|Categories||art magazine, literary magazine, satirical magazine|
|First issue||October 25, 1912|
|Final issue||December 1912|
Simbolul (Romanian for "The Symbol", pronounced [simˈbolul] ) was a Romanian literary and art magazine, published in Bucharest between October and December 1912. Co-founded by writers Tristan Tzara and Ion Vinea, together with visual artist Marcel Janco, while they were all high school students, the journal was a late representative of international Symbolism and the Romanian Symbolist movement. Other figures associated with the magazine were Adrian Maniu, Emil Isac and Claudia Millian, the wife of poet and Tzara's mentor Ion Minulescu. Simbolul also featured illustrations by, among others, Janco and his teacher Iosif Iser.
Despite going through just four issues, Simbolul helped the transition toward avant-garde currents in Romanian literature and art, by publishing anti-establishment satirical pieces, and by popularizing modernist trends such as Fauvism and Cubism. Its successors on the local literary scene were Vinea's moderate magazines Chemarea and Contimporanul , while Tzara and Janco evolved to a more radical stance, taking part in founding the avant-garde trend known as Dada.
Around 1907, soon after the violent quelling of the peasants' revolt, left-wing authors such as Tudor Arghezi, Gala Galaction, Vasile Demetrius and N. D. Cocea began issuing a series of magazines which, in addition to following a radical political line, accommodated a modernist style. This approach contrasted with the more traditional approach favored by the Poporanist group and its Viața Românească journal.Another important factor in the evolution from Symbolism to radical modernism between 1895 and 1920 was the literary and artistic circle formed around controversial politician and author Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești, which grouped together many of Simbolul 's contributors. Starting in 1910, artistic innovation had also manifested itself in art, with the activities of Tinerimea Artistică society and the art chronicles authored by Bogdan-Pitești, Arghezi and Theodor Cornel. Janco, who was at the time Iser's pupil, exhibited his first drawings at the Tinerimea Artistică Youth Salon in April 1912.
The journal built on the legacy of other short-lived literary publications, in particular Revista Celor L'alți and Insula, both of which had been founded by poet Ion Minulescu. A follower of French Symbolist critic Rémy de Gourmont,Minulescu had previously launched radical appeals to innovation, which some critics consider the first expressions of Romanian avant-gardism, and which established connections not just with Symbolism, but also with the Futurism of Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. However, literary critic Paul Cernat notes, Ion Minulescu "did not have the virtues of an ideologue and a theorist." Thus, Simbolul was called by Cernat "a turning plate between the Symbolism of Insula contributors and pre-avant-gardist Post-symbolism."
The three founders of the magazine, which published its six issues after October 25, 1912,were all in their teenage years. Tzara, known then under his birth name Samuel (Samy) Rosenstock and his early pseudonym S. Samyro, was sixteen and probably enrolled at the Sfântul Gheorghe High School. The magazine never published an editorial cassette, but a note in issue 3 specified that "all editing aspects are in the care of Mr. S. Samyro". Tzara and Janco were probably the publication's main financial backers.
Samyro debuted as a poet in Simbolul, contributing Symbolist pieces which, according to Paul Cernat, showed the influence of Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, as well as that of Minulescu.Swedish literary historian Tom Sandqvist notes: "In his own poems in Simbolul, Samuel Rosenstock [...] had quite a distance still to walk before he turned his back on symbolism". In all, Tzara published four lyrical pieces, one in each issue, pieces which Cernat deemed "naively musical", and which other critics found so uncharacteristic that they believed them to be pastiche. The pieces are: Pe râul vieții ("On the River of Life", included in the inaugural issue), Cântec ("Song"), Poveste ("Story") and Dans de fée ("Fairy Dance").
Ion Eugen Iovanaki, who later adopted the name Ion Vinea, was a seventeen-year-old from Giurgiu, who studied at the Saint Sava National College, and who first met Adrian Maniu when the latter was employed as his tutor.According to Cernat, Iovanaki's poems show the influence of Symbolism and its precursor, Parnassianism, being inspired by or adapted from the work of French poets Albert Samain and Charles Baudelaire. They include the first issue's Cetate moartă ("Dead Citadel", with the subtitle "After Albert Samain") and Sonet ("Sonnet"), as well as the English-titled Lewdness, dedicated to an unnamed prostitute, and Mare ("Sea"). The latter was the first in a series dedicated to seascapes and marine art, and referenced Iser's early paintings.
Maniu and Emil Isac took charge of the political and satirical side of Simbolul.Maniu also contributed a series of humorous prose poems, which was later published in his volume Figurile de ceară ("The Wax Figures"); they include the Cântec pentru întuneric ("Song for When It's Dark"), which is a parody of Symbolist leader Alexandru Macedonski's Noapte de mai ("May Night", part of the Nights cycle), replacing its Parnassian metaphors with a seemingly nonsensical imagery, and Minciune trăite ("Experienced Lies"), which literary critic Leon Baconsky praises for its "complete liberty of [word] association and metaphoric combinations". Sandqvist writes that, although influenced by Symbolism, Maniu was by then experimenting with "absurdism", something he believes is characteristic for both Figurile de ceară and the Simbolul story Mirela (in which the male protagonist, the failed writer Brutus, blames all women for his lack of success and is driven to suicide inside a damp room kept warm by his trousers). Vinea's Saint Sava colleague Poldi Chapier, a future journalist, lawyer and promoter of Marcel Janco's art, regularly contributed poetry, considered "rather colorless" by Cernat. Other poets whose work was regularly published by Simbolul included Alfred Hefter-Hidalgo and the brothers Theodor and Alfred Solacolu. The latter were noted for their erotic pieces with subjects such as the physical contact between virgins.
Alongside the regular or frequent contributors, Simbolul attracted established Symbolist writers or other young authors, whose work it only occasionally featured. According to American art historian S. A. Mansbach, the "enthusiasm" displayed by Simbolul's young editors "must have been enormously persuasive", since "their magazine included contributions by some of Romania's most established symbolist poets, writers, and artists." It was here that Macedonski published Ură ("Hatred"), a piece adapted from the Renaissance author Cecco Angioleri. Minulescu, whose work was by then concentrated on romanza-like poems, contributed the first printed version of his Romanța unui rege asiatic ("An Asian King's Romanza"), and his wife Claudia Millian published two poems—Ție, obsesia mea ("To You, My Obsession") and Folozofie banală ("Banal Philosophy"). The latter was a parable about Jesus Christ, showing the Biblical Magi visiting "the greatest symbolist poet of humankind". The other authors who sent poems to be published by Simbolul were N. Davidescu, I. M. Rașcu, Eugeniu Ștefănescu-Est, Constantin T. Stoika, Șerban Bascovici, Alexandru Vițianu, George Stratulat, and Al. T. Stamatiad. An additional contributor was Alexandru Coșbuc, the son of poet George Coșbuc, who published a poetic prose fragment in Simbolul 's first issue; this was one of the few texts published by the young author, who died three years later in a car accident. In his old age, Vinea also recounted that his colleague Jacques G. Costin, who became known as a Surrealist author, was also supposed to publish in Simbolul, but the magazine ceased print before he could submit his works.
Simbolul was illustrated by several graphic artists. In addition to regularly submitted drawings by Janco, noted for their accomplished stylization, it featured sketches by Iser, Maniu and Millian.His cover for the first issue is seen by Sandqvist as especially representative for the magazine's decorative style. Showing a "somewhat awkwardly drawn" female figure, the piece may be, in Sandqvist's interpretation, the artist's attempt to replicate Art Nouveau. The researcher also notes that Janco's later illustrations for Simbolul discarded such influences, adopting the style of Paul Cézanne and influence of Cubism.
Starting with it first reviews in the Romanian press, Simbolul became in cultural polemics with other cultural venues. The magazine's first issue was welcomed by the mainstream cultural journal Noua Revistă Română , which was edited by philosopher Constantin Rădulescu-Motru—the publication nonetheless commented that Simbolul was "not at all Symbolist".Its modernism was viewed with suspicion by the Poporanist Viața Românească , which published two satirical articles directly aimed at Simbolul. The Poporanists' press review alleged that Simbolul was a sign of "alienation".
Simbolul stood out for mocking the pastoral themes of dominant traditionalist or neoromantic literature, either affiliates of the Poporanist faction or those inspired by the defunct magazine Sămănătorul . 's criticism was epigramist Cincinat Pavelescu, an adversary of new trends who was mockingly defined as "if not a Symbolist, then at least a Futurist à outrance[ French for 'to the uttermost']". In its third issue, an unsigned article recommended readers to purchase the book on Cubism authored by French painters Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes, whom the author described as "two of the most outstanding representatives of the new current."Throughout its short existence, the magazine popularized modernist trends and satirized the traditionalist and mainstream authors. Among the other targets of Simbolul
In large part, Emil Isac's articles were answers to criticism from the nationalist press. Born in Austro–Hungarian-ruled Transylvania, Isac had immigrated into the Romanian Kingdom and begun his career as a dramatist with the controversial play Maica cea tânără ("The Young Nun").Accused of blasphemy, the author was also suspected of being Jewish by the antisemitic section of the public opinion, who implied that his name sounded Hebrew. In his Protopopii familiei mele ("My Family's Protopopes"), a piece of avant-garde writing, Isac made reference to this rumor and dismissed it, while ridiculing the entire ethnic nationalist camp. According to Sandqvist, Protopopii familiei mele was specifically aimed at historian, Democratic Nationalist Party leader, and former Sămănătorul editor Nicolae Iorga. In his 1934 work of literary history, Iorga remembered Simbolul as a Macedonski byproduct, and briefly noted Janco's art, as "abundant illustration of ugly naked women."
The collaboration between Tzara, Vinea and Maniu continued for a while after Simbolul was no longer in print. Their style evolved from late Symbolism to adopt a more experimental approach.Sandqvist notes: "With its unconventional prose and its new, subversive poetic images and metaphors, the journal was inspired by the antibourgeois and in many respects bohemian symbolism, while at the same time it contained absurd elements almost totally unfamiliar to the symbolist approach. The lack of national motifs was also remarkable within the framework of a culture in which almost every expression of whatever kind was connected in one way or another to the Romanian nation or to the Romanian people and its historical mission."
Mainly influenced by Fauvism and Imagism, Maniu passed through a stage in World War I when, like Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești, he supported the Central Powers during their occupation of southern Romania.Progressively after the war ended, Maniu broke with radical modernism, eventually rallying with the traditionalist circle formed around Gândirea magazine. Ion Vinea went on to publish articles in N. D. Cocea's papers Facla and Rampa , building a reputation for his modernist literary criticism. In 1915, with Cocea's assistance and the participation of Tristan Tzara and Poldi Chapier, he set up another important modernist magazine, the more radical Chemarea . He and Tzara were vacationing together in Gârceni and the Black Sea coast, writing poems which showed similarities in style, but also differences in radicalism—with Tzara moving closer to the avant-garde than Vinea was. In Tzara's case, Cernat argues, this evolution implied "playful detachment", first evidenced in his known piece Verișoară, fată de pension ("Little Cousin, Boarding School Girl").
In 1915, Tzara and Marcel Janco, together with Janco's brothers Georges and Jules, settled in neutral Switzerland. There, together with Hugo Ball and other Western Europeans, they staged experimental shows at the Cabaret Voltaire, and later took part in founding the anti-establishment, anti-art and radical avant-garde current known as Dada, of which Tzara became an international promoter.In 1922, Vinea became the co-founder of Contimporanul , one of the most influential modernist journals of the interwar period. He was joined in this effort by Marcel Janco, who had parted with Dada and adopted a style inspired by Constructivism, remaining hostile to his former collaborator Tzara. Most of the Simbolul writers became regular or occasional contributors to Vinea's new magazine.
The Simbolul contributors had contrasting attitudes about their 1912 debut. During the 1930s, Janco recalled: "We were the founders of the Simbolul review, the pioneers of a revolutionary era in Romanian art."He also noted that the magazine had struggled to liberate the literary scene from conventions, by means of "unveilings, philosophy and passion". Contrarily, the aging Tristan Tzara felt insecure about the quality of his literary contributions to his poems, and, in a letter to his Romanian editor and Surrealist writer Sașa Pană, asked for them not to be republished as a volume.
Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist. Also active as a journalist, playwright, literary and art critic, composer and film director, he was known best for being one of the founders and central figures of the anti-establishment Dada movement. Under the influence of Adrian Maniu, the adolescent Tzara became interested in Symbolism and co-founded the magazine Simbolul with Ion Vinea and painter Marcel Janco.
Marcel Janco was a Romanian and Israeli visual artist, architect and art theorist. He was the co-inventor of Dadaism and a leading exponent of Constructivism in Eastern Europe. In the 1910s, he co-edited, with Ion Vinea and Tristan Tzara, the Romanian art magazine Simbolul. Janco was a practitioner of Art Nouveau, Futurism and Expressionism before contributing his painting and stage design to Tzara's literary Dadaism. He parted with Dada in 1919, when he and painter Hans Arp founded a Constructivist circle, Das Neue Leben.
Alexandru Macedonski was a Romanian poet, novelist, dramatist and literary critic, known especially for having promoted French Symbolism in his native country, and for leading the Romanian Symbolist movement during its early decades. A forerunner of local modernist literature, he is the first local author to have used free verse, and claimed by some to have been the first in modern European literature. Within the framework of Romanian literature, Macedonski is seen by critics as second only to national poet Mihai Eminescu; as leader of a cosmopolitan and aestheticist trend formed around his Literatorul journal, he was diametrically opposed to the inward-looking traditionalism of Eminescu and his school.
Benjamin Fondane or Benjamin Fundoianu was a Romanian and French poet, critic and existentialist philosopher, also noted for his work in film and theater. Known from his Romanian youth as a Symbolist poet and columnist, he alternated Neoromantic and Expressionist themes with echoes from Tudor Arghezi, and dedicated several poetic cycles to the rural life of his native Moldavia. Fondane, who was of Jewish Romanian extraction and a nephew of Jewish intellectuals Elias and Moses Schwartzfeld, participated in both minority secular Jewish culture and mainstream Romanian culture. During and after World War I, he was active as a cultural critic, avant-garde promoter and, with his brother-in-law Armand Pascal, manager of the theatrical troupe Insula.
Urmuz was a Romanian writer, lawyer and civil servant, who became a cult hero in Romania's avant-garde scene. His scattered work, consisting of absurdist short prose and poetry, opened a new genre in Romanian letters and humor, and captured the imagination of modernists for several generations. Urmuz's BizarrePages were largely independent of European modernism, even though some may have been triggered by Futurism; their valorization of nonsense verse, black comedy, nihilistic tendencies and exploration into the unconscious mind have repeatedly been cited as influential for the development of Dadaism and the Theatre of the Absurd. Individual pieces such as "The Funnel and Stamate", "Ismaïl and Turnavitu", "Algazy & Grummer" or "The Fuchsiad" are parody fragments, dealing with monstrous and shapeshifting creatures in mundane settings, and announcing techniques later taken up by Surrealism.
Contimporanul was a Romanian avant-garde literary and art magazine, published in Bucharest between June 1922 and 1932. Edited by Ion Vinea, Contimporanul was prolific in the area of art criticism, dedicating entire issues to modern art phenomena, and organizing the Bucharest International Modern Art Exhibit in December 1924.
Ion Minulescu was a Romanian avant-garde poet, novelist, short story writer, journalist, literary critic, and playwright. Often publishing his works under the pseudonyms I. M. Nirvan and Koh-i-Noor, he journeyed to Paris, where he was heavily influenced by the growing Symbolist movement and Parisian Bohemianism. A herald of Romania's own Symbolist movement, he had a major influence on local modernist literature, and was among the first local poets to use free verse.
Perpessicius was a Romanian literary historian and critic, poet, essayist and fiction writer. One of the prominent literary chroniclers of the Romanian interwar, he stood apart in his generation for having thrown his support behind the modernist and avant-garde currents of Romanian literature. As a theorist, Perpessicius merged the tenets of Symbolism with the pragmatic conservative principles of the 19th century Junimea society, but was much-criticized over perceptions that, in the name of aesthetic relativism, he tolerated literary failure. Also known as an anthologist, biographer, museologist, folklorist and book publisher, he was, together with George Călinescu, one of his generation's best-known researchers to have focused on the work of Junimist author and since-acknowledged national poet Mihai Eminescu. Much of Perpessicius' career was dedicated to collecting, structuring and interpreting Eminescu's texts, resulting in an authoritative edition of Eminescu's writings, the 17-volume Opere ("Works").
Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești was a Romanian Symbolist poet, essayist, and art and literary critic, who was also known as a journalist and left-wing political agitator. A wealthy landowner, he invested his fortune in patronage and art collecting, becoming one of the main local promoters of modern art, and a sponsor of the Romanian Symbolist movement. Together with other Post-Impressionist and Symbolist cultural figures, Bogdan-Pitești established Societatea Ileana, which was one of the first Romanian associations dedicated to promoting the avant-garde and independent art. He was also noted for his friendship with the writers Joris-Karl Huysmans, Alexandru Macedonski, Tudor Arghezi and Mateiu Caragiale, as well as for sponsoring, among others, the painters Ștefan Luchian, Constantin Artachino and Nicolae Vermont. In addition to his literary and political activities, Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești was himself a painter and graphic artist.
Sămănătorul or Semănătorul was a literary and political magazine published in Romania between 1901 and 1910. Founded by poets Alexandru Vlahuță and George Coșbuc, it is primarily remembered as a tribune for early 20th century traditionalism, neoromanticism and ethnic nationalism. The magazine's ideology, commonly known as Sămănătorism or Semănătorism, was articulated after 1905, when historian and literary theorist Nicolae Iorga became editor in chief. While its populism, critique of capitalism and emphasis on peasant society separated it from other conservative groups, Sămănătorul shared views with its main conservative predecessor, the Junimea society, particularly in expressing reserve toward Westernization. In parallel, its right-wing agenda made it stand in contrast to the Poporanists, a Romanian populist faction whose socialist-inspired ideology also opposed rapid urbanization, but there was a significant overlap in membership between the two groups. Sămănătorul's relationship with the dominant National Liberal Party was equally ambiguous, ranging from an alliance between Sămănătorul and National Liberal politician Spiru Haret to Iorga's explicit condemnation of 20th century Romanian liberalism.
Emil Isac was an Austro-Hungarian-born Romanian poet, dramatist, short story writer and critic. Noted as one of the pioneers of Symbolism and modernist literature in his native region of Transylvania, he was in tandem one of the leading young voices of the Symbolist movement in the neighboring Kingdom of Romania. Moving from prose poems with cosmopolitan traits, fusing Neo-romantic subjects with modernist free verse, he later created a lyrical discourse in the line of Social Realism. Isac was likewise known for criticizing traditionalist and nationalist trends in local literature, but, by the end of World War I, opened his own poetry to various traditionalist influences.
D. Iacobescu or Dumitru Iacobescu was a Romanian Symbolist poet. His literary activity only lasted about two years, between his high school graduation and his death from tuberculosis, but made him a critically acclaimed presence inside Romania's Symbolist movement. Much of Iacobescu's work remained unpublished during his lifetime, and survived as autographed notebooks. Once rediscovered and published some twenty years after his death, it brought him posthumous recognition as a writer of talent, but one whose introversion and nostalgia ran contrary to the main currents in modernism.
N. D. Cocea was a Romanian journalist, novelist, critic and left-wing political activist, known as a major but controversial figure in the field of political satire. The founder of many newspapers and magazines, including Viața Socială, Rampa, Facla and Chemarea, collaborating with writer friends such as Tudor Arghezi, Gala Galaction and Ion Vinea, he fostered and directed the development of early modernist literature in Romania. Cocea later made his name as a republican and anticlerical agitator, was arrested as an instigator during the 1907 peasant revolt, and played a leading role in regrouping the scattered socialist clubs. His allegiances however switched between parties: during World War I, he supported the Entente Powers and, as a personal witness of the October Revolution, the government of Soviet Russia, before returning home as a communist.
The Symbolist movement in Romania, active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, marked the development of Romanian culture in both literature and visual arts. Bringing the assimilation of France's Symbolism, Decadence and Parnassianism, it promoted a distinctly urban culture, characterized by cosmopolitanism, Francophilia and endorsement of Westernization, and was generally opposed to either rural themes or patriotic displays in art. Like its Western European counterparts, the movement stood for idealism, sentimentalism or exoticism, alongside a noted interest in spirituality and esotericism, covering on its own the ground between local Romanticism and the emerging modernism of the fin de siècle. Despite such unifying traits, Romanian Symbolism was an eclectic, factionalized and often self-contradictory current.
Ion Theodorescu-Sion was a Romanian painter and draftsman, known for his contributions to modern art and especially for his traditionalist, primitivist, handicraft-inspired and Christian painting. Trained in academic art, initially an Impressionist, he dabbled in various modern styles in the years before World War I. Theodorescu-Sion's palette was interchangeably post-Impressionist, Divisionist, Realist, Symbolist, Synthetist, Fauve or Cubist, but his creation had one major ideological focus: depicting peasant life in its natural setting. In time, Sion contributed to the generational goal of creating a specifically Romanian modern art, located at the intersection of folk tradition, primitivist tendencies borrowed from the West, and 20th-century agrarian politics.
Al. T. Stamatiad was a Romanian Symbolist poet, short story writer, and dramatist. A late arrival on the local Symbolist scene, he was primarily active as a literary promoter and, in 1918, editor of Literatorul review. Discovered and praised by Alexandru Macedonski and Ion Minulescu, he combined his presence in radical Symbolist circles with stints on more culturally conservative ones, crossing between the extremes of Romanian literature. By 1911, he had established himself in cultural and social circles as an exotic and vocal, sometimes violent, cultural debater.
I. M. Rașcu was a Romanian poet of Symbolist verse, cultural promoter, comparatist, and schoolteacher. He is remembered for his participation in the Romanian Symbolist movement: a founder and co-editor, with Alfred Hefter-Hidalgo, of Versuri și Proză magazine, he became one of the leading Symbolist figures in his native city of Iași before 1914. In later years, he lived more discreetly as a scholar and educationist, earning both praise and opprobrium for his sternness and erudition.
Ion Vinea was a Romanian poet, novelist, journalist, literary theorist, and political figure. He became active on the modernist scene during his teens—his poetic work being always indebted to the Symbolist movement—and first founded, with Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco, the review Simbolul. The more conservative Vinea drifted apart from them as they rose to international fame with the Dada artistic experiment, being instead affiliated with left-wing counterculture in World War I Romania. With N. D. Cocea, Vinea edited the socialist Chemarea, but returned to the international avant-garde in 1923–1924, an affiliate of Constructivism, Futurism, and, marginally, Surrealism.
Eugeniu Ștefănescu-Est was a Romanian poet, prose writer and visual artist, professionally active as a lawyer. He belonged to the local Symbolist movement from ca. 1900, when he also became an associate and disciple of Ion Minulescu. Before Worled War I, while he took up jobs as a magistrate, his synaesthesic and extrovert lyrical pieces earned attention, while his cartoons were taken up in magazines such as L'Assiette au Beurre and Furnica. He abandoned the verse genre by the 1920s, earning attention as the author of fairy tales, and then also trying his hand as a novelist. Eventually losing his eyesight, Ștefănescu-Est spent the last thirty years of his life in anonymity, looked after by his daughter.
Constantin Gheorghe Banu was a Romanian writer, journalist and politician, who served as Arts and Religious Affairs Minister in 1922–1923. He is remembered in literary history as the founder of Flacăra review, which he published in two editions, alongside Petre Locusteanu, Ion Pillat, Adrian Maniu, and, later, Vintilă Russu-Șirianu. A best-selling magazine for its time, it functioned as a launching pad for several writers of the Romanian Symbolist movement.