Marta Petreu

Marta Petreu’s first book of poetry, Bring Verbs (Aduceți verbele, 1981), won the Romanian Writers’ Union Prize for a debut volume. She has issued seven other collections: The Morning of the Young Ladies (Dimineața tinerelor doamne, 1983); Psychic Place (Loc psihic, 1991); Shameless Poems (Poeme nerușinate, 1993); The Book of Anger (Cartea mîniei, 1997); The Apocalypse According to Marta (Apocalipsa după Marta, 1999); The Phalanx (Falanga, 2001); and Jacob’s Ladder (Scara lui Iacob, 2006, accompanied by a CD of the poet reading). Her 2011 novel, At Home, on the Field of Armageddon (Acasă, pe Cîmpia Armaghedonului). won Book of the Year from the review Literary Romania and the prize of the Festival du Premier Roman de Chambéry, France, in 2012, among other recognitions. Also in 2011, Petreu issued a 450-page anthology of her poetry entitled The Apocalypse According to Marta (Apocalipsa după Marta), part of a series of her works published by the major Romanian publishing house Polirom. A French selection of her poems, Poèmes sans vergogne (Shameless Poems), appeared in 2005, the same year that Ivan R. Dee published a translation of her study of the Romanian-French writer E. M. Cioran and his enthusiasm for fascism in the 1930s, An Infamous Past: E. M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania In 2009, she published The Devil and His Disciple: Nae Ionescu—Mihail Sebastian, which appeared in a second edition just a year later, one of half a dozen volumes of prose that she published in the last three years.

Petreu’s literary work has been awarded various recognitions including national literary prizes from the Romanian Writers’ Union and the Nichita Stănescu, George Bacovia, Lucian Blaga, Tudor Arghezi, Eugen Ionescu and Poesis poetry awards, among others including The Kenneth Rexroth Memorial Translation Prize. Her book on Ionescu won a prize in France. Petreu is the editor of the much respected post-communist cultural magazine, Apostrof (still going strong, a difficult longevity in the Romanian economic climate and a tribute to her steadfast efforts). In the fall of 1998, she was granted a residency at the Ledig House International Writers’ Colony in Ghent, New York, and in 2001, she was awarded a Hellman/Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch for her role as “a solitary voice of reason in Romania today” and for her criticism of the Romanian extreme right and for standing up to threats and to a mob attack at a reading. 

Norman Manea has written of Marta Petreu’s “severe poetic credo of integrity, challenging the terrestrial and everyday answer before the spirit’s tumultuous questioning” in a literature of “high dramatic undertaking, with a torrid heart and cool mind.” Her poetry embodies an anti-lyrical “sacrificial exaltation,” a “defiance” or “ferocious expressiveness” of the “abrupt, repeated, vehement, always powerful originality of ‘the truth,’…purified only through poetic expression and…the urgency of involvement.…” In short, to Manea, Petreu bears “the mark of true poetry, of true poets.”

Born Rodica Marta Crișan in 1955 in Jucu, a commune in Cluj County, Marta Petreu (this is her pen name) is in daily life Professor of Philosophy Rodica Marta Vartic at the Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj and the author of more than twenty-five volumes of philosophy and commentary, plus many edited and collaborative publications.

She is pictured here with The Book of Anger translator Adam Sorkin.

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