Marin Sorescu

Marin Sorescu
Minister of Culture of Romania
In office
25 November 1993 – 5 May 1995
Prime MinisterNicolae Văcăroiu
Preceded byPetre Sălcudeanu
Succeeded byViorel Mărginean
Personal details
Born(1936-02-29)29 February 1936
Bulzești, Dolj County, Kingdom of Romania
Died8 December 1996(1996-12-08) (aged 60) (Myocardial infarction)
Bucharest, Romania
Political partyIndependent politician
EducationFaculty of Letters, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University (1955–1960)
AwardsHerder Prize (1991)

Marin Sorescu (Romanian pronunciation: [maˈrin soˈresku] ; 29 February 1936 – 8 December 1996) was a Romanian poet, playwright, and novelist.

His works were translated into more than 20 countries, and the total number of his books that were published abroad rises up to 60 books. He has also been known for his painting, and he opened many art exhibits in Romania and abroad. He occupied the position of Minister of Culture within the Nicolae Văcăroiu Cabinet, without being a member of any political party, after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 (from 25 November 1993 to 5 May 1995).


Born to a family of farmworkers in Bulzești, Dolj County, Sorescu graduated from the primary school in his home village. After that he went to the Frații Buzești High School in Craiova, after which he was transferred to the Predeal Military School. His final education was at the University of Iași, where, in 1960, he graduated with a degree in modern languages. His first book, a collection of parodies in 1964 entitled Singur printre poeți ("Alone Among Poets"), was widely discussed. He himself called them "sarcastic and awkward". Ten volumes of poetry and prose followed, having a very rapid ascension in the world of literary, as a poet, novelist, playwright, essayist. He grew so popular that his readings were held in football stadiums. In 1971, he was a resident of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

On his poetry, Sorescu said, with characteristic irony: "Just as I can't give up smoking because I don't smoke, I can't give up writing because I have no talent." He often claimed a sense of alienation, saying "the spoken word is a crossed frontier. By the act of saying something, I fail to say many other things." On censorship, he said, after his last, post-1989 Revolution volumes were delayed, "we have won our freedom, so I mustn't complain. O censors, where are you now?"

Sorescu's collection of Censored Poems comprised poems which could not be published until after the Nicolae Ceaușescu Communist dictatorship; of these, the best known is House under surveillance.

Iona, the play written by Marin Sorescu and first published in 1968 is widely considered a true masterpiece. The biblical myth says the prophet Iona (Jonah) was swallowed by a whale. In his play, Sorescu takes the story further and imagines what happens to Iona while he was inside the whale. "The most terrible part of the play is when Iona loses his echo", writes Sorescu in the foreword of this play. "Iona was alone, but his echo was whole. He shouted: Io-na, and his echo answered: Io-na. Then, it remained just half of the echo. He shouted Io-na, but all he could hear was Io. Io, in some ancient language, means me". Iona was played to a full house in Bucharest in 1969, but the tragedy was quickly withdrawn, because its content was considered too controversial.

Ill with cirrhosis and hepatitis, he died from a heart attack at the Elias Hospital [ro] in Bucharest, aged 60.

Collections of Sorescu in English translation

  • Marin Sorescu- Selected Poems (from 6 collections, 1965-73), translated Michael Hamburger (Bloodaxe, 1983) ISBN 0-906427-48-7
  • The Biggest Egg in the World, translated by Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney &c., ed. Edna Longley (Bloodaxe, 1987)
  • Hands Behind My Back: Selected Poems, trans. Gabriela Dragnea, Adriana Varga, & Stuart Friebert (Oberlin College Press, 1991). ISBN 0-932440-58-4
  • Censored Poems, translated John Hartley Williams & Hilde Ottschofski (Bloodaxe, 2001)
  • The Bridge (Poems written by Sorescu on his death bed), translated Adam J Sorkin & Lidia Vianu (Bloodaxe, 2004)

Sorescu in English language anthologies

  • An Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (contains 22 poems by Sorescu), translated by Andrea Deletant and Brenda Walker (Forest Books, 1984) ISBN 0-9509487-4-8
  • The Faber Book of Modern European Poetry, ed. A. Alvarez (Faber and Faber, 1992) ISBN 0-571-14321-0
  • The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry (pg. 219), edited by J.D. McClatchy (Vintage, 1996) ISBN 0-679-74115-1
  • Bloodaxe Poetry Introductions: Enzensberger, Holub, Sorescu (contains 21 poems by Sorescu), ed. Neil Astley (Bloodaxe, 2006)
  • Born in Utopia – An anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry - Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur (editors) with Edward Foster – Talisman House Publishers – 2006 – ISBN 1-58498-050-8
  • Testament – Anthology of Modern Romanian Verse - American EditionDaniel Ioniță (editor and translator) with Eva Foster, Rochelle Bews, and Daniel Reynaud – monolingual English language edition – Australian-Romanian Academy Publishing – 2017 – ISBN 978-0-9953502-0-5
  • 2019 -Testament - 400 Years of Romanian Poetry/400 de ani de poezie românească - Minerva Publishing 2019 - Daniel Ioniță (editor and principal translator) assisted by Daniel Reynaud, Adriana Paul and Eva Foster. ISBN 978-973-21-1070-6
  • 2020 - Romanian Poetry from its Origins to the Present - bilingual edition - Daniel Ioniță (editor and principal translator) with Daniel Reynaud, Adriana Paul and Eva Foster - Australian-Romanian Academy Publishing - 2020 - ISBN 978-0-9953502-8-1 ; OCLC 1288167046


He was also nominated to the Nobel Prize in Literature.


See also

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