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The centenary of Monica Lovinescu’s birth

Monica Lovinescu was one of the strongest anti-communist voices abroad, during communism.

The centenary of Monica Lovinescu’s birth
The centenary of Monica Lovinescu’s birth

, 20.11.2023, 14:00


There is no doubt that Radio Free Europe was the most important source of free information, analysis and synthesis of the political, economic and cultural situation of Romania in the second half of the 20th century. The team of the Romanian service of Radio Free Europe was made up of prominent representatives of Romanian radio journalism, such as Monica Lovinescu, Noel Bernard, Mircea Carp, Vlad Georgescu, Neculai Constantin Munteanu and others.



Monica Lovinescu, whose birth centenary was marked on November 19, is one of the strongest voices of anti-communist and anti-fascist Romania in exile, between 1945 and 1989. She was born in Bucharest as the daughter of the literary critic Eugen Lovinescu and the French teacher Ecaterina Bălăciou, the latter being killed in detention by the communist regime. A journalist and literary critic herself, Monica Lovinescu became an respected name in the field, just like her father. In 1947, at the age of 24, she emigrated to France where, together with her husband Virgil Ierunca, she created the most attractive cultural-political shows of Radio Free Europe. Her unmistakable voice, moral principles and impeccable professional ethics as well as her very pertinent observations and criticisms made her one of the stars of the radio station.



Radio Romania’s Oral History Center had the opportunity to interview Monica Lovinescu in 1998. At that time, she spoke about the Paris office of Radio Free Europe, established in the early 1960s, the place where the famous shows that captured the Romanians’ attention were produced.



Monica Lovinescu: “We were doing from here what other countries did not generally do, we were unique, the Romanian case was unique. We would broadcast my 1-hour show “Theses and Antitheses in Paris”, Virgil Ieruncas 40-minute show “Povestea vorbei” and twice the 20-minute programme “Actualitatea Romaneasca” , an update on culture from the country. So we occupied the studio for a whole day and had a number of broadcast hours that no other nation had.”



Monica Lovinescu was a passionate radio journalist. The radio studio was equipped with proper technique, but in the Lovinescu – Ierunca home there was a tape recorder on which they recorded the texts and only went to the studio to mix them with music. Monica Lovinescu also spoke about the sources of information about Romania, considering the difficulties that the free press had due to the communist regime in Bucharest. Monica Lovinescu: “We used to document the situation in Romania in two ways. Through the newspapers, on the one hand, as subscribers to the main newspapers, made to Virgil Ierunca’s name and which were sent to a post office box so we wouldnt give out our home address. Also, we used to meet with at least four or five writers a month. We called them “clandestines”, that is, no Romanian writer knew that we were also seeing another writer. They knew we were seeing other writers, but didnt know who exactly. We kept this secret so we wouldnt expose them. So we knew the literary life and the big political problems from the inside.”



An universal spirit, Monica Lovinescu did not speak, in her shows, only about Romania. Monica Lovinescu: “Theses and Antitheses in Paris was not only about Romanian literature, it was also about what was happening in Paris. Not so much from a French point of view, but rather as a weekly culture update. Paris was a kind of crossroads where everything related to the avant-garde and the most interesting exchange of ideas took place. The show was also about the achievements of some Romanians abroad, such as filmaker Lucian Pintilie, writers Mircea Eliade and Eugen Ionescu. They were all at this microphone and shows were made with them and about them.”



Such an uncomfortable journalist could not leave the Bucharest regime indifferent, hence the decision to silence Monica Lovinescu. First, the regime began a smear campaign in the media. Then it turned to physical aggression.



Monica Lovinescu: “In November 1977, the day before Paul Gomas arrival in Paris, on November 18 to be exact, two Palestinians were waiting for me. They asked me to enter the house because they had a message for me. It seemed suspicious to me because they called me “Madam Monica” and here “madam” attached to the first name is something very familiar, it is not used. This is how I realized it was a trap and didnt let them in. So they started hitting me in the head. I fell, I screamed, I fainted, someone came from the street, they ran away. The one who jumped to my aid ran after them, but could not find them. I had a broken nose and a swollen face and arm, but no major injuries.”


Monica Lovinescu continued, even after 1989, to speak to Romanians about freedom, democracy, principles, history until her death in 2008. (EE)

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