• 107 Years From The Birth Of Magda Isanos, Romania’s Tragic Poet

    April 16, 2023
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    Magda Isanos, Source

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    Magda Isanos was born on April 17th, 1916 in Bucharest. She was a Romanian lawyer, poet, prose writer, and publicist. Her parents, Mihai and Elisabeta were both psychiatrists. At one year and a half, she was diagnosed with poliomyelitis, and the constant care of her mother saved her life. Magda would later say her mother gave birth to her a second time. The effects of her illness were not visible aside from a low immune system and a slight difficulty in walking.  At the age of 16, she made her debut in the Licurici magazine.

    From early childhood she had a true passion for literature, reading day and night everything she could get her hands on. After graduating high school, she attended college in Iași, where she obtained a degree in Law, and briefly practiced as a lawyer.

    It was during her student years that she began to draw the attention of Iași newspapers with her exceptional talent. Although she is mostly known today as a poet, she wrote prose as well, but most of her manuscripts were lost during the bombing in 1944 when her house was severely damaged.

    In 1935 she married writer Lev Panteleev, but they divorced only a few months later. In 1938  Magda Isanos met writer Eusebiu Camilar, and they married against her parents' wishes. Shortly after her marriage, she joined Noua Junime, a society founded by George Călinescu. Her friend Veronica Zosin said that was the happiest time of Magda’s life.

    Magda Isanos and Eusebiu Camilar. Source

    In 1941 she gave birth to her daughter, Elisabeta (affectionately known as Zuța), who would become a writer like her parents. Around the time of her daughter’s birth, Magda’s lifelong battle with the effects of poliomyelitis worsened. She resigned from her law practice using a medical document that said she had issues with one of her lungs and a heart condition.  

    During the war, when the possibility of death intensified, so did her already tragic outlook on life. She used this darkness in her poems.

    On November 17, 1944, only a few months after she was forced to flee to safety from the war, Magda Isanos passed away in Bucharest, leaving behind just one published volume containing 38 poems. Her home became a historical monument but was unfortunately demolished in 2013, which caused a scandal at the time.

    Even though her poetic works were later republished and even included in school textbooks for a while, her unique and sensitive creations are not well-known by students today.

    However, many of her poems and the four works of prose that survived were translated into English and are now available to international readers. The volume When Angels Sing is published by the Center for Romanian Studies.



    Diana Livesay

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