Religion, Politics, and Literature in Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania's Work

Article excerpt

Abstract. The personality of Metropolitan Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania has been extremely complex, first of all due to the various domains of his work - literature, essays, art history, theology and biblical theology -, and secondly due to his relation to politics, especially his connections with the Legionary Movement and with Communism. Despite having been incarcerated as a political prisoner in some of Bolshevik Romania's famous prisons (Jilava, Pitesti, Aiud), Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania is still accused of having collaborated with the political police of Ceausescu's regime, Securitatea. The present text analyses the writer's work in order to explain the relationship between religion, literature, and politics, stressing both their connections, as well as his journey from being a writer to being the theologian commenting on and revising the translation of the Holy Scripture. The analysis is therefore oriented towards Valeriu Anania's literary works, namely his poetry, prose, and theatre, so as to underline its religious background, be it either theological or alluding to Romanian popular religiosity; furthermore, it focuses on his theology, from icon to biblical theology, stressing the associations with literature and the importance of literary workmanship. Finally, based on the cultural analyses which unveil his deep affection for the Romanian spirituality and considering several politically controversial episodes of his biography, the text will attempt to argue in favour of the lack of sufficient and reliable evidence that could prove his collaboration with the political police of Communist Romania.

Key Words: Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania, religion, politics, literature, Communism, Legionary Movement, Securitate

Introduction. The ars poetica of a writer-monk

The biography and bibliography of Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania (1921- 2011) - religious writer, monk, and bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church - are both extremely multifaceted.1 A controversial homo religiosus during Romanian communism, he joins the "Brotherhood of the Cross" - a youth organization of the Legionary Movement -only to later recants his allegiance; however, he will never be able to escape the accusation of being a legionary as he will be arrested and incarcerated several times; he became a monk at 21, and Metropolitan of Cluj in his old age, and still confessed to not having any mystical calling2; he has been accused of collaborating with the political police; having written poetry, prose and theatre, Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania approached in a very original manner the icon theology and has adnotated and revised the Romanian translation of the Bible, an undertaking praised by biblical scholars; a political prisoner condemned to 25 years of forced labour for "plotting against the social order" (he will serve six years and two months in the prisons of Securitate, Jilava, Pitesti, and Aiud and will be released in 1964 following a decree of general amnesty) he will have various churchly functions in the Missionary Archbishopric of the Romanian Orthodox Church in America and Canada (1965-1976); all of this outline the complex portrait, not lacking in contradictions, of Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania3. Trying to decipher bits and parts of this universe our study will be dealing with the rapport between religion and literature as well as with the relation between religion and politics the way they are present in the life and work of this writer-monk. Whereas the religious sphere is a constant presence in his work, his connections to the Securitate are somewhat unclear - the question whether the former political prisoner was a collaborator of the Romanian communist political police or not can be satisfyingly answered only up to a certain point.

Before actually analysing how literature and religious belief connect, we should first dwell upon Vareliu Anania's ars poetica, a poet, prose - and playwright whose constant double was Bartolomeu, the scholar and theologian4. …

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