Jurnalul lui Mihail Sebastian de David Auburn
Cu Alexandru Mihăescu în rolul lui Mihail Sebastian
Regizat de Cristina Bejan
Va fi prezentat în următoarele oraşe in Statele Unite şi România:
New York, Sibiu (Sibfest 2013), Iaşi, Cluj Napoca, Timişoara şi Bucureşti
În mai, iunie şi iulie 2013
Piesa va culmina cu proiectul “Mihail Sebastian în teatru şi memorie: Educaţie despre Holocaust în România contemporană”
Romania officially condemned its involvement in the European Holocaust following the Elie Wiesel Commission Report of 2004. Nevertheless, as Romania continues to come to terms with atrocities that occurred on its watch during the Second World War, archival materials, memoirs, and other first-hand accounts from the period carry considerable significance in this endeavor. A first-person account of being Jewish in Bucharest under fascist rule, Mihail Sebastian’s Journal illuminates one of the most dark and turbulent periods in modern Romanian history. Playwright David Auburn’s 2004 adaption of the Journal into a one-man show, which brings Sebastian’s reflections and struggles to life.
The importance of this work is manifold, for Sebastian offers through the pages of his Journal not only a glimpse into the life of Jewish intellectuals in Romania before and during the fascist dictatorship, but also a personal perspective on the process of what his friend Eugene Ionesco had called “rhinocerization,” the conversion to fascism of many of his closest friends. Some of these men later became world-renowned scholars, including the religious historian Mircea Eliade and the nihilist philosopher Emil Cioran.
Born Josef Hechter in the Danube River city of Brăila on October 18, 1907, from early childhood Sebastian felt strongly integrated into the Romanian population. He studied law in Bucharest until 1929; after graduation he began a doctorate in law in Paris. In 1932 Sebastian returned to Romania, where he actively participated in the activities of the Criterion Association. This collaboration with the young intellectuals of Romania had already begun in August 1927 when he started to write for the newspaper Cuvântul (The Word). Run by Nae Ionescu, this newspaper was the main mode of expression of Tânăra Generaţie (The Young Generation), dubbed “Generation 1927” by Eliade. The collaboration with Cuvântul allowed Sebastian to become one of the most important journalists in early 1930s Bucharest, writing on culture, politics and the arts. Sebastian did not limit himself to journalism; he also wrote poems before moving to novels and plays.
The defining moment in Mihail Sebastian’s life was the June 1934 publication of his novel De două mii de ani… (For Two Thousand Years…). Appearing with a foreword by Sebastian’s mentor Nae Ionescu, the novel was the story of a Romanian Jewish man struggling with his identity in 1920s Romania. Some of Sebastian’s own childhood experiences with rejection due to his Jewish heritage as well as the open discrimination practiced in Romanian universities while he was a student were recounted in this controversial book. Despite their previously close working relationship, Ionescu viciously attacks Sebastian and his religious background in the book’s foreword, as Ionescu had already embraced Romanian fascism. Sebastian replied to his former mentor as well as the many other critics that disapproved his portrayal of anti-Semitism in Romania through the 1935 book, Cum am devenit huligan (How I became a hooligan). However, by this moment in Sebastian’s life, Romanian society had become even less welcoming for intellectuals of Jewish origin. Though he continued to write and work in journalism, he found his activity more and more constrained by new legislation circumscribing the domains in which Jews could work. The law of 9 August 1940 forbidding Jews to work in publishing or to be published resulted in him losing his job. It also made Sebastian’s novel Accidentul (The Accident) the last book to appear under his own name during his lifetime.
From 1940 onward, Sebastian would live a period of many limitations, both financial and social. Prevented from publishing, Sebastian spent the war years teaching at a high school for Jewish boys, with his only true artistic outlet being his Journal. Though he began to write it in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the publication of De două mii de ani…, it is with its section on the war years that the Journal becomes one of the most invaluable documents on World War II Romania. First of all, the Journal entries trace the transformation of a part of Romania’s elite into supporters of the ideology and regime of the fascist Conducător (Leader) Ion Antonescu. Second, this work sheds light into the most personal thoughts of an intellectual troubled by crucial questions on his identity. Having thought of himself as a Romanian all his life, during the war Sebastian was completely rejected by the society to which he thought he belonged. Sebastian’s Journal testifies to his reconnection to the Jewish community. Even though his native language was Romanian not Yiddish, and he never attended the synagogue before, he now knew the worries and shared the fears of his kind. He was painfully aware of the deportations and massacres of Jews in Bukovina, Bessarabia, and Transnistria that were being carried out by the Antonescu regime.
A third dimension of the Journal is Sebastian’s relation to the theater.
In such times I become a dramatist
was Mihail Sebastian’s reaction following the success of fascist groups in Romanian politics and the passing of severe anti-Jewish laws preventing him from staging his plays. Yet, in spite of the hardships imposed by the dictatorship—which included not only financial deprivation, but also forced labor and constant fear of deportation to the camps— Sebastian’s Journal preserves within its pages the story of how Sebastian wrote the play Steaua fără nume and had it performed under a false name during the German occupation of Bucharest in 1944.
Sebastian managed to survive the war, yet would die tragically only months after the fall of the fascist regime, hit by a bus on his way to the university to teach a lecture. However, it would take another half-century for his Journal to be published. As the process of reconciliation with the fascist past is still underway in Romania, Sebastian’s contribution to the better understanding of the experience of Jewish writers under fascism is of crucial importance to this process not just in Romania, but in many other societies still grappling with the enormity of the legacy of genocide.
Please see http://www.sibfest.ro/ for further information about the details of The Journals of Mihail Sebastian at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival, performing on June 8 and 9, 2013 at 6 pm in the historic synagogue.