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Hailed as one of the most important portrayals of the dark years of Nazism, this powerful chronicle by the Romanian Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian offers a lucid and finely shaded analysis of erotic and social life, a Jew’s diary, a reader’s notebook, a music-lover’s journal. Despite the pressure of hatred and horror in the “huge anti-Semitic factory” that was Romania in the years of World War II, his writing maintains the grace of its perceptive and luminous intelligence. The legacy of a journalist, novelist, and playwright, Sebastian’s Journal stands as one of the most important human and literary documents of the climate that preceded the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.
When first published in Romania in 1996, Sebastian's journal from the period of Romania's fascist past met a stormy reception, for Romania was none too eager to explore anew its dark years of dictatorship and Nazism. Sebastian's journal, much like Victor Klemperer's recently celebrated diaries from Nazi Germany, stands as an extraordinary document of daily life as fascist powers gained control in the years before and during WWII. Sebastian, a Jewish writer of fiction and literary criticism, was active in Bucharest intellectual society. It was good fortune and connections that saved him from deportation (he continued to teach during the war); death came when he was hit by a truck in May 1945. Sebastian's journal offers a fascinating look at the political and intellectual life of Romania in the decade 1935--1944, from the literary scene in which he was so active to the musical tastes of himself and his friends, to the critical political shift from democratic sympathies to dictatorship and fascism. Interwoven with the panoramic view of society at large are the details of the author's stormy personal life, spiced by countless unsatisfying love affairs and close friendships with Romania's leading intellectualsDamong them Mircea Eliade and E.M. Cioran. Supported by an excellent introduction by Radu Ioanid and an adept translation, Sebastian's Journal represents an important source for understanding the dynamics of Romanian intellectual society in the 1930s and 1940s. This is being published in association with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and it should appeal to a wide readership interested in learning more about life in Europe before and during WWII. First serial to the New Yorker.