O veste minunata pentru prietenii societatii deschise


Great news for the friends of the open society! Congrats to Michael Ignatieff, influential human rights scholar and admirable public intellectual: “Farewell to @Harvard @Kennedy_School. From September 1, I will be President & Rector of Central European University in Budapest @CEUHungary.” One of my first book reviews in English came out in the 1980s in the journal “Orbis” and praised Michael Ignatieff’s wonderful “Russian Album.” In the 1990s, I used in my classes his film and book “Blood and Belonging,” one of the finest analyses of the Yugoslav debacle.



I read with an immense interest his biography of Isaiah Berlin,. In the pages of the NYRB, Michael has published seminal essays, including the insightfully prescient ones, last year, on the new authoritarian wave. I met him in Amsterdam a few years ago when we were on the same panel on nationalism as at a conference organized by Rob Riemen, the indefatigable director of the Nexus Institute. We talked about civil society’s metamorphoses in post-communist Europe (he had published an utterly thoughtful review of Ernest Gellner’s “Conditions of Liberty”). For those who have not visted CEU, let ma say that there is, in addition to a “Popper Room,” a “Gellner Room,” as well.

As one who has published several volumes with CEU Press, who has frequently lectured there, participated in doctoral committees, and co-organized a major conference in 1999 to explore the revolutions of 1989 and their aftermath, I am particularly pleased and happy for Michael Ignatieff and for entire CEU community, professors, library staff, students and alumni!

Mario Vargas Llosa la 80 de ani


“Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than this truth that invariably appears in great literature: that men and women of all nations and places are essentially equal, and only injustice sows among them discrimination, fear, and exploitation.”–Mario Vargas Llosa


In memoria lui Mircea Ivanescu: Despre Hannah Arendt, Sf Augustin si problema libertatii


Lecturi esentiale:”Originile totalitarismului” de Hannah Arendt, traducere din engleza de Mircea Ivanescu si Ion Dur, in colectia “Istorie contemporana” pe care o coordonez la Humanitas impreuna cu Cristian Vasile. Aceasta este cartea de baza daca vrem sa intelegem natura dominatiei totalitare, raportul dintre ideologie si teroare, problema Raului radical, afinitatile si convergentele dintre cele doua incarnari ale Diavolului in Istorie, comunismul si fascismul.

In pofida legitimului pesimism generat de experientele infernale ale veacului XX, cartea se incheie cu o adiere de speranta. Hannah Arendt, care si-a sustinut doctoratul cu Karl Jaspers despre conceptul iubirii la Sf Augustin, reia, in 1952, ideea ca “Beginning is the supreme capacity of man . . . initium ut esset homo creatus est” ‘that a beginning be made man was created,’ said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”, odata cu venirea pe lume a fiecarui om, se mai naste o data sansa libertatii (citez din memorie). Pe 26 martie 2016, marele poet Mircea Ivanescu, care a trait in doua totalitarisme si le-a detestat in egala masura, ar fi implinit 85 de ani…

Understanding Castro-Guevarism: In Memory of Carlos Rangel


In the picture below, Borges, Carlos Rangel, Sofia Imber: I owe my understanding of Castro-Guevarism to the great Venezuelan political thinker and commentator, Carlos Rangel. Together with his wife, Sofia Imber (my father’s fist cousin), Carlos ran for many years one of the most influential talk shows in Latin America, “Buenos dias, Venezuela.” His book, “Del buen salvaje al buen revoluticonario” is a classic of lucid interpretation of the love-hate relationship between Latin America and the giant in the North. Sofia founded the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas which carried her name until Hugo Chavez decided to drop it off as a retatiation against her staunch criticisms of his demagogic policies, including support for Castro, PLO, Iranian theocrats etc Born in 1929, Carlos passed away in 1988. Sofia is still alive and, at over 90, active in the struggle for democracy. The photo is from the Sofia Imber collection donated to the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas.


World Poetry Day: In Memory of Heberto Padilla


On the World Poetry Day, let me pay tribute to a poet who defended the honor of the Cuban letters in one of the world’s worst despotisms. Blessed be the memory of Heberto Padilla (Born: January 20, 1932, Consolación del Sur, Cuba; Died: September 25, 2000, Auburn, Alabama). As a reviewer in TLS memorably put it: “All Padilla’s qualities–irritability, skepticism, broad reading, intellectual curiosity, restlessness and a suicidal outspokenness–were bound to exasperate monomaniacs like Fidel and Raul Castro.”

Now I am determined to forgive everything
In order to cleanse my tired heart,
Open it only to love’s fatigue.
And so, those who are directly at fault
For my furies, the determined craftsmen of my sorrows
Are declared innocent once I finish this poem.
(“Sorrow and Forgiveness”)


En la foto estamos Heberto Padilla, Roque Dalton y yo (Guillermo R. Rivera). El mar que ves detrás es el de Varadero. Es febrero de 1967 y estamos conmemorando el centenario de Rubén Darío, con el auspicio de Casa de las Américas. Heberto tiene 34 años, Roque 31 y yo 23. No tenemos ni idea de lo que nos espera.



Banci, SRI si drepturile omului


Banks and police, including intelligence services, are part of our lives, whether we like it or not. But they need to be monitored, as anyone who saw the movie “Big Short” realizes. Left alone, they can create havoc. Banks have a Gargantuan appetite for enrichment, police entities have a surveillance instinct that can reach dangerous proportions. In 2001, Adam Michnik published his seminal article “The Montesinos Virus”, translated by Elzbieta Matynia, in the journal “Social Reseach.” The argument is clear: when the secret police amasses inordinate powers, a democratic order is in danger. I am not going to engage in polemics with those who resent Michnik. It’s their right, as it is mine to appreciate him, even when we see some things differently. The Peruvian experience, my friends, is a good warning about the risks associated with too much unchecked power granted to intelligence services. Yes, I know, in order to get information, one needs thse eavesdroppings etc In other words, we fight the crooks with their own methods. Forgive me, I can’t endorse such a vision, and even less, such practices. Some people say that the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) is not the Securitate. Of course it is not. But all secret services have an irepressible desire to overstep their rights and boundaries. And this desire must be held in check. I respect the Constitutional Court and I would have expected others to do the same…


¡Ay Carmela!


 Spain, 1938, International Brigades Hospital, left, my father, born in Soroca, Bessarabia, then part of the Russian Empire, in February 1913, whose right arm was amputated live, without anesthesia, during the battle on the river Ebro, the fiercest battle in an atrociuos war. Next to him, my mother., Hermina Marcusohn, born in Botosani in 1915, a Medical School student in Bucharest and nurse at the Vic hospital, in front, my mother’s closest friend Sanda Sauvard, later to be deported to Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. At the right, Maurice Sauvard, a French worker from Toulouse, wounded in the same battle. Sanda (Sara) and Maurice got married soon thereafter. They both fought in the maquis. He died in 1946. She returned to Romania, never got remarried. Growing up in an atheistic Jewish family, I didn’t have godparents. But, vicariously, she was my godmother.

Whenever I needed something, money, advice, psychological support etc, I knew aunt Sanda was there for me. On her right arm I first saw the tatoo number. The head of Vic hospital was doctor Wilhelm Glaser. His daughter, Erica, was later adopted by Noel Field. Arrested in East Berlin, she was sentenced to death, then deported to the Gulag.We visited Vic, Marius and me, in June 2015. No one remembers that, once upon a time, this was a vibrantly cosmopolitan place, with hundreds of people speaking all the languages of the earth. Memory for me, perhaps, post-memory for Marius. From the Spanish Civil war to the Cold War. Mark Kramer, I did not forget about my reviews for JCWS, they will arrive soon


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