From Magic to Myth
My first encounter with Mircea Eliade’s books was sometime in 1964 or 1965, when I attempted to improve my English by reading books written in an easy style that also had some interest for me. Strangely enough, it had nothing to do with the obviously Romanian name of the author. However, the interest in Jewish thought took me in another direction, and I returned to read Eliade again only later in the mid-seventies, when preparing my Ph.D. thesis. However, it was only much later that I discovered that Eliade was actually the friend of Mihail Sebastian, my favorite Romanian playwright, about whose life I did not know anything while in Romania. Toward the end of the seventies, I heard some rumors about the possible affiliations of Eliade with the extreme right, and spoke briefly with Gershom Scholem about them in 1979. However, it was only a month after the death of Eliade, in a conversation with Prof. Wendy Doniger in Jerusalem, that I repeated these rumors, which she vehemently denied. I decided then to read much more systematically and investigate the problem. For this reason I met with Sebastian’s younger brother Benjamin Andrei (Beno, Benu/Bimbirică) in the summer of 1986 in Boulogne, and he confirmed Eliade’s affiliation with the Iron Guard, though he had a rather reconciling attitude toward what he nevertheless described as an affiliation. Some months later I became acquainted with Leon Volovici’s plan to write a book on interwar nationalism in Romania, and it was...
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