Portraits of Urmuz, Tristan Tzara, Ion Vinea, Ilarie Voronca, C. Sernet, Sașa Pană, G. Luca, B. Fundoianu (by M. Janco, M.H. Maxy, M. Rădulescu, R. Delaunay, Victor Brauner, Perahim and Brâncuși)

The avant-garde (or radical modernism, as opposed to moderate modernism and traditionalism) is usually a term employed to describe the multitude of radical literary and artistic tendencies, small movements, trends, waves, literary groups and magazines that were active (in this case in Romania) in the historical period between WWI and 1947 (until socialist realism was imposed). Neo-avantgarde was sometimes used to describe the Surrealist and Albatros groups of the 1940's, but most often describes the various experimentalist waves from contemporary Romanian literature, beginning with aesthetic oneirism.

Initially considered just an absurd, degenerate fashion imported from France, the avant-garde was half-accepted by a few modernist critics such as G. Călinescu (who acknowledged the importance of "exports" such as Urmuz and Tristan Tzara, while his impressionist method did not enable him to understand it; his History of Literature is notorious for mixing the ermeticists and several other non-avantgardists (such as the so-called "Bukovinian Surrealists") in the chapter dedicated to avant-garde, while Voronca, B. Fundoianu and Paul Sterian are confusingly associated with traditionalism). Later, when the avant-garde was not decried as "decadent" and outright banned or ignored (like in the 1950's), critics and historians activated prejudices such as the supposed "lack of masterpieces" or the supposed "excess of formalism" compared to Western avant-garde... Specialists such as Ion Pop and Marin Mincu were the first that, after Sașa Pană published the first anthology of the Romanian avant-garde, published competent studies and anthologies. Only in recent decades, therefore, was the catalitic influence of the avant-garde acknowledged.


Romanian Literary Avant-garde (anthology by Marin Mincu, 2007 edition, painting by Victor Brauner on the cover)

Taking up Guglielmi's distinction between avant-garde (the first historic phases, consisting of negation) and experimentalism (the later phases, of the neo/post avant-garde, consisting of "fertile interogations"), Marin Mincu identified the "National particularity" of the Romanian avant-garde as an "early experimentalism" and cited Urmuz as an ancestor of textualism rather than (as G. Calinescu considered) surrealism. In any case, what Mincu and Octavian Soviany call contemporary experimentalism (as an alternative to the slippery term postmodernism) constitutes the majority of sanctioned literary output since the 1980's generation. Due to the wide influence of the avant-garde on contemporary poetry, most poets since Nichita Stănescu and Adrian Păunescu met little popularity, but there are also other important factors (such as the decrease in popularity of literature since the early 1990's and the very late and shy introduction in school canon of avantgardists such as Urmuz and Gellu Naum, generally considered difficult to understand without proper theory or reader affinities). Anti-semitism has also been mentioned, as many of the avantgardists were of Jewish origin, which determined many traditionalists and not only to consider it "decadent propaganda" and, in some cases, non-Jewish avantgardists such as Geo Bogza and Paul Sterian were dismissed as Jewish, while journalists, for instance, have even claimed that the editors of Pulă are infiltrated Sionist agents. Nevertheless, avantgardists were closely followed by the secret agency Siguranța, whose infiltrated agent, Mihail Dan, managed to become a co-editor of unu in 1932.

One of the paradoxes of the Romanian avant-garde is that, instead of rejecting previous literary history (not so much artistic history, as Grigorescu and Luchian were not appreciated), it most often targeted its contemporary traditionalist trends (only the Surrealist group would later reject everything else, including previous avantgardists). Moderate modernist Arghezi was appreciated by Ilarie Voronca and B. Fundoianu was among the clandestine editors of Agate negre, while Ion Barbu published in the pages of Contimporanul magazine variants of his poems that were slightly more radical than the ones in the definitive edition of Joc secund. Ilarie Voronca and even Geo Bogza praised Eminescu, while Minulescu was an explicit model for Tzara, Maniu and Vinea.


Several books (by Ilarie Voronca, Sașa Pană, Virgil Teodorescu, C. Nisipeanu, Geo Bogza, Gellu Naum, G. Luca)

Besides Urmuz (who was not directly involved in the movement), Tristan Tzara (active in Switzerland and France after 1915, though an ocassional contributor to Romanian avant-garde revues) and Ion Vinea (associated with the avant-garde, but rarely a proper avantgardist in his poems), there were three influential poets of the avant-garde: Ilarie Voronca (whose imagistic style was followed closely by Stephan Roll and his other friends from Integral and Unu groups, an influence later on poets such as Leonid Dimov, Mircea Cărtărescu or Ștefan Manasia), Geo Bogza (acclaimed for his reportage pieces during the Communist regime, but recently recovered as a very early yet striking precursor of the 1990's generation (sexualism) and 2000's generation (fracturism), though his early poems were also written under the influence of Voronca; he was accepted in Unu, but was particularly admired by the younger poets around the Alge magazine) and Gellu Naum (the most substantial and longest-standing surrealist, who has enjoyed in recent decades a strong interest from critics and readers; poets influenced by Naum include Sebastian Reichmann, Nora Iuga, Mircea Cărtărescu, Dan Coman, Iulian Tănase and others). Also cited as influential are Stephan Roll (as a more playful poet of the Voronca/Unu school), Gherasim Luca (for his anti-oedipian theory and for poems such as the famous Passionnément) and Virgil Teodorescu (cited as a precursor of oneirism, for having a greater degree of narativity and visuality in his surrealist poems than the other group members). Semi-obscure avantgardists that have enjoyed interest in recent decades include Victor Valeriu Martinescu, Grigure Cugler, Jacques G. Costin, Ionathan X. Uranus, Dan Faur and others.
Maxblecher intamplariinirealitateaimediata

First edition of Întâmplări în irealitatea imediată (by Max Blecher)

The prose writers sometimes grouped together as "Blecherianism" and the poets around Albatros are sometimes discussed together with the other avantgardists, other times seperately. Nevertheless, Max Blecher, Geo Dumitrescu, Constant Tonegaru, Ion Caraion etc. are also iconic and influential. Lettrism is not included in the Romanian avant-garde, though Isidore Isou claims to have elaborated his ideas before leaving Romania.

There is no consensus on which are the "masterpieces" of the avant-garde (ignoring the fact that the border between manifestos and non-manifestos is blurry because poetry itself was seen more as a process or a "mood" rather than the end product/a set of conventions), but candidates include Urmuz's Pagini bizare, Ilarie Voronca's Ulise, Stephan Roll's Poeme în aer liber, Geo Bogza's Poemul invectivă, Max Blecher's Întâmplări în inrealitatea imediată, Constantin Nisipeanu's Femeia de aer, Gellu Naum's Drumețul incendiar and Vasco de Gama, Gherasim Luca's Inventatorul iubirii, Paul Păun's Plămânul sălbatec and Marea palidă, Virgil Teodorescu's Poem în leopardă and Blănurile oceanelor, Victor Valeriu Martinescu's Cocktail, Geo Dumitrescu's Libertatea de a trage cu pușca etc.


Voronca's manifesto Aviograma (from 75 H.P., 1924)

An incomplete list of manifestos includes: Vinea's Manifest activist pentru tinerime, Voronca's Aviograma (În loc de manifest), Voronca's Integralism și suprarealism, Sașa Pană's Manifest, Stephan Roll's Lampa lui Aladin, Voronca's Între mine și mine, Coliva lui Moș Vinea which is attributed by some to Voronca, Bogza's Urmuz precursorul and Reabilitarea visului, Paul Sterian's Poezia agresivă și poemul-reportaj, Poezia pe care vrem să o facem (signed by Bogza, Paul Păun & co.), Critica mizeriei (by Gellu Naum, Virgil Teodorescu and Paul Păun) and the other manifestos published in French by the Romanian Surrealist group (Dialectique de la dialectique, L'Infra-noir, Éloge de Malombra, Le Sable nocturne etc.)

The most important revues of the Romanian avant-garde were: Simbolul (1912), Contimporanul (3 July 1922-January 1934), 75 H.P. (October 1924, one number), Punct (March 1924-April 1925), Integral (March 1925-July 1928), urmuz (January-July 1928), unu (1928-1932), and Alge (1930-1931; 1933). Militant, leftist revues marking the transition towards socialist realism include Viața imediată, Ostașii luminii, Cuvântul liber, Reporter, Tânăra generație, Era nouă, Fapta, Pinguinul and especially Orizont (1944-1947). Minor revues associated more or less loosely with the avant-garde include XX-literatură contimporană, Radical (the little magazine where Eugen Ionescu has debuted), Ulise (edited by Lucian Boz, known as the first critic who wrote about Urmuz), Zodiac, Vraja, Adam, Puntea de fildeș, Liceu (1932), Meridian. The editors of Alge were also behind two now-infamous joke revues, Muci (named after mucus) and Pulă (the informal name of the male sexual organ), for which they were called in justice by Nicolae Iorga and spent a brief time in prison (Geo Bogza and H. Bonciu also had problems with justice in the same period). It was rumored at some point that they had edited another hidden revue, Țâțe (Breasts), but it was unconfirmed, just like most of the stupendous bibliography of Victor Valeriu Martinescu.


Several issues of avant-garde revues (75 HP, Integral, Alge, Urmuz, Unu, Pulă, Contimporanul, Punct, Muci, Puntea de fildeș)

An almost complete catalogue "Rumanian Avant-garde 1916-1947: Books, Collage, Drawings, Graphic Design, Paintings, Periodicals, Photography, Posters" was published by Michael Ilk.

Writers associated with the avant-gardeEdit

Forerunners and proto-avangarde (1910's)Edit

       Late symbolists, practicing irony and deconstruction.

The integralist wave (from Contimporanul and 75 H.P. to Integral and unu) (1922-1932)Edit

       Many of them started as postsymbolists and matured under the influence of futurism, Dada, constructivism and, later, surrealism, without entirely fitting in any of these categories. They could be further grouped as: the "Voronca school", the expressionists of Contimporanul, the Vraja group etc.

Alge wave, late unu wave and transition towards the Surrealist group (Liceu, Meridian etc.) (1931-mid '30s)Edit

Blecherianism (circa 1933-1935)Edit

Romanian Surrealist group (1940-1947)Edit

Rejected surrealists (circa 1947)Edit

Albatros, Kalende, Forum and other groups and writers (1940-1947)Edit

Other isolated writers (1910's-1930's)Edit

        Also see aesthetic oneirism and experimentalism.