Lovinescu–Ierunca Collection at Oradea University Library
The collection is illustrative for the documentation work that lay behind the broadcasting activities of two prominent members of the Romanian exile community in Paris who worked with Radio Free Europe (RFE), Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca. Their programmes focused mainly on presenting the cases of dissidents in the then Soviet Bloc. The need to understand the dissidence phenomenon and the main ideas behind its criticism of the communist regimes required diverse readings from different subject areas. Thus, the Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca Collection in Oradea testifies to the interest of its creators in subjects relating more or less to cultural opposition in the fields of literature, philosophy, sociology, history, art, and religion.
Oradea Strada Universității 1, Romania
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Name of collection
- Monica Lovinescu-Virgil Ierunca Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection is illustrative for the documentation work that lay behind Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s broadcasts at RFE’s Romanian desk. As their programmes approached the subject of dissent and identified the main ideas behind the criticism of the communist regimes, most of the items in the Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca Collection in Oradea are connected to the subject of cultural opposition in the fields of literature, philosophy, sociology, history, art, and religion.
Monica Lovinescu began her collaboration with RFE following her mother’s death in a prison in Romania. Her programmes, and later on those of Virgil Ierunca, were aimed at informing listeners about any acts of resistance and opposition towards the Romanian communist regime. As Lovinescu recalled later, the drafting the texts of their broadcasts required rigorous documentation work, which usually involved the reading of two or three books, newspapers, magazines, press articles, and other materials prepared by RFE’s research department. Because the programmes were never broadcast live, Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, together with their team, went to RFE’s studio where they “methodically ‘mixed’ the texts read by the speaker (…) with music copied from our vinyl discs and with previously recorded tapes pf dialogues or round-table discussions.” Apart from her work at RFE, Monica Lovinescu also found time to help her husband with editing many Romanian publications published in exile (Lovinescu 2008, 655–659). Consequently, a large part of the Lovinescu and Ierunca collection was made up of books which they bought or received as gifts from their friends, acquaintances, or other intellectuals on such varied subject areas as literature, literary criticism, folklore, philosophy, sociology, memoirs, history, art, religion, library science, and political science. While Monica Lovinescu collected books mostly relating to the domain of literary studies, her husband’s library consisted of volumes about history, art, and religion. As the leading voices of the Romanian exile community in Paris, they also received and stored in their library newspapers and magazines published by Romanians in exile, along with the publications edited by themselves. Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca were also music lovers and the impressive number of vinyl discs in their library testify to this. Besides listening to classical, modern, or traditional music in their free time, they also used musical fragments selected from their vinyl discs in their broadcasts. In addition, some of their broadcasts at RFE were recorded on vinyl discs and stored in their library.
Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca took a great interest in preserving their collection. Lovinescu’s journals contain several references to their huge library and the growing space it occupied in their home. In 1983, she mentioned that “we are covered by books, newspapers, manuscripts, archives.” In 1985 this huge but unorganised library “conquered” another part of the house, the attic, as the garage and cellar were already full of papers (Lovinescu 2010, 110, 477). The lack of organisation was an obstacle for anyone interested in researching Lovinescu and Ierunca’s vast collection (Meseșan 2015, 161).
Aware of the value of their collection for the history of the Romanian exile community, Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca decided to donate it to the Romanian state, and in 1998 entrusted two of their closest friends, Mihnea Berindei and Gabriel Liiceanu, with bringing it to Romania after their death (Lovinescu 2010, 477). After the death of the owners and creators, the collection was divided between Gabriel Liiceanu and Mihnea Berindei. The person who facilitated the donation of a part of the Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca Collection to Oradea University Library in 2010 was Lilian Zamfiroiu. At that time he was a a PhD candidate at the university and also worked as the deputy of Nicolae Manolescu, a reputed literary critic who was at that time Romania’s ambassador to UNESCO. Given his close relations with the academic community in Oradea, Lilian Zamfiroiu persuaded Nicolae Manolescu to contact Mihnea Berindei and ask him to donate a part of the Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca collection to Oradea University Library. Consequently, on April 27,2010 a large truck from the house of the two collectors in Paris arrived in Oradea. The 8,000 books, 5,300 periodicals, 1,250 vinyl discs, and gramophone were unloaded from the truck and stored in the new modern building of Oradea University Library (Matica 2010, 3; Editorial Jurnal bihorean 2013, 3). Since 2011, the Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca collection has been housed in special room in the University Library in Oradea and is open for research to students, scholars and other people interested in the history of the Romanian exile community and cultural dissident movement.
Description of content
Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s Collection at Oradea University Library is made up of approximately 8,000 books, 5,300 periodicals, 1,250 vinyl discs, and a gramophone. The books cover a large area of subjects, including literature, literary criticism, folklore, philosophy, sociology, memoirs, history, art, religion, library science, and political science. Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca were particularly interested in collecting any kind of materials about cultural dissent in the then Soviet bloc. Thus, their library contained a significant number of books and exile publications published by European dissidents. For example, out of the 8,000 books to be found in Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s Collection at Oradea University Library, 800 are by Romanians in exile in various countries including France, Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the United States, Chile, Denmark, Israel, etc. Besides the remarkable thematic diversity and impressive number of book items, it is also worth mentioning that a large number of the books are first editions, some of them with the autographs and dedications of their authors both in exile and in Romania (Meseșan 2015, 14, 17, 162, 273–295).
The 5,300 periodicals approach the subject of cultural dissent, as many of them were published by Romanian intellectuals in exile and some of them had Virgil Ierunca as their founder and contributor. The vinyl discs contain all types of music (classical, modern, traditional) and in some cases recordings of Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s broadcasts at RFE (Criș 2010). While the two collectors were known music lovers, they also used musical pieces from their personal collection of vinyl discs for the musical entries and pauses of their broadcasts.
Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca used these materials to document the various subjects approached in their RFE broadcasts and other published pieces. Their RFE programmes focused mainly on the subject of cultural dissent in the Eastern bloc in general and in Romania in particular. Apart from popularising the situation of Romanian dissidents, Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca also used RFE’s microphone to mobilise international public opinion in their support and thus, indirectly pressure the Romanian authorities to ease the persecution the dissidents were subject to. This was consistent with the general strategy of RFE, which focused on promoting the courageous stands of national dissidents and breaking the monopoly on information imposed by the communist regimes (C. Petrescu 2013, 24–25, 32–33). Consequently, Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s broadcastings at RFE supported the “other” Cold War that was fought on ideological, cultural and propaganda front. Its purpose was to create an alternative (Western) sphere of values and ideas for the people in Eastern bloc (Engerman 2010, 20–41).
- music recordings: 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- Donation of Lovinescu-Ierunca Collection to the Oradea University Library
- Conference and Exhibition: Monica Lovinescu-The Silver Voice of the Romanian Exile Community, 19 November 2013
- Roundtable Discussion: "Literature and document" in memoriam Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, Oradea, 24 May 2013
- completely open to the public
Meseșan, Anarela. 2015. Exilul românesc din perioada comunistă, reflectat în fondul bibliotecii de la Paris a familiei Monica Lovinescu–Virgil Ierunca (The Romanian exile community of the communist period reflected in the Monica Lovinescu–Virgil Ierunca personal library in Paris). Cluj-Napoca: Centrul de Studii Transilvane.
Author(s) of this page
- Marin, Manuela
Criș, Adrian. 2010. “Biblioteca personală a Monicăi Lovinescu și a lui Virgil Ierunca a ajuns la Oradea” (The personal library of Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca has arrived in Oradea). In Bihoreanul, April 28. Accessed 1 April, 2018. http://www.ebihoreanul.ro/stiri/ultima-or-31-5/biblioteca-personala-a-monicai-lovinescu-si-a-lui-virgil-ierunca-a-ajuns-la-universitatea-din-oradea-87085.html.
Editorial Jurnal bihorean. 2013. “Cu Manolescu despre Lovinescu” (With Manolescu about Lovinescu). In Jurnal bihorean, May 27, 2.
Engerman, David C. 2010. “Ideology and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917–1962.” In The Cambridge History of the Cold War. Vol. 1 Origins. Ed. Melvyn Leffler, Odd Anne Westad, 20–41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lovinescu, Monica. 2008. La Apa Vavilonului (By the rivers of Babylon). București: Humanitas.
Lovinescu, Monica. 2010. Jurnal esențial (Essential journal). București: Humanitas.
Matica, G. 2010. “Fond de carte special pentru noua bibliotecă a Universității” (Special fonds of books for the new library of the University). In Crișana, April 29, 3.
Meseșan, Anarela. 2015. Exilul românesc din perioada comunistă, reflectat în fondul bibliotecii de la Paris a familiei Monica Lovinescu–Virgil Ierunca (The Romanian exile community of the communist period reflected in the Monica Lovinescu–Virgil Ierunca personal library in Paris ). Cluj-Napoca: Centrul de Studii Transilvane.
Petrescu, Cristina. 2013. From Robin Hood to Don Quixote: Resistance and Dissent in Communist Romania. București: Editura Enciclopedică.
Meseșan, Anarela, interview by Pintilescu, Corneliu, March 22, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection