Eminescu, Mihail

Eminescu, Mihail

Eminescu, Mihail, 1850-89, Romanian poet. Eminescu is considered the foremost Romanian poet of his century. His poems, lyrical, passionate, and revolutionary, were published in periodicals and had a profound influence on Romanian letters. He worked in a traveling company of actors, as well as acquiring a broad university education. His poetry reflected the influence of the French romantics. "Calin," a typical work, describes the glory of nature and simple peasant existence. Eminescu suffered from periodic attacks of insanity, dying shortly after his final attack.

Mihail Sadoveanu (occasionally referred to as Mihai Sadoveanu; November 5, 1880October 19, 1961; ) was a Romanian novelist, short story writer, journalist and political figure, who twice served as republican head of state under the communist regime (1947-1948 and 1958). One of the most prolific Romanian-language writers, he is remembered mostly for his historical and adventure novels, as well as for his nature writing. An author whose career spanned five decades, Sadoveanu was an early associate of the traditionalist magazine Sămănătorul, before becoming known as a Realist writer and an adherent to the Poporanist current represented by Viaţa Românească journal. Critically acclaimed for their visions of ancient solitude and natural abundance, his books are generally set in the historical region of Moldavia and build on themes from the country's medieval and early modern history. Among them are Neamul Şoimăreştilor ("The Şoimăreşti Family"), Fraţii Jderi ("The Jderi Brothers") and Zodia Cancerului ("The Sign of the Cancer"), while, with Baltagul ("The Hatchet") and other works of fiction, Sadoveanu extends his fresco to contemporary history and adopts his style to the psychological novel, Naturalism and Social realism.

A traditionalist figure whose perspective on life was a combination of nationalism and Humanism, Sadoveanu moved between right- and left-wing political forces throughout the interwar period, while serving terms in Parliament. Rallying with People's Party, the National Agrarian Party, and the National Liberal Party-Brătianu, he was editor of the leftist newspapers Adevărul and Dimineaţa, and was the target of a violent far right press campaign. After World War II, Sadoveanu became a political associate of the Romanian Communist Party. He wrote in favor of the Soviet Union and Stalinism, joined the Society for Friendship with the Soviet Union and adopted Socialist realism. He was awarded high positions in political and cultural life, but his works of the time, in particular the controversial novel Mitrea Cocor, are generally seen as his poorest. Many of his texts, including the famous slogan Lumina vine de la Răsărit ("The Light Arises in the East"), are viewed as propaganda in favor of communization.

A founding member of the Romanian Writers' Society and later President of the Romanian Writers' Union, Sadoveanu was also a member of the Romanian Academy since 1921 and a recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize for 1961. He was also Grand Master of the Romanian Freemasonry during the 1930s. The father of Profira and Paul-Mihu Sadoveanu, who also pursued careers as writers, he was the brother-in-law of literary critic Izabela Sadoveanu-Evan.


Early years

Sadoveanu was born in Paşcani, in western Moldavia. His father's family hailed from the southwestern part of the Old Kingdom, in Oltenia. Their place of origin, Sadova, provided their chosen surname (lit. "from Sadova"), which was adopted by the family only in 1891. Mihail's father was the lawyer Alexandru Sadoveanu (d. 1921), whom literary critic George Călinescu described as "a bearded and well-to-do man". His mother, Profira née Ursachi (or Ursaki; d. 1895), hailed from a line of Moldavian shepherds, all of whom, as the writer recalled, had been illiterate. Literary historian Tudor Vianu believes this contrast of regional and social identities played a part in shaping the author, opening him up to a "Romanian universality", but notes that, throughout his career, Sadoveanu was especially connected with his Moldavian roots. Mihail had a brother, also named Alexandru, whose wife was the Swiss-educated literary critic Izabela Morţun (later known as Sadoveanu-Evan, she was the cousin of socialist activist Vasile Morţun). Another one of his brothers, Vasile Sadoveanu, was an agricultural engineer.

Beginning in 1887, Sadoveanu attended primary school in Paşcani. His teacher, whose family name was Busuioc, later served as inspiration for one of his best-known short stories, Domnu Trandafir ("Mr. Trandafir"; trandafir is Romanian for "rose", while busuioc means "basil"). As he himself later recalled, he explored his native region on foot, hunting, fishing, or just contemplating nature. He was also spending his vacations in his mother's native Vereşti. During his journeys, Sadoveanu visited peasants, and his impression of the way in which they were relating to authority is credited by Vianu with having shaped his perspective on society.

The young Sadoveanu completed his secondary studies in Fălticeni and at the National High School in Iaşi. In 1896, when he was aged sixteen, he considered writing a monograph on Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great, but his first literary attempts date from the following year. That year, a sketch story, titled Domnişoara M din Fălticeni ("Miss M from Fălticeni") and signed Mihai din Paşcani ("Mihai from Paşcani"), was successfully submitted for publishing to the Bucharest-based satirical magazine Dracu. He started writing for Ovid Densusianu's journal Vieaţa Nouă in 1898, and his articles were featured alongside those of Gala Galaction, N. D. Cocea, and Tudor Arghezi (he signed his contributions with his real name, or sometimes as M. S. Cobuz). He was also writing pieces for magazines such as Opinia and Pagini Literare, and founded the short-lived journal Lumea (1899).

He left for Bucharest in 1900, intending to study Law at the University's Faculty of Law, but withdrew soon after, deciding to dedicate himself to literature. After that, he began frequenting the bohemian society in the capital. In 1901, Sadoveanu married Ecaterina Bâlu, with whom he settled in Fălticeni, where he began work on his first novellas and decided to make his living as a professional writer. After that date, he spent much of his home in the country, where he raised a large family. He was the father of eleven, among whom were three daughters: Despina, Teodora and Profira Sadoveanu, the latter of whom was a poetess and a novelist. Of his sons, Dimitrie Sadoveanu, became a painter, while Paul-Mihu, the youngest, was author of the novel Ca floarea câmpului... ("Like the Flower of the Field...") which was published posthumously.

Sămănătorul, Viaţa Românească and literary debut

After receiving an invitation from poet Ştefan Octavian Iosif in 1903, Sadoveanu contributed works to the journal Sămănătorul, led at the time by historian Nicolae Iorga. In 1904, he regained Bucharest, where he became a copyist for the Ministry of Education's Board of Schools, returning to Fălticeni two years later. After 1906, he rallied with the group formed around Viaţa Românească, which was also joined by his sister-in-law Izabela. The two competing magazines, having comparable influence over the literature of Romania, stood for a traditionalist and ruralist approach to art, but the latter adopted a left-wing perspective, known as Poporanism. With his pieces for Viaţa Românească, Sadoveanu became especially known as the raconteur of hunting trips.

1904 was his effective debut year, as he published four books, including Povestiri ("Stories"), Şoimii ("The Falcons"), Dureri înăbuşite ("Suppressed Pains") and Crâşma lui Moş Petcu ("Old Man Petcu's Alehouse"). The beginning of a prolific literary career covering more than a half century, this debut was marked by intense preparation, and drew on literary exercises spanning the previous decade. His Sămănătorul colleague Iorga deemed 1904 "Sadoveanu's Year", while the influential and aging critic Titu Maiorescu, leader of the conservative literary society Junimea, gave a positive review to Povestiri, and successfully proposed it for a Romanian Academy award in 1906. In a 1908 essay, Maiorescu was to list Sadoveanu among Romania's greatest writers. According to Vianu, Maiorescu saw in Sadoveanu and other young writers the triumph of his theory on a "popular" form of Realism, a vision which the Junimist thinker had advocated in his essays from as early as 1882.

In 1905, Sadoveanu was one of Sămănătorul 's editors, alongside Iorga and Iosif. The magazine, originally a traditionalist mouthpiece founded by Alexandru Vlahuţă and George Coşbuc, proclaimed with Iorga its purpose of establishing "a national culture", emancipated from foreign influence. However, according to Călinescu, this ambitious goal was only manifested in a "great cultural influence", as the journal continued to be an eclectic venue which grouped together ruralist traditionalists of the "national tendency" and adherents to the cosmopolitan currents such as Symbolism. Călinescu and Vianu agree that Sămănătorul was, for a large part, a promoter of older guidelines set by Junimea. Vianu also argues that Sadoveanu's contribution to the literary circle was the main original artistic element in its history, and credits Iosif with having accurately predicted that, during a period of literary "crisis", Sadoveanu was the person to provide innovation.

He continued to publish at an impressive rate: in 1906, he again handed down for print four separate volumes. In parallel, Sadoveanu pursued his career as a civil servant. In 1905, he was employed as a clerk by the Ministry of Education, headed by the Conservative Party's Mihail Vlădescu. His direct supervisor was poet D. Nanu, and he had for his colleagues the geographer George Vâlsan and the short story writer Nicolae N. Beldiceanu. Nanu wrote of this period: "It is a clerical packed full with men of letters, no work is being done, people smoke, drink coffee, create dreams, poems and prose [...]."

Having interrupted his administrative service, Sadoveanu was drafted into the Romanian Land Forces in 1906, being granted an officer's rank. An already overweight man, he had to march from Probota in Central Moldavia to Bukovina, which caused him intense suffering.

1910s and World War I

Sadoveanu returned to his administrative job in 1907, the year of the Peasants' Revolt. Kept in office by the National Liberal cabinet of Ion I. C. Brătianu, he served under the reform-minded Education Minister Spiru Haret. He became a professional writer in 1909, after joining the Romanian Writers' Society, created in the previous year by poets Cincinat Pavelescu and Dimitrie Anghel, and becoming its President in September of that year. The same year, he, Iosif, and Anghel, together with author Emil Gârleanu, set up Cumpăna, a monthly directed against both Ovid Densusianu's eclecticism and the Junimist school (the magazine was no longer in print by 1910).

In 1910, he was also appointed head of the National Theater Iaşi, a position which he filled until 1919. He resigned his office within the Writers' Society in November 1911, being replaced by Gârleanu, but continued to partake in its administration as a member of its leadership committee and a censor.

Sadoveanu was again called under arms during the Second Balkan War of 1913, when Romania confronted Bulgaria. Having reached the rank of Lieutenant, he was stationed in Fălticeni with the 15th Infantry Regiment, after which he spent a short period on the front. He returned to literary life. Becoming good friends with poet and humorist George Topîrceanu, he accompanied him and other writers on cultural tours during 1914 and 1915. The series of writings he published at the time includes the 1915 Neamul Şoimăreştilor.

In 1916-1917, as Romania entered World War I and was invaded by the Central Powers, Sadoveanu stayed in Moldavia, the only part of Romania's territory still under the state's authority (see Romanian Campaign). At the time, he was reelected President of the Writers' Society, a provisional mandate which ended in 1918, when Romania signed the peace with the Central Powers. He was joined by Topîrceanu, who had just been released from a POW camp in Bulgaria, and with whom he founded the magazine Însemnări Literare.

Sadoveanu subsequently settled in the Iaşi of Copou, purchasing and redecorating the villa known locally as Casa cu turn ("The House with a Tower"). In the 19th century, it previously been the residence of politician Mihail Kogălniceanu, and, during the war, hosted composer George Enescu. During that period, he collaborated with leftist intellectual Vasile Morţun and, together with him, founded and edited the magazine Răvaşul Poporului.

Creative maturity and early political career

In 1921, Sadoveanu was elected a full member of the Romanian Academy; he gave his reception speech in front of the cultural forum two years later, structuring it as a praise of Romanian folklore in general and folkloric poetry in particular. His house was by then host to many cultural figures, among whom were writers Topîrceanu, Gala Galaction, Otilia Cazimir, Ionel and Păstorel Teodoreanu, and Dumitru D. Pătrăşcanu, as well as conductor Sergiu Celibidache. He was also close to a minor socialist poet and short story author, Ioan N. Roman, whose work he helped promote, to the aristocrat and memoirist Gheorghe Jurgea-Negrileşti, and to a satirist named Radu Cosmin.

Despite his health problems, Sadoveanu frequently traveled throughout Romania, notably visiting local sights which inspired his work: the Romanian Orthodox monasteries of Agapia and Văratec, and the Neamţ Fortress. After 1923, together with Topîrceanu, Demostene Botez and other Viaţa Românească affiliates, he also embarked on a series of hunting trips. He was charmed in particular by the sights he discovered during a 1927 visit to the Transylvanian area of Arieş. The same year, he also visited the Netherlands, which he reached by means of the Orient Express. His popularity continued to grow: in 1925, 1929 and 1930 respectively, he published his critically acclaimed novels Venea o moară pe Siret... ("A Mill Was Floating down the Siret..."), Zodia Cancerului and Baltagul, and his 50th anniversary was celebrated at a national level. In 1930, Sadoveanu, Topîrceanu and the schoolteacher T. C. Stan wrote and edited a series of primary school textbooks.

In 1926, after a period of indecision, Sadoveanu rallied with the People's Party, where his friend, the poet Octavian Goga, was a prominent activist. He then rallied with Goga's own National Agrarian Party. During the general election of 1927, he won a seat in the Chamber for Bihor County, in Transylvania, holding a seat in the Senate for Iaşi County after the 1931 suffrage. Under the Nicolae Iorga's National Peasants' Party cabinet of the period, Sadoveanu was President of the Senate. The choice was motivated by his status as "a cultural personality". Around that date, he was affiliated with the National Liberal Party-Brătianu, a right-wing party inside the liberal current, who stood in opposition to the main National Liberal group.

He was by then affiliated with the Freemasonry, as first recorded by the organization in 1928, but was probably a member since 1926 or 1927. Reaching the 33rd degree within the organization, he was elected Grand Master of the national Masonic Lodge in 1932, thus replacing the vacating George Valentin Bibescu. There subsequently occurred a split between Bibescu and Sadoveanu's supporters, aggravated by the secession of a third group around Ioan Pangal, which Sadoveanu managed to solve over the following three years. By 1934, he was recognized as Grand Master of the United Romanian Freemasonry, which regrouped all the local Lodges.

Late 1930s and World War II

He was publishing new works at a regular rate, culminating in the first volume of his historical epic Fraţii Jderi, which saw print in 1935. In 1936, the writer accepted the honorary chairmanship of two left-wing magazines, Adevărul and Dimineaţa. During that time, he was involved in a public dispute with the far right and fascist press, replying to their attacks in several columns. Affiliates of the radical right organized public burnings of his volumes. The scandal prolonged itself over the following years, with Sadoveanu being supported by his friends in the literary community. Among them was Topîrceanu, who was at the time hospitalized, and whose expression of support was made shortly before his death to liver cancer. In September 1937, as a statement of solidarity and appreciation, the University of Iaşi conferred Sadoveanu the title of doctor honoris causa.

Mihail Sadoveanu withdrew from politics in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as Romania came to be led by successive right-wing dictatorships, starting with King Carol II and his National Renaissance Front, and continuing under the Iron Guard's Nazi-allied National Legionary regime. After Conducător Ion Antonescu overthrew the Iron Guard during the Legionary Rebellion and established his own fascist regime, the still-apolitical Sadoveanu was more present in public life, and lectured on cultural subjects for the Romanian Radio. After publishing the final section of his Fraţii Jderi in 1942, Sadoveanu again retreated to a life in the countryside, settling at Bradu-Strâmb, in his beloved Arieş area. During those years, the sixty-year old writer met Valeria Mitru, a much younger woman and feminist journalist, whom he married after a brief courtship.

In August 1944, Romania's King Michael Coup toppled Antonescu and switched sides in the war, rallying with the Allies. As a Soviet occupation began at home, Romanian troops fought alongside the Red Army on the European theater. Paul-Mihu was killed in action in Transylvania on September 22.

Communist system and political rise

After the Soviet-backed advent of the Communist system in Romania, Sadoveanu supported the new authorities, and turned from his own version of Realism to officially-endorsed Socialist realism (see Socialist realism in Romania). This change first manifested itself in March 1945, when Sadoveanu returned lectured about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at a conference hall in Bucharest. Part of a conference cycle, his speech was famously titled Lumina vine de la Răsărit, which soon became synonymous with the attempts to improve the image of Stalinism in Romania. This was also the start of his association with the Soviet-sponsored Romanian Society for Friendship with the Soviet Union (ARLUS), which would issue the text of his conference as a printed volume later in the year. Sadoveanu eventually rallied with the ARLUS, which was led by physician Constantin Ion Parhon; with Ion Pas, Gala Galaction, Horia Deleanu, Octav Livezeanu and N. D. Cocea, he edited the association's weekly literary magazine Veac Nou after June 1946. In 1945, he journeyed to the Soviet Union, together with some of his fellow ARLUS members, among them biologist Parhon, biologist Traian Săvulescu, sociologist Dimitrie Gusti, linguist Iorgu Iordan, and mathematician Simion Stoilow. Invited by the Soviet Academy of Sciences to attend the 220th anniversary of its foundation, they also visited research institutes, kolhozy, and day care centers, notably meeting with Nikolay Tsitsin, an agronomist favored by Stalin. After his return, he wrote other controversial texts and gave lectures which offered ample praise to the Soviet system.

During the rigged election of 1946, Sadoveanu was a candidate for the Communist party-organized Bloc of Democratic Parties (BPD) in Bucharest, winning a seat in the newly-unified Parliament of Romania. In 1948, after Romania's King Michael I was overthrown by the BPD-member parties and the communist regime officially established, Sadoveanu rose to the highest positions ever granted to a Romanian writer, and received significant material benefits. In 1947-1948, he was, alongside Parhon, Ştefan Voitec, Gheorghe Stere, and Ion Niculi, a member of the Presidium of the People's Republic, which was elected by the BPD-dominated legislative, and, as leader of that body, filled in for the position of republican head of state.

Final years, illness and death

After the Romanian Writers' Society was restructured as the Romanian Writers' Union in 1949, he became its Honorary President. In 1950, Sadoveanu was named President of the Writers' Union, replacing Zaharia Stancu. According to writer Valeriu Râpeanu, this last appointment was a sign of Stancu's marginalization after he had been excluded from the Romanian Communist Party, while the Writers' Union was actually controlled by its First Secretary, the communist poet Mihai Beniuc. Sadoveanu and Beniuc were reelected at the Union's first Congress (1956). In the meanwhile, Sadoveanu published several Socialist realist volumes, among which was Mitrea Cocor, a controversial praise of collectivization policies. Having donated Casa cu turn to the state in 1950, he moved back to Bucharest, where he owned a house near the Zambaccian Museum. From January 7 to January 11, 1958, Sadoveanu was one of two acting Chairmen of the Presidium of the communist state's Great National Assembly, which again propelled him to a position as titular head of state. His literary stature but also his political allegiance earned him the Soviet Lenin Peace Prize, which he received shortly before his death.

After a long illness marked by a stroke which impaired his speech and left him almost completely blind, Sadoveanu was cared for by a staff of physicians supervised by Nicolae Gh. Lupu and reporting to the Great National Assembly. The Sadoveanus withdrew to Neamţ region, where they lived in a villa assigned to them by the state and located near the Voividenia hermitage and the locality of Vânători-Neamţ. He died there at 9 AM on October 19, 1961, and was buried at Bellu cemetery, in Bucharest. His successor as President of the Writers' Union was Beniuc, elected during the Congress of January 1962. Following her husband's death, Valeria Sadoveanu settled in proximity to the Văratec Monastery, where she set up an informal literary circle and Orthodox prayer group, notably attended by literary historian Zoe Dumitrescu-Buşulenga and by poetess Ştefana Velisar, and dedicated herself to protecting the community of nuns. She survived Mihail Sadoveanu by over 30 years.

Literary contributions


Often seen as the leading author of his generation, and generally viewed as one of the most representative Romanian writers, Mihail Sadoveanu was also believed to be a first-class story-teller, and received praise especially for his nature writing and his depictions of rural landscapes. An exceptionally prolific author by Romanian standards, he published over a hundred individual volumes (120 according to the American magazine Time). His contemporaries tended to place Sadoveanu alongside Liviu Rebreanu and Cezar Petrescu—for all the differences in style between the three figures, the interwar public saw them as the "great novelists" of the day. Romanian-born American historian of literature Marcel Cornis-Pope sees Sadoveanu and Rebreanu as their country's "two most important novelists of the first half of the twentieth century". In 1944, Tudor Vianu spoke of Sadoveanu as "the most significant writer Romanians [presently] have, the first among his equals.

While underlining his originality in the context of Romanian literature and among the writers standing for "the national tendency" (as opposed to the more cosmopolitan modernists), George Călinescu also noted that, through several of his stories and novels, Sadoveanu echoed the style of his predecessors and contemporaries Ion Luca Caragiale, Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti, Emil Gârleanu, Demostene Botez, Otilia Cazimir, Calistrat Hogaş, I. A. Bassarabescu and Ionel Teodoreanu. Also included among the "national tendency" writers, Gârleanu was for long seen as Sadoveanu's counterpart, and even, Călinescu writes, "undeservedly upstaged" him. Both writers, the critic notes, were also indirectly influenced by Wilhelm von Kotzebue, a 19th century Imperial Russian diplomat whose stay in Romania led him to write the story Laskar Vioresku. Cornis-Pope also writes that Sadoveanu's epic is a continuation of "the national narrative" explored earlier by Nicolae Filimon, Ioan Slavici and Duiliu Zamfirescu, while literary historians Vianu and Z. Ornea note that Sadoveanu also took inspiration from the themes and genres explored by Junimist author Nicolae Gane. According to Vianu, Sadoveanu "worshiped Gane as [his] maestro".

In Vianu's assessment, Sadoveanu's work signified an artistic revolution within the local Realist school, comparable to the adoption of perspective by the visual artists of the Renaissance. Often seen as a spontaneous writer, Sadoveanu nevertheless took pains to elaborate his plots and research historical context, keeping most records of his investigations confined to his diaries.


Sadoveanu's personality and experience played a major part in shaping his literary style. After his 1901 marriage, Mihail Sadoveanu adopted what Călinescu deemed "patriarchal" lifestyle. The literary historian noted that he took a personal interest in educating his many children, and that this also implied "making use of a whip". An Epicurean, the writer was a homemaker, an avid hunter and fisherman, and a chess aficionado. Recognized, like his epigramist colleague Păstorel Teodoreanu, as a man of refined culinary tastes, Sadoveanu cherished Romanian cuisine and Romanian wine. The lifestyle choices were akin to his literary interests: alongside the secluded and rudimentary existence of his main characters (connected by Călinescu with the writer's supposed longing for "regressions to the patriarchal times"), Sadoveanu's work is noted for its imagery of primitive abundance, and in particular for its lavish depictions of feasts, hunting parties and fishing trips.

Călinescu opined that the value of such descriptions within individual narratives grew with time, and that the author, once he had discarded lyricism, used them as a "a means for the senses to enjoy the fleshes and the forms that nature offers man." He added that Sadoveanu's aesthetics could be said to recall the art of the Golden Age in Holland: "One could almost say that Sadoveanu rebuilds in present day Moldavia the Holland of painters from a few centuries ago, with people in rags, gorging on wine and contemplating with wide eyes the large portions of stewed meats, the Holland of wine jugs and kitchen tables covered in venison and fish." Vianu also argued that Sadoveanu never abandoned himself to purely aesthetical descriptions, and that, although often depicted with Impressionistic means, nature is assigned a specific if discreet role within the plot lines, or serves to render a structure. The modernist literary critic Eugen Lovinescu, who favored an urban art, was less welcoming of Sadoveanu's contributions, and specifically objected to his choice of settings and his outlook, arguing that, despite his adoption of Realism, the writer was indebted to Romanticism and subjectivity. In 1962, Time commented that his style was "curiously dated" and recalled not Sadoveanu's generation, but that of Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev, "although he has nothing like the power or skill of any of them." For Călinescu and Vianu too, Sadoveanu is a creator with seemingly Romantic tastes, which recall those of François-René de Chateaubriand. Unlike Lovinescu, Vianu saw these traits as "not at all detrimental to the balance of his art.

Seen by literary critic Ioan Stanomir as marked by "volubility", and thus contrasting with his famously taciturn and seemingly embittered nature, the form of Romanian used by Mihail Sadoveanu, particularly in his historical novels, was noted for both its use of archaisms and the inventive approach to the Romanian lexis. Often borrowing plot lines and means of expression from medieval and early modern Moldavian chroniclers such as Ion Neculce and Miron Costin, the author creatively intercalates several local dialects and registers of speech, moving away from a mere imitation of the historical language. Most often written as third-person narratives, his books make little or no dialectal difference between the speech used by the story-teller and the character's voices. According to Călinescu, Sadoveanu displays "an enormous capacity of authentic speech", similar to that of Caragiale and the Moldavian raconteur Ion Creangă. The writer himself recorded his fascination with the "eloquence" of rudimentary orality, and in particular with the speech of Rudari Roma he encountered during his travels. Early in the 20th century, Sadoveanu's use of the language drew praise from Titu Maiorescu, who spoke praised it for being adapted to the social environment and the circumstances it depicts. In investigating this trait, Vianu notes that Sadoveanu's late writings tend to leave more room for neologisms, mostly present in those parts where the narrator's voice takes distance from the plot.

Another unifying element in Sadoveanu's creation is his recourse to literary types. As early as 1904, Maiorescu praised the young raconteur for accurately depicting characters in everyday life and settings. Tudor Vianu stressed that, unlike most of his Realist predecessors, Sadoveanu introduced an overtly sympathetic view of the peasant character, as "a higher type of human, a heroic human". He added: "Simple, in the sense that they are moved by a few devices [which] coincide with the fundamental instincts of mankind, [they] are, in general, mysterious. In this line, Sadoveanu also creates images of folk sages, whose views on life are of a Humanist nature, and often depicted in contrast with the rationalist tenets of Western culture. Commenting on this aspect, Sadoveanu's friend George Topîrceanu believed that Sadovean's work transcended the "more intellectual [and] more artificial" notion of "types", and that "he creates [...] humans.

Thus, Călinescu stresses, Sadoveanu's work seems to be the monolithic creation through which "a single man" reflects "a single, universal nature, inhabited by a single type of man", and which echoes a similar vision of archaic completeness as found in the literature of poet Mihai Eminescu. The similarity in vision with Eminescu's "nostalgia, return, protest, demand, aspiration toward a [rural] world [he has] left" was also proposed by Vianu, while Topîrceanu spoke of "the paradoxical discovery that [Sadoveanu] is our greatest poet since Eminescu. Mihail Sadoveanu also shaped his traditionalist views on literature by investigating Romanian folklore, which he recommended as a source of inspiration to his fellow writers during his 1923 speech at the Romanian Academy.

In Călinescu's view, Sadoveanu's outlook on life was even mirrored in his physical aspect, his "large body, voluminous head, his measured shepherd-like gestures, his affluent but prudent and monologic speech [and] feral indifference; his eyes [...] of an unknown race." His assessment of the writer as an archaic figure, bluntly stated in a 1930 article ("I believe him to be very uncultured"), was contrasted by other literary historians: Alexandru Paleologu described Sadoveanu as a prominent intellectual figure, while his own private notes show that he was well-read and acquainted with the literatures of many countries.


The writer's debut novel, Povestiri, was celebrated for its accomplished style, featuring early drafts of all themes he developed upon later in life. However, Călinescu argued, some of the stories in the volume were still "awkward", and showed that Sadoveanu had problems in outlining epics. The pieces mainly feature episodes in the lives of boyars (members of Moldavia's medieval aristocracy), showing the ways in which they relate to each other, to their servants, and to their country. In one of the stories, titled Cântecul de dragoste ("The Love Song"), Sadoveanu touches on the issue of slavery, depicting the death of a Rom slave who is killed by his jealous master, while in Răzbunarea lui Nour ("Nour's Revenge"), a boyar refuses to make his peace with God until his son's death is avenged. Other fragments deal solely with the isolated existence of villagers: for example, in Într-un sat odată ("Once, in a Village"), a mysterious man dies in a Moldavian hamlet, and the locals, unable to discover his identity, sell his horse. The prose piece Năluca ("The Apparition") centers on the conjugal conflict between two old people, both of whom attempt to hide the shame of their past. George Călinescu notes that, particularly in Năluca, Sadoveanu begins to explore the staple technique of his literary contributions, which involves "suggesting the smolder of passions [through] a contemplative breath in which he evokes a static element: landscapes or set pieces from nature."

Sadoveanu's subsequent collection of short stories, Dureri înăbuşite, builds on the latter technique and takes his work into the realm of social realism and naturalism (believed by Călinescu to have been borrowed from either the French writer Émile Zola or from the Romanian Alexandru Vlahuţă). For Călinescu, this choice of style brought "damaging effects" on Sadoveanu's writings, and made Dureri înăbuşite "perhaps the poorest" of his collections of stories. In Lovinescu's view, Sadoveanu's move of naturalism did not imply the necessary recourse to objectivity. The pieces focus on dramatic moments of individual existences. In Lupul ("The Wolf"), an animal is chased and trapped by a group of peasants; the eponymous character in Ion Ursu leaves his village to become a proletarian, and succumbs to alcoholism; the indentured laborer in Sluga ("The Servant") is unable to take revenge on his cruel employer at the right moment; in Doi feciori ("Two Sons"), a boyar comes to feel affection for his illegitimate son, whom he has nonetheless reduced to a lowly condition.

In 1905, Sadoveanu also published Povestiri din război ("Stories from the War"), which compose scenes from the lives of Romanian soldiers fighting in the War of 1878. Objecting to a series of exaggerations in the book, Time nevertheless noted that Sadoveanu "sometimes had the writing skill to make compelling even quite traditional reactions to old-fashioned war". It concluded: "Sadoveanu's sketches have the virtues—and the vices—of old hunting prints and the romantically mannered battle scenes of the 19th century."

First recourse to major themes

Sadoveanu renounces this grim perspective on life in his volume Crâşma lui Moş Petcu, where he returns to a depiction of rural life as unchanged by outside factors. Petcu's establishment, located on the Moldova Valley, is a serene place, visited by quiet and subdued customers, whose occasional outburst of violence are, according to Călinescu, "dominated by slow, stereotypical mechanics, as is with people who can only accommodate within them a single drama." The literary critic celebrated Crâşma lui Moş Petcu for its depictions of nature, whose purpose is to evoke "the indifferent eternity" of conflicts between the protagonists, and who, at times, relies "on a vast richness of sounds and words." He did however reproach the writer "a certain monotony", arguing that Sadoveanu came to use such techniques in virtually all his later works.

However, the writer's stories of the period often returned to a naturalistic perspective, particularly in a series of sketch stories and novellas which portray the modest lives of Romanian Railways employees, of young men drafted into the Romanian Army, of Bovaryist women who playfully seduce adolescents, or of the provincial petite bourgeoisie. At times, they confront the morals of barely literate people in confrontation to authority: a peasant obstinately believes that the 1859 union between Wallachia and Moldavia was meant to ensure the supremacy of his class, a young lower-class woman becomes the love interest of a boyar but choses a life of freedom, and a Rom deserts from the Army after learning that he is supposed to bathe. In La noi, la Viişoara ("At Our Place in Viişoara"), the life of an old man degenerates into bigotry and avarice, to the point where he makes his wife starve to death. In the piece titled Bordeeni (roughly, "Mud-hut Dwellers"), Sadoveanu portrays a gathering of eccentric and misanthropic characters, such as the deserter Sandu Faliboga, who discard all contact with authority, and who, according to Călinescu, resemble American pioneers. Lepădatu, an unwanted child, speaks for the entire group: "What could I do [...] wherever there are big fairs and lots of people? I'd have a better time with the cattle; it is with them that I have grown up and with them that I get along."

In reference to the series, Călinescu stresses that Sadoveanu's main interest is in depicting men and women cut away from civilization, who live within the real of immobile tradition, and who view the elements of Westernization with nothing more than "wonderment". He notes: "In Sadoveanu's prose, the suffering is when the savage (animal or human) has fallen within the sight of civilization", adding, "Sadoveanu's literature is the highest expression of the savage instinct." In later works, the literary critic believed, Sadoveanu moved away from depicting isolation as the escape of primitives into their manageable world, but as "the refinement of souls whom civilization has upset."

Sadoveanu began his career as a novelist with more in-depth explorations into subjects present in his stories and novellas. Among his first works of the kind is Floare ofilită ("Wizened Flower"), where a simple girl, Tincuţa, marries a provincial civil servant, and finds herself deeply unhappy and unable to enrich her life on any level. Seen by Călinescu as one of Sadoveanu's "savage" characters, the female protagonist only maintains a measure of refinement by trying to persuade her husband to come home for supper. A rather similar plot is developed in Însemnările lui Neculai Manea ("The Recordings of Neculai Manea"), where the eponymous character, an educated peasant, experiences two unhappy romantic affairs before successfully courting a married woman who, although grossly uncultured, makes him happy. Apa morţilor ("The Dead Men's Water") is about a Bovaryist woman who discards lovers over imprecise feelings of dissatisfaction, finding refuge in the subdued world of the countryside. Călinescu noted that such novels were "usually less valuable than direct evocations", and deemed Însemnările lui Neculai Manea "without literary interest".

Hanu Ancuţei, Şoimii and Neamul Şoimăreştilor

The novella Hanu Ancuţei ("Ancuţa's Inn"), described by George Călinescu as a "masterpiece of the jovial idyllicism and barbarian subtlety", and by Z. Ornea as the first evidence of Sadoveanu's "new age", is a frame story in the line of medieval allegories such as Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron and Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It retells the stories of travelers meeting in the eponymous inn. Much of the story deals with statements of culinary tastes and shared recipes, as well as with the overall contrast between civilization and rudimentary ways: in one episode of the book, a merchant arriving from Leipzig troubles the other protagonists when he explains the more frugal ways and the technical innovations of Western Europe. Sadoveanu applied the same narrative technique in his Soarele în baltă ("The Sun in the Waterhole"), which, Călinescu argues, displays "a trickier style."

In Şoimii, Sadoveanu's first historical novel, the main character is Nicoară Potcoavă, a late 16th century Moldavian nobleman who became Hetman of the Zaporozhian Cossacks and Prince of Moldavia. The narrative, whose basic lines had been drawn by Sadoveanu in his adolescent years, focuses on early events in Nicoară's life, building on the story according to which he and his brother Alexandru were the brothers of Prince Ioan Vodă cel Cumplit, whose execution by the Ottomans they tried to avenge. The text also follows their attempt to seize and kill Ieremia Golia, a boyar whose alleged betrayal had led to Prince Ioan's capture, and whose daughter Ilinca becomes the brothers' prisoner. This story as well features several episodes where the focus is on depicting customary feasts, as well as a fragment where the Potcoavăs and their Zaporozhian Cossack allies engage in binge drinking. Glossing over several years in Nicoară's life, and culminating in his seizure of the throne, the narrative shows his victory against pretender Petru Şchiopul and Golia, and the price he has to pay for his rise. Alexandru, who falls in love with Ilinca, unsuccessfully asks for the captured Golia not to be killed. Following the murder, both brothers become embittered and renounce power. Călinescu described Şoimii novel as "still awkward", noting that Sadoveanu was only beginning to experiment with the genre.

The 1915 Neamul Şoimăreştilor is a Bildungsroman centered on the coming of age of one Tudor Şoimaru. The protagonist, born a free peasant in the area around Orhei, fight alongside Ştefan Tomşa in the 1612 battles to capture the Moldavian throne. After participating in the capture of Iaşi, he returns home and aids a local boyar, Stroie Orheianul, in recovering his daughter, Magda, who had been kidnapped by the Cossacks. Şoimaru, who feels for Magda, is however enraged by news that her father has forced his community into serfdom. Trying to deal with these conflicting sentiments, he travels into Poland-Lithuania, where he discovers that boyar Stroie is plotting against Tomşa, while Magda, who is in love with a szlachta nobleman, scorns his affection. He returns a second time to Orhei, marries a woman who shares his modest background, and seeks his revenge on Stroie by again rallying with Ştefan Tomşa. Following Tomşa's defeat, he again loses the lands of his ancestors, as Stroie returns home to celebrate his victory and have the Şoimaru family put to death. Unexpectedly warned of this by Magda, who thus shows that she still has feelings for him, Tudor manages to turn the tide. He and his family members storm into Orheianul's manor, kill the boyar and burn down the building, allowing Magda to escape unharmed.

In Călinescu's view, the novel is "somewhat more consistent from an epic perspective", but fails to respect the conventions of the adventure novel it sets out to replicate. The critic, who deemed Magda's courtship by Tudor "excessively sentimental", also argued that the book lacks "the richness and unpredictable nature of the love intrigue and the outstandingly virile nature of the heroes". In particular, he objected to the depiction of Tudor as a weak character, noting that he is for long undecided and seemingly inadequate for the roles he is attributed.

Zodia Cancerului and Nunta Domniţei Ruxandra

Zodia Cancerului, Sadoveanu's later historical novel, is set late in the 17th century, during the third rule of Moldavian Prince Gheorghe Duca, and is seen by Călinescu as "of a superior artistic level." The plot centers on a conflict between Duca and the Ruset boyars: the young Alecu Ruset, son of the deposed ruler Antonie Ruset, is spared persecution on account of his good relations with the Ottomans, but has to live under close watch. Himself a tormented and rather aloof character, but also cultured and refined, Alecu falls in love with Catrina, Duca's daughter, whom he attempts to kidnap. The episode ends with his defeat and killing on Duca's orders.

In the background, the story depicts the visit of a Abbé de Marenne, a Roman Catholic priest and French envoy, who meets and befriends Ruset. The encounter is another opportunity for Sadoveanu to show the amiable but incomplete exchange between the mentalities of Western and Eastern Europe. In various episodes of the novel, de Marenne shows himself perplexed by the omnipresent wilderness of underpopulated Moldavia, and in particular by the abundance of resources this provides. In one paragraph, seen by George Călinescu as a key to the book, Sadoveanu writes: "[De Marenne's] curious eye was permanently satisfied. Here was a desolation of solitudes, one that his friends in France could not even guess, no matter how much imagination they had been gifted with; for at the antipode of civilization one occasionally finds such things that have remained unchanged from the start of creation, having maintained their mysterious beauty."

In a shorter novel of the period, Sadoveanu explored the late years of Vasile Lupu's rule over Moldavia, centering on the marriage of Cossack leader Tymofiy Khmelnytsky and Lupu's daughter, Ruxandra. Titled Nunta Domniţei Ruxandra ("Princess Ruxandra's Wedding"), it shows the Cossacks' brutal celebration of the event around the court in Iaşi, depicting Tymofiy himself as an uncouth, violent and withdrawn figure. The narrative then focuses on the Battle of Finta and the siege of Suceava, through which a Wallachian-Transylvanian force repelled the Moldo-Cossack forces and, turning the tide, entered deep into Moldavia and placed Gheorghe Ştefan on the throne. Sadoveanu also invents a love story between Ruxandra and the boyar Bogdan, whose rivalry with Tymofiy ends in the latter's killing. Călinescu criticized the work, arguing that the detailed plot line deserved a longer narrative, and that the character studies were incomplete.

In both Zodia Cancerului and Nunta Domniţei Ruxandra, the author took significant liberties with the historical facts. In addition to Tymofiy's death at the hands of Bogdan, the latter narrative used invented or incorrect names and surnames for some of the historical characters, and portrays the muscular and mustachioed Gheorghe Ştefan as thin and bearded. Likewise, in Zodia Cancerului, Sadoveanu invents the character Guido Celesti, who replaces the attested head of Franciscans in Iaşi, Bariona da Monte Rotondo. In part, Călinescu believes, this reflects Sadoveanu's lack of interest in investigating historical matters beyond a few primary sources.

Fraţii Jderi, Venea o moară pe Siret... and Baltagul

With Fraţii Jderi, Sadoveanu's fresco of Moldavian history maintains its setting, but moves back in time to the 15th century rule of Prince Stephen the Great. Writing in 1941, before its final part was in print, Călinescu argued that the novel was part of Sadoveanu's "most valuable work", and noted "the maturity of its verbal means. In the first volume, titled Ucenicia lui Ionuţ ("Ionuţ's Apprenticeship"), the eponymous Jderi brothers, allies of Stephen and friends of his son Alexandru, fight off the enemies of their lord on several occasions. In what is the start of a Bildungsroman, the youngest Jder, Ionuţ Păr-Negru, consumed by love for Lady Nasta, who was kidnapped by Tatar nomads. He goes to her rescue, only to find out that she had preferred suicide to a life of slavery. Călinescu, who believed the volumes show Sadoveanu's move to the consecrated elements of adventure novels, called them "remarkable", but stressed that the narrative could render "the feeling of stumbling, of a languishing flow", and that the dénouement was "rather depressing". The second book in the series (Izvorul alb, "The White Water Spring") intertwines the life of the Jderi brothers with that of Stephen's family: the ruler weds the Byzantine princess Mary of Mangop, while Simion Jder falls for Maruşca, who is supposedly Stephen's illegitimate daughter. The major episodes in the narrative are Maruşca's kidnapping by a boyar, her captivity in Jagiellon Poland, and her rescue at the hands of the Jderi.

The books, again set to the background of primitivism and natural abundance, also feature episodes of intense horror. These, Călinescu proposes, are willingly depicted "with an indolent complacency", as if to underline that the slow pace and monumental scale of history allow little importance to personal tragedies. The same commentator notes a difference between the role nature plays in the first and second volumes: from serene, the landscape becomes rather hostile, and people are shown fearing earthquakes and droughts, even though contemplative depictions of euphoria play a central part in both writings. The meeting between the wider world and the immobile local tradition surfaces in Fraţii Jderi as well. Thus, a messenger is shown wondering how the letter he brought could talk to the addressee, and, when she is supposed to encounter strange men, Maruşca requests to be allowed to "shy away" in another room and finally meets them only in Stephen's presence.

For the 1925 Venea o moară pe Siret..., Sadoveanu received much critical acclaim. The boyar Alexandru Filotti falls in love with a miller's daughter, Anuţa, whom he educates and introduces to high society. The beautiful young lady is also courted by Filotti's son Costi and by the peasant Vasile Brebu—in the end, overwhelmed by jealousy, Brebu kills the object of his affection. George Călinescu writes that the good reception was not fully deserved, claiming that the novel is "colorless", that it was merely based on the writer's early stories, and that it failed in its goal of depicting "crumbling boyardom".

In Baltagul (1930), Sadoveanu merged psychological techniques and a pretext borrowed from crime fiction with several of his major themes. Written in just 30 days on the basis of previous drafts, the condensed novel shows Vitoria Lipan, the widow of a murdered shepherd, following in her husband's tracks to discover his killer and avenge his death. Accompanied by her son, and using for a guide the shepherd's dog, Vitoria discovers both the body and the murderer, but, before she can take revenge, her dog jumps on the man and bites into his neck. By means of this plot line, Sadoveanu also builds a fresco of transhumance and traces its ancestral paths, taking as a source of inspiration one of the best-known poems in Romanian folklore, the ballad Mioriţa.

Vitoria's sheer determination is the central aspect of the volume. Călinescu, who ranks the book among Sadoveanu's best, praises its "remarkable artistry" and "unforgettable dialogs", but nonetheless writes that Lipan's "detective-like" search and a "stubbornness", which seems to recall the plot of Hamlet, are weak points in the narrative. The book is foremost valuable, he indicates, due to its "astronomic" feel, which he likened to that of writings by the American novelist Jack London. Cornis-Pope, who rates the book as "Sadoveanu's masterpiece", notes that it "restated the theme of crime and punishment".

Main travel writings and memoirs

Before the 1940s, Sadoveanu also became known as a travel writer. His contributions notably include accounts of his hunting trips: Ţara de dincolo de negură ("The Land beyond the Fog"), and one dedicated to the region of Dobruja (Privelişti dobrogene, "Dobrujan Sights"). Călinescu wrote that they both comprised "pages of great beauty". Other of Sadoveanu's travelogues include the reportage Oameni şi locuri ("People and Places") and an account of his trips into Bessarabia (Drumuri basarabene, "Bessarabian Roads"). He also collected and commented upon the memoirs of other avid hunters (Istorisiri de vânătoare, "Hunting Stories").

A noted writing in this series was Împărăţia apelor ("The Realm of Waters"), a detailed and contemplative memoir of his journeys as a fisherman. Călinescu noted that it contained a "fantastic vision of the entire aquatic universe", which, he argued, merged a form of pessimism recalling the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer with a "calm kief" (in this case, the torpor provoked by smoking cannabis). In Călinescu's view, Sadoveanu's perspective on "the monstrous joy" of river life under the rain alludes to "the great joy of participating in the transformations of matter, of eating and allowing oneself to be eaten." Sadoveanu also contributed an account of his travels into the Netherlands. Titled Olanda ("Holland"), it provides insight into his preoccupation with the meeting of civilizations, as a contrast between urban order and isolated wilderness. Upset by what he called "the [Dutch] rampancy of cleanliness", the writer confesses his perplexity at coming face to face with a contained and structured natural world, as well as his temptation to go "against the current" (even though he seems to admire the Dutch efficiency in dealing with public disorder). Enjoying his return to "the damned Orient", Sadoveanu argues that Holland lacks in "true and lively wonders".

He also sporadically wrote memoirs of his early life career, such as Însemnări ieşene ("Recordings from Iaşi"), which deals with the period during which he worked for Viaţa Românească, a book about the Second Balkan War and his journey to Bulgaria (44 de zile în Bulgaria, "44 Days in Bulgaria"), and the account of years in primary school, Domnu Trandafir. They were followed in 1944 by Anii de ucenicie ("The Apprenticeship Years"), where Sadoveanu details some of his earliest experiences. Despite his confessed temptation toward destroying all personal notes, Sadoveanu wrote and kept a large number of diaries, which were not published in his lifetime.

Other early writings

Also during that time, he retold and prefaced the journeys of Thomas Witlam Atkinson, an English architect and stonemason who spent years in Tartary (a book he titled Cuibul invaziilor, "The Nest of Invasions"). This was evidence of his growing interest in exotic subjects, which he later adapted to a series of novels, where the setting is "Scythia", seen as an ancestral area of culture connecting Central Asia with the European region of Dacia (partly coinciding with present-day Romania). The home of mysterious Asiatic peoples, Sadoveanu's Scythia is notably the background to his novels Uvar and Nopţile de Sânziene. The former shows its eponymous character, a Yakut, exposed to the scrutiny of an Imperial Russian officer. In the latter, titled after the ancestral celebration of Sânziene during the month of June, shows a French intellectual meeting a nomadic tribe of Moldavian Roma, who, the reader learns, are actually the descendants of Pechenegs. Călinescu notes that, in such writings, "the intrigue is a pretext", again serving to depict the vast wilderness confronted with the keen eye of foreign observers. He sees Nopţile de Sânziene as "the novel of millenarian immobility", and its theme as one of mythological proportions.

According to Tudor Vianu, the 1933 fantasy novel Creanga de aur ("The Golden Bow") takes partial inspiration from Byzantine literature, and is evidence of a form of Humanism found in Eastern philosophy. Sadoveanu himself acknowledged that the esoteric nature of the book was inspired by his own affiliation to Freemasonry, whose symbolism it partly reflected. Its protagonist, Kesarion Brebu, is included by Vianu among the images of sages and soothsayers in Mihail Sadoveanu's fiction, and, as "the last Deceneus", is a treasurer of ancient secret sciences mastered by the Dacians and the Ancient Egyptians.

Sadoveanu's series of minor novels and stories authored during the interwar period also comprises a set of usually urban-themed writings, which, Călinescu argues, resemble the works of Honoré de Balzac, but develop into "regressive" texts with "a lyrical intrigue". They include Duduia Margareta ("Miss Margareta"), where a conflict occurs between a young woman and her governess, and Locul unde nu s-a întâmplat nimic ("The Place in Which Nothing Happened"), where, in what is a retake on his own Apa morţilor, Sadoveanu depicts the cultured boyar Lai Cantacuzin and his affection for the unhappy young woman Daria Mazu. The short novel Haia Sanis shows the eponymous character, a Jewish woman who throws herself into the arms of a local Christian, although she knows him to be a seducer. Călinescu, who praises the work for its way of dissimulating "the boiling pathetic capacity" into a form of "technical indifference", notes that the erotic rage animating Haia has drawn "well justified" comparisons with Jean Racine's tragedy Phèdre. In Cazul Eugeniţei Costea ("The Case of Eugeniţa Costea"), a civil servant kills himself to avoid prosecution, and his end is replicated by that of his daughter, brought to despair by her stepfather's character and by her mother's irrational jealousy. Demonul tinereţii ("The Demon of Youth"), believed by Călinescu to be "the most charming" in this series, has for its protagonist Natanail, a university dropout who has developed a morbid fear of women after parting with the love of his life, and who lives in seclusion as a monk.

During the period, Mihail Sadoveanu also wrote children's literature. His most significant pieces in this field are Dumbrava minunată ("The Enchanted Grove"), Măria-sa Puiul Pădurii ("His Highness the Forest Boy"), and a collection of stories adapted from Persian literature (Divanul persian, "The Persian Divan"). Măria-sa Puiul Pădurii is itself an adaptation of the Geneviève de Brabant story, considered "somewhat highbrow" by George Călinescu, while the frame story Divanul persian, seen by Vianu as evidence of Sadoveanu's "understanding, gentleness and tolerance", recalls the work of 19th century Wallachian writer Anton Pann. In 1909, Sadoveanu also published adapted version of two ancient writings: the Alexander Romance (as Alexandria) and Aesop's Fables (as Esopia). His 1921 book Cocostârcul albastru ("The Blue Crane") is a series of short stories with lyrical themes.

Among his early writings are two pieces which retell historical events from the source, Viaţa lui Ştefan cel Mare ("The Life of Stephen the Great") and Lacrimile ieromonahului Veniamin ("The Tears of Veniamin the Hieromonk"), both of which, Călinescu objected, lacked in originality. The former, published in 1934, was more noted among critics, for both intimate tone and hagiographic character (recounting Stephen's life on the model of saints' biographies).

Socialist realism years

Despite the post-1944 change in approach, Sadoveanu's characteristic narrative style remained largely unchanged. In contrast, his choice of themes changed, a transition which reflected political imperatives. Historian Bogdan Ivaşcu writes that Sadoveanu's affiliation with "proletarian culture" and "its masquerade", like that of Tudor Arghezi and George Călinescu, although it may have been intended to rally "prestige and depth" to Socialist realism, only succeeded in bring their late works to the level of "propaganda and agitation materials.

In his Lumina vine de la Răsărit, the writer built on the opposition between light and darkness, identifying the former with Soviet policies and the latter with capitalism. Sadoveanu thus spoke of "the dragon of my own doubts" being vanquished by "the Sun of the East". Historian Adrian Cioroianu notes that this literary antithesis came to be widely used by various Romanian authors who rallied with Stalinism during the late 1940s, citing among these Cezar Petrescu and the former avant-garde writer Saşa Pană. He also notes that such imagery, accompanied by portrayals of Soviet joy and abundance, replicated an ancient "structure of myth", adapting it to a new ideology on the basis of "what could be imagined, not of what could be believed. Ioan Stanomir writes that Sadoveanu and his fellow ARLUS members use a discourse recalling the theme of a religious conversion, analogous to that of Paul the Apostle (see Road to Damascus), and critic Cornel Ungureanu stresses that Sadoveanu's texts of the period frequently quote the Bible.

Following his return from the Soviet Union, Sadoveanu published travelogues and reportage piece, including the 1945 Moscova ("Moscow", co-authored with Traian Săvulescu and economist Mitiţă Constantinescu) and the 1946 Caleidoscop ("Kaleidoscope"). In one of these accounts, he details his encounter with Lysenkoist agronomist Nikolay Tsistsin, and claims to have tasted bread made from a brand of wheat which yielded 4,000 kilograms of grain per hectare. In a later memoir, Sadoveanu depicted his existence and the destiny of his country as improved by the communist system, and gave accounts of his renewed journeys in the countryside, where he claimed to have witnessed a "spiritual splendor" supported by "the practice of the new times".

Upon its publication, the novel Mitrea Cocor, which depicts the hardships and eventual triumph of its eponymous peasant protagonist, was officially described as the first Socialist realist writing in local literature, and as a turning point in literary history. A controversial epic dictated by ideological requirements, and argued to have been written with assistance from several other authors, it is seen by historiographer Lucian Boia as an "embarrassing literary fabrication", being rated by literary critics Dan C. Mihăilescu and Luminiţa Marcu both as one of "the most harmful books in Romanian literature", and by historian Ioan Lăcustă as "a propaganda writing, a failure from a literary point of view". A praise of collectivization policies that some critics believe was a testimony that Sadoveanu submitting himself and imposing his public to brainwashing, Mitrea Cocor was preceded by Păuna-Mică, a novel which also idealizes collective farming.

With his final published work, the 1951-1952 novel Nicoară Potcoavă, Sadoveanu retells the narrative of his Şoimii, modifying the plot and adding new characters. Noted among the latter is Olimbiada, a female soothsayer and healer through whose words Sadoveanu again dispenses his perspective on human existence. The focus of the narrative is also changed: from the avenger of his brother's death in Şoimii, the pretender becomes a purveyor of folk identity, aiming to reestablish the Moldavia of Stephen the Great's times. Nicoară Potcoavă is itself seen as a source for communist-inspired political messages. According to Cornel Ungureanu, this explains why it insists on the image of brotherhood between Cossacks and Moldavians, supposedly replicating the official view on Soviet-Romanian relations.

His final works also comprises a series of pieces whose narrative style, Ungureanu argues, is that of "reportage and plain information, adapted to orders coming from above". They include the 1951 Nada Florilor ("The Flowers' Lure") and Clonţ-de-fier ("Iron Bucktooth"), alongside an unfinished piece, Cântecul mioarei ("Song of the Ewe"). The latter, an ideologized take on his Demonul tinereţii, is about a monk returning from seclusion into the world of workers, where the landscape is reshaped by large-scale construction works. According to Ungureanu, it also shows Sadoveanu's universe stripped of "all its deep meanings."


Nationalism and Humanism

Sadveanu's engagement in politics was marked by abrupt changes in convictions, seeing him move from right- to left-wing stances several times in his life. In close connection with his traditionalist views on literature, but in contrast to his career under a Conservative Party and National Liberal cabinets, Sadoveanu initially rallied with nationalist groups of various hues, associating with both Nicolae Iorga and, in 1906, with the left-wing Poporanists at Viaţa Românească.

Around that time, he formulated a ruralist and nationalist perspective on life, rejecting what he deemed "the hybrid urban world" for "the world of our national realities". In Călinescu's analysis, this signifies that, like his predecessor, the conservative Eminescu, Sadoveanu believed the cities were victims of the "superimposed category" of foreigners, in particular those administrating leasehold estates. Following the 1907 Peasants' Revolt, Sadoveanu sent a report to his Minister of Education Spiru Haret, informing him on the state of education in the rural sphere, and, through this, of the problems faced by villagers in Moldavia. It read: "The leaseholders and landowners, no matter what their nationality, make a mockery of the Romanians' labors. Every surtucar [that is, person originating in the city] in the village, mayors, notaries, paper-pushers, shamelessly [and] mercilessly milk this milk cow. They are joined by the priest—who, in most parts, is in disagreement with the teacher."

Călinescu thus sees Sadoveanu, alongside Constantin Stere, as one of Viaţa Românească 's chief ideologues, noting that he was nonetheless "rendered notorious by his inconsistency and opportunism." He writes that Sadoveanu and Stere both showed a resentment for ethnic minorities, particularly members of the Jewish community, whom they saw as agents of exploitation, but that, as Humanists, they had a form of "humane sympathy" for Jews and foreigners taken individually. He notes that this is evident in Sadoveanu's novel Haia Sanis, where the Jewish woman is seen as a victim.

According to Z. Ornea, Sadoveanu's affiliation to the Freemasonry shaped not only his political "demophilia", but also his "Weltanschauung, and, through a reflex, his [literary] work." By consequence, Ornea argues, Sadoveanu became a supporter of democracy, a stance which led him into open conflict with extreme nationalists. Alongside its Humanism, Sadoveanu's nationalism was noted for being secular, and thus in contrast with the Romanian Orthodox imagery favored by nationalists on the far right. Sadoveanu rejected the notion that ancestral Romanians were religious individuals, stating that their belief was in fact "limited to rituals and customs. He was also a vocal supporter of international cooperation, particularly among countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Writing for the magazine Familia in 1935, 17 years after Transylvania's union with Romania and 15 years after the Treaty of Trianon, Sadoveanu joined the Hungarian author Gyula Illyés in pleading for good relations between the two neighbors.

In 1926, the year of his entry into Alexandru Averescu's People's Party, Sadoveanu motivated his choice in a letter to Octavian Goga, indicating his belief that the intelligentsia needed to partake in politics: "It would seem that what is foremost needed is the contribution of intellectuals, in an epoch when the overall intellectual level is decreasing." His sincerity was doubted by his contemporaries: both his friend Gheorghe Jurgea-Negrileşti and the communist Petre Pandrea recount how, in 1926-1927, Sadoveanu and Păstorel Teodoreanu requested public funds from Interior Minister Goga, with Sadoveanu motivating that he wanted to set up a cultural magazine and later spending the money on his personal wardrobe.

Opposition to fascism

During the 1930s, following his stint as head of Adevărul, a leftist newspaper owned by Jewish entrepreneurs, Sadoveanu was targeted by right-wing voices, who claimed that he had chosen to abandon his nationalist credentials. Thus, Sadoveanu became the target of a press campaign in the antisemitic and fascist press, and in particular in Nichifor Crainic's Sfarmă-Piatră and the journals connected with the Iron Guard. The former publication deplored his supposed \"betrayal\" of the nationalist cause. In it, Ovidiu Papadima portrayed Sadoveanu as the victim of Jewish manipulation, and equated his affiliation to the Freemasonry with devil worship, and mocked his obesity, while Crainic himself compared the writer to his own character, the treacherous Ieremia Golia. Porunca Vremii often referred to him as Jidoveanu (from jidov, a dismissive term for \"Jew\"), depicted him as an agent of \"Judaeo-communism\" motivated by \"perversity\", and called on the public to harass the writer and beat him with stones. It also protested when the public authorities in Fălticeni refused to withdraw Sadoveanu the title of honorary citizen, and again when the University of Iaşi made him a doctor honoris causa, and even suggested that the writer should use his hunting rifle to commit suicide. In 1937, Porunca Vremii congratulated ultra-nationalists who had organized public burnings of Sadoveanu's works in Southern Dobruja and in Hunedoara, as well as non-identified people who sent the writer packages containing shredded copies of his own volumes.

However, George Călinescu claims, the writer himself had not actually revised his nationalist outlook, that he continued to believe that minorities and foreigners were a risky presence in Greater Romania, and that his Humanism was \"a light tincture\". In one of his columns, Sadoveanu replied to those organizing the acts of vandalism, indicating that, had they actually read the novels they were destroying, they would have found \"a burning faith in this nation, for so long mistreated by cunning men\". Elsewhere, stating that he was not going to take his detractors into consideration, Sadoveanu defined himself as an adversary of both Nazi Germany and any form of advocacy for a \"National-Socialist regime in our country\". In April 1937, the campaign was met with the indignation of various public figures, who issued an "Appeal of the Intellectuals", signed by Liviu Rebreanu, Eugen Lovinescu, Petru Groza, Victor Eftimiu, George Topîrceanu, Zaharia Stancu, Demostene Botez, Alexandru Al. Philippide, Constantin Balmuş and others. Denouncing the campaign as a "moral assassination", it referred to Sadoveanu as the author of "the most Romanian [works] in our literature."

During the Ion Antonescu dictatorship, Sadoveanu kept a low profile and was apolitical. In spring 1944, months before the King Michael Coup toppled the regime, he was approached by the clandestine Romanian Communist Party and its sympathizers in academia to sign an open letter condemning Romania's alliance to Nazi Germany. According to the communist activist Belu Zilber, who took part in this action, Sadoveanu, like his fellow intellectuals Dimitrie Gusti, Simion Stoilow and Horia Hulubei, refused to sign the document. Also according to Zilber, Sadoveanu motivated his refusal by stating that the letter needed to be addressed not to Antonescu, but to King Michael I.

Partnership with the communists

Following his Lumina vine de la Răsărit lecture, Sadoveanu became noted for his positive portrayals of communization and collectivization. In particular, Sadoveanu offered praise to one of the major pillars of Stalinism, the 1936 Soviet Constitution. In 1945, claiming to have been "flashed upon" by "Stalin's argumentation", he urged the public to read the book, assuring them that it was a document of "sincerity and the wish for better things". Elsewhere, he equated reading the constitution with "a mystical revelation". Adrian Cioroianu connects describes the adoption of this discourse as "an office assignment" on the part of ARLUS, noting that the association was by then handing down free copies of the Soviet constitution translated into Romanian. The enthusiasm of his writings also manifested itself in his public behavior. According to his ARLUS colleague Iorgu Iordan, Sadoveanu showed himself emotional during their 1945 travels through the Soviet state, and shed tears of joy after visiting a day care center in the countryside. Cioroianu suspects that this episode shows Sadoveanu copying the behavior of French writer André Gide, who made a similar tour during the 1930s.

Running in the 1946 election, Sadoveanu identified traditional politicians in general for the problems faced by Romanian peasants, including the major drought of that year. After 1948, when the Romanian communist regime was installed, he directed his praise toward the new authorities. In 1952, as Romania adopted its second republican constitution and the authorities intensified repression against anti-communists, Sadoveanu made some of his most controversial statements. Declaring the defunct kingdom to have been a "long interval of organized injustice and crooked development in all areas", he presented the new order as an era of social justice, human dignity, available culture and universal public education. In his official capacity, Sadoveanu signed several death sentences declared by communist tribunals. He also publicly attacked public figures of the previous decades. He thus made a reference to his former colleague, the National Peasantist activist Ion Mihalache, arguing that his views on Agrarianism made him a "ridiculous character". Ioan Stanomir describes this fragment as one of "intellectual abjection", indicating that Mihalache, already a political prisoner of the regime, was to die in captivity. However, as leader of the Romanian Writers' Union, the aging writer is credited by some with having protected poet Nicolae Labiş, a disillusioned communist who had been excluded from the Union of Worker Youth in spring 1954, and whose work Sadoveanu treasured.

Mihail Sadoveanu provided a definition of his own political transition in 1946, as part of a conversation with fellow writer Ion Biberi. At the time, he claimed: "I have never engaged in politics, in the sense that one assigns to this word." He elaborated: "I am a left-wing person, following the line of a Poporanist zeal in the spirit of Viaţa Românească, but one adapted to the new circumstances. Cioroianu sees in such statements evidence that, trying to discard his inconvenient past, Sadoveanu was including himself among the socialist intellectuals "willing to let themselves be won over by the indescribable charm and the full swing of the communist utopia", but that he may in reality have been among the group of political allies who were "motivated by fear". Paraphrasing communist vocabulary, Stanomir describes the writer as one of the "bourgeois" personalities who became "fellow travelers" of the communists, and argues that Sadoveanu's claim to have always leaned towards a "people's democracy" inaugurated "a pattern of chameleonism". In the view of historian Vladimir Tismăneanu, Sadoveanu, like Parhon, George Călinescu, Traian Săvulescu and others, was one of the "non-communist intellectuals" attracted into cooperation with the Romanian Communist Party and the communist regime. Tismăneanu also argues that these figures' good relationship with communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej was a factor in the process, as was Gheorghiu-Dej's ability to make himself look "harmless".

According to Adrian Cioroianu, Sadoveanu was not necessarily an "apostle of communization", and his role in the process is subject to much debate. Cioroianu also points out that the very notion of "light arising in the East" is read by some as Sadoveanu's coded message to his colleagues in the Freemasonry, warning them of a Soviet threat to the organization. The historian notes that, for all their possible lack in sincerity, Sadoveanu's statements provided a template for other intellectuals to follow—this, he argues, was the case of Cezar Petrescu, who copied it "with a precision that, to me, seems to have been most certainly calculated.



Sadoveanu's prose, in particular his treatment of natural settings, was a direct influence in the works of writers such as Dumitru D. Pătrăşcanu, Nicolae N. Beldiceanu, Jean Bart, and Al. Lascarov-Moldovanu. According to Călinescu, the writer's early hunting stories published by Viaţa Românească, together with those of Junimist Nicolae Gane, helped establish the genre within the framework of Romanian literature, and paved the way for its predilect use in the works of Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti. Călinescu also notes that Scrisorile unui răzeş ("Letters of a Peasant"), an early work by novelist Cezar Petrescu, are deeply marked by Sadoveanu's influence, and that the same writer's use of the Moldavian dialect is a "pastiche" from Sadoveanu. In later years, Profira Sadoveanu became a noted promoter of her father's literature and public image.

Under the early stages of the communist regime, before the rise of Nicolae Ceauşescu engendered a series of rehabilitations and accommodated nationalism, the Romanian curriculum was dependent on ideological guidelines. At the time, Sadoveanu was one of the writers from the interwar period whose work was still made available to Romanian schoolchildren. In the 1953 Romanian language and literature manual, he represented his generation alongside the communist authors Alexandru Toma and Alexandru Sahia, and was introduced mainly through his Mitrea Cocor. For a while after the writer's death, the Writers' Union club, commonly known as "The Writers' House", bore Sadoveanu's name.

Mihail Sadoveanu's various works were widely circulated abroad. This phenomenon began as early as 1905, when German-language translations were first published, and continued during the 1930s, when Venea o moară pe Siret... was translated very soon after its original Romanian edition. Tudor Vianu attributes the good international reception to Sadoveanu's abilities in rendering the Romanians' "own way of sensing and seeing nature and humanity." Publicizing his late work to an Eastern Bloc audience became a priority for the communist regime. Thus, Mitrea Cocor was, with similar books by Zaharia Stancu and Eusebiu Camilar, among the first in a series of books to be translated into Czech and published in Communist Czechoslovakia. His short stories were also a tool for cultural exchange between Romania and the United States during 1962. Sadoveanu's good standing in the Soviet Union after World War II made him one of the few Romanian writers whose works were still being published in the Moldavian SSR (which, as part of Bessarabia, had previously been a region of Greater Romania).

Sadoveanu's diaries and notes were collected and edited during the early 2000s, being published in 2006 by Editura Junimea and the MLR. The main coordinators of this project were literary historian Constantin Ciopraga and Constantin Mitru, who was Sadoveanu's brother-in-law and personal secretary.


Sadoveanu is an occasional presence in the literary works of his fellow generation members. His Ţara de dincolo de negură was partly written as a tribute to George Topîrceanu's piece of the same name, with both authors sketching an affectionate portrait of one another. Topîrceanu also parodied his friend's style in a five-paragraph sketch, part of a series of such fragments, recorded their encounters in various other autobiographical writings, and dedicated him the first version of his poem Blada popii din Rudeni ("Ballad of the Priest from Rudeni"). Under the name Nicolae Pădureanu, Sadoveanu is a character in the novel and disguised autobiography În preajma revoluţiei ("On the Eve of the Revolution"), authored by his colleague Constantin Stere. Sadoveanu is honored in two writings by Nicolae Labiş, collectively titled Sadoveniene ("Sadovenians"). The first, titled Mihail Sadoveanu, is a prose poem which alludes to Sadoveanu's prose, and the other, a free verse piece, is titled Cozma Răcoare, after one of Sadoveanu's short stories.

In his scientific study of Sadoveanu's work, Eugen Lovinescu himself turns to pure literature, portraying Sadoveanu as a child blessed by the Moirae or ursitoare with ironic gifts, such as an obstinacy for nature writing in the absence of actual observation ("You shall write; you shall write and could never stop yourself writing [...]. The readers will grow tired, but you will remain tireless; you shall not known rest, just as you shall not know nature [...]"). George Călinescu was one to object to this portrayal, noting that it was merely a "literary device which hardly covers the emptiness of [Lovinescu's] idea." Philosopher Mihai Ralea also made Mihail Sadoveanu the subject of a sociological study investigating his literary contributions in the context of social evolutions.

In its original edition, Mitrea Cocor was supposed to feature a series of drawings made by Corneliu Baba, one of the best-known Romanian visual artists for his generation. Baba, who had been officially criticized for "formalism", was pressured by the authorities into accepting the commission or risk a precarious existence. The result of his work was rejected with a similar label, and the sketches were for long not made available to the public. Baba also painted Sadoveanu's portrait, which, in 1958, art critic Krikor Zambaccian as "the synthesis of Baba's art", depicting "a man of letters aware of his mission [and] the leading presence of an active consciousness". Constantin Mitru inherited the painting and passed it on to the Museum of Romanian Literature (MLR). A marble bust of Sadoveanu, the work of Ion Irimescu, was set up in Fălticeni in 1977. In Bucharest, a memorial plaque was placed on Pitar Moş Street, on a house where he lived for a period.

Sadoveanu's writings also made an impact on film culture, and in particular on Romanian cinema of the communist period. However, the first film based on his works was a German production of 1929: based on Venea o moară... and titled Sturmflut der Liebe ("Storm Tide of Love"), it notably starred Marcella Albani, Alexandru Giugaru and Ion Brezeanu. The series of Romanian-made films began with the 1952 Mitrea Cocor, co-directed by Marietta Sadova (who also starred in the film) and Victor Iliu. The film itself was closely supervised for conformity with ideological guidelines, and had to be partly redone because its original version did not meet them. Mircea Drăgan directed a 1965 version of Neamul Şoimăreştilor (with a screenplay co-written by Constantin Mitru) and a 1973 adaptation of Fraţii Jderi (with contributions by Mitru and by Profira Sadoveanu). In 1969, Romanian studios produced a film version of Baltagul, directed by Mircea Mureşan and with Sidonia Manolache as Vitoria Lipan. Ten years later, Constantin Vaeni released Vacanţă tragică ("Tragic Holiday"), based on Nada Florilor, followed by a 1980 adaptation of Dumbrava minunată and Stere Gulea's 1983 Ochi de urs (tr. "The Bear Eye's Curse"). In 1989, just before the Romanian Revolution, Dan Piţa produced his film The Last Ball in November, based on Locul unde nu s-a întâmplat nimic.

Casa cu turn in Iaşi, which Sadoveanu had donated to the state in 1950, went through a period of neglect and was finally set up as a museum in 1980. Similar sites were set up in his Fălticeni house, which he had designed himself, and in his final residence at Voividenia. Each year, that city commemorates the writer through a cultural festival known as the "Mihail Sadoveanu Days". In 2004, the 100th anniversary of his debut was marked by a series of exhibits and symposiums, organized by the MLR. Similar events are regularly held in various cities, and include the "In Sadoveanu's Footsteps" colloquy of writers, held during March 2006 in the city of Piatra Neamţ. Since 2003, in tribute to Sadoveanu's love for the game, an annual chess tournament is held in Iaşi. The Sadoveanu High School and a bookstore in Bucharest are named after him, and streets named after him exist in, among other places, Iaşi, Fălticeni, Timişoara, Oradea, Braşov, Galaţi, Suceava, Călăraşi, Târgu Jiu, Miercurea Ciuc, Petroşani, and Mangalia. Paşcani hosts a cultural center, a high school and a library named after him. Sadoveanu's memory is also honored in the Republic of Moldova (the former Moldavian SSR), where, in 2005, the 125th anniversary of his birth was celebrated in an official context. A street in the Moldovan capital Chişinău and a high school in the town of Cupcini are also named after him.



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