Dumitru Ţepeneag

Dumitru Ţepeneag
Dumitru Ţepeneag
Born February 14, 1937 (1937-02-14) (age 74)
Occupation novelist, short story writer, essayist
Nationality Romanian
Period 1966–
Notable work(s) Vain Art of the Fugue, Hôtel Europa, Pigeon Post

Dumitru Ţepeneag (also known under the pen names Ed Pastenague and Dumitru Tsepeneag; b. February 14, 1937) is a contemporary Romanian novelist, essayist, short story writer and translator, who currently resides in France. He was one of the founding members of the Oniric group, and a theoretician of the Onirist trend in Romanian literature, while becoming noted for his activities as a dissident. In 1975, the Communist regime stripped him of his citizenship. He settled down in Paris, where he was a leading figure of the Romanian exile.

In addition to his literary work, he is known for his independent left-wing views, which were influenced by Libertarian socialism and Anarchism.[1][2][3] Ţepeneag is one of the most important Romanian translators of French literature, and has rendered into Romanian the works by New Left, avant-garde and Neo-Marxist authors such as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Robert Pinget, Albert Béguin, Jacques Derrida, and Alexandre Kojève.[4] The founder of the magazine Cahiers de l'Est, he has also translated texts by Romanian poets into French — examples include Leonid Dimov, Daniel Turcea, Ion Mureşan, Marta Petreu, Emil Brumaru, Mircea Ivănescu.[4] His wife, Mona Ţepeneag, is herself a translator and essayist.



Born in Bucharest, Dumitru Ţepeneag graduated from the Mihai Viteazul High School in the city, and then enrolled at the University of Bucharest Faculty of Law. He did not complete his studies and, instead, trained as a teacher at the Bucharest Pedagogical Institute, before dedicating himself to literature without ever professing.

In 1959, he met Leonid Dimov, a writer who shared his literary interests.[5] Both took partial inspiration from Surrealism, but rejected its focus on psychoanalysis and the scientific ideas favored by André Breton.[5] Ţepeneag referred to this contrast by stating that "[w]e did not dream, we generated dreams."[5]

In 1965-1966, Dumitru Ţepeneag and Dimov reached out to a panel of young writers contributing to the Bucharest magazine Luceafărul — Vintilă Ivănceanu, Virgil Mazilescu, and Iulian Neacşu.[5] Together, they established the literary trend called "Aesthetic Onirism", which, initially, also included Sânziana Pop.[5] In time, they were joined by Emil Brumaru, Daniel Turcea, Sorin Titel, Florin Gabrea and Virgil Tănase.[5][6]

The group was for a while under the protective wing of Romanian poet Miron Radu Paraschivescu, a Communist Party member who was generally seen as anti-dogmatic,[2][5][7] and whose personal opinions were veering toward Trotskyism.[2] According to Ţepeneag, Paraschivescu, who was a former Surrealist, aimed at uniting avant-garde trends as a means to revitalize cultural life in Romania.[5] This relationship allowed them to publish their works in his Povestea Vorbei, a supplement of the magazine Ramuri in Craiova.[5][8] Ţepeneag's work of the time was part of a Romanian intellectual reaction against Realism and Socialist realism,[4][9] and coincided with the climate of liberalization at the end of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's period in power and the rise of Nicolae Ceauşescu.[5][7][9] In particular, the period was marked by developments at Luceafărul: in 1968, the hardliner Eugen Barbu, who had attacked Ţepeneag and other young authors, was replaced by the liberal Ştefan Bănulescu as editor-in-chief of the magazine.[7] Literary critic Gabriel Dimisianu indicated that, at first, Romanian authorities tended to ignore the Oniric grouping, whom they viewed as "benign" and "a small racket caused by some people on the margin".[6]

Dimisianu also noted that the Oniric movement was the only cultural movement of the time who had developed in complete separation from official guidelines.[6] In this context, Ţepeneag's contribution was compared to those of contemporaries such as Ioan Alexandru, Cezar Baltag, Ana Blandiana, Nicolae Breban, Nicolae Labiş, and Nichita Stănescu.[9] At the time, Dumitru Ţepeneag was influenced by various trends in experimental literature, including, alongside Surrealism, the Nouveau roman techniques first theorized during the 1950s.[2]

Paraschivescu's project was halted late in 1966, when authorities shut down Povestea Vorbei.[5] In reaction, Ţepeneag and his fellow group members asked to be assigned their own magazine, as a literary supplement of Luceafărul, but their request was never granted.[5] The "Aesthetic Onirism" group was able to print a few volumes between 1964 and 1972, but disbanded soon after the July Theses of 1971, when Ceauşescu imposed an even more severe system of censorship.[5]

During the following years, both at home and abroad, Ţepeneag began campaigning against totalitarianism in Romanian society, and especially the lack of freedom in the Romanian literary world.[2] Alongside Ivănceanu and others, he spoke out against official policies during sessions of the Romanian Writers' Union, an official body reuniting literary figures.[2][5] As Dimisianu noted, Ţepeneag's protests were singular in that their tone was not just cultural, but overtly political.[6] According to Ţepeneag, a conflict erupted inside the literary establishment after the magazine Amfiteatru allowed him, Ivănceanu and Laurenţiu Ulici to publish their grievances as part of a round table session which, although censored by the regime, prompted pro-communist and conformist writers to condemn the Oniric grouping.[5] During trips to the United States and Western Europe, he met with other notable dissidents, and, in 1973, was interviewed by Radio Free Europe's Monica Lovinescu (an interview which denounced communist policies and was clandestinely broadcast inside his native country).[2]

As a result, at the same time as other outspoken dissidents — novelist Paul Goma and poet Ileana Mălăncioiu among them —, he was marginalized inside the Writers' Union.[10] Subsequently placed under surveillance by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate, he was formally indicted in 1975.[2]

The same year, while he was in France on temporary stay, Ţepeneag's citizenship was stripped through a presidential decree signed by Ceauşescu.[1][4][6] Inside Romania, Onirism became the target of cultural repression, and the term itself was carefully removed from all official publications.[6] Ţepeneag later commented that the regime had found "a scapegoat" in Onirism, and argued that the movement rapidly decayed from that moment on.[5] Nonetheless, Dimisianu noted that the current remained a strong influence on the unofficial cultural scene, and that, in time, Onirism was adopted by younger writers such as Ioan Groşan.[6]

After moving to Paris, Ţepeneag continued writing first in Romanian — works which were usually translated into French by Alain Paruit[1] —, and later directly in French. With time, his style evolved to a more classical narrative.[2] Together with Mihnea Berindei, Dumitru Ţepeneag founded and coordinated the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania, which reported on nature of repression under Ceauşescu.[1] A chess aficionado,[2] he also published a book on Alekhine's Defence (La défense Alekhine, 1983).

After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, he returned to Romania, where he was involved in handing out emergency humanitarian aid from the West.[11] Ever since, he has commuted between Paris and Bucharest, and has played a part in promoting Romanian literature to the foreign public.[11][12] His diaries from the early 1970s, detailing the years of his dissidence, were published in Romania beginning in 2006.[2] Ţepeneag has continued to publish in important Western magazines, and edited the Paris-based periodicals Cahiers de l'Est (later known as Nouveaux Cahiers de l'Est), Poésie, and Seine et Danube, with support from the Romanian Cultural Institute.[4][11]

Political views and polemics

Opposing the Communist regime from the Left, Dumitru Ţepeneag has maintained an independent and individualist position — literary critic Eugen Simion has defined him as "a heretic on the left", and his colleague Paul Cernat as "unclassifiable".[2] In a 2003 interview with Ziua newspaper, he described himself as "an old anarchist".[12] Elsewhere, the writer acknowledged that, during the 1960s and early 1970s, he viewed Ceauşescu's leadership as benign, and welcomed the distance the Communist Party took from the Soviet Union (especially in 1968, when Romania did not take part in the Warsaw Pact intervention against the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia).[2][5]

During his years of exile, he came into conflict with Romanian intellectuals such as Mircea Eliade and Ioan Cuşa, whose opinions, Ţepeneag argued, situated them among admirers of the fascist Iron Guard.[3] He remained critical of Western society, especially after an article on Communist Romanian censorship he contributed to the French journal Le Monde turned out to have been modified by the editors.[3] According to his translator Paruit, Ţepeneag's leftist views may have contributed to his marginalization inside the Romanian exile, and may have even caused French authorities to view him with suspicion.[1] Paruit noted that other writers, including Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, both of whom reportedly refused to vouch for Ţepeneag, "simply did not understand that it was possible to condemn communism from anarchist positions."[1]

Such conflicts also surfaced after the writer returned to Romania — notably, Ţepeneag clashed with novelist Augustin Buzura, whom he accused of mismanaging the state-sponsored promotion of Romanian literature abroad.[12][13] The polemic was alluded to in Buzura's 2003 volume Tentaţia risipirii, where the author responded to criticism from Ţepeneag, as well as to similar opinions expressed by Paul Goma, Gheorghe Grigurcu, and other writers.[14] Commenting on this dispute, literary critic Mircea Iorgulescu argued that Buzura's book had classified Dumitru Ţepeneag and his other adversaries as "insignificant authors", and expressed his opinion that such an attitude was incorrect.[14]

In parallel, both Ţepeneag and Buzura, alongside writers such as Eugen Simion, Fănuş Neagu, Valeriu Cristea and Marin Sorescu were the recipients of criticism from literary historian Alex. Ştefănescu, in his book on 20th century Romanian literature.[15] Ştefănescu alleged that all four authors had associated with Romania's first post-Revolution President, Ion Iliescu, and, to varying degrees, with Iliescu's Social Democratic Party.[15] Of Ţepeneag in particular, Alex. Ştefănescu believed that he had lost his credibility for being part of "a group of writers well liked by Ion Iliescu".[15] Responding to this, Simion argued that Ştefănescu was wrong to criticize authors based on "their political option".[15]

Dumitru and Mona Ţepeneag's familiarity with Libertarian socialist and Neo-Marxist literature served as an influence for younger opponents of the Communist regime. Among them was the political scientist Vladimir Tismăneanu, who noted that he was first introduced to such works by the couple.[16]

Published works

Short stories

  • Exerciţii ("Exercises"), 1966
  • Frig ("Cold"),1967
  • Aşteptare ("Waiting"), 1971
  • Exercices d'attente ("Exercises in Waiting"), Flammarion, 1972, trans. Alain Paruit
  • Attente ("Expectancy"), P.O.L., 2003


  • Arpièges, Paris, Flammarion, 1973, translated by Alain Paruit after Zadarnică e arta fugii, first published in Romania by Editura Albatros in 1991; the 2nd edition, Bucharest, Art, 2007; English version, translated by Patrick Camiller, Vain Art of the Fugue, Champaign, Il & London, Dalkey Archive Press, 2007; Turkish version, translated by Leyla Ünal, Sonsuz Kaçişlar, Istanbul, Pupa Yayinlari, 2010
  • Les noces nécessaires, Paris, Flammarion, 1977, French version, translated by Alain Paruit after Nunţile necesare, published in Romania in 1992 and 1999; English version, translated by Patrick Camiller, The Necessary Marriage, Champaign, Il & London, Dalkey Archive Press, 2009 [1]
  • Le mot sablier. Cuvântul nisiparniţă (“The Hourglass Word”), bilingual novel; published in Romania in 1994 and 2005
  • Roman de gare, written directly in French, 1985, translated into Romanian by the author as Roman de citit în tren, Iaşi, Institutul European, 1993
  • Pigeon vole, written directly in French, 1988; translated into Romanian by the author as Porumbelul zboară, Bucharest, Editura Univers, 1997; English version, translated by Jane Kuntz, Pigeon Post, Champaign, Il & London, Dalkey Archive Press, 2008
  • Hotel Europa, Bucharest, Editura Albatros, 1996; French version, translated by Alain Paruit, Paris, Éditions P.O.L., 2006
  • Pont des Arts, translated by Alain Paruit, Paris, Éditions P.O.L., 1998; Romanian version published by Editura Albatros, 1999
  • Au pays du Maramureş, 2001 and 2006; French version, translated by Alain Paruit, Paris, Éditions P.O.L.
  • La belle Roumaine, Piteşti, Editura Paralela 45, 2004; Bucharest, Art, 2007; French version, translated by Alain Paruit, Paris, P.O.L., 2006; Portuguese version, A Bela Romena, Editora Oceanos, 2009; Bulgarian version, translated by Rumyana Stancheva, Krasivana rumŭnka, Sofia, Balkani, 2010; Turkish version, translated by Leyla Ünal, Romen Dilberi, Istanbul, Pupa Yayinlari, 2010


  • Un român la Paris ("A Romanian in Paris"), Cluj, Editura Dacia, 1993; definitive edition, Bucharest, Cartea Românească, 2006

Other works

  • Întoarcerea fiului la sânul mamei rătăcite, Iaşi, Institutul European, 1992
  • Călătorie neizbutită, Bucharest, Cartea Românească, 1999
  • Războiul literaturii nu s-a încheiat, Bucharest, Editura ALL, 2000
  • Destin cu popeşti, Cluj, Editura Dacia & Biblioteca Apostrof, 2001
  • Clepsidra răsturnată. Dialog cu Ion Simuţ, Piteşti, Paralela 45, 2003
  • Capitalism de cumetrie, Iaşi, Polirom, 2007


  • Latin Union Award (2008) [17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f (Romanian) Gabriela Adameşteanu, "«Traducerea, adică esenţialul pentru mine...»" (interview with Alain Paruit), in Revista 22, Nr.633, April 2002
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m (Romanian) Paul Cernat, "Jurnalul unui incomod inclasabil", in Observator Cultural; retrieved September 30, 2007
  3. ^ a b c (Romanian) Constantin Coroiu, "Un român la Paris", in Evenimentul, August 31, 2006; retrieved October 1, 2007
  4. ^ a b c d e (Romanian) Joi, 14 iunie, ora 20.00. Medalion literar: Dumitru Ţepeneag, at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Paris; retrieved September 30, 2007
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q (Romanian) Dumitru Ţepeneag, "Câteva idei fixe şi tot atâtea variabile" (fragmente), in Ziua, October 13, 2003; retrieved October 1, 2007
  6. ^ a b c d e f g (Romanian) Daniel Cristea-Enache, "Gabriel Dimisianu: «Marii creatori plătesc uneori scump pentru imaginea lor mitizată» (interview with Gabriel Dimisianu), at LiterNet; retrieved October 1, 2007
  7. ^ a b c E. R., Current Problems of Literary Life in Rumania II, Radio Free Europe report, at the Open Society Archives; retrieved October 1, 2007
  8. ^ (Romanian) Ileana Munteanu, "Întâlniri esenţiale" (III), in Ziarul Financiar, November 24, 2006; retrieved October 1, 2007
  9. ^ a b c Marcel Cornis-Pope, John Neubauer, History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe, John Benjamins, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, p.123; ISBN 9027234523
  10. ^ András Bozóki, Intellectuals and Politics in Central Europe, Central European University Press, Budapest, 1999, p.59; ISBN 963-9116-21-1
  11. ^ a b c (Romanian) Ioana Drăgan, "Un perpetuu insurgent", in Ziarul Financiar, October 7, 2005; retrieved September 30, 2007
  12. ^ a b c (Romanian) Iolanda Malamen, "D. Ţepeneag: «Sunt un bătrân anarhist»", in Ziua, June 9, 2003; retrieved October 1, 2007
  13. ^ (Romanian) Ioan Groşan, "«Criteriile sunt acum estetice, nu tematice»" (interview with Dumitru Ţepeneag), in Ziua, September 15, 2005; retrieved October 1, 2007
  14. ^ a b (Romanian) Mircea Iorgulescu, "Războiul civil în literatură", in Revista 22, Nr.718, December 2003; retrieved October 1, 2007
  15. ^ a b c d (Romanian) Laszlo Alexandru, "Poveşti despre funie, în casa spânzuratului", in E-Leonardo, Nr.10; retrieved October 1, 2007
  16. ^ Vladimir Tismăneanu, "Bizantinism şi revoluţie. Istoria politică a comunismului românesc", in Stalinism pentru eternitate, Polirom, Iaşi, 2005, p.15; ISBN 973-681-899-3
  17. ^ http://www.cotidianul.ro/ginta_l_a_premiat_pe_epeneag-48572.html

Further reading

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