaborate with cultural activities in the major French cities in the Southern Zone, and to maintain contacts with French intellectuals, writers, artists, and anyone related to the cultural world34. He located and cultivated networks that were both collaborationist and critical of Vichy; he worked with, on the one hand, Demain and Paul Morand (his counterpart working for France in Romania), and on the other hand, Cahiers du Sud and the Romanian Jewish émigré poet Ilarie Voronca who was living in hiding in Rodez in the South of France35. Ionesco arranged for the publication of Romanian poetry by Tudor Arghezi, the famous poet and diplomat Lucian Blaga, and Tudor Vianu, in translation in Cahiers du Sud and on radio shows for Radio Paris and Radio Marseille.36 He himself did some of the Arghezi translations and oversaw the others. Ionesco published his very first works in French under Vichy and in the aim of promoting Franco-Romanian relations.37 Networking, publishing, and keeping up with everything being published in Occupied France were diplomatic and political initiatives.

  • 38 See note 30.
  • 39 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Document 234/941. Letter from Ion Dragu to Mihai Antonescu, “Vice pre (...)

13Networks and the circulation of Romanian and French culture were at the heart of Ionesco’s work in Vichy, wielding the arm of propaganda as his delegation specified.38 Had he not been a part of the delegation, Ionesco would not have been able to circulate within France. As early as July 1940, the Nazi occupiers enforced the requirement to have ausweise [laisser-passer] to circulate around France. But members of the Romanian Delegation had access to ausweise and passierschiene [passes] allowing physical movement between Paris and Vichy39. Ionesco’s superior, Ion Dragu, wrote of the success in “Obtinerea unui ‘ausweis’ (passierschein) permanent care să-mi îngăduie circulația între Vichy și Paris” [Obtaining a permanent “ausweis” (passierschein) which allows me circulation between Vichy and Paris]. This ausweis was one of the resolutions to a number of problems Dragu had outlined that summer: the isolation of the delegation from Romania as well as the barriers between the Occupied and Free Zones. As a member of the delegation, Ionesco himself had freedom of movement between Vichy, Marseille, Montpellier, and Toulouse. His job description of working with the cities of Nice, Toulouse, Montpellier, and Marseille, while being based in Vichy, necessitated the ability to travel around the country.

  • 40 Henri Béhar, Tristan Tzara, Paris, Oxus, 2005, p. 244.
  • 41 Ibid., p. 168.

14Ionesco’s freedom of movement can be contrasted with the experience of another Romanian émigré poet living in France at the time, Tristan Tzara. Tzara’s correspondence with René Bertelé, founder of Éditions du Point du Jour, reveal how he had to search for safe havens throughout France and official document that would allow him to circulate freely, not through the help of the Romanian State, but rather through literary contacts. Tzara spent the beginning of the Occupation in the Provencal region, first in Sanary. Once the Nazis occupied the Southern Zone in November 1942, he went into hiding near Souillac40. His home had been under police surveillance and he was only able to escape with the help of a resistant police officer41. Nevertheless, throughout the war he published in underground and Southern Zone journals such as Confluences, Les Étoiles de Quercy, and Les Lettres françaises. By the end of the Occupation, he had become an important figure in the cultural Resistance in Toulouse. In a December 1941 letter, Tzara relates his feelings of displacement since his flight from Paris when he wrote to Bertelé to see if he could help him get documentation that would allow him to travel within France:

  • 42 Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Ms Lt 48.126. Letter from Tzara to Bertelé dated Dec. 2, 19 (...)

Je ne serais pas trop mal à St. Tropez – je veux dire, étant donné les circonstances – s’il n’y avait les mille petits embêtements quotidiens. Un des plus vexants est cette difficulté qu’on me fait pour me déplacer. Christophe, qui, lui est Français, est au lycée d’Aix. Mais le commissaire d’ici trouve que aller le voir et m’occuper des affaires qui le concernent constitue un « motif trop vague ». Pourrai-je vous demander, si cela est possible, de m’envoyer une lettre m’appelant d’urgence à Marseille pour des affaires intéressant « Jeune France » ? Peut-être cela me fera-t-il obtenir un sauf-conduit, ce qui me permettra de voir mon fils et aussi de bavarder un peu avec vous. J’ai terminé un poème dramatique « La Fuite » c’est à peu près tout ce que j’ai fait depuis les événements bien connus. Et vous ?42

  • 43 Michel Leiris, Labyrinthe, 17, 15 (Feb 1946): p. 15

15Tzara was eager to see his son, Christophe, who had French citizenship and was thus able to attend school in Aix-en-Provence. The daily struggles he faced weighed on his work. Tzara confesses to Bertelé that the only poetry he has been able to write since the beginning of the war is La Fuite, which he drafted in August and September of 1940. In the same letter in which Tzara discusses his immobility and inability to visit his son, he also mentions his poem about a son who flees his family and goes on the roads of France just as a war is breaking out. In his postwar analysis, Michel Leiris understood La Fuite as a clear allusion to the experience of the exodus. Leiris read the essence of this poem as: “déroute, dispersion de tous et de toutes à travers l’anonymat de la route43”. The particular situation of Tzara was one of displacement, but of displacements constrained by administrative laws that forbade him from circulating freely. Like other émigré authors, Tzara turned to literary relationships to navigate new xenophobic laws.

16Ionesco engaged in a different kind of network building. His work focused on circulation of ideas and knowledge of Romania: an oral propaganda and intellectual exchange through literary journals, the radio, but especially in the universities. The archival documents regarding propaganda in the universities in particular reveal the motives behind representing Romanian literature in translation. This is in part due to the nature of the surviving reports Ionesco wrote, but also to his reflections on the role of students and the university system in promoting cultural messages to the public. The remainder of this article explores how his work in university centers, on promoting students coming from Romania to France to study abroad, as well as establishing a Romanian studies journal, all point to the cultural exchanges between France and Romania that he promoted in the war. In spite of the war, the intellectual world was not one of stagnation, but actually went through a transnational moment.

Franco-Romanian Cultural Transfers

17As his many reports to the Ministry of Propaganda attest, Ionesco was in charge of getting lines for faculty positions for Romanian professors and promoting Romanian culture and language learning at the universities of Marseille, Toulouse, and Montpellier. These positions, classes, and lectures were indirect means of propaganda that skirted the issue of Vichy censorship of the press. I will look at two different examples: Eugen Tanase’s hire as lecturer at the Université de Montpellier and Alain Guillermon’s lecture at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen at the Université de Nice.

  • 44 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presei, Referat 939 “asupra creării unui lectorat de limba română la Facultatea d (...)
  • 45 ANR, Fondul 2904, Letter sent to Ionesco’s department by Jean Sarrailh, rector of the Université de (...)

18In a report on behalf of the Press Department of the Royal Legation of Romania in France, Ionesco related the works and political orientation of the new Romanian lecturer at the Faculté de Lettres at the Université de Montpellier44. The French Ministry of National Education had appointed Eugen Tanase on February 1, 1943 as “Lecteur de langue et littérature roumaine”. Jean Sarrailh, rector of the Université de Montpellier, announced the hire to the Romanian delegation, stating “L’Université de Montpellier a voulu, par cette création, affirmer son amitié pour votre noble Pays et renouer ses relations cordiales avec la science roumaine45”. Tanase had received a doctorate in French at Montpellier in January 1943, for his thesis “Essai sur la valeur et les emplois du subjonctif en français” and for his secondary thesis, which was a translation of the Chanson de Roland into Romanian. Although Sarrailh informed Ionesco’s department of the hire, it was not consulted beforehand. Ionesco’s report allows us to understand that since April 1941, the Romanian Ministries of National Culture and National Propaganda sought to send Romanian lecturers to France. Although they organized and oversaw special examinations in Bucharest, no actual hires seemed to result from this initiative. Despite Ionesco’s disappointment with the inability of the Romanian ministry to choose the professors who would get positions in French universities, Ionesco expresses the important role these professors play in Romanian propaganda in France:

  • 46 Referat 939, p. 2.

Crearea unui lectorat de limba română la Montpellier este benevenită și utilă unei cunoașteri, de către Francezi, a realităților noastre culturale și pentru exercitarea unei acțiuni de propagandă eficace. In rapoartele noastre exprimând și părerea dlui Consilier I. DRAGU, șeful serviciului nostru de presă, am subliniat utilitatea creării unor centre regionale de propagandă specificând că ele pot fi realizate în cadrul firesc al lectoratelor de limba română în jurul cărora se pot crea cercuri de studii române și cicluri de conferințe, biblioteci, etc. ce nu ar mai avea serul unor acțiuni de ‘propagandă’, – cuvânt suspectat de francezi, – ci a unei conoașteri culturale objetive46.

[The creation of a Romanian language chair at Montpellier is welcomed and useful for the French to come to know our cultural realities and to exert an efficient propaganda action. In our reports, which also express the point of view of the counselor I. DRAGU, the head of our Press Department, we underlined the usefulness of creating regional propaganda centers, specifying that they can be created within the natural framework of Romanian language chairs around which Romanian studies circles and conference cycles, libraries, etc., could be created which would not have the appearance of “propaganda”, suspicious word for the French, but would be an opportunity for cultural knowledge opportunity.]

19The preexisting structure of the university, and Romanian language’s place in the curriculum, were thought to be the perfect space of propaganda. Not only were there built-in positions for Romanians who could also report directly to Ionesco, as Tanase did, but they also did not have the illusion of people who were hired for propaganda purposes. Here circulation of scholars between France and Romania served to create another form of propaganda through university education on Romanian language and culture.

  • 47 Ibid., p. 4.
  • 48 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 1831 “Referat privitor la recunoașterea oficială a situației (...)
  • 49 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 711; Studii și documentare, Referate 1437 with attached lists (...)

20Even if the Ministry of Propaganda did not directly select Tanase as the lecturer to be hired, he seems to have been aligned with the image the Romanian propaganda team wanted to promote. Ionesco attended and reported on Tanase’s opening lecture of the Romanian language course, which took place on Wednesday, February 24, 1943. The title of the talk was “La langue roumaine, langue néolatine”. Tanase implicitly argued that Romania is close to France through linguistics. He demonstrated that Romanian syntax, main verbs, and most of the vocabulary used orally and in writing are Latin-based. Thus he concluded that the Romanian language is a neo-Latin language. Furthermore, he used the Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu’s sonnet “Veneția” to prove that here as elsewhere in the Romanian language only ten percent of the words are non-Latin. The event concluded with the faculty dean, Augustin Fliche, who spoke about the “îrudirea spirituală franco-română” [French-Romanian spiritual kinship]47. Fliche made explicit the point of Tanase’s talk; poetry and language were used to demonstrate a link between France and Romania. Ionesco approved of the message, and suggested in his report that in the future the Ministry of Propaganda should work to create lectureships in French universities for other Romanian students in France. That summer, in August 1943, Ionesco wrote another report requesting books on Romanian literature, language, and history, as well as dictionaries, that were unavailable in France be sent to Tanase from Romania48. The circulation of intellectuals also spurred circulation of books and knowledge. Ionesco himself requested books from Romania through the diplomatic correspondence system, for his own translation and publication projects as well as for the Lyon book fair49.

  • 50 Théo Martin, “Manifestation émouvante de l’amitié franco-roumaine: La réouverture de la Chaire Mich (...)

21In February 1943, the same year as Tanase’s appointment, the Université de Nice held celebrations for the reestablishment of the Chaire Michel Eminesco (the Gallicized name of Mihai Eminescu?) in the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen50. This talk followed two previous events, one led by Anatole de Monzie and the other by Paul Valery, the founder and first director of the center. In the presence of Ionesco and his superior Dragu, as well as figures like the poet Hélène Vacaresco and members of the journalistic, diplomatic, and police world, Alain Guillermon spoke of Romanian literature and history. Théo Martin, the journalist of the newspaper Le Petit Niçois who covered the event, described it as “une émouvante manifestation de l’amitié franco-roumaine”. He calls Vacaresco “le trait d’union spirituel entre la Roumanie et la France”. As Guillermon concluded his talk, he urged the audience to love Romanians “pour eux-mêmes”. The audience responded crying “Vive la Roumanie”. The journalist of Le Petit Niçois sketches in broad terms the content of the talk:

[…] il nous parla de Bucarest, des Carpathes [sic], de la Transylvanie, des eaux et des forêts, mettant à portée de nos yeux ce pays lui-même à travers l’image ; il traça à larges traits précis et vivants l’Histoire de ce peuple attaché à son sol, à ses coutumes, à ses costumes, marqué de l’influence romaine, menacé sans cesse parce que se situant au carrefour des convoitises aux prises avec le goût slave, et rebondissant sous le génie de la Latinité.

22The journalist points to the major themes underlying Guillermon’s talk about Romanian history and literature. Namely, the talk was one long argument that Romanian is a Latinate language, and Romania is a part of the western European world and not the Slavic countries. Ionesco’s reports reveal what was at stake in this declaration.

  • 51 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 785, “Raport despre 1) un francez iubitor al României; 2) pro (...)
  • 52 Ibid., p. 1.
  • 53 Ibid., p. 1-2.

23A document that Ionesco wrote the previous month demonstrates the months of planning that went into this speech and the choice of location51. In December 1942, Ionesco wrote that his office had been in touch with Guillermon regarding his upcoming talk. Guillermon, a former student of Mario Roques, was working as a teacher in a lycée in Nice. He had spent 1935 in Romania while a normalien and thus was familiar with Romania and spoke Romanian52. After finishing a doctoral thesis on Eminescu, he was then teaching in a high school and began to look for work in a university. But his political leanings were of even more importance. He has “un temperament politic întegrat în noul regim din Franța… E la curent cu marile probleme naționale românești și adversar dârz Ungurilor” [a political temperament integrated into the new regime in France… he is abreast of major national Romanian issues and is an opponent of Hungary]53. This is what a “iubitor al României” [lover/devotee of Romania], to take the term Ionesco uses in his title, means. Ionesco suggested he give a talk at the Université de Nice entitled “Portrait de la Roumanie” and that he become more involved in the Romanian delegation. This would become the February 1943 talk. At the end of the report, Ionesco included a list of books Guillermon would require from Romania, just as he had done for Tanase. For Guillermon too, links between the French university system and the Romanian delegation opened a world of book circulation.

  • 54 Ibid.
  • 55 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 503 by Ionescu (Aug. 13, 1942).
  • 56 Referat 785, op. cit., p. 2.
  • 57 Paul Valery, “Le Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen,” Regards sur le monde actuel, Paris, Gallimard (...)
  • 58 Ibid., p. 314.

24From the report, we see that Ionesco in large part dictated what would be said at the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen. Ionesco explains in his report that pro-Romanian propaganda in France first and foremost must promote the idea that Romania is Latinate and part of a universal Mediterranean spirit (“a unității spiritului mediteranean”)54. By including Romania in the western European world, Ionesco’s delegation strengthened its bond to France as well as distanced itself from Slavic countries. Furthermore, he hoped this strategy ultimately would bolster French support for Romania rather than for Hungary.55 Ionesco concludes that his and Guillermon’s position is in line with the cultural politics of the Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen, and furthermore that he has received Guillermon’s assurance that he is completely devoted to Romania and to this vision of Romania. Just as Tanase did, in his talk, Guillermon demonstrated that Romania is a Latinate country. This affinity was a political one. The Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen would be the perfect location, as Guillermon saw (according to Ionesco’s report) Romania as integrated into “acest spirit de civilație” [this spirit of civilization]56. In 1933, Valery wrote of the necessity to form this center for the “besoins réels de la population stable et de la population flottante de la ville57”. It would be open to the city of Nice, both to inhabitants and visitors, regardless of nationality. Valery explains the concept of the Mediterranean as defined by “la notion du rôle que notre mer a joué, ou de la fonction qu’elle a remplie, en raison de ses caractères physiques singuliers, dans la constitution de l’esprit européen ou de l’Europe historique en tant qu’elle a modifié le monde humain tout entier58”. A decade after Valery’s article, in order to promote Romania, Guillermon drew on the Center that represented both the circulation central to the city and a cultural politics of a transnational Mediterranean with Western Europe being the height of civilization.

  • 59 Referat 785, op. cit., p. 3.

25Guillermon, like Tanase, would present the issues in literary terms. In his report, Ionesco explains the “advantage” of hosting such an event at the university and in an intellectual setting: “ea va fi astfel perfect motivată și nu va avea aerul că este rezultatul unei inițiative de propagandă [it will be thus a perfect motive and will not have the appearance of being the result of an initiative of propaganda]59. Since it was couched in intellectual terms, his talk would not have the appearance of being propaganda. Ionesco develops this line of thought in a different report regarding another form of international academic circulation: Romanian students studying abroad in France.

  • 60 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, 1942-44 Ministerul Propagandă Franța, Referat 550, “Referat asupra ut (...)

Credem așadar nu numai că studenții români aflatori în Franța sunt utili dar că sunt chiar insuficient de numeroși și că numărul lor ar trebui mărit în însuși interesul propagandei noastre, în sensul unei propagande orale; cenzura presei impune anumite restricții destul de aspre; o lămurire orală, dela om la om, în cercuri studențești sau altele, a punctului de vedere românesc este benevenită60.

[We thus believe not only that the Romanian students in France are a useful resource, but their number is insufficient and this number should be increased in the interest of our propaganda in itself, in the sense of an oral propaganda; press censorship proposes certain restrictions which are quite harsh; a verbal clarification, face to face, in student circles or others, of the Romanian point of view is welcomed.]

26The presence of Romanian students in France helps the cause in the same way as the Romanian professorial hires in France and the role of lectures at the Universities of Nice and Montpellier. Rather than relying on media, which was censored by Vichy and also could easily be seen for pure propaganda, academia presented a new avenue for cultural exchange in the aims of promoting the work of the Romanian delegation in Vichy.

Conclusions

27The study of cultural circulation between Occupied France and fascist Romania begs the question: is it true circulation if the intellectual people and products are working in the name of propaganda? Does the forced transmission of a specific representation of culture still engender legitimate transnational interaction? In this article, we argue that the movement of professors, students, writers, and even books do reveal a history of cultural exchanges between France and Romania. This particular cultural representation of Romania was brought to audiences in the Southern Zone. It formed a politicized image of Franco-Romanian literary and linguistic affinities for audiences, students, and readers. Furthermore, it presented a political construct against which students and the public could react. Ionesco’s role in this system does not present a simple picture of collaboration. Rather, the players in the system reveal its complexities. Living between two countries, languages, and regimes, Ionesco sought refuge and work as a writer who adopted the French language, and through his work developed a politics of language and literature on the side of Fascist Romania and using official French media and university outlets. Before he was known as an anti-authoritarian French writer, Ionesco created spaces for linguistic and academic development but through the political lens of cultural diplomacy between Vichy France and Antonescu’s Romania.

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Notes

1 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, Cioran, Eliade, Ionesco: L’oubli du fascisme, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2002, p. 11.

2 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration? Le cas d’Eugène Ionesco à Vichy,” Transylvania Review, XIV 4, Winter 2005, p. 58-80.

3 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române în timpul regimului de la Vichy 1940-1944, Cluj-Napoca, Argonat, 2006, p. 485-486.

4 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration?”… art. cit., p. 61.

5 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române, art. cit., p. 442, 484.

6 Alain Dubosclard, “Les Principes de l’action culturelle extérieure de la France aux États-Unis au xxe siècle: essai de definition,” Entre rayonnement et réciprocité: contributions à l’histoire de la diplomatie culturelle, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 2002, p. 26-38. Dubosclard distinguishes “action culturelle exté-rieure” from cultural diplomacy, stating that the latter is directly linked to political and economic interests of a particular government.

7 Jessica Gienow-Hecht and Mark Dofnried, “The Model of Cultural Diplomacy: Power, Distance, and the Promise of Civil Society”, in Search for a Cultural Diplomacy, Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2010, p. 13-29.

8 Ibid.

9 See note 30.

10 Ana-Maria Stan, “Survie, création, devoir patriotique, collaboration?”, art. cit. p. 66.

11 Ana-Maria Stan, Relațile franco-române, art. cit., p. 399.

12 Ibid., p. 49.

13 Mihail Sebastian, Journal 1933-1945: The Fascist Years, Patrick Camiller, trans., Chicago, Ivan R. Dee, 2000, p. 32. Diary entry dated Feb. 10, 1941. For the remainder of this article, I will provide my own English translations for quotes in Romanian.

14 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, op. cit., p. 49.

15 Ibid., p. 46.

16 Eugène Ionesco, Entre la vie et le rêve: entretiens avec Claude Bonnefoy, Paris, P. Belfond, 1977, p. 23.

17 For example, he published a series “Scrisori din Paris” [Letters from Paris] in Viața românească in 1939 and 1940.

18 His exit visa was issued on June 4, 1940. Prefecture of Police Archives, Paris. Series IC, Box 8.

19 Mihail Sebastian, op. cit., p. 335. Diary entry dated March 26, 1941.

20 Eugène Ionesco, Présent passé passé présent, Paris, Mercure de France, 1968, p. 164. I have not been able to locate the original diary to cross check the citation.

21 Nicolae Mares, Eugen Ionescu: diplomat român in Franța, Bucharest, Editura Fundatiei Romania de Maine, n.d., p. 113.

22 Eugène Ionesco, Théâtre complet, Paris, Gallimard, 1991, p. xxxix.

23 Nancy Lane, Understanding Eugène Ionesco, Columbia, SC, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, p. 3.

24 Rosette Lamont, (ed.), The Two Faces of Ionesco, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1993, p. 266.

25 Martin Esslin, Theatre of the Absurd, NY, Vintage, 2001, p. 136.

26 Arhivele Naționale ale Romaniei, Ministerul Propagandei naționale (1921-1949), Fondul 2904, Presă Externă, Dosarul Vichy-Paris 1942 Junuarie-Octombrie, Referat 576 (Sept. 13, 1942), Referat 712 (Nov. 2, 1942), and Referat 783 (Dec. 22, 1942). Ionesco wrote all reports listed here. From this point on, in footnotes I will refer to “Arhivele Naționale Române, Ministerul Propagandei naționale (1921-1949)” as ANR.

27 Ionesco mentions Valla in Referat 1289 (Sept. 22, 1943). For proof that Valla was Voronca’s pseudonym, see Ionesco’s letter to Tudor Vianu dated July 23, 1943 in Scrisori către Tudor Vianu, vol. 2, Bucharest, Editura Minerva, 1994, p. 230.

28 Préfecture of Police Archives. Series IC, Box 8. “Demande de visa/titre de séjour pour étranger” cc no. 1617943, July 1, 1957; Notes related to naturalization (Sept. 15, 1956), p. 3.

29 ANR, Fondul 2904, Inventar, vol. 1, “Prefața,” p.1. From 1926-1938, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministeriul Afecerilor Straîne) controlled propaganda of the press.

30 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 559 (June 25, 1942).

31 Ibid., p. 2.

32 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 1158 (July 12, 1943), p. 10. See also Mares, op. cit., p. 113.

33 ANR, Fondul 2904, Studii și Documentele (1941), Dosar 143: Emil Cioran, Consilier cultural, Paris.

34 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă externă, Referat 1158 (July 12, 1943), p. 12.

35 Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine, op. cit., p. 356. See note 18.

36 Cahiers du Sud 261 (Nov. 1943); ANR, Fondul 2904, Presă Externă, Referat 576 (Sept. 13, 1942); Raport 1335 (Oct. 19, 1943), “Raport despre o emisione radiofonică asupra lui Tudor Arghezi, înregistrată pe discuri la Studio-ul postului din Marseille.” See also Referat 1437 (July 15, 1942) in which Ionesco outlines the project and states that he is working with Adrienne Monnestier of Radio Marseille.

37 I discuss Ionesco’s translations at length in my book manuscript in progress, tentatively entitled “French and Foreign: Émigré Writers in Occupied France.”

38 See note 30.

39 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Document 234/941. Letter from Ion Dragu to Mihai Antonescu, “Vice presidente al Consiliului de ministri, Presidente al Consuliului de Ministri ad-interiu și Ministrul propagandei naționale, București (Sept. 10, 1941).

40 Henri Béhar, Tristan Tzara, Paris, Oxus, 2005, p. 244.

41 Ibid., p. 168.

42 Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques Doucet, Ms Lt 48.126. Letter from Tzara to Bertelé dated Dec. 2, 1941. I would like to thank Christophe Tzara for his authorization to publish this archival material.

43 Michel Leiris, Labyrinthe, 17, 15 (Feb 1946): p. 15

44 ANR, Fondul 2904, Presei, Referat 939 “asupra creării unui lectorat de limba română la Facultatea de Litere din Montpellier” (March 2, 1943).

45 ANR, Fondul 2904, Letter sent to Ionesco’s department by Jean Sarrailh, rector of the Université de Montpellier (Feb. 19, 1943).

46 Referat 939, p. 2.

47 Ibid., p. 4.

48 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 1831 “Referat privitor la recunoașterea oficială a situației lectorului de limbă română dela Universitatea din Montpellier” (Vichy, Aug. 20, 1943). A report the following semester from Ionesco testifies to Tanase’s need for the Romanian delegation to support his rehiring at the university. Apparently the school did not plan to rehire him, and Ionesco lamented that Romanian would be the only Romance language not being taught in Montpellier [Referat 1079, “Raport asupra lectorului de limba română din Montpellier, asupra nevoilor lectorului, și asupra unui siclu de conferințe despre România, ce urmează a fi ținute în anul scolar 1943-1944” (May 29, 1943).] All reports are by Ionesco.

49 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 711; Studii și documentare, Referate 1437 with attached lists of books and 749, by Ionesco regarding the need for books to be sent from Romania to France; Referate on sending the journals Pyrenées and Cahiers du Sud from France to Romania, as well as Tudor Vianu’s response written in Romania (Aug. 20, 1943) include 503, 576, 783, 1365, 1831, f.207, f.431. Referate in this footnote are by Ionesco.

50 Théo Martin, “Manifestation émouvante de l’amitié franco-roumaine: La réouverture de la Chaire Michel Eminesco au Centre Universitaire de Nice,” Petit Niçois, Feb. 9, 1943.

51 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 785, “Raport despre 1) un francez iubitor al României; 2) proectul unei manifestații românești la ‚Centrul Universitar Mediteranean’” by Ionescu (Dec. 23, 1942).

52 Ibid., p. 1.

53 Ibid., p. 1-2.

54 Ibid.

55 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, Referat 503 by Ionescu (Aug. 13, 1942).

56 Referat 785, op. cit., p. 2.

57 Paul Valery, “Le Centre Universitaire Méditerranéen,” Regards sur le monde actuel, Paris, Gallimard, 1945, 4th ed, p. 307.

58 Ibid., p. 314.

59 Referat 785, op. cit., p. 3.

60 ANR, Fondul 2905, Propagandă, 1942-44 Ministerul Propagandă Franța, Referat 550, “Referat asupra utilități studențiilor români la Franța” by Ionescu (Sept. 2, 1942), p. 3.

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Référence papier

Julia Elsky, « Eugène Ionesco, 1942-1944 : Political and Cultural Transfers between Romania and France », Diasporas, 23-24 | 2014, 200-214.

Référence électronique

Julia Elsky, « Eugène Ionesco, 1942-1944 : Political and Cultural Transfers between Romania and France », Diasporas [En ligne], 23-24 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2015, consulté le 23 juin 2017. URL : http://diasporas.revues.org/319 ; DOI : 10.4000/diasporas.319

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Auteur

Julia Elsky

Julia Elsky est Visiting Scholar of French Studies au Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). En 2014, elle a soutenu une thèse intitulée « French and Foreign : Émigré Writers in Occupied France » à l’Université de Yale (French Department), où elle était Whiting Fellow. Ses recherches ont paru dans les revues Yale French Studies et Archives Juives : Revue d’Histoire des Juifs de France. Elle a bénéficié de la Bourse Chateaubriand, d’une bourse de la Fondation Mrs. Giles Whiting et du Yale Fox International Fellowship, grâce auquel elle a été chercheuse invitée au Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po (Paris).

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