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 But both plays were quickly withdrawn, their content deemed too controversial.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)