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Mircea Dinescu 1950

Romanian dissenter who used satire to criticize the political world

Mircea Dinescu

Mircea Dinescu

Mircea Dinescu was born into a working class family in Sloboz. In 1969 he completed his secondary education and moved to Bucharest. He found a caretaker’s job at the headquarters of the Rumanian Writers Association and, at the same time, studied at the Stefan Gheorghiu School of Journalism. In 1976 he joined the editorial staff of the literary magazine “Romania Literara” [Literary Rumania]. He made his debut as a poet at a very early age, publishing his first verses, Destin de Familie [Destiny of a Family] in 1967, followed, four years later, by a book of poems entitled Invocatei nimanui [Cry of nobody]. From 1971 to 1989 his literary production was intense, and he won three Rumanian Writers Association awards. In the 1980s he distanced himself increasingly explicitly from Ceausescu’s policies, and, while his works became ever more popular – he was defined as “Rumania’s conscience” – he was kept under constant surveillance by the Securitate. When in 1988 the censors rejected his poem Moartea cisteste ziarul [Death reads the newspaper], the work was published in Amsterdam. On 17 March 1989 Dinescu gave a long interview to “Liberation” in which he openly criticized the Government’s policies: he was sacked by “Romania Literara”, expelled from the Party and placed under house arrest, under the constant control of the secret police. The news reverberated in the western press and in Rumanian literary circles. Seven Rumanian intellectuals sent an open letter of protest to the President of the Rumanian Writers’ Association. Dinescu managed to smuggle his writings to the West with the help of the Dutch ambassador Cohen Stork and of the first secretary of the Polish embassy Lukasz Szymanski; many of them have been translated into English and French. Mirage posthume [Mirage after death], translated into French and Exil pe-o boaba de piper [Exile on a pepper corn], translated into German came out in 1989. In November 1989 an article in “Le Monde” expressed great concern about Dinescu’s fate, considering him “at serious risk”. He took an active part in he events of 1989 and in the occupation of Rumanian television. Following the collapse of the Ceausescu regime, he joined the National Salvation Front. At the end of 1989 he published one of his most important works: O betie cu Marx [A drink with Marx], translated into several languages. In 1991 he created the satirical review “Academia Catavencu” [Catvenc’s Academy], fiercely critical of the political world. He remained its chief editor until the year 2000. In October of the same year he founded the monthly magazine “Plai cu boi” [Land of bulls] and the satirical weekly “Aspirina Sacului” [The poor man’s aspirin]. In May 2005 he founded the daily paper “Gandul” [Pensiero] which reached a circulation of 100 thousand copies. In Bucharest he formed a contemporary art gallery and also published the works of several young poets. In numerous articles in “Gandul” he voiced his opinion about current events. He said: “I have changed Rumanian politics, because I have taught people how to make fun of power”. In 1999 he signed the Balkan intellectuals’ appeal against the war. In 2000, along with two other dissidents, he became a member of the National Council for Research into the Securitate Archives: at their initiative, the declarations of the 35 candidates to the office of mayor of Bucharest were checked. In 1991 he became President of the Association of Men and Women of Letters. The same year, for his work for European culture, he became an honorary member of the University of Augusta, in 1999 the German “Alfred Toepfer” foundation awarded him the Herder prize for his literary works and in 2003 “Time” magazine nominated him “hero of the year” in the “Hate busters” category.

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Dissidents of totalitarianism

in Central Europe's communist regimes

The so called "dissent" in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe cannot be just reduced to the simple notion of an "opposition" as its definition would suggest, but it should be above all considered as an attempt to build a "parallel polis" based on the responsibility of every citizen and aimed at occupying the spaces where cultural, social and human freedom are allowed, as wrenched from the totalitarian rule over the social fabric. Members of Charter 77 and Solidarnosc, such as Vaclav Havel, Radim Palous, Jacek Kuron and Adam Michnik, have always underlined that “the power of the powerless” consists in winning over fear through the empowerment made possible through a collective assumption of responsibility, witnessed by the exhortation to "live the truth" within a society based on lie. Ver often their "dissent" consisted in a way to claim the enforcement of laws, such as the ones about freedom of conscience, or the international agreements subscribed by their countries, such as the Helsinki Accords. This was the origin of a broad movement that was able to condition the behaviour and mentality of the public opinion, up to the point in which, letting aside Romania, the totalitarian rule was overthrown in a peaceful way, without shedding blood, with the rise of a new leading class recognized by the majority of the population and ready to take on government responsibilities.