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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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From Translation to Re-Creation


In ‘Reforeignising The Foreign: The Italian Retranslation of James Joyce‘s Ulysses’, Rosa Maria Bollettieri and Ira Torresi described Ulysses as an ‘open work’.1 The two Italian Joycean scholars brought back to mind its well-earned name given by Brook Thomas in his 1982 study: ‘A book of many happy returns’.2 Quite rightly, generations of writers, greatly influenced by reading Joyce, produced many felicitous iterations of the Joycean intertext.

In twentieth-century Francophone Romania, where novelists were very fond of Proust and Gide, who offered a stylistic and thematic model alike, Joyce’s admirers were few and far between. Their main interest was in imitating Joyce’s interior monologue, or rather its admixture of free indirect style and third-person narration, as well as various narrative manipulations of time and duration. Ironically enough, the Romanian language cannot render Joyce’s narratorial ambiguity, since its Latin grammatical structure does not allow the sequence of tenses or the referent’s indeterminacy, especially in verb endings, which, unlike in English, are different for each person, thus making it impossible to keep the original’s deliberate pronominal indirections, to name but these structural mismatches between the two languages.

Experimenting with Authenticity: Mircea Eliade

Romanian literature’s first novelistic Joycean experiment dates back to as early as 1931, with Mircea Eliade’s Lumina ce se stinge [Failing Light], considered by critics such as Eugen Simion and Iulian Băicuş to be his ‘most Joycean’ novel. Eliade was better known as a historian of religions, yet he was...

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