Martor No. 24 / Year 2019

“Whose Property Are My Letters?” Inside Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s Archive 

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Astrid Cambose

A. Philippide Romanian Philology Research Institute, Romania

Pages: 85-96

Keywords: Politics of memory, archives, heritage, letters and diaries, Monica Lovinescu, Ecaterina Bălăcioiu-Lovinescu.


Public use of objects belonging to private memory is what concerned me while writing this article. Under discussion will be the collection of letters received by Romanian couple Lovinescu–Ierunca during their more than sixty-year exile in France (1946-2008) from hundreds of fellow intellectuals confined to Romania by the communist regime. 

The documents belonged to the couple until their death. “Whose property are my letters?” is a question that may now—once the recipients are dead—be raised by any of their surviving correspondents. (The recipient becomes the rightful owner of all the letters he or she receives; but what if the recipient dies without any legal heirs? Who is entitled to the final and legal decision about the fate of those letters?) The politics of memory—issues most germane to public policy—will therefore be the main focus of the first part of my paper. 

Next, I shall address the special situation of the letters Monica Lovinescu received from her mother, Ecaterina Bălăcioiu-Lovinescu, a fonds which I managed as follows: recovery, selection, translation into Romanian (given the fact that most of them were written in French in order to evade political censorship), publication by Humanitas Publishing House, followed by the transfer of the physical collection to the Humanitas Aqua Forte Foundation. Editing that private correspondence was an occasion for me to fully experience what Arlette Farge (1989) has called “the allure of the archives.” I shall present this experience in detail in the second part of my study.

How to cite this article: Cambose, Astrid. 2019. “’Whose Property Are My Letters?’ Inside Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca’s Archive.” Martor 24: 85-96. [DOI: 10.57225/martor.2019.24.07]