Authors: Petru Dumitriu

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Romanian novelist and essayist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Nuits de juin, 1953 (Nights in June, 1952)

Cronica de familie, 1956-1957 (2 volumes; The Boyars: volume 1, Family Jewels, 1961; volume 2, The Prodigals, 1962)

Rendez-vous à jugement dernier, 1961 (Meeting at the Last Judgment, 1962)

Incognito, 1962 (English translation, 1961)

L’Extrême occident, 1964 (The Extreme Occident, 1966)

Le Sourire Sarde, 1967 (The Sardinian Smile, 1968)

L’Homme aux yeux gris, 1968-1969 (3 volumes; volume 1, L’Homme aux yeux gris; volume 2, Retour à Milo; volume 3, Le Beau voyage)

La Liberté, 1983

La Femme au miroir, 1988

La Moisson, 1989

Les Amours singulières, 1990


Au Dieu Inconnu, 1979 (To the Unknown God, 1982)

Walkie-Talkie: Marcher vers Dieu, parler à Dieu, 1983

Convorbiri cu Petru Dumitriu, 1998 (interviews)


The Romanian novelist and essayist Petru Dumitriu (dew-mee-TREE-ew) received his higher education at the University of Munich. During the years following World War II he rose rapidly to prominence as an author, becoming one of the foremost Communist writers in Romania. He served as chief editor of the literary monthly Viata Romanesca from 1953 to 1955, was manager of the State Publishing House for Literature and Art in Bucharest from 1955 to 1958, and during the two succeeding years was chairman of the Council of Publishing Houses, Ministry of Culture. In addition to his high place in the nation’s propaganda industry, Dumitriu received many awards. These included the Romanian State Prize for Literature, which he was awarded three times (1950, 1952, 1954), and the Order of Labour. His doctrinaire trilogy, The Boyars, was published in all Communist bloc countries. Dumitriu found, however, that status is a precarious matter in police states and that insecurity increases with eminence. In 1960 he and his wife went on a cultural mission to Berlin, and while in that city they defected to the West. They were never able to regain custody of their infant daughter, whom they had left in Romania. After 1963 Dumitriu did editorial work for the German publisher S. Fischer Verlag.{$I[AN]9810000214}{$I[A]Dumitriu, Petru}{$I[geo]ROMANIA;Dumitriu, Petru}{$I[tim]1924;Dumitriu, Petru}

Dumitriu is best known in the West for his powerful anti-Stalinist novel Incognito. Although it depicts the more frightening aspects of police-state tactics and psychology in a terrifyingly realistic manner, critics have noted that the style retains some tractlike characteristics of social realism, and that the book is reminiscent of the propaganda he had previously produced. In spite of these reservations, however, Incognito is generally considered an important and powerful work that gives fresh insight into a brutal period in twentieth century history.

Two volumes of Dumitriu’s trilogy The Boyars have appeared in English translations. These brilliant, if overdrawn, studies of the old aristocracy of Romania are primitive in technique and hew closely to the Party line, but they are undeniably impressive. The glittering society that flourished in the interwar period is examined without mercy and contrasted with the innate nobility of an oppressed and rebellious poor. Although flawed by the extremist approach characteristic of all propaganda, these works are valuable for depicting so clearly the moral disintegration and abdication of responsibility that occurs within ruling classes, and with them the conditions that make communistic or other seizures of power possible.

The novel Meeting at the Last Judgment is in some ways a sequel to the previous works. The old aristocracy has long since been liquidated, but a new tyranny has taken its place. Largely autobiographical, the book presents an unforgettable picture of the total insecurity that existed within Communist elites; its view of bureaucracy is Kafkaesque; and amid impressions of senseless nightmare, it points out quite clearly the moral bankruptcy that characterizes all political systems.

The Extreme Occident is a sequel to Incognito, which examined the horrors of Stalinism. Dumitriu now inquires into the contemporary civilization of Western Europe and finds it little better: aimless, desperate, valueless, immoral, and corrupt. This work attracted the same critical objections as its predecessor encountered; it has been argued that there is too much self-righteous lecturing, and that ideology intrudes too heavily upon the structure. With The Sardinian Smile Dumitriu moved from the earlier vein into abnormal psychology, achieving what has been called a gothic mystery told from an existential point of view. The story of three people and their relationships revealed through communications they never receive, it is a moody, broodingly ominous tale of jealousy and misunderstanding. More important, perhaps, it revealed a new and impressive aspect of Dumitriu’s talent.

BibliographyBooks Abroad 44 (1970). Dumitriu’s trilogy The Boyars is discussed.Negrici, Eugen. Literature and Propaganda in Communist Romania. Translated by Mihai Codreanu, revised by Brenda Walker. Bucharest: The Romanian Cultural Foundation, 1999. Provides context for Dumitriu’s early work, especially The Boyars.
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