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Romanian Joyce

From Hostility to Hospitality

Arleen Ionescu

This study makes Romania’s largely unknown Joycean heritage visible to an international readership. Reviewing Joyce’s critical reception and translations, as well as the writer’s influence on Romanian prose, it brings Derrida’s notion of «hostipitality» to comparative literary and translation studies in order to theorize the impact of politics and ideology on fiction. After an original survey of the links between Romanian modernism/postmodernism and Western literature, it focuses on alternate trends of hostility and hospitality towards Joyce, especially his techniques and style. It examines how translations dealt with themes prone to communist censorship (politics, sexuality, religion, food), before discussing Joyce’s impact on Romanian writers such as Eliade, Biberi, Bălăiţă and Oţoiu.
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Joyce’s Critical Reception in Romania


In the inter-war period, Romanians were aficionados of French literature and followers of what was happening on the critical front in Paris. One of the literary journals any Bucharest intellectual would pride himself on having a subscription to was La Nouvelle Revue Française, whose Editor-in-chief between 1919 and 1925, Jacques Rivière, was an admirer of Marcel Proust who had refused to publish any translation of Dubliners, A Portrait or Ulysses. In spite of this hostility, in April 1922, the journal was to make its first gesture of welcoming Joyce by accommodating Valery Larbaud’s review of Ulysses, where the Irish writer was placed among the naturalists Flaubert and Maupassant and the symbolists Lautréamont and Rimbaud, for having given his country an intellectual identity, as Ibsen did for Norway, Strindberg for Sweden and, more surprising, Nietzsche for Germany. One month following its original publication, Larbaud’s review was translated in three literary journals1 and met with two immediate responses: Demostene Botez’s, which concluded that Ulysses was an ‘original and valuable work of art’,2 and Isaia Răcăciuni’s discussion of the novelist’s art.3

Interwar Hos(ti)pitalities: The Intriguing Interior Monologue

Joyce’s acknowledgement that he had borrowed his technique from Édouard Dujardin’s Les lauriers sont coupés4 (1888) had convinced Larbaud to write a ← 77 | 78 → preface for the French novelist’s second edition of the novel, in which he coined the phrase ‘the interior monologue’ and strengthened its ‘French pedigree’, as well as...

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