Marin Sorescu

1936–1996

In 1964 the Romanian government relaxed its censorship policies, signaling a new openness to free expression. The nation's poets heeded that signal, and Romanian poetry experienced a striking revival. Poet and playwright Marin Sorescu is perhaps one of the most popular figures to emerge from Romanian literary culture in the years since.

Sorescu writes in a plainspoken, down-to-earth style spiced with sly humor. He responds to the hardships of Romanian life not with grand rhetoric or fire-and-brimstone sermons, but with what translator Michael Hamburger describes as "ironic verse fables," as quoted by Dennis Deletant in the Times Literary Supplement. Virgil Nemoianu, also writing in the Times Literary Supplement, comments that "[Sorescu's] reactions to an increasingly absurd political regime were always cleverly balanced: he never engaged in the servile praise of leader and party usually required of Romanian poets, but nor did he venture into dissidence. He was content to let irony do its job."

His choice of irony over confrontation has made it possible for Sorescu to publish freely and frequently. The journal he edited for years, Revista Ramuri, managed like his poetry to stay within the bounds expected by the Romanian regime. Sorescu's plays, however, have not always fared as well. Both Iona and Exista nervi played to packed houses in Bucharest, the former in 1969 and the latter in 1982. But both plays were quickly withdrawn, their content deemed too controversial. Nonetheless, notes Deletant, the success of these pieces during their brief runs solidified "Sorescu's status as one of the leading writers of his generation."

Sorescu's plays and poetry have earned him, Deletant further states, "an unequaled audience" at home in Romania. And translations of his work into English have helped him build a secure international reputation. The qualities that have allowed his writings to flourish on Romania's state-controlled literary scene may contribute to his popularity abroad as well. There is a universality to Sorescu's conversational tone and ironic perspective, what Nemoianu calls "his rueful jocularity and the good-natured cynicism." George Szirtes, writing in Times Literary Supplement, finds in Sorescu's voice "the wry wisdom that sees through everything and yet continues to hope and despair."

(Photo by Moira Conway)

Career

Viata studenteasca, editor, 1960-64; Luceafarul, editor, 1964-66; Animafilm Studio, chief editor, 1966-74; Revista Ramuri (literary journal), chief editor, 1970-91; Literatrul (cultural journal), chief editor, 1991—. Member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, 1973-74; visiting professor in West Berlin, 1973-74. Has read selections of his poetry at festivals internationally, including the Edinburgh Festival, 1971, Berlin Poetry Festival, 1978, Poetry International in Rotterdam, 1980 and 1983, Mexican Poetry Festivals, 1981 and 1982, Poetry International (The South Bank Centre), in London, 1994, and Festival International de Poesia, in Medellin, Columbia, 1994.

Bibliography

POETRY

  • Singur printre poeti: parodii (title means "Alone among Poets: Parodies"), [Romania], 1964, InterCONTEMPress (Bucharest, Romania), 1990.
  • Tusiti (title means "Cough!"), Eminescu (Bucharest), 1970.
  • Symmetries, translation by J.R. Colombo and P. Negosanu, Hounslow (Toronto), 1982.
  • Selected Poems, translation by Michael Hamburger, Bloodaxe (Newcastle upon Tyne), 1984.
  • Let's Talk about the Weather, Forest (London), 1985.
  • The Biggest Egg in the World, introduction by Edna Longley, translation by Seamus Heaney and others, Bloodaxe (Newcastle upon Tyne), 1987.
  • The Youth of Don Quixote, translation by John F. Deane of the original Romanian manuscript, Tineretea lui Don Quijote, 1968, Dedalus Press (Dublin), 1987.
  • Poezii I, Scrisul Romanesc (Romania), 1990.
  • Poezii alese de cenzura, Editura Roza Vinturilor (Bucharest, Romania), 1991.
  • Hands behind My Back, introduction by Seamus Heaney, translated by Gabriela Dragnea, Stuart Friebert and Adriana Varga, Oberlin College, 1992.
  • Poezii II, Scrisul Romanesc (Romania), 1992.
  • Alma para todos servicio, translated by Omar Lara, Ediciones LAR (Concepcion, Chile), 1994.
  • Censored Poems, translated by John Hartley Williams & Hilde Ottschofski, Bloodaxe Books (Tarset), 2001.
  • The Bridge, translated by Adam J Sorkin & Lidia Vianu, Bloodaxe Books (Tarset), 2004.

Author of numerous volumes of poetry in Romanian, including Poeme (title means "Poems"), 1965; Moartea ceasului (title means"Death of the Clock"), 1967; Unghi (title means"Angle"), 1970; O aripa si un picior, 1971; Suflete, bun la toate (title means "Odd-Job Soul"), 1972; Astfel, 1973; La lilieci, 1973; Ocolul infinitului mic pornind de la nimic (title means "Around the Small Universe Starting from Nothing"), 1973; Norii (title means"Clouds"), 1975; Descintoteca, 1976; Trei dinti din fata, 1977; Paracliserul, 1978; Sarbatori itinerante (title means "Itinerant Holidays"), 1978; Gedichten, 1981; Fintini in mare, 1982; Ceramique, 1984; El huracan del papel, 1985; Abendrot Nr. 15, 1985; Apa vie, apa moarta, 1987; Traversarea, 1994.

PLAYS

  • Iona (title means "Jonah"; produced in Bucharest, 1969), [Romania], 1968.
  • The Thirst of the Salt Mountain (collection of plays), [London], 1985.
  • Vlad Dracula, the Impaler, translation by Dennis Deletant, Forest (London), 1987.
  • Varul Shakespeare si alte piese; teatru, Cartea Romaneasca (Bucharest, Romania), 1992.

Also author of other plays in Romanian, including Setea muntelui de sare, 1974; Exista nervi (title means "There Are Nerves"), produced in Bucharest, 1982; Iesirea prin cer, 1984; Desfacerea qunoa elor, 1992, produced in Kishinev, 1993.

OTHER

  • Ecuatorul si polii, Editura Facla (Romania), 1989.

Also author of Viziunea vizuinii (novel), 1981; Tratat de inspiratie (essays), 1985; Usor cu pianul pe scari (essays), 1987.

Further Reading

BOOKS

  • George, Emery, editor, Contemporary East European Poetry, Ardis, 1983.

PERIODICALS

  • Listener, June 25, 1987, p. 31.
  • Observer (London), August 9, 1987, p. 23.
  • Times Educational Supplement, July 24, 1987, p. 22.
  • Times Literary Supplement, May 18, 1984, p. 559; October 9, 1987, p. 1121; October 15, 1987, p. 1121; March 27, 1992, p. 12.
  • World Literature Today, autumn, 1983, pp. 625-626; spring, 1988, p. 267; winter, 1989, p. 89.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES: PERIODICALS

  • New York Times, December 16, 1996, p. B13.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION Eastern Europe

LIFE SPAN 1936–1996

Biography

In 1964 the Romanian government relaxed its censorship policies, signaling a new openness to free expression. The nation's poets heeded that signal, and Romanian poetry experienced a striking revival. Poet and playwright Marin Sorescu is perhaps one of the most popular figures to emerge from Romanian literary culture in the years since.

Sorescu writes in a plainspoken, down-to-earth style spiced with sly humor. He responds to . . .

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