We tend to forget the immense political and moral stakes of the Cold War era. Essential publications, initially supported by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, such as “Encounter,” “Preuves,” “Der Monat,” and “Quadrant,” are now almost forgotten. But these journals and the authors associated with them (from Arthur Koestler to Czeslaw Milosz), as well as the Western radio stations, allowed the denizens of the Soviet Bloc to breathe under the ice. They also fought to expose what the great French sociologist Raymond Aron called the “opium of the intellectuals,” the readiness of many intellectuals to embrace the Utopian, millenarian, eschatological promises of Marxism.
Monica Lovinescu, a Paris-based literary critic and journalist who encouraged intellectual resistance to Romania’s communist regime from the microphone of Radio Free Europe from 1964-92, passed away five years ago, on April 21, at the age of 85.
After 1990, Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca saw many of their predictions (including the dire ones) come true. The legacies of national-Stalinism continue to haunt Romania’s fragile pluralism. The lackeys of the ancien regime made it politically and financially. Dissidents were exhausted, marginalized, slandered.
Things changed, however, after 1996 and especially after 2004. The initiation by Traian Basescu of the Presidential Commission unleashed a national conversation along the lines of historical truth and moral justice. Immediately after President Basescu’s official and unequivocal condemnation of the communist regime as illegitimate and criminal, on December 18, 2006, I called from Bucharest and told Monica Lovinescu what happened. I mentioned the hysterical sabotaging of the president’s speech by extremist, xenophobic, “Romania Mare” Party leader, and former Ceausescu bootlicker, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Her answer was short and encapsulated the meaning of paradigmatic intellectual and moral itinerary dedicated to the defense of liberty, honor, and dignity: “The noise doesn’t matter. Truth was said. We won!”
I would like to mention that there is a most moving book about the relationship between Monica Lovinescu and her mother. Written by Romanian essayist and journalist Doina Jela, it is titled “This Love that Binds Us” and came out from Humanitas Publishing House in Bucharest when Monica Lovinescu was still alive. It should be considered for an English language translation. I regard it as one of the most important testimonies about the survival of love and honor in times of moral turpitude.