Romanian literature (Romanian: Literatura română) is literature written by Romanian authors, although the term may also be used to refer to all literature written in the Romanian language or by any authors native to Romania.

Old Romanian Literature

The development of the Romanian literature took place in parallel with that of a rich Romanian folklore - lyric, epic, dramatic and didactic - which continued in modern times.[1] The Romanian oral literature includes doine (lyric songs), balade (ballads), hore (dance songs), colinde (carols), basme (fairy tales), snoave (anecdotes), vorbe (proverbs), and ghicitori (riddles).

Medieval Slavonic Literature

The Script of Old Church Slavonic began to be used in the territories of current day Romania as early as the 10th Century, with the oldest surviving manuscripts being dated as far back as the 12th Century. The Earliest dated texts in Slavonic originally from Wallachia and Moldavia consist of a series of Religious Songs by Nicodim & Filotei and a Hagiographical text by Grigore Țamblâc, all being dated between 1385 and 1391. Also by the 15th century many copies of meddieval Slavonic texts have been created by the scribes of the Danubian Principalities.[2]

Icon of Neagoe Basarab and his son Teodosie

In the meantime, numerous translations in Slavonic and Greek of popular Medieval romances were in circulation across the Danubian Principalities, like the Alexander Romance and Barlaam and Josaphat.[3]

Particulatly of notice is "The Teachings of Neagoe Basarab to his son Theodosie," a series of teachings on Morality and Politics, written between 1519 and 1521, by the Wallachian Lord Neagoe Basarab,[4] a work written within the spirit of the Renaissance[5] and considered one of the Oldest great works of South-Eastern European Literature.[6]

Beginning of Writing and Publishing in Romanian

The earliest surviving document in Romanian is Neacșu's Letter written in 1521, to the jude ("judge and mayor") of Brașov, Hans Benkner.[7]

The earliest books in Romanian were translated from Slavonic religious texts in the 15th century. The Psalter of Șchei (Psaltirea Șcheiană) of 1482 and the Voroneț Codex (Codicele Voronețean) are religious texts that were written in Maramureș.[8]

The first book printed in the Romanian Principalities was a Slavonic religious book in 1508 at Dealu Monastery.[9] The first book printed in the Romanian language was a Protestant catechism of Deacon Coresi in 1559,[10] printed by Filip Moldoveanul.[11] Other translations from Greek and Slavonic books were printed later in the 16th century.[10] Dosoftei, a Moldavian Bishop, in 1673, published the first Romanian metrical psalter, the earliest collection of poems written in Romanian.[12][13]

Stamp with the Romanian Literature Museum in Chișinău

Early efforts to publish the Bible in Romanian started with the 1582 printing in the small town of Orăștie of the so-called Palia de la Orăștie – a translation of the first books of the Old Testament - by Deacon Șerban (a son of the above-mentioned Deacon Coresi) and Marien Diacul (Marien the Scribe). Palia was translated from Latin by Bishop Mihail Tordaș et al., the translation being checked for accuracy using Hungarian translations of the Bible.

The entire Bible was not published in Romanian until the end of the 17th century, when the Metropolitanate's Press of Bucharest printed "Biblia de la București – "The Bucharest Bible" in 1688,[14] compiled by the Greceanu Brothers.[15]

In Transylvania, there was also an attestation of the explicit use of a Latin model, with the appearance of the first Romanian dictionary, Dictionarium Valachico-Latinum (Caransebeș, about 1650), while the first grammar of the Romanian language written in Latin was Institutiones linguae Valachicae (Crișana, circa 1770).[16]


Humanism in Moldavia and Wallachia can be first observed in 16th century with the likes of Luca Stroici and Petru Cercel, but it took one more century, for these to fully flourish. The reasons for it can be, on one hand, the cultural continuity of the Romanian Principalities with Byzantine Culture or the different Social classes when compared to Western Europe.[17]

Original Manuscript of Hieroglyphic History by Dimitrie Cantemir

Durring the 17th century via Poland and its Jesuit Schools, having as representatives the likes of Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin and Ion Neculce with their chronicles on the history of Moldavia.[18]Following the example of Petro Movilă's Kyiv Colegium, the Lords, Matei Basarab and Vasile Lupu, established Neoclassical schools such as Schola Graeca et Latina and the Iași Colegiu. [19]

The most significant Romanian Humanist was Dimitrie Cantemir, who wrote histories of Wallachia, Moldavia and the Ottoman Empire, and philosophical and religious treaties such as "the Divan," "The indescribable image of sacred science" or "The little compendium of logic."[20][21] Wile also writting in 1705 the Roman à clef "A Hieroglyphic History."[22]


In the 18th century Transylvania, troought the Blaj Schools of Inocențiu Micu-Klein, a Latinist and Enlightenment movement, the Școala Ardeleană, emerged, producing philological studies about the Romanic origin of Romanian.[23] Among the many works on the History and the Romanian language by Samuil Micu-Klein, Gheorghe Șincai and Petru Maior,[24] the "heroic-comic-satiric poem" Țiganiada by Ion Budai-Deleanu, can also be found, promoting democratic and enlightnment ideals.[25]

In Wallachia and Moldavia, the Enlightenment can be seen in the Poems and Prose of Iancu Văcărescu,[26] Costache Conachi[27] and Dinicu Golescu. [28]

National awakening

In Wallachia an important figure of the time was Ion Heliade Rădulescu, who founded in 1829 the first Romanian-language Newspaper, Curierul Românesc,[29] and founded the Philharmonic Society, which later created the National Theatre of Bucharest.[30] While in Moldavia, one month later, a similar publication, Albina Românească, is started by Gheorghe Asachi.[31]


Vasile Alecsandri
Constantin Negruzzi

As the revolutionary ideas of nationalism spread in Europe, they were also used by the Romanians, who desired a national state completly independent from the Ottoman Empire. These culminating in the revolutions of 1821 and 1848.[32] These ideas were mainly vehiculated trough Mihail Kogălniceanu's publication, Dacia Literară, which was adapting French Romanticism to romanian writing with the purpose of creating an original national Literature.[33]

Theodor Aman illustration of Alexandru Lăpușneanul

The works of this writers, later dubbed Pașoptists (after the Revolution of 1848), has been shown not only to contain romantic but also neoclassical and realist traits.[33] Vasile Alecsandri was a prolific writer, contributing to Romanian literature with poetry, prose, the Chirița plays(1850-1875), Historical Dramas such as Despot Vodă(1879) and collections of Romanian folklore.[34] Also, taking ispiration from history, Constantin Negruzzi writes the novella Alexandru Lăpușneanul(1840). [35] Other Pașoptist writters may include Vasile Cârlova, Grigore Alexandrescu, Anton Pann and Alecu Donici.[33]


First Page of Convorbiri Literare 1st of May 1885

The Junimea literary circle, founded in Iași, in 1863, by Titu Maiorescu, Petre P. Carp, Vasile Pogor, Theodor Rosetti and Iacob Negruzzi starts publishing from 1867 the magazine Convorbiri Literare, wnich becomes in time the most important Literary Publication in Romanian in the 2nd half of the 19th century and 1st half of the 20th century.[36] Trough his links with Junimea, literary critic Titu Maiorescu sets the direction of romanian literature of Syncronizing both with other European literary movements and with Romanian Folklore.[37][38]

Many outstanding Romanian writers, including George Coșbuc[39] and Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea, published their works in Convorbiri Literare.[39][40]

Other notable author of the era are Nicolae Bălcescu, Dimitrie Bolintineanu, Alecu Russo, Nicolae Filimon, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, Alexandru Odobescu, Grigore Alexandrescu and Petre Ispirescu.

The Great Classics

Mihai Eminescu
Ion Luca Caragiale
Ion Creangă
Ioan Slavici

Among the many writers of Junimea, four have remained as the Great Classics of Romanian Literature: Mihai Eminescu in Poetry, Ion Luca Caragiale in Satire, Ioan Slavici and Ion Creangă.[41][42]

Mihai Eminescu is considered by most critics to be the most important and influential Romanian poet.[43] His lyrical poetry had many of its roots in Romanian folklore intertwined with Kantian[44] and Schopenhauer's philosophy[45] and Buddhist cosmology.[46] Among his greatest poems are the romantic poems named Floare Albastră(1872), Luceafărul and the philosophical poem series of the 5 Epistles(1881-1890).[47][48]

Ioan Slavici has been the best known Romanian Novella writer;[49] his works can be categorized as Realist[50] Bildungsromans, they are mainly set in Transylvania and have Moralistic psychologyical undertones.[51]His Most famos works are the Novellas Moara cu noroc and Popa Tanda and the Novel Mara.[51][52]

Ion Luca Caragiale, wrote some of the best Romanian comedies, sketches and farses. [53]Among his best known plays are O noapte furtunoasă(1879), O scrisoare pierdută(1884) and D-ale Carnavalului(1885).[54]

Ion Creangă, wrote personalised retelings of folkloric tells,[55] of which some of the best known are Povestea lui Harap Alb(1877), Păcală(1880) and Făt-Frumos fiul Iepei(1877).[56] And of particular notice there also are his autobiographical memories from Amintiri din copilarie.[57][56]

Sămănătorism and Poporanism

Between the years 1901 and 1910 trough the activity of the publication Sămănătorul, founded by George Coșbuc and Alexandru Vlahuță, and later on under the editorial watch of historian Nicolae Iorga, a new literary movement forms.[58][59] A movement concentrated on preserving traditional values and idealising rural life,[60] a continuation Eminescu's Romanticism.[59][60]

Among Sămănătorul's authors could be found, George Coșbuc a poet, translator, teacher, and journalist, best known for his verses describing, praising and eulogizing rural life,[39] author of Pașa Hasan, Nunta Zamfirei and Moartea lui Fulger;[59] but also Alexandru Vlahuță, Octavian Goga, Duiliu Zamfirescu, Ștefan O. Iosif, Barbu Ștefănescu Delavrancea, Ion Agârbiceanu and Alexandru Macedonski.[59] Although Goga and Agârbiceanu have become later associated with Poporanism and the publication, Viața Românească.[61]

Interbellum literature

After achieving national unity in 1918, Romanian literature entered what can be called a golden age, characterized by two opposite literary movements, Traditionalism and Modernism, and by the development of the Romanian novel.[62][63][64]

Mihail Sadoveanu
Lucian Blaga

Traditional society and recent political events influenced works such as Liviu Rebreanu's Răscoala ("The Uprising"), which, published in 1932, was inspired by the 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt, and Pădurea Spânzuraților ("Forest of the Hanged"), published in 1922 and inspired by Romanian participation in World War I. The dawn of the modern novel can be seen in Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu (Concert din muzică de Bach—"Bach Concert"), Camil Petrescu (Ultima noapte de dragoste, întâia noapte de război—"The Last Night of Love, the First Night of War"). George Călinescu is another complex personality of Romanian literature: novelist, playwright, poet, literary critic and historian, essayist, journalist. He published authoritative monographs about Eminescu and Creangă, and a monumental (almost 1,000 pages in quarto) history of Romanian literature from its origin to the time of his writing (1941).

An important realist writer was Mihail Sadoveanu, who wrote mainly novels which took place at various times in the history of Moldova. But probably the most important writers were Tudor Arghezi, Lucian Blaga, and Mircea Eliade. Arghezi revolutionized Romanian poetry 50 years after Eminescu, creating new pillars for the modern Romanian poem. Blaga, one of the country's most important artistic personalities, developed through his writings a complex philosophic system, still not perfectly understood even today. Eliade is today considered the greatest historian in the field of religions. His novels reveal a mystical, pre-Christian symbolism paving the way for contemporary Romanian art.

Tudor Arghezi

Born in Romania, Tristan Tzara, a poet and essayist, is the main founder of Dada, a nihilistic revolutionary movement in the arts, and may have been responsible for its name (Romanian for "Yes yes"). Later he abandoned nihilism for Surrealism and Marxism. For the first time in its history, Romanian culture was fully connected to Western culture, while Dadaism is the first Romanian artistic and literary movement to become international. Dadaism and Surrealism are fundamental parts of the avant-garde, the most revolutionary form of modernism. The Romanian avant garde is very well represented by Ion Minulescu, Gherasim Luca, Urmuz, Perpessicius, Tristan Tzara, Grigore Cugler, Geo Bogza, Barbu Fundoianu, Gellu Naum, Ilarie Voronca, and Ion Vinea. Max Blecher was a poet whose life was cut short by health problems.

George Bacovia was a symbolist poet. While he initially belonged to the local Symbolist movement, his poetry came to be seen as a precursor of Romanian Modernism. Some important literary figures of this period were also active in other domains. Vasile Voiculescu was a Romanian poet, short-story writer, playwright, and physician. Ion Barbu was a poet, as well as an important mathematician.

Cezar Petrescu was a journalist, novelist, and children's writer. He is especially remembered for his children's book Fram, ursul polar ("Fram, the polar bear"; the circus animal character was named after Fram, the ship used by Fridtjof Nansen on his expeditions). Elena Farago was also a children's writer and poet.

Ion Agârbiceanu was a writer, as well as a politician, theologian and Greek-Catholic priest. Gala Galaction was another writer, who was also an Eastern Orthodox clergyman and theologian.

Other literary figures of this era include Ionel Teodoreanu, Panait Istrati, Gib Mihăescu, Otilia Cazimir, and George Topîrceanu.

Postbellum Literature

Marin Preda

Marin Preda is often considered the most important post-World War II Romanian novelist. His novel, Moromeții ("The Moromete Family"), describes the life and difficulties of an ordinary peasant family in pre-war Romania and later during the advent of Communism in Romania. His most important book remains Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni ("The Most Beloved of Earthlings"), a cruel description of communist society. Zaharia Stancu published his first important novel, Desculț (Barefoot), in 1948.

Some of the most important poets are Nichita Stănescu, Marin Sorescu, Ana Blandiana, Leonid Dimov, and Ștefan Augustin Doinaș.[65] An important novelist of this era was Radu Tudoran.

Outside Romania, Eugène Ionesco and Emil Cioran represented the national spirit at the highest level. Ionesco is one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd; beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude of humans and the insignificance of one's existence. Cioran was a writer and philosopher.

Contemporary literature

Herta Müller
Claudiu Komartin
Gabriela Adameșteanu

Some Romanian contemporary writers:

Chronology: 19th century-present day

Translations of Romanian literature

See also


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