Eliade, Mircea 1907–
Known primarily as an eminent historian of religions, Eliade was born in Rumania but now lives in the United States. In addition to numerous books and treatises on religious history, philosophy, yoga, and mysticism, he has written several well-respected novels of ideas. According to Claude Mauriac, Eliade is torn between fantasy and scholarship; however, a concern with contours of time and space and the effect of myth on each unifies his scholarly and creative writings. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 65-68, rev. ed.)
Mircea Eliade's novel Forêt Interdite [The Forbidden Forest], whose mythic signification is evident,… belongs to the current inspired by the depth psychology of Jung. Eliade's book can be defined as the meditation of a man upon the thousand-year history of his people, with all the risks and calamities that this implies. (p. 390)
I find it logical to relate [his] "prohibited forest," the symbol of a definitive realization in the beyond, in what Eliade himself called in another novel "the celestial marriage," to the Jungian "Mandala." If in effect we conceive the human drama, in general, as the search for equilibrium, according to a process of individualization, it is evident that "to dream in the forest" means that one has arrived at interior equilibrium, at a final phase in a process of psychological healing. And healing here means salvation, in the most spiritual sense possible. "Santé" and "salut," in French, imply the same finality. And it seems important to me to indicate, at the end of these notes concerning Eliade's novel, that the "prohibited forest," the collective myth of Romanian history, the image of a general salvation …, represents here a perfect psychic ideal, the visible form of a goal reached in the inner self of the two personages in the novel.
These aspects of Eliade's novel place it in a privileged position with respect to the writing of contemporary novels because it has...
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[The] literary work of Mircea Eliade presents itself to us open to a global understanding, through the well-armed and lucid critical spirit of its author. We misjudge the creative personality of this Romanian author if we place the accent exclusively on his vast and solid scientific work. The fundamental elements of his complex subject in the field of scholarship, the search for and comprehension of homo religiosus, are present in his literary creation: Mythos, Eros, Thanatos, and Logos are the fundamental resolutions of his literary themes. They are themes which are parallel to Eliade's scientific investigations as a historian of religions; the predominant accent, however, is never philosophical or erudite, but rather literary and artistic. His literary creativity goes pari passu with his scientific erudition, and both, in a certain way, reflect the preoccupation of those moments which correspond to the grasping of reality. It is not necessary to seek in one of the forms the means for completing the other; rather, the search should be for a modality which expresses in another way the spiritual disquiet of the author in search of an expressive, creative plenitude.
For that reason we believe that Eliade's literary work … offers some profiles of the whole, independently including the themes that are common to the themes of his work as philosopher and essayist and leaving us free from any dogmatic and theoretical freight...
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I think it will be evident to any attentive reader [of Tales of the Occult] that I wanted to relate some yogic techniques, and particularly yogic folklore, to a series of events narrated in the literary genre of a mystery story. In both novelettes ["The Secret of Dr. Honigberger" and "Nights at Serampore"] a number of important personages are real. (p. ix)
However, throughout these two tales I have carefully introduced a number of imaginary details, in order to awaken in any cautious reader suspicion concerning the authenticity of the yogic "secrets." For instance, at a certain moment the life of Dr. Honigberger is radically mythologized…. Likewise, the region around Serampore is described in such a way as to reveal its status as a mythical geography. The same observation is pertinent with regard to certain of the yogic techniques depicted: some descriptions correspond to real experiences, but others reflect more directly yogic folklore. As a matter of fact, this mélange of reality and fiction is admirably suited to the writer's central conception of "camouflage" as a dialectical moment…. But in these two stories "camouflage" is used in a paradoxical manner, for the reader has no means to decide whether the "reality" is hidden in "fiction," or the other way around, because both processes are intermingled. (pp. ix-x)
I knowingly utilized a number of clichés, for my ambition was to follow as closely...
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Charles S. J. White
One feels confident that additional translations … of Eliade's literary oeuvre will be recognized as imperative in the English speaking world for understanding the relationship between the scientific and artistic motivations of the man who has in a special way reopened access for modern sensibility to the mythic and the religious. (p. 717)
As [examples of the genre littérature fantastique], they are excellent stories, affording moments of delicious horripilation. Particularly, "The Secret of Dr. Honigberger" builds to a climax in which plot, mood and time are handled with perfect command. At the end we are cast into doubt as to the true nature of the experience of the narrator. Although the main lines of Dr. Zerlendi's experiments with yoga seem clear enough and their recapitulation of the discoveries of "Dr. Johann Honigberger, the Transylvanian German doctor from Brashow" well established, the sudden involution of time and the "dialectic of camouflage" induce feelings of aesthetic enjoyment that would not otherwise obtain. Moreover, the failure to resolve the mystery of Dr. Zerlendi's disappearance is pleasurable rather than unsatisfying. "Nights at Serampore" deals with related themes but the setting is India itself rather than Bucharest. The author's skill is here applied to the creation of an atmosphere that envelops the sound, sight and scent of Calcutta…. (pp. 717-18)
Apart from their...
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Auf der Mântuleasa-Strasse is a genuine "fantastic story" in the best hair-raising tradition; but the incredible, the bizarre, is firmly supported here by the ingenious frame of acute actuality: the reality of terror—that ingredient of our times—the reality of the human being under lock and key in a police state….
Is Auf der Mântuleasa-Strasse a satire of the police state? A roman à clef? In the brutality of the inquisitors, contrasting to the hallucinatory beauty of that old human obsession, is there a fable of man annihilated by his fellow man? Or is the hero only a seedy old teacher caught in the clutches of a savage machinery? The story does not want to answer directly but remains mysterious in its multifaceted brilliance, locked in its singular charm.
Marguerite Dorian, "Romanian: 'Auf der Mântuleasa-Strasse'," in Books Abroad (copyright 1975 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 49, No. 1, Winter, 1975, p. 108.
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Delusional thought processes leading to bizarre conduct and scenes of pathological suspicion are described with Voltairean irony [in Die Pelerine (The Cape)]. There are plenty of conversational acids, and the author prodigally provides for the reader's delectation absurd dialogues that call to mind Samarakis's The Flaw. The accent is on suspense rather than violence and shows Eliade's technique at its most wizardly. His writing is fast, intelligent and wryly funny. He has earlier proved his mastery of the craft of creating a suspense-laden plot that offers wider perspectives than one generally finds in a political thriller. Die Pelerine is a shocker. (p. 431)
Nicholas Catanoy, "Romanian: 'Die Pelerine'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1977 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 51, No. 3, Summer, 1977, pp. 430-31.
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E. S. Turner
[No Souvenirs: Journal 1957–1969] is packed with the jottings of an overflowing mind: dreams too good to lose; insights to be refined later; sad thoughts on the degeneracy of orientalists….
The journal can be hard going. As a travelogue it disappoints, but as a record of the cerebral life in the early jet age it has its niche. We leave the professor grappling with Chicago hippies, persuading himself that the uninhibited sexuality they praise is 'part of the (unconscious) process of the rediscovery of the sacredness of life.' By now he may know whether he was right.
E. S. Turner, "Vagaries" (© British Broadcasting Corp. 1978; reprinted by permission of E. S. Turner), in The Listener, Vol. 99, No. 2543, January 19, 1978, p. 91.∗
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Obviously there is far too much material [in Die drei Grazien (The Three Graces)] for a conventional story. As was the case in most of his other stories or novels …, Eliade offers very little romanesque plotting. But as always, the real subject of his writing is the flow of his scientific erudition. Die drei Grazien is so deeply plunged in thought that, despite attractive characters and immaculately executed scenes, it all often seems less like a story than one of the author's admirable essays.
Nicholas Catanoy, "Romanian: 'Die drei Grazien'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1978 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 52, No. 4, Autumn, 1978, p. 614.
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In Der Hundertjährige (The Centogenarian), which deals with the problem of rejuvenation and also offers a final speculation on the Übermensch, Mircea Eliade … again balances technical expertise with mythological thinking. Unlike his other tales, centrifuges of virtuosity, Der Hundertjährige is tightly structured, with a beginning, a middle and a sudden, inevitable end. His new character Dominic has less definition but more bulk. Eliade pursues his doddering prey with tiny twists of plot, through the use of Irish legends and Etruscan myths. All have been dragged entertainingly into the book. Ultimately, though, Eliade's work is a tale of ideas: sacred and profane, political and religious. It is a book that Superman would have loved—and that anyone might admire, because Eliade is the Borges of science fiction.
Nicholas Catanoy, "Romanian: 'Der Hundertjährige'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1980 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 54, No. 1, Winter, 1980, p. 93.
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